1. Every Shabbos has two components: it is connected with the previous week, and it is connected with the coming week. The component connected with the previous week precedes the other, just as in time the past comes before the future. Moreover, Shabbos’s connection with the past week is mentioned in the Written Torah (Exodus 31:17) — “on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested” (showing that the concept of Shabbos is rest from the previous week’s work), whereas Shabbos’s connection with the future week, that “from Shabbos all the other days are blessed,” is first mentioned only in the Oral Torah. And although the Written and Oral Torah were given together, nevertheless, since a person is unable to hear two things simultaneously, the Jews first heard and received the Written Torah; only afterwards they received the Oral Torah.
Hence the component of Shabbos connected with the previous week precedes that connected with the future week; and, in addition, the previous week affects and leaves an impression of the future week.
This Shabbos Parshas Vayeishev falls between Yud-Tes Kislev (which was in the previous week), and Chanukah (which is in the following week). Thus, the component of Shabbos connected with Yud-Yes Kislev precedes that connected with Chanukah. Nevertheless, the latter possesses a certain quality that the former does not. To understand why, we must first give an introductory explanation.
There is the concept of “to behold the pleasantness of the L-rd,” which is the pleasure a person derives from uniting with (the Essence of) G-dliness. Then there is the service of making a dwelling place for G-d in this corporeal world. The former concept is seemingly of a loftier nature than the latter, for one then has the uplifting experience and pleasure of “beholding the pleasantness of the L-rd.” In the latter case, one must first work hard to make a dwelling place for G-d, not knowing how long it will take, or even if it will be successful. Yet, the dictum is laid down (Avos 4:17) that “One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than the whole life of the world to come.” “Repentance and good deeds in this world” refers to the service of making a dwelling place for G-d in this world; “the whole life of the world to come” refers to the concept of “beholding the pleasantness of the L-rd.”. And we are told that the former is better than the latter.
These two things are similar to the two components present in Shabbos — the past week, and the future week. “To behold the pleasantness of the L-rd” is the same as that component of Shabbos which is the culmination of the previous days, when one receives the pleasure that comes after work. To make a dwelling place for G-d in this world is the same as that component of Shabbos which gives strength and blessing to the coming days, when one works to make the world a fit dwelling place for G-dliness. And as previously explained, making a dwelling place for G-d is better than the world to come (“beholding the pleasantness of the L-rd”). This then is the advantage of the component of this Shabbos which includes Chanukah (which is in the following week), over that component which includes Yud-Tes Kislev (which was in the preceding week).
However, for the service of “good deeds and repentance in this world” to be perfect, there must previously be the service of “beholding the pleasantness of the L-rd.” That is, the service of Chanukah is infinitely better when one (first) has the proper meditation in the concept of Yud-Tes Kislev. Thus, even though the component of Shabbos which contains Chanukah is superior, one must have the prior component which contains Yud-Tes Kislev.
2. In an epistle written by the Alter Rebbe about his liberation, he states: “As I was reading in the Book of Tehillim the verse ‘He has redeemed in peace my soul,’ before I began the next verse, I was liberated in peace...” Since the Alter Rebbe only quotes the words “He was redeemed in peace (my soul),” and not the entire verse from which it comes, it must mean that his liberation and the accompanying lesson learned from it is associated specifically with those words.
“Redemption” indicates a situation of struggle with an opposing force from which one is redeemed. “In peace” indicates the exact opposite — that there is no opposition, no struggle, — only peace. And yet, these two opposite concepts are here juxtaposed: “He has redeemed in peace.” This indicates that the redemption came together with, and was in a manner of, peace, and not that there was first redemption, and only later an ascension to the separate, higher level of peace. At the same time however, “redemption” and “redemption in peace” are separate and significant concepts in themselves. Not that there is only the one concept of the “redemption being in peace,” for the fact that the verse places “He redeemed” before “in peace” indicates that there is first the independent concept of redemption, and then we understand that there is simultaneously another significant concept — that this redemption was in peace.
