This Shabbos carries a strong connection and association with the days of liberation, the 12th and 13th of Tammuz.
Shabbos effects completion and elevation in all the toil of the previous six days. It was during those weekdays that preparation was made for Shabbos, and only one who prepares on the eve of Shabbos will be able to eat on Shabbos.
This is more evident when the 12th and 13th of Tammuz occur on Thursday and Friday -- so that Shabbos follows them directly, and in fact, since we add from the profane to the holy, Shabbos actually began on the 13th of Tammuz.
Let us therefore take time to remember the occurrences surrounding the liberation in a way that "these days will be remembered and come into being." (Esther 9:28) By properly remembering, we relive the original events and we rise higher with good resolutions for proper action.
With the liberation of Yud-Bais Tammuz a new era of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit began. It saw the initiation of the dissemination of the wellsprings of Chassidus to the corners of the globe.
The Previous Rebbe followed a path of Divine service which saw him continually rise from level to level. As the Gemara says, that the Sages have no rest, for they steadily rise from strength to strength. Nevertheless, there were times in the Previous Rebbe's life which saw a quantum leap in the manner of "liberation" as compared to the previous position -- such as the day of Yud-Bais Tammuz. For subsequent to that liberation his efforts in spreading Torah, Yiddishkeit and Chassidus were multiplied manifold and became openly revealed to all, even the non-Jews.
The Rebbe wrote in his letter:
On that day it became revealed to all that the Divine Service in which I labored to spread Torah and strengthen our religion was legal and lawful according to the law of the land.
Being the Nassi of the generation ("The Nassi is everything") his experiences influenced and helped everyone. As the Rebbe expressed it:
Not me alone did the Holy One, Blessed be He, liberate...on the 12th of Tammuz, but also all those who cherish our Holy Torah, who observe mitzvos and [even] those [who are only] called by the name "Jew."
(Previous Rebbe's Letters, vol. II pg. 80)
Every year at this time a unique opportunity and potential presents itself, to increase quantitatively and qualitatively in all areas of Yiddishkeit, for self and others -- to spread Torah and Chassidus to the outside. It takes the shape of a "liberation," immeasurably higher than anything previously possible.
The liberation of the Previous Rebbe was a Divine miracle -- at the same time it occurred through natural channels by the involvement of government ministers and international diplomatic pressure.
We may learn from this that the Divine service of liberation in the diaspora must function through the guise of nature, although we must prepare ourselves for redemption by first accepting the Divine assistance in the supernatural manner.
During the incarceration of the Alter Rebbe an incident took place where the Alter Rebbe was being ferried on a boat at night to be interrogated. The Alter Rebbe asked the captain to stop the boat so that he (the Alter Rebbe) could say the blessing for the new moon. When the captain refused his request the boat suddenly remained stuck in its place and could not move. Again the Alter Rebbe requested the captain to stop the boat -- this time he acquiesced, the Alter Rebbe stood up and recited the Kiddush Levanah. The preparation for a mitzvah may have miraculous overtones, but the mitzvah itself must be performed in a natural way.
It is this liberation of Yud-Bais Tammuz which will lead us to the ultimate redemption. Every salvation bears the name "redemption," as such it has a common denominator with every other salvation. Thus, the liberation of the Nassi is associated with the ultimate and true redemption; through our increased efforts to disseminate Torah and strengthen Yiddishkeit the master (Moshiach) will come.
It is therefore an auspicious time and an especially suitable time for activities geared to speeding up the ultimate redemption. This includes increased Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity. The Previous Rebbe often explained that the golus was brought about because of unwarranted hatred among Jews. By increasing Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity you nullify the cause of the golus and when the cause is eliminated then the effect disappears -- and the golus comes to an end.
This thought is further underscored by the fact that this Shabbos, which follows Yud-Bais Tammuz, also extends its blessings to the fast of the 17th of Tammuz which will be converted to a day of gladness by increased Ahavas Yisrael, as the Rambam tells us:
All the 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 in accordance with the verse: "Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: the fast of the fourth month...shall be times of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts to the house of Yehudah, therefore, love the truth and peace." (Zechariah 8:19) (Rambam, Laws of Fast Days 5:19)
This year is the 60th anniversary of the liberation -- 5687-5747.
What halachic rule uses the number 60? The rule that the taste of prohibited food is nullified when it is mixed into sixty parts.
Esoterically speaking this concept states that after 60 years of continuous and increased work in spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit, as well as spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside, then automatically all negative forces and obstacles are nullified and nothing stands in the way of completing and perfecting the Divine service through "polishing the buttons."
