On this Shabbos, we have read from Parshas Shemini for the eighth time. (This includes the readings on the Shabbos afternoons and on Mondays and Thursdays.) There is a common saying, Shemini Shemoneh Shemainoh, "When Parshas Shemini is read eight times, it will be a plentiful year" in both spiritual and material matters.
This enhances the unique nature of this year which is a year when "I will show you wonders," i.e., a year filled with manifest Divine miracles which will serve as a preparation for the miracles that will accompany the Future Redemption when "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders." This is particularly true in the present month, the month of Nissan, a month associated with miracles of a truly wondrous nature.
There are several other unique factors associated with this Shabbos: a) It is the first Shabbos after the holiday of Pesach and thus it is on this Shabbos that we begin reading Pirkei Avos. b) It is the last Shabbos of the month of Nissan, and indeed, the day before Rosh Chodesh Iyar. c) Today also concludes as week of the Counting of the Omer. As mentioned, this year there is an added dimension of perfection within the Counting of the Omer, because each week, the week of the Omer begins on Saturday night and concludes on Shabbos.
These factors are all interconnected, and similarly, share a connection with the unique and wondrous dimension of the present year, a year when "I will show you wonders."
To focus first on the expression "When Parshas Shemini is read eight times, it will be a plentiful year" in greater depth: On the surface, the question arises: Shemainoh -- "plentiful" shares the same root as the word Shemini itself. If so, why is it that only when Shemini is read eight times (Shemoneh) will it be a plentiful year? Surely, Shemoneh, the eight times we read from the portion, contributes an added influence, but seemingly the reading of Shemini itself should be sufficient to bring about the influence of Shemainoh.
To explain: Shemini refers to the eighth day of the dedication of the Sanctuary, the day when the Divine Presence came to rest among the Jewish people. The potential for this is related to Shemini, "the eighth day." The natural order is structured in cycles of seven, thus corresponding to the seven Divine attributes described as middos. In contrast, eight is associated with the Divine light which transcends the natural order.
Thus, the service performed during the first seven days of the dedication of the Sanctuary was associated with the G-dliness that manifests itself within the natural order. Hence, it was not sufficient to bring about the revelation of the Divine Presence. On the eighth day, this transcendent aspect of G-dliness was revealed and came to rest within the Jewish people.
This represents the connection between eight and plenty. Eight refers to a beneficence that transcends the limits of the world and thus brings about plenty.
The ultimate intent, however, is that the light which transcends the natural order permeate that limited realm as well and come into revelation within the world itself, and furthermore, that the world as it exists within its own context, appreciate this revelation. This represents a fusion of two opposites, the revelation of transcendent G-dliness within a world of limitation.
In particular, this concept is revealed in Moshe's blessing to the Jewish people, "May the Divine Presence rest in the work of your hands;" i.e., the work of the Jew's hands, their limited service, will become a vehicle for the revelation of G-d's infinite properties. From the Sanctuary, the revelation of this quality will spread throughout the world at large.
In an open and manifest manner, this fusion of the finite and the infinite was revealed in the ark. Although the ark had a specific width, two and half cubits, when the entire span of the Sanctuary was measured, "the space of the ark was not included in the measure."
These concepts must be reflected in the service of each individual Jew. There are certain aspects of our service that are associated with boundaries and limitations and others that transcend limitation. Each reflects a particular positive quality. The service within the context of limitation is appropriate to our human personalities and, as such, makes it possible for them to internalize the revelation of G-dliness.
The service that transcends revelation establishes a connection to those dimensions of G-dliness which are also unlimited. Thus the ultimate state of service is the fusion of both these qualities, thus establishing a connection with G-d's infinite dimension, and simultaneously, allowing for that connection to be internalized with the limited sphere of our personalities and our material world.
Based on the above, we can explain why it is the influence of Shemoneh ("eight") and not that of Shemini ("the eighth day") which makes this year "plentiful" (Shemainoh). The difference "the eighth" and "eight" is that "the eighth" refers to a level distinct and separate from the levels which precede it. In contrast, eight refers to a sequence in which not only the number eight, but also the seven numbers which precede it are also counted.
As mentioned previously, eight refers to a transcendent dimension of G-dliness. Thus, Shemini refers to this transcendent dimension as it stands in and of itself, above our material world. In contrast, Shemoneh indicates a bond between this infinity quality and the natural order which is structured in seven, the transcendent G-dliness investing and manifesting itself within the limits of our world.