The lesson derived from this is that a Jew must first and foremost have the service of “redemption” — to redeem himself, his portion in the world, and all Jews with whom he has contact. We simultaneously derive the lesson that in these times that service should not be in the mode of fasting and self-afflictions, but rather “in peace.” This goes according to what the Baal Shem Tov taught on the verse: “when you shall see the donkey of him that hates you (lying under his burden) ... you shall surely help him.” He interpreted it thus: “when you shall see the donkey” — when you will closely examine the corporeality which is your body, you will realize that it “hates you” — that the body hates the soul which yearns for G-dliness and spirituality; nevertheless, “you shall surely help him” — you should refine and elevate the body, and not break it with self-afflictions.
It must be kept in mind however, that first and foremost is the service of “redemption,” for now is the time to “grab and eat, grab and drink.” Meaning, that one should not enter into calculations as to the order and priority of matters concerning Torah and Mitzvos, but rather, as soon as there is something to be done, one must immediately do it.
3. We can take a directive from the above concerning the proper manner of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus to all Jewry. One may think that beforehand he must calculate, plan, and learn all Chassidic discourses. But this is not the correct way. Today demands the type of service where we must “grab and eat, grab and drink” — we must immediately begin the service of “redemption.” Yet simultaneously, the “redemption” must be “in peace,” a mode of service initiated in the time of the AriZal when it became “a Mitzvah to reveal this wisdom,” the esoteric portion of the Torah. And further so in the time when “your [the Besht’s] wellsprings [of Chassidus] shall spread forth to the outside,” a mode of service that penetrates so deeply into the “outside,” that it includes the duty of enlightening non-Jews.
The “Mitzvah to reveal this wisdom” and “spreading the wellsprings to [the] outside,” is the duty to learn the esoteric portion of Torah in addition to the revealed portion. The revealed portion corresponds to the concept of “redemption,” while the esoteric portion corresponds to that of “in peace.” For the study of the revealed part of the Torah is replete with questions, refutations, reconciliation of contradictions — “redemption,” the opposite of peace. Whereas the esoteric portion contains no disagreements or contradictions — it is “in peace.” And since “G-d looked into the Torah and created the world,” meaning that the conduct of the world follows the Torah, it follows that the different modes of service follow the different types of Torah study. As long as there existed only the revealed portion of the Torah, a person’s service was mainly in the form of “He redeemed in__j2eace.1’
However, since “He redeemed” is stated prior to “in peace,” one must first learn the revealed in Torah, and then the esoteric. For even though both are equal, nevertheless, the very fact that one is stated first indicates that it comes prior to the other.
A clear lesson derived from this is that when attempting to influence a fellow Jew to observe Torah and Mitzvos, even though one speaks to him of both the revealed and esoteric, one must first speak about actual deed — the revealed part (“He redeemed”). But do not think that one should not talk also of the esoteric part, in the mistaken belief that too much will confuse a person and that nothing concrete will eventuate. The true path to follow is that, following efforts to convince one’s fellow Jew to observe Torah and Mitzvos — the revealed part of Torah, one must immediately inform him of the duty to learn the esoteric portion of Torah.
The above must be done with the utmost diligence and zealousness, and must not be delayed or pushed off. One should not think that it is better to learn first and to gain maturity and full understanding of all the implications before actually doing anything. This is not the way; this is against the wishes of the Previous Rebbe and G-d! We have the clear directive of “grab and eat, grab and drink;” and, as the Rebbeim have taught, “one hour earlier is better,” meaning not only one hour, but even a minute, or even one moment!
The above directive is applicable to everyone, without exception, especially because it is a “Mitzvah to reveal this wisdom; and more, especially since the time of the Baal Shem Tov, when he was told that “your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside.” This became even more pronounced from the time of the Alter Rebbe, and even more so since the Previous Rebbe caused the wellsprings to reach women in their own languages.
