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Shabbos Parshas Korach

12th Day of Tammuz, 5747

Shabbos Parshas Balak

15th Day of Tammuz, 5747


17th Day of Tammuz,

Shabbos Parshas Pinchas

Shabbos Parshas Mattos-Massei

Shabbos Parshas Devorim, Shabbos Chazon

15th Day of

Shabbos Parshas Eikev

   Chof Menachem Av, 5747

Shabbos Parshas Re'ey

1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5747

Shabbos Parshas Ki Savo

Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech

Eve of Erev Rosh HaShanah

Sichos In English
Volume 36

Shabbos Parshas Eikev
Chof Menachem Av, 5747
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Today is the Shabbos after the 15th of Av, as such it provides elevation and completion ("vayechulu") for that auspicious day. It is also the 20th of Av, the Hilulo (Yartzeit) of my father, ".

The 15th of Av has been referred to as the most joyous of ancient holidays for it represented the nullification of the tragedies of Tisha B'Av, including the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people into exile. It is on the 15th of Av that we actualize the concept of descent for the purpose of rising as expressed in the Midrashic adage:

The lion arose and destroyed Ariel (the Beis HaMikdash)...on the condition that the lion will come and rebuild Ariel -- the Third Beis HaMikdash.

(Yalkut, Yermiyahu #259)

A Hilulo day carries the same theme, as the Gemara states: "The death of the righteous is compared to the burning of the House of our L-rd." (Rosh HaShanah 18b) The true intention of this epigram is that the tragedy of a Tzaddik's passing is also a descent which must bring us closer to the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash.

The joy of this Shabbos is therefore understandably enhanced, as it comes after Shabbos Nachamu -- which brought double consolation -- this Shabbos is the harbinger of double joy, the elevation of the 15th of Av and the 20th of Av as just discussed.

This joy, consolation and salvation must all be expressed in a revealed way and in actuality.

This format of crystallization of reality through revelation was clearly seen when the 15th of Av was designated as the day the "generation of the desert ceased to die."

At first glance the story of how the Jews discovered that the decree of death in the desert was nullified leaves us a bit puzzled. In the last year the Jews were to be in the wilderness, from the 9th of Av till the 15th of Av the Jews had dug graves, thinking that some would die, as they had for the past 39 years. But each morning from the 9th to the 14th everyone had remained alive. When they saw the full moon on the night of the 15th they finally realized that they had made no mistake in their dates -- but that the decree had indeed been revoked. This, however, established the abolition of the death penalty retroactively to the night of the 9th, when they should have died, but did not. If so, the holiday of the nullification of the decree should have been established on the 9th of Av, the day the decree of punishment had originally been revoked. Why did they glorify the 15th?

Moreover, Moshe had clearly transmitted G-d's words that for 40 years they would perish, if so, they should have known before the 9th of Av that the decree had expired and no one else would die -- why did they dig graves?

Esoterically speaking, we may say that the decision to designate a day as a holiday of salvation from the decree of the desert is dependent upon an actual revelation in a manner that may be seen by all. It was not enough that theoretically (based on careful reckoning) the decree should have expired, it had to be seen in actuality which could only be on the day when the moon was full and all would admit that they had made no mistake in their dates.

Likewise, in dissolving the golus it is not enough just to know that the goal of the descent of golus is to once again rise up in salvation -- rather we need the real thing -- the true and complete redemption, in actuality, clearly evident to all. Then there will be true joy, "everlasting joy upon their heads." (Yeshayahu 35:10)

Our action in all areas of Torah and mitzvos will speed the realization of the promised redemption.

On the 15th of Av it was suggested to increase Torah study, as the Gemara says that after the 15th of Av, when the nights are visibly longer, one should add more time for Torah study and as a result he will add years to his life. Similarly, we discussed the suggestions to increase tzedakah within the framework of Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity. It should be added that the attitude of joy should also permeate and encompass all of these good actions, and this will speed the transition of the day of mourning into a day of rejoicing.

All this will find common resonance on the 20th of Av, for it was one of the nine dates for donations of wood for the Altar. On that day the donor family catered a feast in honor of the wood, and offered the sacrifice of the wood. That day was considered a holiday for them.