For this reason, the reading of Parshas Shemini alone does not bring about plenty for it refers to a level above the limits of our world. When, however, as in the present year, that portion is read is read eight times, this infinite quality is reflected within the nature of our world, bringing about plenty.
There is a further concept implied: The means in which the eighth quality, the transcendent dimension described above, is revealed is through the service with the seven limited qualities which precede it (one reaches eight after counting seven). When one completes the service within the context of limitation, one becomes capable of receiving higher revelations, including qualities which transcend revelation.
To refer to the example of the revelation of infinity mentioned above, that the place of the ark was not included in the measure of the Sanctuary's span: When was it possible for this infinite quality to be revealed? When first the ark was fashioned according to its precise measure. Were it not to have been completed according to its precise instructions, the Divine Presence would not have rested upon it.
Similarly, in regard to the reading of Parshas Shemini, the unique dimension expressed this year comes when we read from Parshas Shemini eight times: The first reading reveals the transcendent quality associated with Shemini, the second reading, a reinforcement of this quality, the third reading a chazakah which reveals a dimension of strength and permanence. The fourth reading is associated with the four legs of the Divine chariot which give it stability and balance, the fifth reading with "the fifth to Pharaoh," which is interpreted by the Zohar as referring to a level where "all lights are revealed." The sixth reading is associated with a repetition of the chazakah mentioned above, and also the completion of the world which was created in six days. The seventh reading is connected with Shabbos which infuses the dimension of rest into the world. And as mentioned above it is the eighth reading which fuses the infinite dimension of G-dliness with the limitations of our material world.
The potential for the revelation of this transcendent quality within the limits of our material world is generated by Moshe and his prayer "May the pleasantness of G-d be upon you," which is interpreted to mean "May the Divine Presence rest in the work of your hands."
In his own person, Moshe represents the fusion of finiteness and infinity and therefore, he has the potential to serve as "a medium which connects," and thus bring infinite G-dliness into revelation within our material world.
This concept is reflected in the opening Mishnah of the first chapter of Pirkei Avos (which we begin reading this week), "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over...." "G-d and the Torah are one" and it is through the Torah that the Divine Presence rests among the Jewish people. Similarly, it is through the Torah that a Jew has the potential to reveal the transcendent level of G-dliness within the world at large.
The expression "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" is also significant, revealing the source for Moshe's potential. Seemingly, the Mishnah should have said "Moshe received the Torah from G-d." Why does it mention Sinai? To teach us that just as Mount Sinai was chosen for the giving of the Torah because it was lower than all mountains, it is humility and bittul which make a person a fit recipient for the Torah. Moshe was the epitome of these qualities being "more humble than any man on the face of the earth." Therefore, he was the one who received the Torah, and it was he who served as the medium for the revelation of transcendent G-dliness within our limited world.
To elaborate on the conception of Moshe as representing the fusion of limitation and the levels of G-dliness that transcend limitation: The name Moshe in Hebrew (äÖÄ) can be interpreted as an acronym for the names, Moshe, Shammai, and Hillel, who represent the three vectors of Divine influence. Hillel represents the right vector which is characterized by the quality of Chesed (kindness) and thus the School of Hillel is renown for its lenient approach to Torah law. Shammai represents the left vector which is characterized by the quality of Gevurah (might) and thus the School of Shammai is renown for its stringent approach to Torah law. Moshe represents the middle vector which is associated with the quality of Tiferes (beauty) and which possesses an infinite dimension that can unite and harmonize the other two approaches.
The fusion of Chesed and Gevurah can be interpreted as a fusion of limitation and above limitation. Gevurah is associated with the process of contraction and the establishment of limitations. In contrast, Chesed represents influence from above which transcends the limits of the recipients.
Moshe's potential to bring about this fusion of opposites comes from the fact that Moshe was "drawn out from the water," i.e., the source for his soul was levels of Divine light that are too transcendent to be openly revealed within this world. Even as Moshe was "drawn out from the water," and existed within this limited world, he possessed a connection to his transcendent source.
Moshe reflected the ultimate of bittul. Therefore, he was able to reveal the advantage possessed by the service of each of the two vectors and unite them together. This in turn brought about the revelation of the Divine Presence within the world.
