This Shabbos combines two themes: 1) the general theme of Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, and; 2) the theme of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. Another important date in the month of Tammuz is the day of liberation -- Yud Bais Tammuz -- which also has an association with this day of Rosh Chodesh.
Normally speaking, Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh represent different aspects of existence. Being the seventh day of the week, Shabbos is directly connected to the rising and setting of the sun. On Shabbos the six days of the week find completion and are uplifted.
Rosh Chodesh, however, is dependent upon the orbit of the moon, specifically, the appearance, or birth, of the "new moon." In fact, the moon is also called "chodesh" (month) and is esoterically seen as the attribute of royalty.
Despite these differences there is an aspect of unity between Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh reminiscent of the unity of the sun and moon (giver and receiver). What is their common denominator? Both effect a gathering and unification of many parts.
Shabbos unites and encompasses the preceding six days, itself, as well as the coming six days.
Rosh Chodesh includes and unifies all the days of the month in a radical unity, just as the head (Rosh) encompasses all the body's organs.
The unity which Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh bring also expresses itself in the conduct of the Jewish people for whom "the world was created."
Concerning Shabbos the Midrash relates:
The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moshe, gather large public assemblies and expound for them the laws of Shabbos so that the future generations will learn from you to gather the masses each and every Shabbos and to assemble them in the houses of study. (Yalkut, Vayakhel)
On Rosh Chodesh it is also customary for many Jews to gather in the synagogues, especially for the reading of the Hallel. These assemblages preclude the need for reciting the blessing (for Hallel), and more importantly, fulfill the obligation of "In the multitude of people, is the King's glory." (Mishlei 14:28)
The additional sacrifices offered on Rosh Chodesh also increase the forces of unity, for with every communal sacrifice we strengthen the unity of the Jewish people. The reason for this is that at the times of sacrifice we must have "the kohanim officiating, the levites chanting and the Israelites attending." Nowadays, when we have no sacrifices, our Mussaf prayer accomplishes the same result.
When these assemblies take place in a synagogue and house of study the unity is underscored even more. A farbrengen also fits into this context, for many Jews gather with Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity at a time which is auspiciously associated with unity (Shabbos -- Rosh Chodesh) and in a place so ordained.
Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Tammuz reflects all these points. Tammuz is the fourth month. In speaking of the symbolic meaning of the letters of the alphabet the Gemara discusses esoteric etymology:
Children have come to the Beis HaMedrash and said things the like of which was not said even in the days of Yehoshua ben Nun. [Thus:] Alef Bais...; Gimmel, Daled, show kindness to the poor (gemol dallim),... (Shabbos 104a)
In other words, the gimmel (third letter) stands for "giving" and the daled (fourth letter) symbolizes "receiving." Chassidus explains that when the benevolence is still in the domain of the giver it has three facets, and when it is drawn down and projected to the receiver it develops four facets.
The same concept may be found in the case of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The Gemara clearly states that "three are the fathers and four are the mothers." (Berachos 16b) The terms father and mother relate to the role of man and woman in bringing offspring into the world. In procreation we find the difference between father and mother explained esoterically:
...just as all the limbs of the child are included, in great concealment, in the seed of the father...the mother brings this out into a state of manifestation when giving birth to a child that is whole....
(Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh ch. 29)
In the father, the giver, that which is transmitted has no revealed form and only by the power of the mother, the receiver, is it revealed and manifested.
For this reason the "fathers are three" and "the mothers, four." While still with the father there are only three facets, when the offspring reaches the receiver the fourth facet evolves.
Thus, the number three alludes to the radiation of light, while the numerical four alludes to the vessels which receive and utilize the light. In the hierarchy of spiritual worlds the three worlds of Atzilus, Beriah and Yetzirah lead to the fourth world of Asiyah.
Gemol dallim refers to the benevolence from above which must descend to the lowest world of action to carry out the design of The Holy One, Blessed be He, to have a dwelling place in the lower worlds.
In the third month the Torah was given to the Jewish people, but it retained the character of the giver -- only in the fourth month did Torah infuse the beings of the "receivers" and take on the character of the Jewish people. In the third month we emphasize Torah as it was given by G-d: theory; and in the fourth month we stress the increase in Torah created by man: action.