There were nine days in the year when wood was donated to the Beis HaMikdash, yet the donation of the 20th of Av showed a greater measure of ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity than the other days. The reason for this: The Gemara relates that after the 15th of Av, the rays of the summer sun are weaker and no new trees were felled to be used for the altar as they would not be dry enough. (Ta'anis 31a)

According to this, the family which donated wood on the 20th of Av had to take the wood from their existing stock of fire-wood -- they gave away their own wood for they could not hew any new wood for the altar. They donated their wood so that other Jews, poor Jews, even past sinners (Heaven forfend) would be able to offer their sacrifices on the altar. Furthermore, it was done in a joyous manner, since they set the day as a holiday. How great was their ahavas Yisrael!

Clearly this wood donation also shows the importance of the mitzvah of tzedakah -- since the wood is donated for anyone who cannot afford his own wood. And as this wood is given to the wood warehouse it assumes the highest state of tzedakah for the "giver knows not to whom he gives and the mendicant knows not from whom he receives." (Rambam, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:8)

There is another concept to be gleaned from this story.

On the 20th of Av the family of Pachas Moav ben Yehudah donated the wood and the Gemara says:

A Tanna taught: the family of Pachas Moav ben Yehudah, they are the family of Dovid (Hamelech) ben Yehudah, these are the words of R. Meir, R. Yosi says they are the family of Yoav b. Tzeruya. (Ta'anis 28a)

In the past it has been suggested that generally speaking an argument about a fact is highly unlikely and therefore the family under discussion was in fact related both to Dovid and Yoav by marriage. If so, the debate between R. Meir and R. Yosi hinges upon the following question: which attribute or trait motivated them to give the wood -- the fact that they were descendants of Dovid, or of Yoav?

In terms of Divine service the difference between Dovid and Yoav may be discerned from the Gemara:

If not for Dovid, Yoav would not have waged war, and if not for Yoav, Dovid would not have occupied himself in Torah. (Sanhedrin 49a)

This would indicate that Dovid's theme was Torah study, while Yoav went out to "wage war" in the world and purify the world. How? through mitzvos -- especially the mitzvah of tzedakah, which is "equal to all the precepts." (B. Basra 9a)

Thus, the wood donated by the family of Pachas Moav b. Yehudah, the descendants of the family of Dovid and Yoav, symbolized and emphasized the Divine service of Torah with tzedakah which every Jew should practice; although some concentrate on the Torah (Yissachar) and others concentrate on tzedakah (Zevulun).

In chapter 5 of Pirkei Avos which we read today we will also find two Mishnahs which deal with Torah and tzedakah from which we will draw an important lesson in motivating every Jew to Torah and charity for self and others.

[Note: The complete talk on the subject of Torah and tzedakah has been published under the title: "A Call For Excellence." Likewise, during this farbrengen the Rebbe Shlita spoke about a ship at sea and its lesson for us. This sicha was published under the title: "Navigating the Sea of Life."]


At this farbrengen we have an additional aspect of joy.

It is a fact of human nature that one feels the joy of a child's happiness more intensely than one's own happy moments. And so, in whatever setting one's personal joy is great, when that same circumstance occurs in the life of one's offspring the joy is many times greater. Take for example the day of one's marriage which is a day of supreme rejoicing, yet it cannot compare to the intense, exuberant joy one feels on the day of his child's marriage; likewise in all such cases.

Today many Jewish children have come to participate with us in the farbrengen of the 20th of Av which is connected to expanding Torah and mitzvos and increased joy therein. Here we have an example of "the young with the old," which multiplies the joy of the adults manifold.

It was mentioned earlier that true joy must permeate the complete person to the lowest point so that his feet start dancing. This analogy may be applied to the total stature of the Jewish people -- that the rejoicing reaches the children, who are called "the infants of the house of Ya'akov" [this is the term used by Targum to explain the analogy of Torah to the point of the body which walks on the dust. (Bemidbar 23:10, Onkelos)] All this indicates intense joy. How much more so when we speak of the children of Gan Yisrael.

