The most obvious theme of this farbrengen is its connection with Shabbos Mevorchim. As the previous Rebbe instituted that on every Shabbos Mevorchim there should be a farbrengen, and as today is Shabbos Mevorchim Tammuz, therefore we have gathered for a farbrengen. In the theme of this Shabbos Mevorchim there are also two aspects: (A) It is the last Shabbos of the previous month of Sivan, the third month of the year, and (B) on this day we bless the next month, Tammuz, the fourth month of the year. Both of these aspects convey a message to us; we will discuss them and derive a lesson from them.
What is the theme of the third month? Even the five-year-old Chumash student knows the verse about the third month: "In the third month ... they came to the desert of Sinai." (Shemos 19:1) Sinai of course symbolizes the entire experience of Mattan Torah (the giving of the Torah).
When the Mishnah speaks of the giving of the Torah it states: "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai," (Avos 1:1) so the third month is associated with, and connected to, the theme of receiving the Torah.
What was the special nature of Mattan Torah? What new force came into the world when we received the Torah? If the Torah existed previously, and was even studied before Mattan Torah, what earth-shattering innovation accompanied the thunder and lightning of the revelation on the sixth of Sivan?
There is a question on the dictum "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" -- why does it not say "from G-d?" The term Sinai carries with it a momentous connotation which will reveal for us the true accomplishment of Mattan Torah.
From the time of creation, the philosophy of Torah was studied on earth. The first man, Adam, studied Torah, as the Aggadah relates. For many generations the intellectual aspects of Torah were diligently pursued by scholars. On the verse: "... Avraham ... kept My charge, My commandments, My decrees, My laws (Torah)," (Bereishis 26:5) the Talmud explains, that:
Avraham was an Elder who studied at a yeshivah (council of scholars), Yitzchok our Patriarch was an Elder who sat at the yeshivah, Ya'akov ... at the yeshivah ... Our ancestors were never left without yeshivah. In Egypt they had yeshivah. (Yoma 28b)
With such sages at the head of the yeshivah, the intellectual pursuit of Torah knowledge was certainly of the highest stature.
The difference between Torah before Sinai and after Sinai was that before Sinai, Torah was only theoretical. It was only an intellectual, mental process, it did not operate in the real, temporal, physical world.
In all the incidents related by Torah of the lives of the Patriarchs and early generations of the Jewish people, we find no evidence of practical application of Torah to worldly matters or physical activities. Even more so, the Midrash clearly relates to us the decree which held sway until the revelation at Sinai that:
Those who are below shall not ascend to those on high, while those who are on high shall not descend to those that are below ....
(Shemos Rabbah 12:3)
It was, however, at Sinai that: "G-d came down on Mount Sinai ...," which meant that the decree was rescinded, for G-d brought Torah down to the world, in a manner that it penetrates and influences the physical world. From the moment of Sinai the Torah became part of the world, and the world can become part of holiness. Therefore it says "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai."
So the theme of the whole third month is the innovation of Mattan Torah, that Torah is really connected to the world. Since Shabbos brings the quality of "Vayechulu -- they were completed," which raises and completes the days of the week, clearly on Shabbos the theme of the days of the month is intensified and perfected. Now, the final Shabbos of this third month has in it the quality of conclusion and completion for the accomplishments of the theme of the month.
What does the theme of the third month -- this idea of the innovation of Sinaic revelation -- teach us in our Divine service? Every aspect of life can and must be permeated with Torah. When we call Torah the "Torah of life" or "Torah of light" we mean that it must give us a clear and illuminating directive in our daily life. This means that every single detail of a Jew's life must be lived only and solely according to the directive of Torah. In effect, his whole existence and all of his activities and involvements are suffused with Torah.
This is the theme of the last Shabbos of the third month. Make an honest reckoning and soul-searching review of all areas connected to the real activities of Torah in the world. This "just accounting" will influence the present, the future, and even the past.
The present and future will be directly influenced for the better by his introspection. For he will see where improvements must be made in his ongoing or upcoming activities, in positive or negative ways.
The good result will also influence the past. Although the past is gone; what difference can it make now; "what has been has been," there is however another adage which says that "nothing is completely lost." Since nothing stands in the way of true repentance, even the unsavory acts of the past will come under his control and he will exercise his newly acquired ability to make up for the past and rectify his past shortcomings through teshuvah; to the degree that his "sins are converted to merits." (The penitent's premeditated sins become in this case, like virtues, Rosh Hashanah 29a.)