Thus, the general theme of Shabbos Rosh Chodesh -- which symbolizes the union of giver and receiver -- will also find expression on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. Especially on the first day of Rosh Chodesh which is the last day of Sivan -- when the third and fourth months unite as alluded to by Gemol dallim. This also emphasizes the aspect of unity which is strengthened through tzedakah.
In our generation, as a result of the liberation of Yud-Bais Tammuz, the restrictions and obstacles to spreading Torah were nullified and the union of the third and fourth months is intensified. The third month represents Mattan Torah as it is bestowed from above. In that context there may still be concealment and non-penetration on the level of the recipient -- analogous to incarceration. The fourth month brings the revelations of above down into the reality of the world; the result is the state of liberation; nothing is concealed or restricted; spread Torah far and wide in a worldly manner.
Esoterically speaking, the Talmudic reference to the young children who revealed the meaning of Gemol dallim, personifies the Previous Rebbe's work in educating young Jewish children. The theme of unity is likewise important on Yud-Bais Tammuz as we see from the letter which the Previous Rebbe issued on the first anniversary of his liberation.
On Rosh Chodesh Tammuz there must be a reemphasis on proper action in all areas of Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos and especially spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit in a liberated way without any restrictions. Through this we will merit the true and complete redemption, when no Jew will remain in golus and after which there will be no exile. The true and complete redemption, immediately.
The shevi'i portion of Korach which we study on Shabbos begins with the words: "To the descendants of Levi." (Bemidbar 18:21)
The role of the Levi in the spiritual service of the Temple is amply described in Scripture. The Rambam, however, makes it clear that the spiritual level of Levi (or even Kohen Gadol) is within the grasp of every Jew:
Not only the tribe of Levi, but also each and every individual...whose spirit moves him and whose knowledge gives him the understanding to set himself apart in order to stand before the L-rd to serve Him, to worship Him...such an individual is consecrated to the Holy of Holies, and his portion and inheritance shall be in the L-rd forever and evermore. Thus indeed did Dovid... say: "the L-rd is my allotted portion and my share, You guide my destiny." (Tehillim 16:5)
(Laws of Sabbatical and Jubilee Years 13:13).
Today's Torah section transmits to us the Divine service of the "tribe of Levi" which reaches the Holy of Holies and which activates the person's "destiny," the essence, of the Jewish soul.
Chassidus explains that this level of goral -- destiny -- is beyond intellect, beyond Gan Eden, and beyond all measure. In this context it may be compared with the aspect of liberation. Thus, in this point about Levi, the Torah hints at the loftiest Divine service -- absolute unity with G-dliness beyond all restriction.
The Previous Rebbe always followed the path of self-sacrifice congruous with the state of goral. This state is often termed "the trusted servant" who has no self-existence but whose whole being is the presence of his Master. As the Previous Rebbe saw his release as a liberation for all Jews, his unity is transmitted to all his followers and to all Jews.
Although we speak of infinite, boundless forces of liberation we also speak of channelling and harnessing those forces into individual Divine service. A Jew must function in human form, in a measured and limited manner, using 248 limbs and 365 veins, corresponding to 248 positive and 365 negative commandments -- each in its required measure. Yet, this measured system must be permeated with the power of goral -- destiny -- the infinite, soul-source above, unified with G-d.
How do we reconcile these two opposing approaches? The answer is found in the portion of the Torah we will read at Minchah -- it is a Chukah -- a statute which is, but cannot be explained -- it is beyond logic, just as the Holy of Holies had a size yet defied the limitations of physical space.
In his letter, the Previous Rebbe clearly states that his liberation was not a personal victory and therefore his manner of self-sacrifice and goral are relevant for all Jews; so that every Jew may rise above his previous level and draw more holiness.
Therefore, you must go out into the street and meet another Jew. Tell him today is Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, when the blessings of the new month are revealed. This includes the days of Yud-Bais Tammuz, when every Jew finds liberation in matters of Torah and mitzvos -- beyond all restrictions.