These children are in a summer camp where they are being educated and trained in accordance with holiness and purity -- they are increasing their Torah study during the months of the summer even more than during the regular school year. For during the school year they attend school, Yeshivah, cheder only a few hours a day, and then they return home to an atmosphere which is different from the school. However, during the vacation, when they are away at camp they are in the atmosphere of purity and holiness 24 hours a day, even when they sleep.

The training which they are receiving is such that their behavior will be appropriate for Gan Yisrael -- "a garden," from which one may derive great pleasure if he strolls through the garden from time to time. The pleasure also enhances the joy.

Moreover, this system at camp is based on the earlier training which the child has received in his early years when he was still dependent upon his mother and she was the one who reared him. Before that, the child was born in a framework of observance of the laws of family purity and as soon as he appeared in the world he was surrounded with "Shir HaMa'alos" which is connected to joy -- the plain joy of the birth of another Jewish child.

When these children join in our farbrengen it increases and intensifies our happiness.

In connection with the true redemption the prophet tells us: "He will return the heart of the fathers to the sons" which means "through the sons." (Malachi end, Rashi, loc. cit.)

Now, when the adults, the "fathers," feel great joy because of the children it is a fulfillment of this prophecy. Thus, the presence of these children also speeds the fulfillment of the promise:

Behold I send you Eliyahu the Prophet before that great and awesome day and he will return the heart of the fathers.... (Ibid.)

It is therefore appropriate to express a vote of thanks to all who are involved in this visit, starting with the parents, the teachers, counselors and the administrators of Camp Gan Israel, for being involved in the education of these children so that they may be worthy of the name "Gan Yisrael," and also for bringing them to participate and rejoice in this farbrengen.

Most of all, the children themselves deserve a vote of thanks -- certainly they will be honored with saying "L'Chaim," which will increase the joy to the point of dancing and in their merit the adults will also do likewise.

And they will certainly explain to the children our discussion of the theme of joy and connect it with the joy of the initial stages of preparation for the month of Elul. The name E'L'U'L forms the acrostic, "Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Li," which means, "I am [devoted] to my beloved and my beloved is [devoted] to me." The Holy One, Blessed be He, is symbolically alluded to as our "beloved" because of our love for G-d; this mutual love and devotion increases our joy. It is through this preparation that we merit the Kesivah V'Chasimah Tovah for a good and sweet year.

May everyone have a happy summer and a year of joy to the point that the whole world will rejoice and dance, even: "The mountains danced!" (Tehillim 68:17), as it occurred during the preparation for Mattan Torah. It will be the same during the preparation for the promise "a new Torah will emerge for Me."

And may we merit very soon the appearance of Eliyahu and we will go with our youth and elders -- sons and daughters to the complete and true redemption through our righteous Moshiach and we will see it all in reality. Just as we are soon to read during Minchah the portion Re'ey -- "See I place before you today the blessing" -- till the realization of the promise: "the glory of the L-rd will be revealed and all flesh will see," not only the eyes, but the flesh.

So may it be -- quickly and truly in our days, with no postponements, truly now!


In this week's portion there are several question on Rashi on the verse:

And it will be if you are careful to pay heed to My commandments...(Lit. -- if hearkening you will hearken...) (Devorim 11:13)

After citing these words of the verse Rashi comments:

If you hearken to the old (if you hear again what you have already learned, i.e. if you repeatedly study the old lessons) you will hearken to the new (you will the more easily gain new knowledge). Similar is the meaning of, "if forgetting you will forget." (Ibid 8:19) If you have begun to forget, your end will be that you will forget all of it. So, too, is it written in a certain (sacred) scroll: "If you forget Me one day, I will forget you two days."

(Rashi, loc. cit.)

  1. Since Rashi is interpreting mainly the words "hearkening you will hearken," why does he also cite in the caption the words, "and it will be if..."?

  2. What forces Rashi to explain that the double phrase, "hearkening you will hearken," means, "If you hearken to the will hearken to the new." We find double phrases in many places where Rashi says simply that the indication is greater quantity -- i.e. not once but many times -- a hundred times, and so on.

  3. Rashi goes on to explain the meaning of the verse, "if you forget...." Actually, Rashi should have explained the meaning of that verse in its place at the beginning of our portion. Why does Rashi wait for this verse about "hearkening" to explain the meaning of "forgetting?"

