Today is the 11th day of Kislev which has a close connection with the 10th of Kislev, the day of liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe (Rabbi Dov Ber [Schneuri] 1773-1827).
Every Shabbos has the theme of bringing completion (to the point of delight) to the preceding six days, and the days which immediately precede Shabbos naturally have a stronger connection to Shabbos.
Thursday was the 9th of Kislev, the birthday anniversary, as well as the day of passing, of the Mitteler Rebbe. On that day:
All his doings, his Torah, and the Divine service which he served all the days of his life...becomes revealed and radiates in a manifest way...and effects salvation in the midst of the earth. (Tanya, Iggeres Hakodesh 27-28)
Yesterday, Friday, the 10th of Kislev, being the actual eve of Shabbos, represented an even more intense association with Shabbos. As the Gemara expresses it:
He who took trouble [to prepare] on the eve of the Shabbos can eat on the Shabbos. (Avodah Zorah 3a)
This means that the bother and preparation done on Friday metamorphoses into the food of Shabbos.
In celebrating the day of liberation -- the 10th of Kislev -- it is appropriate that the farbrengen should be held on the 11th of Kislev. The precedent for this may be drawn from Purim, when we begin the Purim feast late in the day and draw it into the following night, i.e. the following day.
This custom is also followed for several farbrengens during the year -- when we begin the farbrengen at the close of the holiday or even after the day has ended (after nightfall) and we carry on the theme of the day into the following day (and then to the rest of the year).
On the holiday of Liberation, Yud-Tes Kislev (19th of Kislev commemorating the release of the Alter Rebbe from Czarist imprisonment), we also follow this practice, since the Alter Rebbe was actually released on the 19th of Kislev late in the afternoon -- on into the evening. Our Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen has been set for the 19th going into the 20th.
Consequently, on the 10th of Kislev it is likewise appropriate to hold the farbrengen at a time leading into the next day. When the 11th occurs on Shabbos, the farbrengen is held in the daytime, after midday, and then we also have the added quality of Shabbos and the "delight" of Shabbos afternoon.
At this farbrengen which commemorates the celebration of the 10th of Kislev it would be appropriate to contemplate the events of the arrest and liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe, emphasize its special aspects relative to Yud-Tes Kislev and glean some lesson for our contemporary Divine service in a practical, positive way, for "Practice is the essential thing" (Avos 1:17).
When we relive an episode of history all aspects are reenacted and the good results and positive resolutions are once again enhanced. The power of a Jewish assemblage injects new strength, especially at a Chassidic farbrengen which possesses the lofty powers to accomplish even more than angels.
How do we perceive this day of liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe?
Generally speaking, the incarceration and subsequent liberation of the Nessi'im of Chassidus represent and symbolize the temporal manifestation of a supernal indictment and denunciation against the revelation and dissemination of Chassidus.
The redemption and release of the Nassi represents the nullification of the supernal denouncement which is followed by intensified revelation of Chassidus, similar to the quality of light emerging from darkness.
In this general description we can discern a distinction between the arrest and liberation of the Alter Rebbe on Yud-Tes Kislev and the incarceration and release of the Mitteler Rebbe on the 10th of Kislev. The difference will parallel their different approaches in the revelation and dissemination of the philosophy of Chassidus.
The events of Yud-Tes Kislev evolved from the innovation of the Alter Rebbe compared to the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid, as expressed in Chabad Chassidus, which emphasized the importance of understanding and grasping the concept intellectually. This revolutionary approach caused an uproar in heaven as a result of which the Alter Rebbe had to suffer incarceration on earth. On Yud-Tes Kislev, the supernal court issued the verdict that the esoteric teachings of Torah, can and must be revealed through the philosophy of Chabad, and the Alter Rebbe was released.
Yet, even after the freedom of Yud-Tes Kislev there arose fresh denunciations against the dissemination of Chassidus by the Mitteler Rebbe. This was possibly because of the Mitteler Rebbe's increased power of explanation, referred to by the phrase: "The broad rivers of understanding." The Alter Rebbe embodied the attribute of Chochmah -- wisdom -- while the Mitteler Rebbe personified the attribute of Binah -- understanding.