How do you influence another Jew? By showing a good example -- bring out that infinite power in yourself and you will successfully influence a fellow Jew. This liberation will bring the liberation of the entire Jewish people and we will see the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach. It should have happened long ago, but it was postponed, now it must come, especially since we cry out "How long?"!
May the Divine service in the manner of the sanctity of the tribe of Levi lead to the full purification of the Red Heifer which will eliminate all aspects contrary to life, and we will rise in holiness from strength to strength. So may it be very speedily and truly in our days.
In the course of Korach's rebellion we find:
Moshe became very angry (grieved). He prayed to G-d, "Do not accept their offering...." (Bemidbar 16:15)
According to its plain sense the meaning is: In respect to the frankincense which they will offer before You tomorrow, I beg of You do not pay regard (turn) to them. (loc. cit.)
At first glance this whole episode is illogical. What was the purpose of Moshe's challenge to the 250 men, that they should offer frankincense (ketores) in the morning? To publicly prove that the Holy One, Blessed be He, specifically chose Aharon. Moshe had clearly so stated:
Tomorrow morning G-d will show that He knows who is His and who is holy and He will bring them close to Him...take fire-pans...place fire on them and offer incense on them before G-d. The man whom G-d chooses shall then be the holy one. (Ibid., 16:5,6,7)
Moshe's strategy would surely have the desired effect. Therefore, why was it necessary for Moshe to beseech G-d not to pay heed to the sacrifices of the rebels? Did Moshe harbor the slightest doubt that The Holy One, blessed be He, might accept their offerings?!
This powerful question has been raised. However, there is another perplexing question in this verse which surprisingly no one seemed to notice.
After telling us the plain sense of the verse Rashi continues:
The Midrashic explanation is: He said, "I know that they have a portion in the continual (tamid -- daily) offerings of the community; let not even this, their portion, be accepted favorably before You, let the fire leave it alone and not consume it. (Rashi, ibid.)
Normally the daily service in the Tabernacle began with the tamid sacrifice, this was followed by the incense. The incense which the 250 men were challenged to offer would have been brought simultaneously with the incense offered in the Tabernacle. So Moshe requested of G-d that since the clear designation of the true servant of G-d would not be evident until the incense was burned, he wanted G-d to show His choice even earlier, during the burning of the tamid, by not allowing the share of the rebels to go up in the fire of the altar.
Here we are troubled by this thought. Evidently, Rashi will have an explanation why, according to the plain meaning, Moshe had to pray that their ketores should not be accepted (as we shall soon see), if so, why add the Midrashic meaning?
One tangential point which we glean from this Midrash will have halachic ramifications. In the laws of the half-Shekel it is usually assumed that when money is transferred to the treasurer of the Beis HaMikdash it utterly loses its identity as individual money and becomes part of the communal wealth. In principle it is usually assumed that the individual cannot afterwards designate a particular part of the offering as being his. From here we see that although all the funds combine and one animal is purchased, yet each individual still has a special connection to a particular part of the animal, no matter how infinitesimal it is. And, in fact, Moshe's request was heeded by G-d.
Careful study of Moshe's words will reveal that although he was sure that G-d would pick His trusted servant and show who the true Kohen Gadol was, that would not preclude that G-d might also "turn to their offering."
Rashi had indicated earlier that G-d's choice would be manifest when only the chosen one would live and the others would perish. Moshe requested that G-d should also not show any favor to their ketores so as to clearly indicate His abhorrence of rebellion.
Why does the Torah use the term, "do not turn to their offering"? Why not use the word "accept"? The answer is that Moshe wanted more than non-acceptance -- he wanted complete rejection -- to once-and-for-always show how G-d hates disunity and strife.
This special request by Moshe was motivated by his reaction to their attack. Rashi tells us that Moshe was not "angered," rather, he was "grieved," because their plan to offer ketores was being undertaken with genuine trust in G-d. They were misled, but they did not intend to rebel against G-d. Moshe was very upset when he realized that there were still people who honestly questioned the choice of Aharon after they had seen the Shechinah come to rest on the Mishkan as a result of Aharon's service in the Tabernacle. How could it be that these people really thought they should be Kohanim Gedolim?