  4. We might say that Rashi explains this here because "from the positive we may derive the negative." However the power of that deduction goes only so far as the original axiom -- in our case if you do not learn the old you will not know the new -- but how does Rashi deduce that you will end up forgetting everything?

Rashi goes on to explain:

To serve Him with all your heart -- i.e. to serve Him with a service that is in the heart: that is prayer, for prayer is termed service (avodah) as it is said, (Daniel 6:17) "your G-d whom you serve continually." But was there service (i.e. sacrificial service, the technical term for which is avodah) in Babylon? But the term is used because he offered prayer there as it is said, (Ibid.:11) "Now his windows were open [in his upper chamber towards Yerushalayim and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed]." And so, too, it states in the case of Dovid (Tehillim 141:2): "Let my prayer be set forth as incense before You." (Rashi, Ibid.)

  1. Why does Rashi cite the proof from Daniel before the proof from Dovid? This is not in chronological order. Moreover, in Sifri (Rashi's source) the proof from Dovid is cited first. Rashi reverses the order. Why?

  2. Why does Rashi state, "and so, too, the case of Dovid...," what difference that Dovid said it, it should be sufficient just to quote a verse from Tenach (the Bible)?! Rashi did not say, "and so, too, Daniel said...."

  3. By referring to Dovid specifically -- Rashi clearly points out that he changed the chronological order. Why?

In truth Rashi's reason for interpreting the double phrase of "hearken" to mean, "if you hearken to the old you will hearken to the new," is not based on the double phrase itself, rather on the fact that the phrase is introduced by the words, "And it will be if..." (the subjunctive) instead of the more common (imperative): "hearken you shall hearken."

There are many commandments of Torah which are introduced with the word "if." The meaning being: "If you do such and such, then this or that will follow, and if not, then the result will be...."

One classic example is: "If you will follow My precepts...then I will give rain in its season." Another example: "If you obey G-d your L-rd and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought in Egypt." There are several other examples of this sentence form in Scripture -- in all these cases the commandment does not start off in the imperative voice, rather with the word "if," but then goes on to relate what will happen "if"...there will be a reward, and, "if not," then the opposite.

In all of those examples Rashi leaves the plain meaning alone and says nothing, for it is clear and obvious. The "if" in those cases is needed to determine the outcome.

However, here in the verse, "and it will be if...hearkening you hearken," the converse, which comes three verses later begins a new subject: "Be careful go astray and worship other gods...." For this reason Rashi decided that the term "if" used here is not used in the usual sense, rather it introduces two phases in the double phrase: "hearkening you will harken" -- so he says: "If you hearken to the old, then you will hearken to the new."

Rashi's second example of this type of sentence structure is the verse: "If you have begun to will forget all of it." Clearly, it would make no sense to give this meaning on the spot, but to wait for the first precedent in the Scripture and then refer back to this verse.

Now Rashi interprets the verse of "forgetting": "If you have begun to will forget all...." This is more than just the converse of learning the old and the new (forgetting the old and new), it is forgetting everything, analogous to one who forgets one day and is forgotten for two [if two people walk for one day in opposite directions at the end of the day they are two days apart.] The reason for the more severe interpretation is that Rashi sees from the later verses dealing with one who goes astray, "Be go astray and worship gods...G-d's anger will then be directed against you...." This severe punishment will also apply to the one who forgets -- we must therefore say that he forgets all and is therefore subject to a very severe punishment. For he too will be as "forgotten," and in a way that represents double the distance.

Rashi stresses that this concept was recorded in a scroll -- which, while not an actual part of the Tenach, still has a special importance and therefore gives greater emphasis to the seriousness of the concept.

On the Rashi of Prayer:

Rashi tells us that the service required of us in this verse refers to prayer. But this is not so readily acceptable. For as we read the following verses which deal with the reward and punishment we find that Scripture speaks specifically of reward and punishment in Eretz Yisrael: "I will grant your land at the proper will rapidly vanish from the good land...."

It would therefore appear that the service alluded to must be a service done in Eretz Yisrael i.e. the sacrificial service. Of course we would then have a problem explaining that the sacrifices must have "kavanah of the heart," and we would then trade off one difficulty for another.

