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Sichos In English
Volume 33

Shabbos Parshas Bereishis
29th Day Of Tishrei, 5747
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  25th Day Of Tishrei, 57476th Day Of Marcheshvan, 5747  

1

Today is Shabbos Mevorchim, which blesses the coming Rosh Chodesh, it is also the eve of Rosh Chodesh. The day of Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan has a unique connection and association to Rosh Hashanah, as a result of which it serves to spread and project the theme of Rosh Hashanah throughout the year through the emerging Divine service of "And Ya'akov went on his way."

First.

In the general theme of Rosh Chodesh we find a significant similarity to Rosh Hashanah. Chassidus compares Rosh Hashanah to the head, which encompasses the life-force of all the parts of the body. On Rosh Hashanah a new creation takes place to create and animate all the worlds every day of the coming year. The individual life-force which animates the days of the year must reach each day of the year via the Rosh Chodesh of every month. Rosh Hashanah divides its general radiance into 12 paths which are distributed among the 12 months of the year.

Consequently, each Rosh Chodesh may also be referred to as the "head" of the month, for it encompasses the life-force of all the days of the month just as Rosh Hashanah does with the months and days of the year. The difference being that Rosh Hashanah serves as a "head" for the year and generates the life-force in a more general way to the 12 months of the year, while Rosh Chodesh apportions it more specifically to each day of the month.

Now, although it is the role of Rosh Chodesh to apportion the life-force from the general to the individual, the truth is that Rosh Hashanah also functions in a similar manner relative to the radiation of existence to many years and millennia. So that Rosh Chodesh and Rosh Hashanah share these common characteristics.

Another point.

On Rosh Hashanah we say that there is a creation of new vitality and animation. Prior to Rosh Hashanah all existence reverts to its former state and then life is renewed. This is the personification of the rebuilding of kingship after its withdrawal.

A similar phenomenon takes place on Rosh Chodesh. On the day preceding Rosh Chodesh the moon wanes to the point of disappearance, then on Rosh Chodesh the sun and moon reunite in a new generation of vitality; just like the rebuilding of kingship on Rosh Hashanah. The difference is that on Rosh Hashanah there is a true reconstruction of kingship while on Rosh Chodesh there is only a renewal of the unity based on the new revelation from Rosh Hashanah.

On Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan this commonalty with Rosh Hashanah is most clearly seen. MarCheshvan is the first Rosh Chodesh of the year after Tishrei, when the theme of Rosh Chodesh stands on its own, and the detailed life-force is transferred from Rosh Hashanah to the days of the month, through the contact and medium of Rosh Chodesh. This reiterates the special connection between Rosh Chodesh and Rosh Hashanah.

When Erev Rosh Chodesh is Shabbos and we read the Haftorah of "Tomorrow is the New Moon" (Shmuel II, 20:18), this theme is further emphasized.

Shabbos, too, has a common theme with Rosh Hashanah. Just as all existence returns to its original state on Rosh Hashanah, so too, on Shabbos all worlds rise above the limitations of time, following which there is a rejuvenation of life-force. Every Sunday is like the first day of creation all over again (see Likkutei Torah, Shir Hashirim 25a). So Shabbos is like Rosh Hashanah on a weekly basis. The proximity of Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan with Shabbos brings this into sharp focus.

How does this translate into the Divine serv ice expected of a Jew? On Rosh Hashanah we accept the yoke of kingship of heaven, we make an unconditional commitment of submission (bittul) to the Holy One, Blessed be He, which will be put into effect throughout the year.

On Rosh Chodesh there is a renewal of vitality after the withdrawal of the moon on Erev Rosh Chodesh, analogous to the self-nullification and bittul of the Jewish people (who are compared to the moon) which is just like the bittul of Rosh Hashanah. When Rosh Chodesh spans two days, the bittul experienced is even stronger on the first day (more than Erev Rosh Chodesh) as preparation for the second day.