Thus the lesson for this last Shabbos of Sivan is to complete and perfect all the aspects of Divine service which are related to the innovation of the Sinai Revelation -- that the Torah must penetrate all existence -- not only for the present and future but also for the past.
We might even say that although this Shabbos does not immediately succeed Mattan Torah, it nevertheless carries a more intense improvement and quality over the previous weeks of the month of Sivan. The reasoning for this is obvious. If last Shabbos all aspects of the week were in a state of ascent and perfection and after six more days we have another Shabbos, ipso facto, this week the Shabbos must be higher.
It follows therefore that the Divine service of the last Shabbos of the third month is not only to rectify any negative aspects of Sivan or to reach the optimum of teshuvah -- but to simply increase and rise higher in every aspect of Divine service of the month and the previous weeks.
Now, the past also must be reevaluated relative to this new state and level, therefore it too must be elevated. As Tanya explains regarding teshuvah:
And although he had sincerely repented already yet the essence of repentance is in the heart and in the heart are found many distinctions and gradations. And everything is according to what kind of a man he is ... it is desired to raise him to a more sublime level of repentance coming more deeply from the heart. (Tanya ch. 29)
This concept of converting the sins to merits, will help us understand why the 365 negative commandments will be in effect when Moshiach comes (and consequently why they may now be considered among the 613 mitzvos). There is, after all, a "klotz-kashe" concerning all the negative commandments of the Torah. When Moshiach comes, the spirit of tumah will be removed from the world, and there will be no need for negative commandments; there will be no inclination to do wrong and no need to resist evil.
The Rambam teaches us that those mitzvos which do not apply at all times are not to be counted among the 613 mitzvos -- if so -- all negative commands will not apply when Moshiach comes. Consequently a priori, they should not be considered mitzvos.
But when we realize that even in negative commandments there are positive aspects, the opportunity to convert them to merits, then even in the future world it will be necessary to raise the merits of the converted negative commandments.
In our efforts on behalf of our fellow Jews through the work of reaching out and the mivtzoyim one might harbor the mistaken belief that once you have helped a person return to G-d and Torah you have done your share; after all, the "flame rises on its own."
The last Shabbos of Sivan tells us "No," you cannot be complacent, if you meet that person again, by Divine Providence, you have the opportunity and responsibility to help him rise up again.
May all this be carried out in action.
This Shabbos is also the Shabbos in which we bless the fourth month, Tammuz. We can therefore also find a lesson from the fourth month.
Concerning the fourth month there are several unhappy matters discussed openly in Scripture, connected to the "fast of the fourth month," the 17th of Tammuz. The first tragic occurrence of the 17th of Tammuz was the breaking of the Tablets, which is described in great detail in the Torah.
Because of the sad happenings of the 17th of Tammuz through our history, the entire month is perceived as a sad, tragic month, and in fact, only the negative happenings of the month are actually described or mentioned in Scripture. And yet, the majority of the month, the first sixteen days, were actually happy and good days. Moshe our teacher, was on the mountain studying Torah with G-d and preparing to bring down the tablets of stone. Why weren't the good aspects (and they are truly important and beneficial) of the month related to us in Scripture as well?
The explanation is, that we only mention the negative aspects in order to change them to good. As the verse says:
The fast of the fourth month ... shall become times of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts to the house of Yehudah. (Zechariah 8:19)
This will have the added quality of "light out of darkness." Even today, when we observe the fast of Tammuz properly, although it is a day of suffering, we introduce the aspect of "grace" and "favor," and it becomes a day of goodwill before G-d.
Our lesson from this Shabbos Mevorchim? It is the last Shabbos of Sivan, in addition to perfecting all aspects of Sivan, which need uplifting, even the tragic aspects of Tammuz can be converted by the Jew, into joy and gladness.
On this entire subject a question begs to be asked. We know the rule, not to speak disparagingly of someone or something. The Gemara says:
Scripture did not speak disparagingly of a non-kosher animal, for it is written, "of the tahor (kosher) beasts, and of the beasts that are not tahor (not kosher)." (B. Basra 123a)
How much more so, when we speak of Jews, and even more so when the subject is the whole Jewish people. Is it possible that all the minute details of the sin of the Golden Calf and the punishment that followed should be described in full?
Some answer that the purpose of mentioning the details of the story of the broken tablets is to effect teshuvah, which is needed for all future generations. When the sin of the Golden Calf was forgiven, G-d said that in future generations He would take the sin into account. And Rashi explains "... that no punishment comes upon Israel in which there is not a little of the punishment." (Rashi, Shemos 32:34) Thus, teshuvah for that sin always applies.