Be that as it may, Rashi decides to bring proof that in fact the avodah is prayer and not sacrifices -- and he goes to Daniel who was in Babylon after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and was still seen as one who: "your G-d whom you serve continually." Obviously, there were no sacrifices in Babylon and so prayer must be the true service (avodah). And this is the avodah which is continual, in all places, at all times. If so when the Torah says, "to serve him with all your heart," it is more logical to say that the Torah is referring to prayer.

For this reason also the proof must come from Daniel who lived in Babylon with no Temple and not from Dovid who lived in Eretz Yisrael at the time when there was a Tabernacle.

Rashi however, senses that the proof from Daniel may not seem universal enough. Perhaps only Daniel's prayer was called avodah, being a prophet and holy person maybe his prayer was special?

So Rashi adds, "Dovid also said." Dovid was a shepherd and later, as king, was involved in the daily activities of the Jewish people; he fought their wars, and so on.

And so, when Dovid said, "Let my prayer be set forth as incense before You," in Tehillim, in the name of all the Jews, (for he was the "sweet singer of Israel,") this provides the conclusive proof that prayer is in fact avodah, similar to the service of sacrifices or incense, applicable to all Jews.

Therefore Rashi says, "and so, too, in the case of Dovid" -- not Dovid HaMelech -- just plain Dovid, who represented each and very Jew.

With these concepts in mind many other uncertainties will be illuminated when the full implication of this concept is developed.


In today's Rambam section several rules of the Chatas (sin offering) sacrifice are discussed.

The Rambam rules that if one sets aside an animal to be a Chatas for the sin of eating Chelev (suet) he may not include the sin of desecrating the Shabbos or eating blood in the same offering. For the Torah clearly states that each sacrifice should be brought for its own sin. Moreover, if one sets aside a chatas for eating chelev on one day he may not include the same sin of chelev which he ate on a previous day. If he does, it will however, bring forgiveness -- according to one version in Rambam; according to another version: it will not.

In this halachah we may also find a moral lesson.

The bringing of a sin offering must be accompanied by intentional repentance which includes remorse for all sins and omissions. Despite this the chatas for eating chelev may not include a different sin. And even the same sin transgressed on a different day may not be included -- because the general repentance and sacrifice is not sufficient -- you must also have individual repentance and a separate offering for each sin, or for each day a sin was committed.

What do we learn from this in our Divine service?

In addition to general service and general contemplation there must be individual Divine service and specific contemplation. The general rule must branch into the details.

In our days we may assume that all problems have been corrected and atoned for. Especially when we take into account all the suffering of the Jewish people throughout the generations of exile. Moreover, we have even concluded "polishing the buttons" so that it remains only for us to stand ready, all types of Jews, united, to receive and to greet our righteous Moshiach.

And may it be in a manner that "you can therefore see that I am placing before you...a blessing...."

(Devorim 11:26)

It should be in an open and revealed manner: "the glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh will see." This revelation must come from the Supernal level of "Anochi" -- above the level of the "Name."

May we see that blessing -- all manner of blessing -- most especially the essential and inner blessing, the true and complete redemption: "and may you look upon the good of Yerushalayim." (Tehillim 128:5)

So may it be speedily and truly in our time.

Navigating the Sea of Life

On Shabbos Chof Av -- the 20th of Av -- yartzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson ", father of the Rebbe Shlita -- the Rebbe, Shlita directed several of his talks to the theme of joy. In deference to a large group of visitors from the West Coast, the Rebbe expounded on the expanded joy of a farbrengen with "new faces."

In connection with a fund-raising cruise planned for S. Monica, California, the Rebbe discussed the moral lesson to be gleaned from the experience of sailing at sea and the importance of serious meditation on the salient points. The deep insight and profound analysis provided by the Rebbe illuminate this interesting subject.

The Joy of the New

When "new faces" join us at a farbrengen we all experience a unique and expanded joy.

We may draw an analogy from the halachic ruling in the case of the Sheva Berachos -- the seven benedictions which are recited (after Grace) through the festive post-wedding week. The rule is that when a "new face" is present the seven benedictions are recited, for human nature is such that "new faces" bring new joy.

