Every Jew is responsible for his own perfection as well as the spiritual development of his fellow Jews. Which takes priority? On Shabbos Chaye Sarah, in conjunction with the Shluchim Convention, the Rebbe discussed this fundamental question and gave an illuminating and inspiring exposition of the subject. The previous Rebbe made it clear that in modern times we must first deal with the urgency of teaching others -- so that our own perfection may be postponed. Build the Bais Hamikdosh first and then gather the exiles. At the same time do not get carried away with the more general goal and forget the individual. Reach out to every Jew and illuminate his/her life.
This essay is a free translation based on the special issue of the Rebbe's sicha on this topic.
Every Shabbos projects its influence on the following weekdays, as the Zohar states:
For the six days receive blessings from the seventh.
(Zohar II 63b)
At the same time Shabbos also receives its perfection from the preceding days, as expressed in the Talmudic dictum:
He who took trouble [to prepare] on the eve of the Shabbos can eat on the Shabbos. (Avodah Zorah 3a)
This blessing and fulfillment which is realized on Shabbos as a result of the preceding weekdays really began on the preceding Shabbos, which projected its blessing not only to the "six days" but also to the seventh day -- the present Shabbos (see Likkutei Sichos vol. II, p. 592 fn. 9).
Today, we can clearly discern these two special factors. Firstly, it is Shabbos Mevorchim from which the blessing projects not only to the coming week, but also to the full month ahead. Additionally, it is the Shabbos Mevorchim of the month of Kislev which is the third month counting from Tishrei and therefore possesses certain unique characteristics which even Sivan, the third month from Nissan, lacks.
Secondly, last week was the 20th of MarCheshvan, the birthday of the Rebbe Rashab and his time of "ascending fortune." This Shabbos receives its blessing from last Shabbos.
The Providential coincidence of these two important points indicates that there are some aspects which they must share in common.
The underlying essence and the overpowering theme of Kislev is the holiday of Chanukah -- as expressed in the fact that the Chanukah candles have a quality over the Temple candles -- "They will never be suspended" (Ramban, Beha'alosecha 8:1).
This indicates that the light of the Chanukah menorah is of a loftier calibre, similar to the essential light of the Ein-Sof, above the order of the creation of the world. In this sense it reflects the light of the future redemption which will be infinite and uncontrolled -- a salvation that will have no exile afterwards.
Yet, all this comes about as a result of our action during the time of the diaspora. Our Torah study and our work in disseminating the esoteric teachings of Torah -- without shades or coverings -- will "quicken" the inner soul, and the essential inner powers of the soul will be awakened by the essential light which will radiate from above and which cannot be veiled.
Here we reveal the special factor of this Shabbos. The Rebbe Rashab founded Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim and set as its goal that the students must be "soldiers of the House of Dovid," to hold battle with those who shame the footsteps of Moshiach. He also explained that their power rests not in the power of Mussar, ethical and moralistic rebuke, rather in the study and dissemination of the inner secrets of Torah -- Chassidus.
The 20th of MarCheshvan Kindles the Spirit of Chanukah
On the birthday of the founder of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim a special force is transmitted to all his disciples and students enpowering them to go out and illuminate the world, as a result of which the light and force of Kislev is created and generated, a light which will never be extinguished, and which will bring the permanent and eternal salvation.
This connection is emphasized ever so strongly this year. Being the 126th anniversary of the Rashab's birth the appropriate Psalm to be recited in his honor during the past year was Psalm 126, and for this year it will be Psalm 127. Both of these Psalms are part of the section of Tehillim recited on the 27th of the month (today) according to the monthly cycle.
Both of these Psalms deal with the topic of redemption, a clear connection to the Rashab and his directives to the "soldiers of the House of Dovid."
There is a distinction, however, between these two Psalms.
Psalm 126 speaks of:
When the L-rd will turn [to us] once more [and bring about our] return to Tziyon. (Tehillim 126:1)
This is a clear reference to the ingathering of the exiles of the Jewish people.
Psalm 127 speaks of "G-d...build a house" (Tehillim 127:1), a reference to the building of the future Bais Hamikdosh.
Since sequence in Torah is also instructive, it would appear that first the Jewish exiles must be brought together and only then will the Third Bais Hamikdosh be built.
The need for all the Jewish people to be present for the Sanctuary to be built held true in the case of the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the First Bais Hamikdosh in Yerushalayim.
Regarding the time of the future we find two views. There is the opinion of the Midrash:
Yerushalayim will not be rebuilt until the exiles will return.
(Tanchuma, Noach 11)
This opinion would seem to contradict the clear ruling of the Rambam:
He...rebuilds the Sanctuary on its site, and [then] gathers the dispersed of Israel.... (Laws of Kings 11:4)
This seemingly fundamental contradiction should really pose no problem for us, for when we speak of our Divine service and spiritual requirements we must learn a lesson and take directives from all legitimate (even opposing) opinions of Torah.