However, if this were the reason, then it would have sufficed to tell the story of the Golden Calf and the breaking of the tablets in one sentence. Why all the details of the dialogue between the people and Aharon? A terse verse or two about the serious sin would be enough to cause the reader to tremble and do teshuvah.
We may give the following explanation. By being very descriptive and detailed the Torah shows that its intention is about the future. Not only to rectify the past but also to assure that something like that will not happen again. By knowing the bad details we can take precautions for the present and future. The rule:
One should not utter a gross expression with his mouth, for lo! Scripture employs circumlocution of eight letters rather than utter a gross expression, for it is said: "of the tahor beasts ... and of the beasts that are not tahor."
That rule applies only in a narrative, but when the case applies to an halachic ruling, on the contrary, to avoid any misunderstanding you must be very explicit and definite. And in order to keep a person away from a bad experience, it is preferable to utter the "gross expression," for he will tremble more when he hears the word tameh than when he hears the words not tahor.
So, to make sure that we do not fall into the same pitfall, the story of the broken tablets is repeated in all its shameful minutiae. And if we are told the story of what happened on the previous day (the 16th of Tammuz) its purpose is to learn from it to be careful, so that nothing bad happens on the next day. Despite the fact that their own actions of the 16th lowered them to a lowly position -- they still could have prevented the breaking of the Tablets on the next day. Why tell us this now? -- because, our action today can also have a impact on the past, so that the sins can be converted to mitzvos.
In a similar vein we may interpret the story of the spies, in this week's Torah portion. For ostensibly we have the same query here, why does the Torah relate the negative details? The Torah is careful not to speak disparagingly of an animal, certainly not of a Jew, how much more so when it comes to the messengers who were "leaders of the tribes of Israel," and were chosen by Moshe for the mission.
But the answer is that Torah's intention is to protect us from committing the same mistake again, and to indicate that even in the midst of the incident it still could have been stopped and corrected, and converted to good.
With respect to the past, this means that our actions today can have an affect on the past! You might wonder, what connection is there? For all Jews through all the generations are really one "complete stature." When all Jews recite in the morning prayers, "My G-d, the soul which You have given within me is pure," meaning that all souls of all Jews came from the same source, we are saying that "we all have One Father." So there is a unity and congruity of all Jewish souls -- and even time does not interfere, for G-d is beyond the restriction of time. So all the generations are as one. Thus, our actions will effect the rectification from sins to merits even for the past.
The practical lesson is that every year in the month of Tammuz the occurrences of the past reoccur and are relived. Shabbos Mevorchim teaches us that we must change and convert the tragic theme of the month to a happy, positive one. And although so many years have passed and the sad side of Tammuz has still not been changed, still this year, 5745, a Jew has all the necessary powers to nullify all the negative aspects and convert them to the good.
In this process there are two stages -- nullifying the negative and then converting it to become positive. As the Rambam rules:
All the fast days mentioned above are destined to be abolished in the time of the Moshiach; indeed they are destined to be turned into festive days, days of rejoicing and gladness....
(Laws of Fast Days 5:19)
When the negative aspects of Tammuz disappear we remain with all the positive parts connected with the first tablets: The "tumultuousness" for the good, the "engraved letters," which the Gemara tells us:
What is the purpose of the Scriptural text "Graven on the Tablets?" If the first Tablets had not been broken, ... no nation or tongue would have had any power over them (us), for it says "Graven" (Charus) read not graven but "freedom" (Chairus). (Eruvin 54a)
Also, freedom from the Angel of Death and the diaspora. These are the positive themes of the first tablets, which remain with us when the tragic part of Tammuz disappears. In addition, the fast days will become holidays.
May our discussion and our prayers in this matter bring the fulfillment in reality, for "Prayer effects a complete (thing)." (Vayikra Rabbah 1:5) Let us therefore merit immediately to leave the golus, "Our children and our elders ... sons and daughters" (Shemos 10:9) true unity, with the unity of Torah, and mitzvos and the first Tablets. In this manner we will all arrive in our Holy Land, the complete land, to Yerushalayim the Holy City to the Third Temple, all while we are still in the third month. Then on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz we will offer the sacrifice of Rosh Chodesh in the Bais Hamikdosh and the 17th of Tammuz will be converted to a holiday. So may it be quickly and truly in our days.
This Shabbos also has a special lesson from the portion of Shelach in relation to Shabbos Mevorchim.
What is the simple and direct lesson we learn from Shelach? The word Shelach means sending out on a mission. And it is in the form of a command!
A Jew must "send out" to help other Jews in other places. He must investigate and see what can be accomplished outside, somewhere else, or what he can gain from somewhere else.