Similarly, when two friends meet after a long separation their reunion evokes great happiness:

When one meets his beloved friend and rejoices and draws satisfaction from seeing him, if he has not seen him for 30 days he shall recite the blessing "Shehecheyanu" ["who has granted us life"].

(Alter Rebbe's Siddur, Order of Blessings 12:11)

We must deduce that the joy in this case is so great that it is revealed, for Shehecheyanu is only said when we see and feel the joy.

So, too, in our case, meeting with fellow Jews whom we have not seen for some time, "new faces," increases our rejoicing manifold.

The joy is compounded because we can openly and clearly show and express the emotions of unity that we feel.

This revealed unity is an important point -- for inherently and intrinsically Jews are always united. Essentially they are one because of their souls, more so because of Torah, and especially through mitzvos which are common to all Jews. A 13 year old boy puts on Tefillin just as Moshe Rabbeinu did, a three year old girl lights a Shabbos candle just like the candle kindled by the Matriarch Rivkah at the age of three, and the Matriarch Sarah, before her -- who's candle burned from Friday to Friday. This spiritual unity always exists.

When Jews meet in one place and their unity is revealed and expressed for all to see, then they experience greater joy.

This is all the more powerful now when their gathering has a unifying spiritual theme. For they have come together in connection with the holiday of the 15th of Av and the ensuing Shabbos and with a religious commitment to increase Torah and tzedakah. In this case the spiritual and material unity is enhanced manifold.

A Cruise for Torah

I have been informed by several of these guests that they are planning to hold a dinner (for the benefit of further expanding Torah and Yiddishkeit) on an ocean cruiser. The Baal Shem Tov taught we must learn a lesson in Divine service from everything we see and hear -- there is something to be learned from a cruise on a boat, in addition to the purpose of the trip which will include Torah and tzedakah. That which is holy must permeate all aspects and every detail -- so that each detail is holy. Thus, in the cruise itself there is a lesson to be learned.

The normal domicile of man is on terra firma -- sailing off to sea is something new and different, a bit out of the ordinary. Since the sea is not the normal dwelling place of man one must travel on sea by a ship which offers protection and provides for the person's needs while at sea.

And yet, going out to sea is always bound up with danger, so that when we alight on solid ground again one must offer thanks through the blessing of Hagomel. As we read in Tehillim:

Those who go down to the sea in ships.... Let them give thanks to the L-rd for His kindness, and [proclaim] His wonders to the children of man. (Tehillim 107:23-31)

What do we learn from this in our Divine service?

The Soul on the Sea of Life

Going down to sea is symbolic of the descent of the soul to the physical world and its journey through life. For this world is compared to the stormy sea filled with "many waters." These mighty waves are referred to in Shir HaShirim:

Many waters cannot extinguish the fire of this love, nor rivers wash it away, (Shir HaShirim 8:7)

on which the Alter Rebbe lends amplification:

The "many waters" are the tribulations of earning a livelihood and the mundane thoughts in all worldly matters.... Despite all these problems they cannot extinguish the love...the hidden love which exists in every Jewish soul by its very nature and which radiates from its G-dly soul. (Torah Or, beg. Noach)

What course must one follow to be saved from these perilous waters? Go down to the sea in a ship! The good ship of Torah and mitzvos. On these ocean liners the Neshamah will chart a safe course through the stormy sea and reach its destination in peace.

Torah and Mitzvos your Lifeboat

This then is the lesson to be gleaned form an ocean cruise -- observing Torah and mitzvos is an absolute prerequisite to your existence. Just as you can exist at sea only if you are on a sturdy ship, so too, can you journey through life, only on the lifeboat of Torah and mitzvos.

From another vantage point. When one encourages another Jew to study Torah or observe mitzvos he is not only giving him/her good advice, he is actually telling him how to stay afloat and alive. If someone is drowning, G-d forbid, pulling him on your boat is not just doing him a favor it is saving his life.

The Pleasure of it all

Another point.

Cruising on a boat also has the aspect of leisure and pleasure, it is not something which is absolutely necessary. Those who will join the cruise will choose to do so for the sake of having a good time.