The Rosh Hashanah theme that G-d requests: "Make Me king over you," represents a basic and fundamental factor in the general Divine service of a person. This theme suffuses the entire month of Tishrei: Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres, Simchas Torah and even the weekdays after Simchas Torah. Although there seems to be nothing special about these weekdays they are still under the influence of the special days of Tishrei. We do not recite the penitential prayers during the final week of Tishrei after Simchas Torah, because the month is filled with holidays.

This means that even the first holiday of the month, Rosh Hashanah, and its theme of coronation of the Holy One, Blessed be He, are still felt during the final days of the month. And so, now, we must also bring this function of "coronation" into the Divine service of "And Ya'akov went on his way," throughout the entire year.

At the close of Simchas Torah we proclaim "And Ya'akov went on his way" (see Letters of the Previous Rebbe, vol. I, p. 194). The actual realization of this going out really takes place after the conclusion of the month of Tishrei, which is rich with holidays.

Here is where we have the opportunity to imbue the directive of going "on the way" with the coronation of Tishrei as the essential ingredient of a Jew's Divine Service. The first evidence of this permeation is the "Modeh Ani" which a Jew recites upon awakening every morning:

I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King....

Is this not the extension of the acceptance of kingship of Rosh Hashanah expressed in its appropriate daily form!? It is this continuing homage and subservience that Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan brings to the following days and months of the year. Therefore the Divine service of bittul associated with the eve of Rosh Chodesh focuses itself on the dissemination of the acceptance of kingship throughout the coming year.

Hopefully, everyone will translate these ideas into appropriate actions in the facet of bittul and acceptance of the yoke of heaven on Erev Rosh Chodesh and thereby engender the "coronation" throughout the year.

This subservience will then lead to the renewal of Rosh Chodesh, when the good fortune of all the Jewish people is renewed -- in a double measure -- on the two days of Rosh Chodesh.

We refer to abundant blessings, success and salvation in a revealed and clear manner in simple physical needs, children, life, health and abundant sustenance, and abundance in every area, from His full, open, holy and abundant Hand.

G-d's blessings are given in the form of tzedakah -- in a measure commensurate with the ability of the Holy One, Blessed be He, the Giver, in an infinite manner.

May we then merit the inner and essential blessing upon which rests the ability to enjoy and be enriched by all the other blessings, the complete and true redemption, through our righteous Moshiach speedily and truly in our days, Amen.

2

In the Haftorah which we read today, "Tomorrow is the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh)," (Machor Chodesh) a perplexing point comes to mind.

Generally speaking, the choice of a section of Scripture (Nach) for the Haftorah reading is based on its similarity to the Torah reading, or to the theme of the holiday. In the case of "Machor Chodesh," which is read on Shabbos Mevorchim when Rosh Chodesh is Sunday, the story of the Haftorah which deals with Dovid and Yonason has nothing to do with the theme of Erev Rosh Chodesh.

While it is true that Chassidic philosophy points out the esoteric connection between Dovid, Yonason and Erev Rosh Chodesh, in spiritual symbolism, it still is strange that we cannot find any such association in the plain meaning of the chapter.

Even more so, it has no apparent connection to Erev Rosh Chodesh which occurs on Shabbos. The story of going out to the fields and discussing the plan of shooting arrows clearly shows that this incident took place on Erev Rosh Chodesh that was a weekday. On Shabbos a Jew belongs in shul or in the study halls of Torah, or at home, enjoying the pleasure of Shabbos -- what would he be doing out in the fields on Shabbos?!

Even more incomprehensible is the term "Machor Chodesh," which emphasizes the theme of the following day: Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh. Furthermore, these words really do not represent the gist of the story of the Haftorah, they are rather only a reference which informs us that it was the day before Rosh Chodesh and on Rosh Chodesh there would be a royal banquet, when it would be possible to evaluate the true feelings of Shaul to Dovid.

As the story turns out the actual clarification took place on the second day of Rosh Chodesh after Dovid's absence a second time. And yet, we read this Haftorah on a Shabbos preceding a one-day Rosh Chodesh?!