This difference is quite noticeable in the Chassidic discourses of the Alter Rebbe, for although they are truly intellectual, they are still quite terse and condensed, just as Chochmah itself emerges as a "point" in the mind. Compared to this is Binah, the broad understanding of the Mitteler Rebbe, who used to review a short discourse of the Alter Rebbe and embellish it so that it became much longer. With the redemption of the Mitteler Rebbe, his brand of Chassidus was given the supernal stamp of approval and the wellsprings of Chassidus spread out and increased from a small spring to reach out to the distant places.
These days should be remembered and celebrated (lit. come into being). (Esther 9:28)
When the 10th of Kislev comes each year we experience a unique inspiration and regeneration of power related to spreading Chassidus in the manner of "broad rivers," just as it was the first time, and even loftier now, for we "increase in matters of holiness."
This is especially true after the intervening years during which Chassidus was in fact taught and disseminated by the later Nessi'im and particularly the previous Rebbe who spread the fountains of Chassidus to the ends of the earth in many languages, so that even non-Jews gained insight into Chassidic philosophy.
We must therefore utilize this opportunity and increase our ability to spread the wellsprings of Torah and Yiddishkeit as they are infused with the fountains of the esoteric wisdom of Torah. The emphasis must be on reaching out to others, for the charges against the Mitteler Rebbe dealt with the promulgation of Chassidus.
This Divine service of the 10th of Kislev will spread its influence and affect all aspects of one's Divine service associated with the subsequent holidays of Kislev.
In the following order:
(The 15th of Kislev, when the moon reaches its full phase.)
Yud-Tes Kislev (the 19th of Kislev) called the "festival of festivals" -- the Rosh Hashanah -- New Year -- of Chassidus.
And, Chanukah (which concludes the month) the holiday that was established to commemorate the miracle of the oil -- representing the innermost levels of Torah.
When the Divine service of the 10th of Kislev is satisfactory, then the potential powers of Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah are enhanced and enriched with the fullness of the "broad rivers."
These are auspicious days when everyone must exert every effort in propagating Torah, Yiddishkeit and spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside.
What are the special, timely themes of this period?
Appropriate preparations should be made for farbrengens to celebrate Yud-Tes Kislev, with great multitudes everywhere. Proper preparations should be initiated so that "Mivtza Chanukah" will be effective and successful, in a manner which will "publicize the miracle." Always keep in mind the need for more and more effort relative to previous years. This is, after all, the lesson of Chanukah itself:
We continue to increase...for in matters of sanctity we promote but do not reduce." (Shabbos 21b)
Another facet to this discussion is the idea that the 10th of Kislev, Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah will also include other aspects of propagation of Torah and mitzvos.
Both days of redemption, the 10th and the 19th of Kislev, are associated with the verse in Tehillim:
He has delivered my soul in peace. (Tehillim 55:19)
The Alter Rebbe wrote that he was freed just as he recited this verse, and the Mitteler Rebbe also recited this verse on the day he was released. All aspects of Torah are included in this verse, as the Gemara states:
"He has delivered my soul in peace," the Holy One, Blessed be He, says "...If a man occupies himself with the study of Torah, and with works of charity and prays with the congregation, I account it to him as if he had redeemed Me and My children from among the nations of the world." (Berachos 8a)
Chassidus will add the facet of going beyond the minimum requirement in all of these areas of Divine service.
The Menorah of Chanukah represents the Menorah of the Bais Hamikdosh. In the spiritual sense it symbolizes that all seven "branches" of the Jewish people are illuminated and irradiated with the "mitzvah candle and Torah light." It also becomes a source of light for the whole world.
Another aspect of the Chanukah lights is that they are kindled at the "outside door" after "sunset" and shed their light until the "footsteps of the Tarmodoi cease from the streets" and, being loftier than the candles of the Bais Hamikdosh, they will never be suspended.