One should begin by first spreading forth the wellsprings of Chassidus to one’s own “outside” — to those matters of a person which are not up to par with his capabilities — and then influence other Jews in the right path — i.e., “you shall love your friend as yourself.” This brings about the fulfillment of the second interpretation of “your friend,” as stated in Rashi: “Your friend and your father’s friend do not forsake — this refers to the Holy One blessed be He.” This in turn causes the fulfillment of the verse “I love you, says the L-rd;” that love being so strong as to be in the form of “you shall love your friend as yourself.” And just as Jews fervently desire the redemption, so too G-d desires it. Hence the redemption will be such that we will be “immediately redeemed,” — immediately, in our own time.
4. As mentioned before, the service on Yud-Tes Kislev is the preparation for the perfect service on Chanukah. In the story of the liberation of the Alter Rebbe we find that there is indeed a connection between the two. The Alter Rebbe, after being released from imprisonment in Petersburg, arrived in his own district, Vitebsk, “on Tuesday, the second day of Chanukah, and remained there for the duration of Chanukah.”
A person freed from imprisonment for a capital offense is obligated, as is a person who recovers from sickness, to make a blessing of thanksgiving. The Alter Rebbe renders the Halachic decision that “a sick person does not make the blessing of thanksgiving until he is completely recovered.” Accordingly, the Alter Rebbe did not make the blessing on his deliverance from imprisonment until the liberation was complete, that is, when he had returned to his own district of Vitebsk, which was on Chanukah. Hence, the complete fulfillment of Yud-Tes Kislev occurred on Chanukah.
Furthermore, the liberation of Yud-Tes Kislev was not a perfect one, for the Alter Rebbe was imprisoned again (in the year 5561) . The liberation from this second imprisonment occurred on the third day of Chanukah, indicating that the perfect fulfillment of Yud-Tes Kislev was on Chanukah.
Another connection between Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah is the fact that Chanukah is associated with oil. oil symbolizes the most profound esoteric parts of the Torah, which were only revealed after Yud-Tes Kislev. Although the esoteric side of the Torah existed prior to that time, until then it was not in a form that was intellectually comprehensible. It was only after Yud-Tes Kislev, when the profound mysteries and secrets of the Baal Shem Tov’s Torah were made comprehensible through Chabad Chassidus, that one could grasp the essence of the esoteric (and it no longer remained in the form of mysteries).
A further connection between Chanukah and Yud-Tes Kislev is that the liberation was “in the merit of the Holy Land” — the merit of the Tzedakah which the Alter Rebbe customarily sent there. Similarly, one of the reasons for his imprisonment was the slander that the money he sent was to help Turkey who was then the ruler of the Holy Land as well as Russia’s enemy. And so too is Chanukah associated with the concept of Tzedakah.
As well as Tzedakah, there is another matter associated with Yud-Tes Kislev —Torah study, especially that of the esoteric portion. As the Alter Rebbe said, his release was in the merit of the parts of Tanya that had been learned in the two years which had passed since they were printed. This teaches us that it is incumbent on all Jews to learn the esoteric part of Torah, and to spread it to others. And these two components of Yud-Tes Kislev, Torah and Tzedakah, are in the concept “Zion will be redeemed with justice (Torah)and those Who return to her [will be redeemed] with charity.”
The Chanukah campaign of getting all Jews to kindle the Chanukah lights is especially relevant now, the time of the “footsteps of Mashiach.” For we need the Chanukah lights to illuminate the darkness of the world, which is in a state of “sunset” (which is the time of day when the Chanukah lights are kindled). Everyone, without any excuses, must participate in this campaign, and must not deputize anyone to do it for him.
From the redemption of the Alter Rebbe and Mitteler Rebbe, we go to the complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, who is one of the “eight princes” — connected with the eight Chanukah lights. And from the Chanukah lights which “shall never be extinguished” we proceed to the future Bais HaMikdash whose lights will likewise never be extinguished. And this will come about through our efforts now, in the time of exile, starting with all the Mitzvah campaigns. Then we will have the campaign that belongs to G-d — “And you will be gathered one by one” and “immediately redeemed” — in the redemption of our righteous Mashiach, speedily in our time.