It would seem more logical to read the Haftorah of Shabbos Rosh Chodesh on Erev Rosh Chodesh, which includes the verse:

And from one New Moon to another and from one Shabbos to another.

This Haftorah speaks of Shabbos and of Rosh Chodesh. Why is it that the Haftorah which was set to be read on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh was Machor Chodesh? [Note: These questions about the Haftorah Machor Chodesh were left unanswered by the Rebbe.]


[The following sicha is connected to a sicha spoken on Simchas Torah dealing with Rashi's commentary on the last verse in the Torah. Here the Rebbe continues his analysis.]

3

In the last verse in the Torah we read:

And in all that strong hand, and in all the fearsome acts which Moshe displayed before the eyes of all of Israel.

(Devorim 34:12)

Rashi's commentary on this verse is a bit troublesome:

And in all that strong hand (this refers to the fact) that he received the Torah that was on the Tablets, in his hands.

(Rashi, loc. cit.)

The annotators on Rashi note that the connection between the "strong hand" and the Tablets was:

Moshe's hand was strong enough to carry the Tablets, each one of which was one ama (cubit) by one ama by the height of one ama, and they were made of sapphire stone. (Mizrachi, Gur Aryeh)

Careful scrutiny will raise several questions. In the verse, the words "all that strong hand" precede the words "before the eyes of all Israel" -- which refers to the breaking of the Tablets. We may infer from this sequence that the "strong hand" speaks of receiving the first set of Tablets -- which were later broken. With this in mind several questions arise:

  1. The commentaries note that the Tablets referred to here were made of sapphire. In earlier references to the material of the Tablets we were only informed that the second Tablets were made of sapphire -- there is no earlier reference to the fact that the first Tablets were hewn of sapphire. This is very strange.

  2. It would be logical to say that since the first Tablets were made by G-d they should not have possessed the normal physical characteristics of enormous weight, etc. They should have been more spiritual. In the case of the Manna -- bread from heaven -- such was the case that it did not have the normal physical properties of corporeal food. The five-year-old Chumash student figures that certainly the Tablets which were the handiwork of G-d should have possessed spiritual properties, why should we say that they were so very heavy?

  3. Most importantly, was this really the greatness of Moshe, that he was able to carry heavy stones of sapphire?! We know that he was several times taller than the average person and certainly his physical strength was much greater than the average person's, yet, this was not Moshe's main quality and it seems absurd that at this point in his life the Torah should laud his physical prowess. It is certainly not congruous with the other qualities and praises heaped upon him in the preceding verses:

No other prophet like Moshe has arisen in Israel who knew G-d face to face. [No one else could reproduce] the signs and miracles that G-d let him display in the land of Egypt...or any of the mighty acts or great sights....

(Devorim 34:10,11)

What significance is there in mere physical strength compared to these lofty and amazing qualities.

We may find the solution to this dilemma if we pay close attention to the exact wording of Rashi:

He received the Torah that was on the Tablets, in his hands.

If we were to interpret this verse in accordance with the Rashi annotators that it speaks of his weight-lifting ability, then it should not have said the "Torah that was on the Tablets," rather Rashi should merely have stated "He received the Tablets in his hands." Why does Rashi include the word Torah?!

The explanation of this point will be found by referring to the commentary of Rashi on the verse:

And He gave to Moshe, when he finished speaking...the words, kechaloso (when he finished) is written defectively to intimate that the Torah was handed over to Moshe as a gift (complete in every respect) even as the bride (kallah is "handed over") to the bridegroom (completely equipped with all that she requires) -- for in a period as brief as this (which Moshe spent on the mountain) he must have been unable to learn in its entirety every law (to be derived from it).

(Rashi, Shemos 31:18)

The time Moshe spent on the mountain was spent not in preparing the Tablets [they were engraved by G-d] but in studying from the Holy One, Blessed be He, the entire Torah -- which certainly needed a long time and much study. Even the five-year-old Chumash student sees all the multitude of books which hold the wisdom given to Moshe at Sinai. So G-d studied with Moshe for forty days and nights and at the end of that period, despite Moshe's enormous accomplishments and superhuman ability, he still did not know everything -- so G-d gave him the entire Torah as a gift -- analogous to a bride (kallah) who is "handed over to the bridegroom."