To one who is in a lofty plane and fulfills his responsibilities, as well as to one who still lacks a lot in his Divine service to the outside, we say: Don't be despondent, "send out" someone to that place and you too will reach a higher plane.
Mainly, do not be stagnant. You must rise from level to level. Going from strength to strength means that it is continuous, without stop. And although normally this is said of Torah scholars, that they constantly rise, yet, even the average Jew can, and must, attain this position at auspicious times, such as Shabbos of Shelach!
This thought is related to the arrival of a group of guests who have come from a great distance, to stay here for several weeks. They have not only sent others -- they have sent themselves. Despite all the difficulties: For the men, that they cannot enjoy the benefits of being home on Shabbos with the table set and other comforts of home. And also for the women. For although the Torah speaks of sending men, the "senders" however were men, women and children.
The women moreover had a more positive connection with the outcome of the mission as we find in Rashi:
But against the women there was not decreed the decree of the spies for they cherished the land. (Rashi, Bemidbar 26:64)
Thus, when the spies returned, the women saw the good in their reports for they believed in G-d's promise of a good land.
So, for the women too, the trip here entails difficulties and although they can light the candles for Shabbos, still the difficulties of travel and being away from home are harder on them.
Certainly, they have come here to gain something -- not physical, but spiritual -- and may it be in a manner of "finding," which means more than relative to their efforts -- rather as finding something through the efforts and travails of travel. May they merit to accomplish and receive what they set out to do.
And may these guests bring unity among themselves and those who are here, which will bring speedily to the ultimate perfection of unity, when a "great assemblage will return here," a great unity. This will come with the complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach, speedily and truly now.
In learning the simple verse of this week's portion the five-year-old Chumash student will come up with a perplexing "klotz-kashe." On the first sentence of Shelach, Rashi says:
Why is the section dealing with the spies put in juxtaposition with the section dealing with Miriam's punishment? [To show the grievousness of the spies' sin] because she (Miriam) was punished on account of the slander which she uttered against her brother, and these sinners witnessed it and yet they did not take a lesson [from her]. (Rashi on Bemidbar 13:1)
In this verse Rashi refers to the spies as "sinners." In the next verse Rashi says:
Whenever the term (anashim) "men" is used in Scripture it is a term denoting worthiness, at that time they were worthy men. (Ibid:3)
Of course there is no contradiction here by first calling them "sinners" and then "worthy," because Rashi clearly indicates that at that time they were worthy and later they sinned.However, later when we read that "Moshe called (renamed) Hoshea son of Nun, Yehoshua" and we look to Rashi, here we find:
He in effect prayed for him: "May G-d save you from the (evil) counsel of the spies." (Ibid:16)
Here the paradox challenges us. If Moshe prayed for Yehoshua at this point -- then clearly at this time he already had doubts about the pure intentions of the other ten spies. How can Rashi say that at this time they were still worthy?!
This question is much broader. If in fact Moshe was suspicious of their plans, why did he let them go?! Why did he send them under such con-ditions?!
There are several other questions which come to light about this story:
- Why does Rashi introduce the term "spies?" It is not mentioned even once in the verses of Scripture in the entire chapter (episode).
The term "spies" is used in the Haftorah which speaks of the spies sent by Yehoshua. This however would indicate that in fact the men sent by Moshe never were called "spies" -- why does Rashi use the term?
- Why does Rashi use the term "(evil) counsel"? Why not use the word mentioned earlier -- "slander" -- which is the same word used later in the verse: "And they brought up the slander ...," (ibid:32) or even more simply, Rashi should use the term "sin" -- chet -- which is the way it is usually referred to, "the sin of the spies."
Actually there is another question: What was their terrible sin? Moshe had sent them to see the land, and they reported what they saw:
On the question: "See what kind of land it is ... Is the inhabited area good or bad?" they responded, "... a land flowing milk and honey ... and here is the fruit." For Moshe had told them to bring samples of the fruit.
On the question: "Are the people who live there strong or weak," they answered: "The people living in the land are aggressive ... we also saw the giants' descendants living there."
And on the question: "Are the cities ... open or fortified?" they responded, "... and the cities are large and well fortified."
Even their statement: "The land that we crossed to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants," was also part of what they actually saw. How were they to know that G-d caused people to die so that the inhabitants would be occupied with funerals and not pay attention to the spies?
Consequently, what was their sin and transgression? They told it as they really saw it; which was exactly what Moshe had commanded them to do. It is for that purpose that Rashi introduces the term "spies" and also the "(evil) counsel" of the spies.