Consequently, I want to reiterate and encourage everyone, once again, concerning the establishment and expansion of Chabad Houses everywhere, Houses of Torah, prayer and good deeds, through which all avenues of promoting and disseminating Torah are enhanced -- in the form of the three aspects of the verse "delivered my soul" -- prayer, Torah and good deed -- as well as the aspect of illuminating the world with the Chanukah light. We must not forget the requirement to first "adorn yourself" by providing yourself with a Rav/Teacher, as we have recently discussed in great detail.
We may connect all these themes with this week's Torah portion. Vayeitze.
- Redemption: Vayeitze speaks of incarceration and freedom.
Ya'akov left Beer Sheva and headed toward Charan,
an aspect of bondage. And, as Rashi noted about the place Charan, that it represented:
...the fierce anger of the Omnipotent kindled against the world. (Rashi, Bereishis 11:32)
Further on we read of the liberation:
Ya'akov began the journey, placing his children and wives on camels. He was heading to see his father Yitzchok in the land of Cana'an. (Bereishis 31:17-18)
This return to freedom was also characterized by the term "in peace" just as the redemption of "delivered my soul."
- The subject of the circumfusion of Chassidus in the world in a broad way is alluded to in the portion of Vayeitze, where we find the reference to "the mound shall be witness" Chassidus connects this mound (gall) with the day of Lag B'Omer, the Yartzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who revealed the "wall" that separated the esoteric and exoteric sides of Torah. The Mitteler Rebbe similarly attained spiritual heights at the time of his passing and he too increased the comprehension of the Rashbi's teachings and completely removed the barriers between the different areas of Torah.
- The promulgation of Torah and Yiddishkeit through the medium of Chabad Houses everywhere may also be found in our portion:
Let this stone that I have set up as a pillar become a temple to G-d. (Bereishis 28:22)
How will that be effected? By establishing Chabad Houses -- for Torah, prayer and good deeds -- mini sanctuaries. Here we must introduce the theme of:
You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north and to the south. (Bereishis 28:14)
When Ya'akov heard this promise Rashi tells us:
- This refers to every place, in all corners of the world, and:
- beyond any limitations, the infinite inheritance.
As soon as he received the good tidings...his heart lifted up his feet and he walked swiftly, (Bereishis 29:1)
with joy and gladness of heart.
And just as Ya'akov was accompanied and protected by angels which represented Eretz Yisroel -- the Holy Land -- so, too, we will merit the angelic protection even in the diaspora.
The ultimate test for all this discussion is positive action, to increase all areas of Divine service in spreading Torah, Yiddishkeit and the fountains of Chassidus, by genuine toil and hard work, with joy and gladness; just as one who carries a heavy burden of precious stones and pearls (which are then given to the bearer).
The Previous Rebbe advised us: "Stand together ready...."
The blessings and powers are ready, we must only stand firm and be ready to carry out the mission of the Nassi, all together. Then we will complete the "polishing of the buttons" so that they will shine and sparkle for that great parade of Tzivos Hashem before the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.
And we will merit the true and complete redemption on Shabbos afternoon, through our righteous Moshiach, and then we will attain the full redemption of "delivered my soul in peace" and "return in peace to my father's home," the house of Yitzchok, who will be singled out as the father in the future time of Moshiach, as we find in the Talmud:
[Thereupon] they shall commence and say: "For you [i.e. Yitzchok] are our father." (Shabbos 89b)
This will come at the time that the Third Bais Hamikdosh will be built, which is associated with Ya'akov. As the Gemara says:
Like Ya'akov who called Him "home" as it is said: "And he called the name of that place Beth E'l [G-d is a home]." (Pesachim 88a)
At Minchah we will now read:
Ya'akov sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esav.... (Bereishis 32:4)
The refinement of Esav is also completed and we wait only for the fulfillment of the promise:
Deliverers will go up to Mount Tziyon to judge the mount of Esav and Kingship will be the L-rd's.
In this week's portion we will deal with several puzzling commentaries of Rashi based on queries raised this week in several publications.
