1. This Shabbos immediately follows the auspicious days of Yud-Bais — Yud-Gimmel Tammuz, when we commemorate the liberation of the Previous Rebbe from prison.
The day following any Yom Tov has a special significance, for it is the time when all the good resolutions rooted within that Yom Tov are actually put into effect. To be sure, all Jews are assumed to be trustworthy and will therefore fulfill any resolutions they make. But the actual fulfillment of the resolutions is what G-d desires, and therefore the following day takes on special importance.
This idea is also expressed in the creation of the world. All creation existed in potentia in the supernal worlds and indeed on a more sublime level. Yet it was necessary for G-d to create this corporeal world, for the potential fulfills its ultimate purpose only upon being realized in actual effect.
This sheds light on a difficult passage in the Talmud (Megillah 13b). We are told that Haman drew lots to determine the month in which he should destroy the Jews. When the month of Adar was indicated, he rejoiced, for this was the month when Moshe Rabbeinu died. The Talmud concludes that Haman did not know that it was also the month of Moshe’s birth and “worthy is his birth that it should atone for his death.”
The question arises: Haman was correct in noting that Moshe Rabbeinu’s passing occurred in Adar, so what difference would it make that his birthday also occurred on the same day?
The answer is that in the day of one’s birth, all one’s future good deeds exist in their potential state. As one develops and matures, all one’s deeds pass from the potential to the actual. On the day of Moshe Rabbeinu’s Yahrzeit, all his deeds that had existed in their potential state on his birthday had realized their ultimate purpose. And this fact was expressed by the simultaneous occurrence of Moshe Rabbeinu’s Yahrzeit and birthday.
To return to our original theme: The day following Yud-Bais Tammuz is significant because it is the time when the ultimate goal of Yud-Bais Tammuz is realized. Its occurrence on the day of Shabbos is also significant, for Shabbos endows everyone with additional power; as Chassidus teaches, “the worlds undergo an ascent on Shabbos.”
A Jew’s service to G-d always consists of “avoiding evil” and “doing good.” Yet on Shabbos the emphasis is on “doing good.” For Shabbos is so holy that all evil is automatically banished by its sanctity. Thus, instead of dividing his efforts between the equally important requirements of “do good” and “avoid evil,” the Jew is able to devote all of his energies to the service of “doing good” — of enhancing the sanctity of the world.
The lesson from this is clear:
In spreading Yiddishkeit, two approaches can be used:
1) In addition to speaking about “doing good,” we can also emphasize avoiding the undesirable aspects of the world.
2) We can devote all our energies to emphasizing the aspect of “doing good” and everything evil and undesirable will automatically be banished.
Shabbos teaches us that the second approach is preferable when dealing with anyone in need of the light of Yiddishkeit or even for that element within ourselves which is in need of illumination.
It is important to realize that this lesson is eternally applicable, even in those years when the day immediately following Yud-Bais Yud-Gimmel Tammuz is not Shabbos. When one meets another Jew or “another” one within ourselves — one should emphasize the concepts of “doing good” and the “exaltation of G-d,” stressing the point that every Jew is the descendant of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov, and Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel and Leah, and therefore possesses wonderful powers to accomplish good in the world.
2. In this week’s parshah — Balak — we are told how Balak asked Bilaam to curse the Jewish people. When Bilaam later relates Balak’s evil request to G-d, he makes certain subtle changes.
Balak’s words are: “Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me. And now, come, I pray you, curse for me this people, for they are too mighty for me; perhaps I shall prevail, that we may smite them and that I may drive them out of the land” (Bamidbar 22:5-6).
In relating Balak ‘ s words, Bilaam makes the following changes.
1) Instead of “a people came out of Egypt — (past tense) — Bilaam says “the people that is come out of Egypt” (present tense).
2) Balak says: “[a people came out of Egypt]; Behold they cover the face of the earth” — separating these two ideas. Bilaam, on the other hand, connects the two by saying: “The people that is come out of Egypt and it covers the face of the earth.”
3) Bilaam omits the reasons for Balak’s fear: “they abide over against me” and “they are too mighty for me.”
4) Bilaam omits the conjunction “And [now, come, I pray you.”]
5) For “curse” Balak uses the word “arah,” while Bilaam uses the word “kavah.”
6) Balak says “perhaps ... we may smite them,” while Bilaam. says “perhaps I shall be able to wage war against them.”
7) Balak’s words are “and that I may drive them out of the land.” Bilaam simply says: “and [I] shall drive them out.”
Rashi explains only two differences; “‘Kavah’ — this is a stronger expression than ‘arah’; ‘And [I] shall drive them out’ from the world, but Balak said only ‘that I may drive them out of the land’ — I desire only to make them depart from me. And Bilaam hated them more than Balak did.”
Rashi, however, does not deal with the other differences which were mentioned. He does give the key to understanding the differences — “Bilaam hated the Jews more than Balak did.” In light of this, Rashi was sure that the reasons for Bilaam’s subtleties would be obvious.