In a metaphysical sense the Bais Hamikdosh represented a state in which corporeal existence became a dwelling place for G-dliness. In this context the opinion that Yerushalayim will not be rebuilt until the dispersed are gathered means that in a spiritual sense all Israel must first rise above the golus and be redeemed, and only then will they attain a loftier state wherein the mundane materiality of the world will become a dwelling place for G-d.
Transposing this to our Divine service and activity in contemporary times, the sequence will be such that one must first gather the "sparks of the light of his soul" which were dispersed "to many foreign and very distant areas" (Mitteler Rebbe in Shaarei Teshuvah). After gathering and retrieving his "lost" sparks he will be able to effect the perfect purification and refinement in the rest of the world, represented by the Bais Hamikdosh. This means that until such time as he will reach complete self-refinement, he will not be capable of purifying the rest of the world.
According to the other opinion, that the construction of the Bais Hamikdosh must precede the gathering of the exiles, the sequence will be reversed, and although we have the principle:
First adorn yourself and then adorn others,
(B. Metzia 107b)
nevertheless there are conditions when the building of the Bais Hamikdosh (adorn others) must come before the ingathering of the exiles (adorn yourself). Since you are confronted by a problem which needs correction it is a sign that you must rectify it right now!
Then, by being involved in purifying the world around you (building the Bais Hamikdosh), you will also gain new strength in your inner personal Divine service (gathering your personal "exiles").
We may add that just as the plain meaning of the Rambam (and the undisputed Halachah) is to first build the Bais Hamikdosh and then gather the exiles, so too, our Divine service and activity must follow the same order. With this in mind the Previous Rebbe, the Nassi of our generation, gave us a clear and plain directive: the Bais Hamikdosh must be built before the exiles are gathered.
This means that in our generation the general rule to follow (except for certain exceptions) is to improve the world before perfecting oneself.
The practical application of this philosophy was seen when the previous Rebbe sent his emissaries to distant places -- distant also in a spiritual sense and he did not require that they should first perfect themselves! By his own policy the previous Rebbe made it perfectly clear that we must also follow this approach.
Notwithstanding this unequivocal philosophy, it behooves us to also glean a lesson in our Divine service from the other opinion (for the whole Torah is eternal) that the ingathering of the exiles comes before the building of the Holy Temple.
How? In working with others (building the Bais Hamikdosh) we may discern two aspects:
- When you help another Jew to gather together his soul powers and infuse them with Torah and mitzvos -- it is a form of "ingathering of the exiles."
- The result of this activity in the world in general will be that another Jew will come close to Torah and mitzvos; consequently, you will speed up the redemption of the world and effect the "building of the Bais Hamikdosh."
In other words, in dealing with others, which must be our first priority, we can still put the emphasis on helping them gather their exiled soul powers. So, in a sense in the activity of building the Bais Hamikdosh we are nevertheless giving primary importance to gathering the exiles.
When you have been sent to a distant place and given the mission to work with Jews, you may feel that by putting so much effort into helping individual Jews you will miss the main goal of first building the Bais Hamikdosh. Take heart from this lesson and in this framework! Follow the opinion that the ingathering comes before the building of the Bais Hamikdosh.
The intention of the Nassi of our generation who sent out his emissaries to different and distant places may be understood as follows: the messenger must concentrate on helping the people of the place he was sent to. Among Jews he must generate and illuminate their lives with Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings of Chassidus -- and non-Jews must be taught the Seven Noachide Laws which pertain to them.
The Shaliach (emissary) should know that his action will bring the redemption closer and this knowledge will add momentum and enthusiasm to his work. He must nevertheless, remember that the redemption is an "effect" and result of the work placed on him by the sender. His priority must be to concentrate his work to illuminate the lives of the people in the place where he was sent with the light of Torah and mitzvos.
May this convention of emissaries add strength to help everyone fulfill his mission in an ever increasing and brighter way, so that:
They helped everyone his neighbor; and everyone said to his brother, "Be of good courage." (Yeshayahu 41:6)
This is especially important as everyone is given special powers by the sender. Use the powers properly and illuminate your place in the world by spreading Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos, and especially, the dissemination of the wellsprings of Chassidus.
Every increase you make will bring the redemption closer, and the building of the Third Bais Hamikdosh, the eternal House: "The Sanctuary which Your hands, O Lord, have established" (Shemos 15:17).
As expressed in the Psalm which we now recite (Psalm 127) in honor of the Rashab:
The L-rd will build the house,...He will watch the city,
for G-d will give His "loved one," King Moshiach, the House and the city in all its perfection and glory, speedily, and truly in our time.