Moshe endows the potential to carry out his service to every Jew, for every Jew possesses a spark of Moshe in his soul. Furthermore, this quality affects their service within the world at large. We see this pattern reflected at the construction of the Sanctuary. Moshe recited the prayer, "May the Divine Presence rest in the work of your hands," and the Divine Presence was revealed. This caused the Jews "to offer praise and to fall on their faces," i.e., to express complete and utter bittul.
From Moshe's generation, this potential was transferred from to all subsequent generations, granting them the potential to emulate Moshe's acceptance of the Torah from Sinai, and thus establish a complete bond of unity with the G-d through Torah study.
There is also a connection to the completion of the second week of the Counting of the Omer. The first week of the Omer is associated with the quality of Chesed ("kindness") which characterizes the right vector. The second week is associated with Gevurah ("might") which characterizes the left vector. Thus, these two weeks parallel the qualities represented by the Schools of Shammai and Hillel mentioned above.
Also, the counting of Malchus sheb'Gevurah (Kingship within might) on the present day is associated with the ultimate expression of kingship, the revelation of "And G-d will rule forever and ever," in the ultimate redemption when "the sovereignty will be the L-rd's." Furthermore, this revelation will be overpowering in nature as appropriate for the attribute of might.
Although might is often associated with tzimtzum, the process of Divine self-limitation which brought about the existence of this material world, it also is associated with a powerful revelation of Divine power. Thus, the Resurrection of the Dead is associated with this quality. Furthermore, this overpowering revelation, the revelation of the redemption, will draw G-dliness into even the aspects of the world that are characterized by concealment. Since the revelation will permeate even these levels, there will be no further opportunity for exile. It will be a redemption that will not be followed by exile.
Today is also the day before Rosh Chodesh when we read the Haftorah which begins, "And Yonason told him (David), 'Tomorrow is the new moon. And you will be brought to mind, because your place will be empty.' " The Hebrew words for "brought to mind" and "be empty" share the same root (âùö).
This relationship is reflected in the pattern leading to the shining of the new moon. First the moon becomes concealed to the point where it does not shine at all and it is this concealment ("your place will be empty") that leads to a renewal of the moon's shining ("you will be brought to mind").
Similarly, the concealment of exile is the preparation for the shining of the redemption which is connected with King David's descendant, the Mashiach. Also, the root âùö is associated with redemption for it was the sign that Yaakov and Yosef gave the Jewish people that the redemption would come (âàùöë âàùö) Bereishis 50:24-25. Thus, it also shares a connection to the ultimate redemption, for "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders."
All the above emphasizes how the ultimate redemption should come immediately, particularly in this present year, a year when "I will show you wonders." Even though we are in the darkness of exile, that very fact, the fact that our place at G-d's table in the Beis HaMikdash is empty, should cause G-d to bring us to mind and devote His attention to redeeming us.
Furthermore, our service carried out within the darkness and concealment of the exile has the potential to bring about the redemption. This pattern parallels our Sages' comment, "Whoever observes the Torah in a state of poverty will ultimately merit to observe it in a state of wealth." Through service in the poverty of exile, we will merit to serve G-d with the wealth of the redemption.
The intent is not, heaven forbid, that we must carry out our service in actual poverty. Whatever was necessary on that account was fulfilled in the previous generations. Instead, as our Sages explained that the true sense of poverty is a lack of knowledge, and we are lacking the ultimate knowledge that will be revealed in the Era of Redemption. In a material sense, however, we have been granted wealth, and we can study Torah and observe its mitzvos in prosperity. Moreover, we have also been granted a glimmer of the spiritual wealth of the Era of Redemption as reflected in the printing of many Torah texts that were unavailable until now.
Therefore it is incumbent on every Jew to work to bring the ultimate redemption. A person cannot complain: "I'm limited in my capacities and, furthermore, must devote much of my time to physical activities within this world. I barely have enough energy to carry out a service which is limited in scope. Surely, I'm unable to carry out a service as great as bringing Mashiach."
Even such a person must be brought to realize that Mashiach's coming is dependent on the Jews' service and on every Jew's service. And if Mashiach has not come as of yet, this is a clear indication that his coming depends on the service of our generation. Through our service within the limitations and the concealment of this exile, we can tap great energies which have the potential to bring about the redemption. Moreover, the Rambam writes that with every single mitzvah that a Jew performs, he has the potential "to bring about salvation for himself and for the entire world."