The five-year-old Chumash student has already studied the portion of Mikeitz, where he encountered the term "spies" in the classic context: Yosef, the viceroy of Egypt, tells his brothers:
"You are spies," he said to them. "You have come to see where the land is exposed to attack." "No my lord"! they replied. "We are your servants who have come only to buy food ... we are honorable men. We would never think of being spies." (Bereishis 42:9-11)
From this dialogue the five-year-old Chumash student knows that spies are cunning and hide the truth -- for they sought some legitimate enterprise -- such as buying food -- to cover up their real in-tention of spying.
The "evil counsel" of the spies similarly has the connotation of "seeking counsel in secret," as the Prophet Yeshayah says, "contrive a scheme ..." so that the true intention will be clouded in the external activity, so that the opponent will not be aware of the actual objectives. These two terms naturally go together, for "spies" must "contrive schemes (counsel)" to hide their true identity and purpose.
Now we must take care to understand this point properly. The scheming that spies do is not necessarily bad. The results of the espionage may often be beneficial, in our case also this might have been so. When these men gathered before their sortie into Canaan and they planned to take upon themselves the role of "spies" and therefore also the "cover" of a secondary objective, to hide an inner purpose, they were not necessarily planning to slander Eretz Yisroel.
Rashi tries to give us the full picture of their reasoning and what happened. They were told to traverse the land and to report back on what they saw, they were not asked for an intelligence evaluation or personal opinion. What really happened? Even before they left, they modified their mission by planning to assume the role of "spies," together with the "counsel of spies" -- what secret plan did they scheme? That in addition to the actual travels and observations, they would draw conclusions and give their personal opinions, and they would volunteer their evaluation on how to act.
Again, this projected counsel at this point was not intrinsically evil -- for they did not scheme to speak the evil words: "... we cannot go forward against those people." Their scheme was only that they would add their opinion to the facts. However, this was to be a serious breach of their charge; it was not in the purview of their mission, even though it was not necessarily a plan to speak evil of the land.
Thus their sin at that time was that they had the potential to modify their mission to be like "spies" with a secret motive. Halachah teaches (Laws of Messengers) that if the messenger changes the scope of the mission he breaches the trust of the mission and loses the authorization of the sender -- even if the change is for the good. Thus their sin was not that they later gave an evil opinion but that they planned to form an opinion.
With this in mind we may understand Moshe's prayer for Yehoshua, even though at the time the others were still honorable. Moshe prayed that Yehoshua be spared from the (evil) counsel of the spies. On the one hand their role of "spies" might cause them to breach their mission by involving their own opinion; but they were not wicked -- because they might have returned with a good report and added their own good opinion on how best to conquer the land. So (1) they were honorable and (2) Moshe would not have sent them if he suspected any evil schemes. Still, because he saw the potential for personal "counsel" he prayed for Yehoshua.
In the end their scheme of personal opinion caused them to reach an evil scheme and slander Eretz Yisroel. However, Moshe's prayer did help Yehoshua.
One question still remains: If they were worthy men and did not set out with evil intentions how could they have later said, "We cannot go forward against those people."?
To answer this question we must go back to something which the five-year-old Chumash student learned in Bereishis. When Ya'akov prepared himself to meet Esav, Rashi tells us that he prepared a gift, he prayed, and he readied himself for battle.
When Ya'akov prayed, he invoked the promise which G-d had given him, "I will make things go well with you." Why should he now need to send Esav a gift or gird for war? The answer, of course, is that Ya'akov in his humility feared that perhaps he had sinned in the meanwhile and had used up all his good merits.
The spies used an a fortiori argument: If Ya'akov could have such doubt based on the possibility of sin -- certainly the Jews in the desert who had sinned greviously with the Golden Calf had lost all their merits. Thus, because they were righteous they figured G-d would not perform a miracle for them and therefore they should not put themselves in danger, consequently they could not enter Eretz Yisroel at this time.
They rationalized further that what G-d meant when He promised them the land was that after spending more time in the desert, studying and repenting, they would then reach the level that G-d would do miracles for them and bring them into the land.
Thus at the time of sending the spies they were righteous and honorable men. They did however have the potential of involving their own opinions. When they returned, they did actually give the true report, as well as their misguided opinions not to enter the land because they thought that the Jews were not worthy at that time. Their main sin was that they did not do their mission of simply going, looking and reporting. By involving their own opinion they breached the faith of their mission and reached the point that they could mistakenly justify their direct statement: "We cannot go forward against these people," which was clearly against the will of G-d. Moshe had seen the potential and had prayed for Yehoshua who remained faithful to his correct mission.