Moreover, the laws of bittul -- nullifying the taste of prohibited matter in 60 parts -- does not apply to the law of idolatry. Idolatry symbolically corresponds to self-importance and pride -- which is after all the cause of jealousy and hatred. As Chassidus explains, self-love and pride do not allow room for someone else -- for the other person infringes on his territory and one who is proud cannot bear his presence.
Therefore, pride must be eliminated and nullified completely (not in 60) then Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity can function and then the other forms of evil will be nullified by a measure of 60.
Furthermore, this aspect of 60 is truly powerful, but being that it is still limited to the particular function, its main quality is that it becomes a conduit to bring the revelation from the infinite levels above the power of 60.
Yud-Bais Tammuz is the birthday of the Previous Rebbe and this year we begin the 108th year since his birth. In Psalm 108 we find:
Therefore now free those whom You deem worthy of Your loving-kindness (Your friends); let Your right hand reveal itself in salvation and answer me. (108:7)
Yedidecha -- refers to the Jewish people who are all called "friends" to the Holy One, Blessed be He, but it also means the friendship among the Jewish people themselves -- Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity. This brings the salvation of the right hand -- the ultimate redemption, to which is added the aspect of "answer me" which will be revealed in the future. This will be revealed among the nations:
I will acknowledge (praise) You among the peoples, O L-rd, I will sing praises to You among the nations.
In Psalm 107 we read of four who must offer praise to G-d for their salvation. There we are told of the individual who proclaims his praise (the blessing of HaGomel) in the presence of ten Jews, two of whom must be scholars. (see Berachos 54b) In Psalm 108 however we speak of the general salvation which influences even the nations of the world. "I will acknowledge (praise) You among the peoples O G-d and I will sing praise to You among the nations."
This theme of redemption is closely knit to the theme of this week's portion. In speaking of the redemption the Rambam connects these two subjects and writes:
In the section treating of Bilaam...the prophecy in that section bears upon the two Moshiachs: the first namely, Dovid, who saved Israel from the hand of their enemies, and the later Moshiach, a descendant of Dovid, who will achieve the final salvation of Israel! There it is said (Bamidbar 24:17): "I see him but not now," this refers to Dovid; "I behold him but not nigh (ibid.), this refers to King Moshiach. "There shall step forth a star out of Ya'akov" (ibid.), this refers to Dovid; "And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel" (ibid.), this refers to King Moshiach. "And shall smite through the corners of Moav" (ibid.) this refers to Dovid, for we are told "and he smote Moav and measured them with the line" (Shmuel II 8:2); "and break down all the sons of Seth," this refers to King Moshiach, as it is written concerning him: "and his dominion shall be from sea to sea." (Zechariah 9:10) "And Edom shall be a possession" (Bemidbar 24:18), this refers to Dovid, as it is written: "And all the Edomites became servants to Dovid" (Shmuel II 8:14); "And Seir shall be a possession," (ibid.) this refers to the days of King Moshiach, as it is written: "And saviors shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the Mount of Esav." (Ovadiah 1:21)
(Laws of Kings 11:1)
Rashi, too, in his commentary on this verse emphasizes the aspect of Moshiach:
And a sceptre shall rise -- a king who chastises with a rod and has sovereign power. And He shall smite the corners of Moav -- This is a reference to Dovid.... and out of Ya'akov one shall rule -- and there will be another ruler from Ya'akov...it is of King Moshiach that he is thus speaking.... (Rashi, 24:17,19)
In speaking of the wars of Dovid Hamelech, the aspect of Ahavas Yisrael depended on the attitude of love and cooperation among his soldiers. The Midrash notes that the reason many of Dovid's warriors died in battle was because there was disunity among them. Thus, an increase in unity and love will ensure that there will be success in the battles waged by Dovid in the future -- the wars of Moshiach.
Here we may see the inference to, "How goodly are your tents Ya'akov...." (Ibid.:5) Rashi explains that Bilaam saw that the doorways of their tents were aligned so as not to face each other, so that one should not see what was going on in the tent of his neighbor, for the "nosiness" could lead to disrespect and disunity. Thus, the arrangement of the tents assured the unity and brotherly love among the Jewish people which guaranteed the victory in battle.
This same theme comes through in the portion of Pinchas which we will read at Minchah.
Our sages tell us:
Pinchas was Eliyahu who in the future will inform the Jewish people of the impending redemption in the final golus. (Or Hachayim Hakadosh, on Pinchas)
- Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity are also important themes of the portion of Pinchas. G-d promised Pinchas his "covenant of peace," as our Sages explain, that Eliyahu (Pinchas) will come to increase peace in the world.