The analogue of this facet of the cruise adds another facet to the observance of Torah and mitzvos. For not only do we observe Torah and mitzvos because it is our lifesaver -- but we also find great pleasure in our Torah and mitzvos. This is the level of serving G-d out of love.

While this lesson is sound advice for all Jews, in all walks of life and at all times, it is especially appropriate to mull over these thoughts when one is actually participating in a cruise, for the novelty of the experience engenders a deeper contemplation on the intrinsic essence of the occurrence and the desire for satisfying meaning and purpose. More common phenomena, although they should be truly thought provoking, fail to arouse serious meditation, because of their regularity and commonness.

If one would contemplate on the return of his/her soul in the morning -- having gone to sleep tired and worn out to wake refreshed with the return of the soul -- he would recognize this happening as a gift of G-d who gives us life every morning. This thought should awaken a rush of love for the Holy One, Blessed be He. Remembering that this soul is pure and holy -- will enhance this feeling much more so. Yet, by its regularity and daily reoccurrence one is not impressed and is not moved by this wonder.

This Thought Must "Sink" in

The novelty of sailing on a ship should awaken a new awareness, to think and contemplate -- and this sensitivity should be utilized to mull over the theme of "going down to sea" in its spiritual sense as we discussed, and as is clearly understandable.

Most important of all, when the participants return to dock and alight on dry land, where civilization moves on and where they must go on to carry out their own missions in life, let them act in accordance with this idea and let them take this lesson to heart. It should be seen and felt, that Torah and mitzvos are things which affect their whole existence and bring the great pleasure of service out of love.

Spread the word to others!

Let them exalt Him in the congregation of the people.

(Tehillim 107:32)

And let them influence others -- the non-Jewish people of the world -- to see G-d's wonders and observe those commandments dictated to them by Torah, the Seven Noachide Laws.

This should also effect an increase in spreading Torah and the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside.

May this discussion of the salvation of the few, lead to the ultimate salvation, through our righteous Moshiach. Then we will increase all aspects of Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos and we will be redeemed in a revealed manner immediately and truly now.

"A Call for Excellence"

In Pirkei Avos we learn that all Jews are counted among those who give charity -- even some who do not -- and all Jews are among those who attend the House of Study, even those who do not. The non-active ones are only temporarily so and must be awakened and motivated to carry out their true inner desire, to "give charity," and to "attend the House of Study."

This call goes forth to every Jew regardless of status -- for everyone must rise in Torah and charity. This insightful interpretation of Avos ch. 5, Mishnah 13 & 14 was presented by the Rebbe Shlita on Shabbos Eikev, Chof Menachem-Av (20th of Av) and bears a timely message for everyone in relation to self-improvement, and to encourage others to improve.

Four types of "Givers" and "Goers"

In chapter five of Pirkei Avos we study the following Mishnah:

There are four types among those who give charity: one who wishes to give but that others should not -- he begrudges others; that others should give and he should not -- he begrudges himself; that he should give and others should, too, is a chassid; that he should not give nor should others is a wicked person. (Avos 5:13)

The next Mishnah continues:

There are four types among those who attend the House of Study: one who attends but does not engage [in study] earns the reward for going: one who engages [in study] but does not attend earns the reward for the act [of studying]; one who attends and engages [in study] is a chassid; one who does not attend nor does he engage [in study] is a wicked person. (Ibid.:14)

  1. If the Mishnah is describing "those who give charity" then there are really only three types, because the one who wishes not to give nor should others -- is not a giver of charity. Why then does the Mishnah say "four types" and include the one who gives not?!

    Along the same line of thought, the one who does not attend the House of Study and does not engage in study should not be counted among the "four types...who attend the House of Study." Why does the Mishnah count "four...who attend the House of Study" and include the one who stays away?

    The Act, or the Person

    R. Ovadia Bartenuro tackles this question and tries to explain that the Mishnah is dealing with the giving of tzedakah rather than the "givers" of tzedakah. Likewise in the case of Torah study it deals with the act of going to the house of study rather than the "goers". This interpretation however, is not reflected in the plain meaning of the Mishnah which speaks of the "givers" and "goers."