- At the beginning of the portion of Vayeitze the Torah tells us that Ya'akov left Beer Sheva: "Vayifga Bamakom -- He reached the place" (Bereishis 28:11). Rashi wonders about this ambiguous term "the place" and he explains:
He reached the place -- Scripture does not mention which place, but by writing Bamakom -- the place -- it refers to the place mentioned already in another passage, viz., Mount Moriah, of which it is stated "And he saw the place (Hamakom) afar off." (Rashi, loc. cit.)
On this Rashi the obvious question was asked. We know that it is Rashi's practice to quote in the citation only those words which he goes on to modify. In the above verse Rashi only explains the word Bamakom -- the place. Why then does Rashi also cite the word "He reached" in the caption? Another important point which the many questioners failed to take note of was that after commenting on the two terms, "he reached the place," Rashi goes on to comment on the word "He reached" (vayifga) by itself.
We often find cases in Rashi where he first comments on two words of a verse and then in a later commentary goes back to pinpoint and modify one of the words on its own.
Normally if his discussion of the two-word phrase actually covers the meaning of each of the words then logic requires that it be covered first to be followed by the further discussion of one of the words.
In our case we find a strange and inconsistent sequence. First Rashi cites two words "Vayifga Bamakom -- he reached the place," but explains only the word Bamakom. Following this Rashi again cites the word "Vayifga -- he reached" -- which he explains. Here we are stymied; since he did not explain the word Vayifga at all in his first commentary -- he should not have cited the word at all, but even more surprising the order should be reversed. He should first deal with the single word "Vayifga -- and he reached" which comes first in the sentence, and then in the following Rashi he should cite only the word Bamakom and explain it? In that way he would be following the sequence of the verse.
The sequence as it stands seems to indicate that the correct understanding of "the place" is a prerequisite to a proper understanding of "and he reached." Where do we see this?
- When Ya'akov arrives in Charan, Lavan runs out to greet him. The Torah tells us:
He ran to greet him and he embraced him and kissed him.... (Bereishis 29:13)
This warm and emotional welcome seems out of character for Lavan the "trickster." Anticipating this puzzlement Rashi explains:
He ran to greet him -- thinking that he was laden with money, for the servant of that household (Eliezer) had come there with ten camels fully laden. And he embraced -- when he saw that he had nothing with him, he thought, "Perhaps he has brought gold coins and they are hidden away in his bosom!" And he kissed him -- he thought, "Perhaps he has brought pearls (or precious stones, in general) and they are in his mouth!"
(Rashi, loc. cit.)
Regarding this Rashi we are again faced with a troubling question on the captions. Rashi covers the story of Lavan's warm welcome in three sentences, each introduced by a caption from the verse. First Rashi cites the words "He ran to greet him" and explains Lavan's initial motive. Then Rashi cites the word "and he embraced" omitting the pronoun "him," and further explains the reason for Lavan's enthusiastic embrace. Finally, Rashi cites the next verb "and he kissed him" this time Rashi includes the pronoun "him," ("lo" -- "to him").
The obvious question arises: If the pronoun "him" is necessary in the third case why not in the second case -- and if the embrace does not need the word "him" why does Rashi include it in the case of the kiss?!
- When Yosef was born the Torah describes Rochel's feelings:
G-d has gathered away my humiliation." (Bereishis 30:23)
Rashi deals with this concept of "gathering away" and brings examples of the word (assaf):
[G-d] has gathered away [my humiliation] -- He has laid it up somewhere where it cannot be seen. Similar examples are: "Take you away our reproach" (Yeshayahu 4:1); "and shall not have been taken away into the house" (Shemos 9:19); "withdraw their shining" (Yoel 4:13); "neither shall your moon withdraw itself" (Yeshayahu 60:20), -- meaning shall not hide itself. (Rashi, loc. cit.)
The questions that were raised: A) Why must Rashi bring four examples of the usage of the word assaf -- withdraw (gathered away)? B) Why does Rashi list the four verses out of their scriptural order?