- The commandment to abhor and wage war against the Midyanim has been explained esoterically to refer to the attribute of aggressiveness and divisiveness, disunity and unwarranted jealousy and hatred. All this must be utterly eliminated. Ahavas Yisrael must be increased. Jewish unity must be buttressed, then the cause of the golus will disappear and we will merit to hear the tidings of redemption announced by Pinchas/Eliyahu and immediately we will have the true redemption through Dovid, Melech Moshiach.
On this Shabbos which follows Yud-Bais Tammuz we must accept good resolutions to increase qualitatively and quantitatively our actions and efforts in spreading Torah, Yiddishkeit and disseminating Chassidus to the outside, in order to speed the advent of the true and complete redemption. With special emphasis on Torah study -- revealed and esoteric -- for self and with others, including the specific study of Chitas -- Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya -- as instituted by the Previous Rebbe.
Education of the children: after all, it was for this more than anything else that the Previous Rebbe was arrested and incarcerated. Now that the summer is upon us it is most appropriate to deal with these matters. You must see to enroll children in Torah camps where they will receive proper Torah education during the summer months so that it will be apparent on the children that they are truly part of the Jewish "garden" (Gan Yisrael). The Previous Rebbe explains that gan (garden) is the place of one's essence and that through making the world a dwelling place for G-dliness we cause G-d to return to His original place -- His garden.
By further increasing all aspects of Jewish unity and Ahavas Yisrael we will advance from the liberation of Yud-Bais Tammuz to the ultimate redemption, quickly and immediately.
In proximity to the 17th of Tammuz which receives blessing from this Shabbos, it is also appropriate to emphasize the importance of Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity which will bring Moshiach even before the 17th of Tammuz, and convert the day of fasting into a day of rejoicing.
Similarly, there must be an increase in Torah, for "Zion will be redeemed with Mishpat -- the laws of Torah." This includes also the study of the laws of the Beis HaMikdash. In the study of Rambam these days before the 17th of Tammuz, the Rambam discusses the laws of the Beis HaMikdash, the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash, and the laws of the coming of Moshiach -- all this prior to the 17th of Tammuz. This will bring the actual building of the Temple before the 17th of Tammuz.
Tzedakah should also be increased, as the verse says "and her returnees with tzedakah -- righteousness." This includes the contributions of Yud-Bais Tammuz.
All this must be done in a spirit of joy and happiness: the joy of Torah and the joy of charity -- of the poor man who receives the alms and of the rich man who gives the alms -- "for the giver gets more than the recipient."
Joy bursts through all barriers, so that the joy alone should pierce the barriers of the golus.
Therefore, in these days it will be good and beneficial to increase joyous matters, make joyous gatherings -- as we discussed (Shabbos Mevorchim Tammuz) -- from the onset of the month of Tammuz organize joyous gatherings on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, on the third of Tammuz, and then of course on Yud-Bais Tammuz, followed by Shabbos. This should be continued after Shabbos and on Sunday, the 15th of Tammuz, which is the yartzeit of the Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh. So, too, until the 17th of Tammuz.
And then, after the 17th, in a permitted manner -- if Moshiach is delayed -- this will increase the joy which will break the golus and it will also bring a gathering of "brothers who dwell together" with love and unity -- this, too, will eliminate the golus.
May G-d grant that by virtue of our actions and efforts in all the above, starting with the good resolutions, we will merit to the immediate reward.
In the midst of this Shabbos day Pinchas/Eliyahu will appear and give us the good tidings:
The voice heralds. There has appeared a man his name is Tzemach. It is Dovid himself.... The voice of the herald brings good tidings and proclaims. (Hosha'anos)
And then we will see the coming of Dovid, Melech Moshiach.
And then this promise will be fulfilled, we will be brought to the holy boundary, the mountain which His right hand established and there to the Beis HaMikdash and the L-rd will reign forever and evermore, then the 17th of Tammuz will be a great Yom Tov -- an everlasting joy upon their heads.
In analyzing Rashi's commentaries on Chumash we find several different approaches. When Rashi explains the meaning of a verse we learn a direct lesson from Rashi's words. When Rashi ignores some apparent difficulty in Scripture and we explain what seems to be Rashi's (negative) approach, we nevertheless find a positive lesson from Rashi's (negative) approach. This will also be true even in the places where Rashi says: "I do not know."