For this reason Moshe begged G-d to reject their ketores even before choosing Aharon. Later, when the fire-pans they used were collected by Elozor at G-d's behest, the Torah tells us:
Tell Elozor son of Aharon the Kohen that the fire-pans have been sanctified and he must gather them up from the burned area...so he shall make them into beaten plates to cover the altar. (Ibid. 17:2-3)
It seems that Moshe's fears had foundation, for if the pans became holy the ketores could also have become holy (even though they were punished) -- which it did not! Clearly, Moshe had good reason to ask G-d not to show any form of acceptance of their offering.
Having given us the plain explanation that their "offering" means the ketores, Rashi now reexamines the logic:
- G-d had assured Moshe that He would choose only one Kohen Gadol and that it would be Aharon.
- In this context it would not matter if G-d also accepted their ketores, since they would all perish later.
- Moshe therefore asked G-d not to accept even the ketores so as to show G-d's abhorrence of rebellion.
- The logic of #2 above, however, is not conclusive for it could also be that G-d accepts all of their offerings and they are all worthy of being Kohanim Gedolim -- but since there is only one Kohen Gadol at a time G-d chose Aharon.
- If so, it would then be absolutely necessary for G-d not to accept their incense to prove that the later selection of Aharon was not a choice of one (first) among equals but a decisive act of G-d to show that they were all sinners.
- Consequently, there would be no reason for Moshe to make this request of G-d; if it is necessary for G-d to prove His point it was already inherently included in G-d's original promise to Moshe.
- Therefore Rashi suggests another meaning for Moshe's special prayer to G-d:
Rashi says, "The Midrashic explanation is ...let not...their portion (of the tamid) be accepted...."
Their portion in the daily tamid offering has no relationship to the role of the Kohen Gadol and its non-acceptance would have no influence on the dispute with Aharon.
Moshe requested that the fire of the altar not consume this part to show how terrible is the act of defiance and rebellion against the established order. If you want to be part of the community of the Jewish people stay away from strife. This would show how careful Moshe was even concerning the potential thought that maybe there was some truth in Korach's arguments against the Kohanim.
The fact that the Torah directed the test of proper Kehunah to be carried out by sacrificing incense sets an important precedent relating to the ultimate redemption.
The Gemara tells us:
It was a testimony to the house of Dovid that whoever was eligible for the throne [the crown] fitted, but it would not fit anyone who was not eligible.
(Avodah Zorah 44a)
But how may we place the crown on his head to begin with? If he is not the true king such an act would be a sin! Rashi answers that in order to test whether the contender is indeed illegible the crown may be placed on his head one time only. So we see that the coming of Moshiach -- the Davidic king -- will also be associated with an act that will serve as a test of eligibility, just as the ketores proved who was the true Kohen Gadol.
There is a connection between the Rambam section which we study today and the fact that today is Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, as well as the subject of liberation.
Providentially, today we learn the section dealing with the fruits of the fourth year.
In Moreh Nevuchim the Rambam explains the reason for the prohibition of the first three year's fruits and the special laws of the fruit of the fourth year.
It was the custom of idolaters...to bring the fruits of the first...years to their pagan temples as sacrifices and eat these fruits there.... Torah therefore negated this approach and commanded us to burn all the fruits of the first three years, and to eat the fruit of the fourth year before G-d. (Moreh Nevuchim III:37)
What can we learn from this in our own Divine service?
The negation of Avodah Zorah means not only idols (for that is obvious) -- but also any conduct that is "foreign" to a Jew and does not fit his position. A Jew must utterly disassociate himself from anything foreign to Yiddishkeit and holiness.
Then, the growth of the fourth year is "lofty" and must be eaten only in Yerushalayim by its owners. This is similar to Maaser Sheni -- it remains regular, and may be eaten by its owners, but only after being "raised up" and brought to Yerushalayim, for then and there the person reaches a higher level of "fear of heaven." In fact, the Rambam rules that even a non-Jew may follow the laws of the fourth year fruit -- because it brings a level of purification in the whole world. And helps bring the ultimate perfection and redemption, and the dwelling place for G-d.