To these questions we may add: C) The word (assaf) "gathered away" is really an elementary term which the five-year-old Chumash student can understand without any need for further elaboration, and; D) The commentary "He has laid it up somewhere where it cannot be seen" is troublesome, for it seems to indicate that some aspect of shame still remains, but it is hidden away in some unseen place.
The explanation of the Rashi on "he reached the place" will be based on Rashi's anticipation of the five-year-old Chumash student's reaction to his suggestion that the place was Mount Moriah. The five-year-old Chumash student is troubled that Rashi interprets the words "the place" as Mount Moriah; he wants to stop Rashi and argue that the place referred to is probably the place that one would reach when he leaves Beer Sheva on the road to Charan! Why look for some other place? Take out a map and check all the nearby places!
Rashi, however, takes a different approach, and for this reason Rashi first cites the words "He reached the place" and immediately informs us and the five-year-old Chumash student that we cannot know from the simple wording of the verse what place it was -- for there were many places near Beer Sheva on the road to Charan!
What do we know? That the Torah used the same wording in the case of Mount Moriah. And since here we are only told that it was some well-known (probably famous) place -- we can assume that it was, in fact, Mount Moriah; in fact the Torah also refers to Moriah simply with the term "the place"!
Should you ask that Mt. Moriah is far away from Beer Sheva, Rashi answers (in the next Rashi) that the "ground shrunk before him" and his journey was miraculously shortened.
It now becomes clear why Rashi deals with this aspect first (the two words: "he reached the place") and then follows with another commentary dealing only with the word "he reached." For, in searching for the identity of the place Ya'akov hit upon, it is appropriate that when Ya'akov left Beer Sheva on his way to Charan, he reached Mount Moriah, having established this sequence he then goes back to the word, "he reached" and elaborates on the word.
It should also be noted that all of the segments of these Rashis should actually be part of one unit, starting with the words from verse 10:
"And he went towards Charan" -- he went out to go to Charan, "He reached the place" -- ...the place mentioned...Mount Moriah,... for the journey was miraculously shortened.
Rashi often works the words of the text into his own words, but the typesetter (years ago) thought that the words in Rashi's text taken from the verse had to be printed in bold, thinking that each term introduced a new thought.
[Note: The question dealing with Lavan's embrace was not answered by the Rebbe Shlita during the farbrengen of Shabbos Vayeitze. A week later on Shabbos Vayishlach the Rebbe did present the solution.]
Rashi's approach in explaining Lavan's conduct proposes that each act he did was for the purpose of uncovering money or precious stones not revealed by his previous manifestation of affection.
Therefore, after racing out to see Ya'akov, and discovering that he had not brought camels laden with riches, he reverted to a body check thinking, "Perhaps he has brought gold coins and they are in his bosom." And so he embraced him to see if he had the coins on his person.
But to no avail -- he could discover no pouch of coins. He then thought: "Perhaps he has brought pearls and they are in his mouth." (As was the custom in those days.) So he kissed Ya'akov and checked out his mouth for gems.
Now, whereas, an embrace is generally around the torso a kiss can be planted on one's hand, cheek, or mouth depending on how much affection or love one wishes to display. Rashi, therefore, questioned just where Lavan kissed Ya'akov. If he had kissed his mouth why did the Torah not specify?
The answer Rashi gives us is, that a kiss on the hand was unnecessary -- remember -- the purpose of the kiss was to discover coins or jewels and he already knew from the embrace that he held no pouch of gold in his hands. The kiss had to be to his mouth to reveal if he had pearls in his mouth!
So Rashi cites the word "kissed", "lo -- [to] him," to indicate that the level of kissing was very close -- whereas in the case of embrace the word "him" was simply not necessary.
Regarding Rashi's treatment of the verse "G-d has gathered away my humiliation," we must again deal with the fundamental approach of the five-year-old Chumash student. He is troubled by the thought that even after Rochel bore Yosef she would still face humiliation compared to Ya'akov's other wives. After all, Bilhah and Zilpah had two sons each, Leah had six sons and she had only one son. She would still feel shame.