In our Torah portion, on the verse, "How goodly are your tents, Ya'akov" -- Rashi explains that Bilaam saw that the tents were arranged so that the doorways should not face each other. The reason for this was to hide the goings on in the neighbors' tents, so as not to fall into the trap of gossip and idle talk.
But we are perturbed by a strong question; whenever we find the term "tent" or "house" in Scripture it very often means not the physical structure, but the people or family that make up that "home." The five-year-old Chumash student has already had examples of this at the beginning of Shemos: "the man and his household came." (Shemos 1:1) Clearly this refers not to the house, but to the household. Similarly when Scripture says, "and He made them houses," Rashi explains, "families of Kohanim, Levi'im and kings."
With this in mind we wonder what motivated Rashi to explain that the plain meaning of this verse refers to actual tents -- following which Rashi must further explain that Bilaam saw the way the doors were situated. He could as easily have explained that the verse "how goodly..." referred to the people who lived in the tents.
There is another subject which Rashi ignores and is associated with the theme of redemption. It may be expressed in the well-known question: "How long?!"
On the verses 17-19 Rashi explains that the time of Dovid Hamelech was still far off,
I see the preeminence of Ya'akov and his greatness but it is not now, but will be after some time...a king will arise from Ya'akov...a king who chastises with a rod and has sovereign power...a reference to Dovid...and there will be other rulers.... It is of King Moshiach. (24:17-19)
The five-year-old Chumash student asks a perplexing klotz-kashe. Bilaam told us that Dovid would not rise until a later time, so that the next generation would not ask how come Dovid had still not risen as king. Now, the prophecy about Dovid was to be fulfilled within 500 years, and for this reason Bilaam explained that it was not to be seen as coming soon -- what are we to say about his prophecy of Moshiach who has still not come?!
Already in Rashi's time a thousand years had passed since the destruction of the Second Temple. Add to that 410 years of the First Temple and 420 years of the second, plus the 70 years in-between. So the five-year-old Chumash student asks Rashi how can it be that after so many years -- the prophecy about Moshiach has not been fulfilled?!
Furthermore, agreed that "we are in golus because of our sins," however, there is a time frame for golus as expiation for our sins. As the five-year-old Chumash student has already learned:
The 70 years of the Babylonian exile exactly corresponded to the 70 Shemittah and Yovel years that were due in those years when Israel was provoking the anger of the Omnipresent while still in their land.
(Rashi, Vayikra 26:35)
Now even if we say that the sins during the Second Temple were worse than their sins during the First Temple, requiring a more severe exile, it still must be relative -- let us say twice as much -- two times 70 years, three times, at most, seven times 70 years. But that equals only 490 years. However, the exile has stretched for nearly 2000 years -- and even in Rashi's time -- 1000 years!
Moreover, if we consider the number of Jewish people who have lived since the second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed we must accept that number to be much greater than all the (sinful) Jews who lived during the second Temple. Certainly the mitzvos and Torah studied by all these Jews through two millennia should have atoned for the sins of the smaller number of Jews who lived and acted improperly during the second Temple period.
We must also accept as axiomatic this principle that each year brings net atonement, for if not, then there would really be no reason for the continuation of the existence in exile. What could G-d be waiting for?
There is a Chassidic discussion of this matter which analyzes this question and presents an answer based on esoteric principles and concepts. There were times when the Jewish people possessed "plural souls," such as during the Egyptian bondage, then they were able to rectify many "lost sparks" in a relatively short period of time. On the other hand in the time of the later exiles these plural souls are split into many millions of individual souls. So that even though now there are many more Jews than there were during the Second Temple period, nevertheless, since the sins were caused by "plural souls," the "lost sparks" were subdivided into many millions of "lost mini-sparks." And even though there have been millions of Jews and each person purified some of those lost sparks, nevertheless, it takes many hundred of years to rectify everything.
This explanation, however, cannot be understood by the five-year-old Chumash student and therefore will not answer our question about Rashi's failure to deal with the problem "How long?!"
It also will be illogical to the five-year-old Chumash student that because of the sins of the generation of the Second Temple all the future generations of the golus should suffer, after all, "children shall not die for the sins of their fathers." (Devorim 24:16)
In answer to the question concerning Rashi's understanding of the "tents of Ya'akov" if we look back to the previous group of verses pronounced by Bilaam we find that he spoke about the Jewish people in glowing terms:
(G-d) does not look at wrongdoings in Ya'akov and He sees no vice in Israel. (Bamidbar 23:21)
Now, while it is true that often, out of His great love for the Jewish people, G-d will repeat certain praises of the Jewish people, or of individuals, as Rashi explains the reason G-d calls Avraham with the double term "Avraham, Avraham" -- to show His love.