Each Jew has been given the power to carry out this service, and to do so in a perfect manner. Not only can he help another person in their efforts, but rather he can carry out this service himself and thus become a full partner with G-d in the work of creation.
Each Jew's soul is "a part of G-d from above," and thus his service has the potential to have untold effects. This is particularly true in the present year, a year when "I will show you wonders." "I" refers to G-d and when G-d shows wonders, everything is revealed. We see miracles which transcend the natural order and miracles that are enclothed within the natural order as we have seen in the last months, beginning with the month of Adar.
This pattern continued in the month of Nissan, a month associated with miracles of a truly miraculous nature and will surely continue in the month of Iyar whose name serves as an acronym for the names, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, and Rachel who represented the four "legs" of the Heavenly Chariot; alternatively, for the Hebrew words of the verse, "I am G-d, your healer." In particular, this is heightened by the reading from Parshas Shemini eight times, for eight shares an intrinsic relationship with the Era of Redemption.
The power for us to carry out this service is generated by the extension of Moshe in our generation, the Previous Rebbe. In particular, the potential is revealed here in this building which served the Previous Rebbe -- and continues to serve -- as a place of prayer, a place of study, and a place of deeds of kindness. From here, influence will spread throughout the world, even to those corners of the world which are furthest removed -- both geographically and ideologically -- from this place and it will be revealed how "My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations."
This will be realized in the Era of Redemption, after the ingathering of the exiles. Indeed, we are already seeing a reflection of this in the ingathering of the exiles we have seen in the last years, which allowed many Jews from Russia to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael. In previous years, there were obstacles and quotas impeding such emigration, but now, they are being given permission to leave without any hindrances. This is surely one of the revelations of a transcendent nature which will come in the end of the era of exile.
To conclude in simple terms: Every Jew, man, woman, and child has an individual responsibility to add to his service with the intent of bring about the actual coming of Mashiach. One should not try to shift the burden of responsibility to others. Rather, each person should recognize his individual responsibility.
This service must involve an increase in the study of the Torah, both Nigleh and P'nimiyus HaTorah and an increase in the performance of mitzvos behiddur, i.e., in a beautiful and conscientious manner. In particular, this should involve attention to the custom of studying Pirkei Avos Shabbos afternoon between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuos and throughout the entire summer.
In addition to making such increases oneself, one should also influence others to make similar increases. And all of this should be suffused with yearning for and expectation of Mashiach's coming.
May our resolutions to involve ourselves in these activities be successful and bring about the coming of the ultimate redemption when "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders."
- (Back to text) See the sichos of Acharon Shel Pesach, 5751.
- (Back to text) As explained at length in the sichos of Acharon Shel Pesach, 5751, even Shabbos, the seventh day represents a level of perfection with the natural order.
- (Back to text) The ark contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments which included the entire Torah. Since "G-d and the Torah are one," the ark shares an intrinsic connection to the revelation of essential G-dliness.
- (Back to text) A similar concept is seen in regard to ma'aser, the tenth animal which is consecrated as a sacrifice, "the tenth will be holy." When is this quality revealed? After one counts the previous nine animals.
- (Back to text) As mentioned several times, this year there is a special emphasis on the concept of chazakah, because the year began with a three day continuum of holiness. Similarly, Parshas Shemini is read over a three week period.
- (Back to text) See the sichos of Parshas Tzav, 5751, where this concept is explained at length.
- (Back to text) Through a process of downward progression, the hiddenness that comes about from this transcendence ultimately is reflected in the manner in which the material nature of the world conceals the G-dly energy invested within it.
- (Back to text) Penaihem, "their faces," is related to the word p'nimiyus, which means "inner dimension." Thus, the verse can be interpreted to mean that the bittul they expressed affected the inner dimensions of their being.
- (Back to text) The concealment of the exile has its source in the levels of G-dly light which transcend revelation, However, Malchus sheb'Gevurah allows for a revelation despite this influence. This relates to the concept that the difference between Geulah, (äîàÇé) and Golah (äîàé) is one letter, the Alef, which stands for G-d, Alufo Shel Olam. Through our service in the era of exile, we draw down the Alef into the exile and thus transform it into redemption.
- (Back to text) The renewal of the new moon is also associated with the Jewish people "who like it will be renewed in the future."
- (Back to text) Furthermore, this healing comes about in a manner in which "all the illness... I will not place upon you," i.e., the person will never fall ill.