  2. Another point bears clarification:

    The Tractate of Avos is a discussion of conduct which reflects "matters of greater piety" -- going beyond the requirement of the rule of law. Why then do these Mishnahs discuss the different types of people who give charity and study Torah? Both of these acts are primary precepts which must be fulfilled by reason of Torah law.

The explanation:

No Jew is Excluded

When the Mishnah lists the four types of people who give charity it endeavors to include all possible variances so as to include each and every Jewish person. It is the intention of the Mishnah to suggest the concept that all of these types are in fact to be included among the "givers of charity" and "those who attend the House of Study." And precisely for this reason does it include even those who in reality do not give and do not go. The point is that despite this shortcoming they are Jews and therefore are automatically included among the "givers" and "goers." Why? Because the true desire and intrinsic wish of every single Jew is to be included among the Jewish people and to fulfill all the mitzvos, as the Rambam explains in Laws of Divorce ch. 2. And, if for some reason at the present moment one may have the attitude of not giving, he is still not left out. For this reason he should also not lose hope, since his true inner desire is to be counted among the just.

The goal of the Mishnah is to motivate such people to rise from their inactive state and bring out their kinetic desire and drive to give tzedakah and to study Torah.

You, too, can be a Chassid

By listing the four types together the Mishnah further shows us that they are all connected, so that even one who is presently dormant may awaken and emerge as a chassid who gives and encourages others to give.

At the same time this style of the Mishnah also bears an important lesson for the highest type, the chassid who "gives" and "studies."

Having striven to attain the highest status in Torah study and giving charity, the rules of greater piety instructs the individual that he must not rest on his laurels, but he must continue to increase and expand his activities -- more Torah, more tzedakah, and more life will be added to his life.

Despite his loftier state he is listed together with the other three types to remind him that just as the others may not remain at their levels and must rise up higher, so, too, must the chassid rise up in holiness, and if he fails he falls into the negative type of one who neglects to give or study.

Aim High or Fall

Here we may see the two extremes in Avos -- on the one hand it teaches us "matters of greater piety" and on the other hand it makes sure that we reject "matters of damages," (See B. Kamma 30a) which is on the other extreme. When you neglect to act in accordance with the "matters of greater piety" you can fall from your lofty position and, G-d forbid, descend to the state of one who does not go or give -- at that point you could be counted among the "four types that cause damages."

These two consecutive Mishnah's teach a lesson in Torah learning and charity, that every Jew is counted among the four types in charity and Torah, and everyone can and must increase his/her Torah and charity and strive to attain the level of the "chassid." Additionally, one must influence others to join the ranks of the higher type of givers and goers, by virtue of the commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself."

"But How?"

Are you suddenly faced with the dilemma how to approach someone you never met and whom you must first ask, "Are you Jewish?" Are you uncertain how to speak to that person about giving tzedakah and going to the house of Study, and how it can be done in a polite and socially acceptable manner? For this the Mishnah gives us advice and shows us the approach which will be socially acceptable. Preface your remarks by saying: since you are a Jew, you are already included among those who give charity and who attend the House of Study -- this is attested to by the Mishnah!

You now assume the role of one who wishes to fulfill the directive and mission of that Mishnah to all Jews. The message that you share with your fellow Jew is that every Jew must raise himself to a higher level whether he/she now stands at the bottom or the top of the list.

The Call to All

Your mission to this Jew does not in any way cast aspersions on his conduct, for you speak to the one who does not give in the same voice as you speak to the chassid, since all must aspire to rise.

Action is of the essence.

Encourage and publicize these directives of the Mishnah as much as possible, that each and every Jew, man, woman and child must increase Torah study and charity; Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity also require the further encouragement of others.

May our determined acceptance of these good resolutions effect and bring the real reward -- "that the Beis HaMikdash be speedily rebuilt in our days, and grant us our portion in Your Torah." With the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach.

All the more so, when these resolutions are coupled with joy and glad hearts, an exuberant joy which permeates the entire being, so that the feet begin to dance -- then we speedily reach the dance with which we will greet our righteous Moshiach, and we will see the fulfillment of the promise "and everlasting joy upon their heads." (Yeshayahu 35:10)

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