Balak merely says that thirty-nine years beforehand, a people had gone out of Egypt and now, thirty-nine years later, they seek to “cover the f ace of the world. “ — In other words, Balak sees these two circumstances as occurring separately. Bilaam, on the other hand, claims that the intention of Jews in leaving Egypt was for one thing: to cover and conquer the face of the earth. In his eyes, they never had anything else in mind. This contention is clear from his words — “the people that is come out of Egypt, and covers the face of the earth.”
Balak’s fear and resulting hatred of the Jews is limited to two specific reasons: “they abide over against me” and “they are too mighty for me.” Bilaam’s, however, is unbounded and he therefore does not mention any specific reason.
Similarly, Balak was content only to “smite” the Jews, while Bilaam wanted to “wage war.” Rashi explains that by smiting the Jews he wanted only to “reduce their numbers somewhat.” Bilaam wanted to “wage war and drive them out” and, as Rashi explains, he wanted to drive them “from the world.”
[There remains to be explained why Bilaam uses the conjunction “and now, come, I pray you.” The Rebbe Shlita explained in a subsequent farbrengen (Devarim 5740) that the use of a seemingly superfluous conjunction is common in the Torah and poses no question on the level of plain meaning that Rashi deals with.]
3. This week we read the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos, which is described by our Rabbis as the chapter that deals with “acquiring Torah.”
We are told in the final Mishnah: “All that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory.” This Mishnah seems to have no connection with “acquiring Torah” as the other Mishnas have. Furthermore, we must understand, in view of the well-known principle that Pirkei Avos teaches us “matters of ethics,” what ethical teaching we can glean from this Mishnah.
The answer is that Torah is the most sublime aspect of the created world. Indeed, the Torah descends through many stages and levels until it reaches this world. In and of itself it transcends creation, but G-d gave it a form that can be comprehended by us.
This Mishnah also answers those who question the use of modern advances in technology for the sake of Torah. They frown upon the use of radio in disseminating Torah, claiming that since their forebears were able to learn Torah and teach it to others without its use, it should not be used now. Similarly, they are against schools for Jewish girls, arguing that in previous generations such a thing was unheard of, it being against the concept of “the honor of a king’s daughter is within;” for when going to and from school, they may encounter things that are contrary to Judaism.
There are also those who question the famous words of the Baal Shem Tov which states that Mashiach will come when the wellsprings of Chassidus will be spread outwards. They cite various passages in the Talmud that indicate that Mashiach could have come in the times of the Talmud. They say that many generations before the Baal Shem Tov, there were many righteous people who used to recite the famous “Thirteen articles of Faith” which mention the potentially imminent coming of Mashiach.
Similarly, protests are raised against publicizing the Mitzvos of tefillin and mezuzos, etc., in newspapers, since their forebears fulfilled these Mitzvos without resorting to newspapers. And indeed, there was a time when newspapers had not yet been published.
To these and all similar arguments, the Mishnah retorts: All that He created was solely for His glory. The Mishnah is telling us in no uncertain terms that everything one sees in this world must be utilized for the glory of G-d. There is no doubt that the radio was created by G-d; but since G-d desired that things be in a natural fashion, He caused the Jew and non-Jew to discover the concept of radio. But it is most certainly a creation of G-d; therefore, it must be used for His glory, which is achieved when used for the purpose of disseminating Judaism. Even something invented by a non-Jew must be used for G-d’s glory, for they too are creations of G-d; and as such, their inventions must be used in the proper manner.
Failure to realize how something can be used for G-d’s glory is not because it cannot be so used — it is because the person has failed to realize its use. Instead, one uses it for trivial or even shameful purposes. If one fails to utilize any creation for G-d’s glory or uses it for trivial purposes, it is as if one has spurned or shamed a gift from the king. But when it is used for Torah and Mitzvos, it is the greatest glory for G-d.
It is therefore clear that everything, including the most modern advances in technology, must be used for the dissemination of Torah or on anything similar which serves to enhance the glory of G-d in this world.
- (Back to text) Our Rabbis have stated that the “Torah is the blueprint for the creation.” It is therefore not surprising that similar concepts arise in the process of the creation on the one hand, and the fulfillment of Torah 6n the other.
- (Back to text) The Shulchan Aruch teaches that one should contemplate the “exaltation of G-d” and the “insignificance of man.” Here, too, there are two ways. One can divide one’s time and energy equally between these two concepts, or one can deal exclusively with the exaltation of G-d and the insignificance of man will automatically become apparent.
- (Back to text) There are certain versions of Pirkei Avos which have this Mishnah not as a separate Mishnah, but as a continuation of the previous one: “Five possessions did the Holy One, blessed be He, make His very own in His world, and they are: Torah... heaven and earth... Avraham... the people Israel... [and] the Bais HaMikdash.” In anticipation of the obvious question that there are many more things in this world, the Mishnah continues that everything was created for His glory. According to the above version, the part that speaks about all things created for G-d’s glory, is directly connected with the first part of the Mishnah which mentions Torah as one of the possessions of G-d. The Alter Rebbe, however, considers the part that speaks of everything created for G-d’s glory, as a separate Mishnah. It is according to his version that the question arises: What has the Mishnah to do with “acquiring Torah?”