Rashi brings this important point to our attention, that along with the Tablets of stone, G-d gave Moshe the whole corpus of Torah. So when the Torah says:

When [G-d] finished speaking to Moshe on Mount Sinai, He gave him two Tablets of the testimony,

Rashi adds that it really meant that G-d gave him the whole Torah. Being chosen to receive this infinite gift, we must see whether Moshe possessed the intrinsic ability and the innate powers to be able to receive and digest so enormous a benefaction. Did he have the necessary "vessels" to receive the Torah -- if not, he would receive more good than he could handle (see Ta'anis 23a).

To clear up this point Rashi informs us, at the close of the Pentateuch, that along with all of Moshe's astounding powers and qualities he also had the ability to receive the entire Torah with all its laws and derivations at the same time that he accepted the Tablets of stone.

4

In this week's portion let us study the verse:

G-d made leather garments for Adam and his wife and He clothed them. (Bereishis 3:21)

On this we find a problematic Rashi commentary:

There are Aggados which say that they were smooth as fingernails, clinging to their skins; whereas some say [that they were made of] material that comes from skin, as for example the wool [hair] of hares which is soft and warm and of this He made garments for them. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Rashi's system is to explain difficult passages in a plain and direct manner. He does not propose Midrashic, symbolic or esoteric meanings unless it is in a manner which directly enhances the plain meaning of the Scripture.

In the case at hand without Rashi's commentary the simple meaning of the verse is plain enough for the five-year-old Chumash student to fully comprehend that G-d made leather garments for Adam and Chavah. Why must Rashi introduce two Midrashic views and preface his remarks with the words "There are Aggados..."?

  1. What was unclear in this verse, which deemed it necessary for Rashi to add his explanation?

  2. By saying "there are Aggados" it would seem that the first Agaddah is closer to the reality -- but, in fact, the second interpretation seems closer to the actual occurrence. For the term "leather garments" used in the verse would mean that the garments are made of the leather or some part of an animal skin (such as the fur), and not a covering for (or attached to) the skin!

This is all the more problematic since Rashi himself prefaces his remarks with the statement that this is an Aggadic interpretation!

Some annotators to Rashi suggest that Rashi was reluctant to leave the plain meaning of leather garments alone, because that would infer that G-d had to kill some animal to remove its skin, and since G-d is merciful He would not have killed an animal if it were possible to provide Adam and Chavah with clothing in another way.

This is too simplistic, for in Gan Eden everything was available and ready to use: "everything that is pleasant to look at and good to eat..." (Bereishis 2:9), good rivers, "gold," "pearls and precious stones" (Ibid.:12), and many more goodly things not enumerated in Scripture. Certainly, there was also processed leather available and there would have been no need for G-d to take life in order to prepare leather garments. Especially since the Torah describes what G-d did by saying simply: "G-d made leather garments."

So our original question stands, why not leave the plain meaning alone: "leather garments"?!

The explanation:

When the five-year-old Chumash student learns this verse, that "G-d made leather garments for Adam and his wife and He clothed them," he is perturbed. Just prior to this we are told:

They sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loincloths, (Ibid. 2:7)

to cover their nakedness. If they were capable of making loincloths they could have also made proper garments. Why did G-d have to make them garments (tunics).

Even more puzzling is the fact that G-d dressed them! The Holy One, Blessed be He, made the garments for them and dressed them -- they did not (or could not) dress themselves!?

The student further ponders the narrative "Vayaas Havayeh Elokim" -- (G-d, L-rd made). He had previously studied Rashi's comment on the verse "on the day the L-rd, G-d completed (created) earth and heaven," (ibid. 2:4) -- that the Name Havayeh referred to the attribute of mercy and the Name Elokim referred to the attribute of judgment (severity). Why is it necessary for Scripture to use both of these terms when it relates the story of the clothing? Why even the whole world could have been created only by the Name Elokim -- why the need for both names here?

