1. In Parshas Eikev (10:8-9) it is written: “The L-rd separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the L-rd, to stand before the L-rd to minister unto Him and to bless in His name unto this day. Therefore, Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brethren; the L-rd is his inheritance, according as the L-rd your G-d spoke to him.”
This presents a slight anomaly. For, if the tribe of Levi was special, chosen to stand before the L-rd and to minister to Him, one would assume that Levi deserved a greater portion than his brethren, and not less. And yet the Torah tells us that it was precisely Levi’s closeness that thwarted his inheritance — “therefore Levi has no portion with his brethren.”
It is to this problem that Rashi addresses himself in his commentary on the words: “Therefore, Levi has no portion.” He states: “Since they were set apart for the service of the altar and are not free to plow and to sow, ‘the L-rd is his inheritance’ — he receives a designated fare from the house of the King.” Thus, due to the loftiness of his position and the nature of his work, Levi has no time to receive his portion in the same manner as his brethren (plowing and sowing). Instead “the L-rd is his inheritance” — G-d Himself provides for Levi who “receives a designated fare from the house of the King.” For his lack of an allotment similar to his brothers does not constitute a deprivation, but rather a dividend of his work. Since he is occupied with the service of the altar, he dispenses with the “portion and inheritance with his brethren;” and receives instead a higher portion — “a designated fare from the house of the L-rd.”
We find a similar situation in relation to Yitzchok. The Medrash states: “Although G-d does not link His Name with the righteous during their lifetime, but only after their death, we find that G-d did link His Name with Yitzchok Hatzaddik even during his lifetime, saying to Yaakov ‘the G-d of Avraham your father, and the G-d of Yitzchok.’ For since Yitzchok was blind, it is as if he were dead.”
The explanation for this is similar to that of the saying of our fathers “when one has reached the age of one hundred, it is as if he were dead, passed away and ceased from the world.” After one has completed his service in the world, he stands higher than the world, and does not see any of the concealments [of the world which obscure our vision of G-dliness]. Because Yitzchok was blind, he did not see the physical things which conceal G-dliness, but saw only the inner [G-dly] part of the world. Thus he was as one who is dead; and G-d was therefore able to link His Name with Yitzchok even during his lifetime.
This then is Yitzchok’s connection with Levi. Yitzchok, being as one who is dead, had no portion in the world (as Levi did not). Yet “G-d is his portion” (as with Levi), since G-d linked His Name with him during his lifetime.
This common point between Levi and Yitzchok is also found in the seventh year. The Torah (Behar 25:2) states: “When you come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a Shabbos unto the L-rd. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year a Shabbos of solemn rest shall be for the land, a Shabbos unto the L-rd; your field you shall not sow, and your vineyard you shall not prune.” Just as Levi and Yitzchok had no portion in this world, the seventh year, during which no work is allowed on the land, is also higher than the matters of the world.
Nevertheless, the “six years you shall sow your field and six years you shall prune your vineyard” are also important and necessary, and in fact constitute a Mitzvah. During these years, the service of extraction [of the Divine sparks] is carried out, making a fit dwelling place for G-d in this material world. Yet, the Torah commands that during the seventh year “your fields you shall not sow, and your vineyard you shall not prune.” What then of the high service of the other six years?
The same question applies to the Shabbos day. of the weekdays the Torah commands “six days you shall do your work,” but on the seventh day, the commandment is “you shall rest.” The Tzemach Tzedek explains that the advantage of working on week-days is that it is the service of extraction and making a dwelling place for G-d. Do we then say that on Shabbos, when we rest, our service is deficient?
Similarly, “Torah scholars are called Shabbos” because just as no work is done on Shabbos, so Torah scholars have nothing to do with “good works,” but only with Torah study. Do then Torah scholars lack the advantage accruing from “good works?”
Moreover, what of those who are exiled from their place of work? When a person is exiled from the place where he “sowed” and “pruned,” he can no longer fulfill the service of “you shall sow your field and prune your vineyard.”
All these questions can be answered through our understanding of the tribe of Levi. As explained, Levi is unique among the tribes, receiving a designated fare from the house of the King (“the L-rd is his inheritance”); for to him is the higher service “to bear the ark of the covenant of the L-rd, to stand before the L-rd to minister unto Him and to bless in His Name.” Therefore he dispenses with the lower service of receiving “a portion and inheritance with his brethren.”
The same concept applies to the seventh year, Shabbos, and Torah scholars. All of these are of a higher level, and thus, can and do dispense with their respective levels (six years of sowing, six days of work etc.).
In respect to exile, the very fact that a person has been sent to another place is proof that there he can reach an even higher level. For if not, G-d, Who is the Essence of good, would never have sent him there. The raison d’etre of exile is to reach a higher level than was previously attainable.
One point remains unclear however. While all of these things (seventh year, Shabbos etc.) are of a higher level, there are still indisputably great things to be attained from the lower level (six years, weekdays etc.). Can we then say that just because a person has attained the advantages accruing to the higher levels, he forfeits those things acquired through the lower levels of service?
Certainly not, for as the sages state: “he who works on Erev Shabbos eats on Shabbos.” The nourishment one acquires on Shabbos is a specific result of the work one does Erev Shabbos. Thus, the benefits of Shabbos itself also include those of the “six days you shall do work.” Likewise, the Torah promises that sustenance in the seventh year comes from “I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth produce for three years.”
Furthermore, the service performed on weekdays and during the six years of work is actually elevated on Shabbos and the seventh year; thus, in effect, the work of those days/years is included in the Shabbos/seventh year. In fact, the service of weekdays as it is included in Shabbos, is much higher than it is by itself; for because the service of Shabbos is of a loftier nature than that of weekday, when the service of weekday is included within Shabbos, it attains that same higher degree of loftiness as the service of Shabbos itself.