Rashi therefore takes the approach that although she may still face shame it would not be revealed and obvious. When a young wife is always seen alone, without children pulling at her skirt, everyone knows that she is childless. When, however, she is seen caring for her child people do not think that perhaps this is her only child, she may have other children; some may be at school, others could be asleep or playing. So long as Rochel was childless, everyone saw and knew her condition and she felt deep humiliation. When she gave birth to Yosef, then any vestige of shame which may have lingered on was hidden away. She was seen in public with her son and, who knows, maybe she had more children at home!
To explain this concept of hidden humiliation Rashi deems it necessary to cite four verses from Tenach each one depicting a different level of hidden shame. For this reason, the verses are not listed in Scriptural sequence, rather in an order which would designate the four levels of gathering up the shame.
However, that distinction I will leave to you to discover, for: "Give instruction to a wise man and he will be yet wiser" (Mishlei 9:9).
In today's study section of Mishnah Torah we cover the closing chapter of Laws of Neighbors. In the final halachah we learn:
If one wishes to sell land and two people come, each saying, "I will buy it for this price," and neither of them is an adjacent neighbor, we hold as follows: if one is an urban resident and the other a rural resident the urban resident has priority. If one is a neighbor and the other a scholar the scholar has precedence. If a relation and a scholar the scholar has precedence. If a neighbor and a relative, the neighbor has priority, because this too is included in the good and the right. If one forestalls the other and buys it he acquires title to it, and the other who would have had priority had they come together, cannot evict him, seeing that neither is an adjacent neighbor, for the sages have not enjoined priority in these instances except as a matter of piety, and it is becoming a devout spirit to act thus.
(Laws of Neighbors 14:5)
This halachah provides us with a profound lesson in the improvement of our ethical behavior. The Rambam had previously discussed the principle of doing the good and the right in business transactions. In this case, however, the Rambam explains that there is a level of pious action -- "matters of piety" -- which go beyond the good and the right. A Jew should strive to attain that level of a "devout spirit" and even in areas where the principle of the good and the right does not apply he should still act in a lofty manner so that his behavior shows his attribute of piety.
In an halachic context this rule raises a question. The Rambam states clearly here that this rule applies when there is no buyer who owns land contiguous to the land up for sale. When such an adjacent neighbor does offer to buy the land he gets preference, as we learned earlier (ibid. 12:5). In fact, even if he is an ignorant and unlearned Jew he has the right to evict any buyer who made the deal first, even if that person is a neighbor, relative or scholar!
The reason for this:
This rule obtains because it is said: "And you shall do what is good and right" (Devorim 4:18); and the sages have held that since the sale is the same, it is good and right that this place should be bought by the owner of the adjacent field rather than by an outsider.
(Laws of Neighbors 12:5)
However, here a question comes to mind for later when we study a rule concerning selling land to a non-Jew we find in that case that the seller is pressured,
...to accept responsibility for all injuries that may ensue from the heathen (and)...until the non-Jew consents to abide by the laws of Israel...with the neighbors, etc.
If we think about it, there is some similarity between the heathen and the ignorant Jew (l'havdil). An unlearned person will not act with the same reliability as a scholar,why then does the unlearned adjacent neighbor have the right to evict a scholar? The seller should be allowed to argue that the "sale is" not "the same"! Perhaps the neighbors will suffer from the activities of such an non-observant person and would rather have a scholar as their neighbor?
We cannot say that this law is directed only at the potential buyer -- the scholar -- because the Rambam clearly rationalizes the restriction with the principle the "sale is the same" which can only apply to the seller.
We will leave this ponderation unanswered with the hope that those who have heard will endeavor to find a solution.
It is the appropriate time to remind everyone about the importance of proper preparations for Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengens and gatherings in all places. All aspects of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit and the fountains of Chassidus should likewise be strengthened.
And through our actions and proper Divine service we will merit very speedily to the promise "when your wellsprings will spread out then the King Moshiach will come."