To answer this question Rashi quotes the Midrash that G-d made them coverings for their skin. Clearly, this type of "garment" which is attached to their bodies can only be fashioned and attached to them by the Holy One, Blessed be He. This also explains the need for both Names of G-d, Mercy and Severity. The Torah relates that G-d drove them out of Gan Eden -- an act of judgment -- however the Torah also indicates that prior to the exercise of judgment G-d showed them mercy.

He clothed them with "nail-like" plates to cover them and protect them -- just as the punishment was to always be, so too, would their G-d-given garments always be an expression of supernal kindness.

But the student is still not convinced that G-d would perform a miracle when He could have simply given them non-miraculous clothes. So Rashi adds that there is another explanation which does in fact say that the garments were normal, regular garments -- here G-d's mercy was expressed in the fact that these garments were not mere figleaf loincloths but much better quality, leather garments. [The reference to "hair" or "wool" is only an example to help the student comprehend the subject.]

Until this point they had no opportunity to make proper clothing, for right after forming the figleaf covering, they heard G-d calling them and then immediately after their dialogue with G-d, G-d did not wait for them to make better clothing but mercifully made them new and better garments.

The problem with this version is that garments made of leather they could have put on by themselves! This is the reason Rashi goes back and opts for the nail-like garments as a better meaning for this verse. Thus each opinion leaves something to be desired, yet each attempts to explain the difficulties of the verse.


5

In the Rambam section which we study today we learn the laws of a proper mikvah -- ritualarium (ritual-immersion pool). The Rambam teaches:

According to Scripture, any water that has gathered may be used for immersion, for it is said, "a gathering of water" (Vayikra 2:36), that is, gathering of any kind, provided only that there is enough of it to allow the immersion of a man's entire body at one time....

He goes on to say:

But according to the teachings of the scribes drawn water is not valid for immersion.... Although the invalidation of drawn water rests only on the authority of the scribes, they have inferred it by analogy, since Scripture says: "Nevertheless a fountain or a cistern wherein is a gathering of water shall be clean (Vayikra 2:36). A fountain is not made by man at all, while a cistern is wholly of man's making, since it is all drawn water. Accordingly, the sages have said that "a gathering of water" should not all be drawn water, like a cistern, nor need all of it be heaven-made, like a fountain; rather, if there is in it something man-made, it is valid.

(Laws of Mikvaos 4:1-3)

From this halachic exposition we may derive an important moral lesson for our Divine service.

The Rambam also refers to the laws of an immersion pool in a symbolic way and compares it to immersion in "the waters of pure reason" which is the Torah.

In Torah, too, there is the fountain which is wholly heaven-made, and the man-made cistern. The matters clearly set down in Torah are heaven-made and the projections of these principles as they are understood in the human mind are "man-made."

When a Jew turns to a sage and asks to be guided in the ways of teshuvah the sage may suggest some idea which is wholly of human understanding. Despite the source of the advice, according to Scriptural law this would be sufficient -- so long as it may be presumed that they are words of "pure reason."

However, the Scribes ruled that "man-made waters" are insufficient and will not bring purity. The generations are now weaker and we cannot equate human understanding with the "waters of pure reason."

On the other hand, the heavenly water of pure reason may be modified and applied according to human projection, for after all, human involvement in Torah is also required. So the symbolic mikvah of pure reason must combine the heavenly waters and the human aspect.

An example of this would be the current emphasis on making for yourself a Rav. You must appoint the teacher for yourself -- one whom you respect and who will guide you and teach you. No one else will place the teacher upon you, you must do it with your own good will. On the one hand the Rav must be above you, at the same time you do it from below. In a like manner the waters of pure reason must combine the heavenly aspect applied in a human way.


  25th Day Of Tishrei, 57476th Day Of Marcheshvan, 5747  
  
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