We can go yet deeper; in explaining the seventh year the verse begins: “When you come to the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a Shabbos unto the L-rd.” Then it continues “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyards etc.” one might think that the order of the verse should be reversed — first one works the land for six years, and then rests on the seventh. But with this order of phrases the Torah teaches us a profound lesson. The entire raison d’etre of the six years of work is the rest of the seventh. So before a Jew even begins the work of the six years, he must be aware of the purpose of his toil — the seventh year. When based upon this realization, a Jew’s work will be completely different then if he works merely for the sake of the work; his ultimate goal is the elevation of the six years which will occur in the seventh.
Likewise on Shabbos: “All the following days of the week are blessed from Shabbos;” meaning, that Shabbos provides the strength and ability to perform the coming week’s work in the proper fashion. Then the week’s service culminates with the elevation it receives on the following Shabbos.
To sum up, the level of Shabbos is higher than that of weekday — equivalent to the level of “the L-rd is his portion.” Moreover, on Shabbos one also receives the portion that is connected to the world from the six days of labor as they are elevated on Shabbos. And finally, Shabbos also provides the inspiration which gives the strength to perform the following weekdays’ work; the knowledge that its purpose is the Shabbos that follows.
This can be also found in every day of a person’s life. The “Modeh Ani” which is said every morning, when one gives thanks to the “living and eternal King” — G-d as He is higher than the world — is comparable to the concept of Shabbos. The morning blessings which follow are associated with the things of this world. And finally, after prayer, one ventures out into the world, and does his work there.
Similar to this is also the life-time of R. Levi Yitzchok (the Rebbe Shlita’s father) whose Yahrzeit we commemorate today; one who merited to have success after preparatory meditation that the whole purpose of work is “then shall the land keep a Shabbos unto the L-rd.” Due to this preparatory meditation, he succeeded in turning the “land of Canaan” into the “land of Israel.” Then he was exiled from the place where he “sowed his field” and “pruned his vineyard” to a place where he could no longer work with the world. Yet this exile was not, G-d forbid, a descent from his personal level, but the exact opposite. One must rise higher in exile, for there “the L-rd is his inheritance,” an infinitely higher level than the previous dealings with the world. And not only does he stand on this higher plane, but he also retains the lower level of his previous work of “sowing his field” and “pruning his vineyard.” For in exile, this lower level is elevated and included within the level of “the L-rd is his portion.
The above explanation is satisfactory only insofar as when in exile he also spiritually retained the level of “sowing” and 11reaping” in this world. But what of the greatness that comes only from making a dwelling place in the physical world? The answer is that even when in exile, R. Levi Yitzchok continued his previous activity, albeit in a reduced fashion. To this day, one can see the fruits of his work when in exile. And in accordance with the dictum that “a person is alive while his descendants are alive,” R. Levi Yitzchok himself is presently making a dwelling place in this physical world, for his descendants are occupied today in that service.
The concept of working within this world (“sowing your field” and “pruning your vineyard”) while, at the same time, standing on the higher level of “G-d is his inheritance,” is also found in the case of Levi. Rashi, on the words “Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brethren” explains: “since they were set apart for the service of the altar and are not free to plow and to sow.” Rashi does not say that they are prohibited from plowing or sowing, but rather, they are not free — they have no time. If they would have time, they could indeed plow and sow In fact, the Levi’im possessed open spaces around their cities, in which, when they were not busy with the service in the Temple (e.g. at night), they cultivated crops.
From the above example, we can all learn a lesson applicable to our service. we live in a time of Golus, which in reality is a Golus within a Golus — an exile within an exile. The very entrance of a soul into a body is exile, for the soul descends “from a lofty peak to a deep pit.” In addition, we have been exiled from our land, and cannot perform our accustomed service. A person wonders: why were we sent into an exile which poses such obstacles to our proper service?
The example of Levi provides the answer; for “The L-rd separated the tribe of Levi to bear the covenant of the L-rd, to stand before the L-rd to minister unto Him and to bless in His name. Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brethren;” but instead possesses the higher level of “the L-rd is his inheritance,” and consequently dispenses with the lower level of service. So too with all Jews. The Rambam states: “not only the tribe of Levi, but every person whose spirit prompts him ... to separate himself before the L-rd to minister and serve Him ... this person is sanctified as the holy of holies and the L-rd will be his portion and inheritance for ever more.” The very fact that Jews have been sent into exile and lose the advantage of working in their own place is itself evidence that now they have something higher — “the L-rd is his inheritance.” Through this, they can attain a higher level than was previously possible, when not in exile.
The second lesson learned is that even though one is on the higher level of “G-d is his inheritance,” one must still occupy oneself with making a dwelling place for G-d in the physical world — “sowing your field” and “pruning your vineyard.” Through this, the work previously accomplished receives an elevation.
One must also work with others, without any limits; and then his own limitations are removed. As the Tzemach Tzedek writes:. through Tzedakah “his mind and heart are purified a thousand times — literally.”
So may it be with us, that we should proceed from Parshas Eikev to Parshas Re’eh fulfilling that which it states: “See, I give before you this day a blessing.” G-d should send us a blessing in the manner of “giving;” a gift which ensures that the blessing will be without limits. The blessing should also be in a manner of “seeing,” similar to the Torah taught by Mashiach, who will teach all the people in a manner of seeing. May it be so immediately., in the true and complete redemption, when “those who lie in the dust will awaken and rejoice.”