Here, however, we speak of Bilaam who hated the Jews even more than Balak! Having spoken a prophetic statement which extolled the praise of the Jewish people in verses 21-24, He certainly would not repeat the praise of Israel in the next set of prophetic words.
Consequently, Rashi must explain that the verse, "How good are your tents," refers to the actual tents -- not the people -- and that he saw how the doors were situated.
As for why Rashi does not explain the reason Moshiach has not yet come, we should remember that Rashi often assumes that the five-year-old Chumash student remembers what he has previously learned.
At the beginning of the portion we learned a reference to the bondage of Egypt: "A nation has left Egypt." This causes the five-year-old Chumash student to recall the original discussion which G-d had with Avraham concerning the first exile:
Know for sure that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs for 400 years, they will be enslaved and oppressed...they will then leave with great wealth.... The fourth generation will return here.
Clearly exile is not only a form of punishment -- for we speak here of the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchok, Ya'akov and the tribes -- they certainly did not warrant the punishment of exile. Instead, there is another aspect of golus -- to exit the exile with "great wealth." As in fact took place when the Jews left Egypt -- "they emptied Egypt out" by taking all the gold and silver ornaments, the material wealth as well as the spiritual wealth...the refinement of the "lost sparks."
We may thus apply this same rule to the present diaspora -- the longer we remain in exile the greater will be the "wealth" which we will take with us when we are liberated. Therefore, our present golus stretches on and on -- storing up for us immeasurable wealth and treasures. It must therefore take much more time than the Egyptian bondage.
And here we ask, "How long?!" "Is there no limit?!" Regarding the amassing of further fortune (material and spiritual) we can quote the Jews at the time of the Egyptian exile who were ready to lose all their fortune so long as they would be liberated.
Nowadays -- we have attained the spiritual "great wealth," the Torah study and mitzvos.
The Previous Rebbe expressed this thought very clearly when he said that all the Divine service has been completed -- all that is left for us to do is "to polish the buttons" and to stand ready to greet our righteous Moshiach.
True, Rashi did not reveal this to us -- it waited for the true sage of our generation, the Previous Rebbe, to reveal this to us. Here the five-year-old Chumash student complains, "I am polishing, and polishing, and polishing, but Moshiach has still not come," and the truth is that Rashi has no answer to this question -- but since it does not apply directly to a verse he does not deal with this particular point.
May it be G-d's will that we need no longer cry out: "How long?" For our righteous Moshiach will come very soon -- not spiritually, but physically with the true redemption speedily and truly in our time and right now.
This week after Yud-Bais Tammuz, the day of liberation, we study the sixth chapter of Avos and we find a Mishnah which deals with the subject of redemption:
Indeed you have learned: whoever says a thing in the name of the author brings redemption to the world, as it is stated, "and Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai." (Avos 6:6)
This act of saying a thing in the name of its author is one of 48 qualities listed by the Mishnah which helps one acquire Torah. In the case of all 47 qualities mentioned earlier in the Mishnah, we are not told of the additional reward in store for one who shows those qualities. Rather, we are simply told that they help a person acquire Torah. Why in this case does the Tanna tell us that it also brings redemption.
The answer to this is that saying that someone else said something may often lead to unfavorable results, such as gossip and talebearing. For this reason the Tanna tells us that in the area of Torah -- mentioning the author of your remarks will bring redemption.
The Mishnah then cites a precedent from the story of Purim -- Esther told Achashverosh of the plot against his life, in the name of Mordechai, thereby saving his life and eventually bringing the redemption. Esther did not have to quote Mordechai to save the king (it would not have provided a way out for her not to reveal her identity later when she had to save the Jews).
In fact there was a reason for Esther not to mention Mordechai. The king could have said, "Why is Mordechai going around spying on my servants?!" Her disclosure also weakened her own position with the king who saw her intelligence as merely a message from Mordechai and not necessarily as a showing of loyalty on her part.
Despite these arguments Esther did mention Mordechai's name to the king and the salvation of Purim came about -- this proved the effect of saying something in the name of its originator.
The question, however, remains with the ten-year-old Mishnah student -- why this is not actually so? He has been very careful to repeat Torah thoughts in the name of their authors and he has still not brought redemption!
What do we answer him? Simple.
The Purim salvation was not complete and absolute -- for we are still servants of Achashverosh. We did however emerge from a state of imminent destruction under Haman's decree into a state of freedom. So, too, here when we cite our sources it brings redemption -- in each case the liberation is relative to the individual situation.