5. When relating the story of Yosef’s sale into slavery by his brothers, and his subsequent rise to eminence in the house of Potiphar in Egypt, the verse (Vayeishev 39:6) states: “And Yosef was of beautiful form and fair to look upon.” On the words “And Yosef was of beautiful form” Rashi comments: “When he saw himself a ruler he began to eat and drink (well) and to curl his hair; the Holy One blessed be He (then) said, ‘Your father is in mourning and you curl your hair! I shall incite the bear against you.’ Immediately [his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Yosef , and caused him his subsequent troubles].”
There are a few points in this Rashi which need clarification:
1) Why does Rashi compare the wife of Potiphar specifically to a bear?
2) Why does Rashi use the expression “I shall incite the bear against you,” and not a verb like “send” or bring.”
3) What need is there to bring a parable of any animal? Why not simply say “I shall incite the woman,” or, “I shall incite Potiphar’s wife,” etc.
Rashi may be understood when we examine the characteristics of a bear as stated in the Talmud (Kiddushin 72a).
As the Talmud states, and as is easily observed by a child — a bear has long hair. This is why Rashi compares Potiphar’s wife specifically to a bear. For just as a bear, so too Potiphar’s wife, being a woman, had long hair (unlike men).
The reason Rashi finds it necessary to give any parable at all is to answer the following question: When Yosef forgot about his father being in mourning, why did G-d choose to punish him by subjecting him to the specific test of being tempted by Potiphar’s wife? Why not punish Yosef in some other area, such as Kashrus, idolatry, etc.? or, even in the area of immorality itself, the test could have been to withstand the (immoral) desires of Potiphar, as Rashi comments (Mikeitz 41:45) on Potiphar’s name saying that: “he was called Potiphera (to unman) because he emasculated himself because he desired Yosef for sodomy.” It is this question that Rashi answers by saying of ... you curl your hair! I shall incite the bear against you.” Because Yosef’s error lay in “curling his hair,” the test was in the same area — specifically temptation by Potiphar’s wife, who, being a woman, had long hair — a characteristic of the bear.
Yet another characteristic of the bear that is enumerated by the Talmud, and that is also easily observed by a child, is also related to Potiphar’s wife. The Talmud states that “a bear has no rest,” i.e., it is constantly pacing up and down, even when locked in a cage. So too Potiphar’s wife gave Yosef no rest; she was constantly tempting him — “and it came to pass as she spoke to Yosef day by day.”
A more elaborate explanation of Rashi may be given based on the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah Ch. 86:4), which gives the following parable illustrating the nature of Yosef’s test with Potiphar’s wife: “Gems are hung around a bear’s neck, and permission issued to all to jump on the bear and take the gems. The intelligent and prudent person does not let himself be fooled, for, instead of seeing only the gems, he observes that the bear possesses teeth.” He knows that as long as he does not excite the bear he is safe. But once he jumps on the bear to obtain the gems, thus irritating it, he is placing himself in deadly danger. So too with Yosef. Once he started to curl his hair, (i.e. he saw only the gems) , the “bear” began to get irritated and Potiphar’s wife began to tempt him (i.e., the deadly danger of the teeth).
Now we can also understand why Rashi uses the expression “I will incite the bear against you,” rather than “send,” or “bring.” Without it, we would be left with the following question: Before Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes upon Yosef,” he had already been in Potiphar’s house for some length of time; he had been appointed overseer, and he used to come into the house often to do his work. During this length of time Yosef was also “of beautiful form and fair to look upon” — why then did Potiphar’s wife all of a sudden “cast her eyes upon Yosef?” It is to answer precisely this question that Rashi uses the expression “I will incite the bear against you,” and not “I will send the bear.” The word “incite,” unlike “send,” indicates that the bear was there before, as was Potiphar’s wife. As long as a tame bear is not irritated it will remain peaceable — as was Potiphar’s wife for the previous length of time. But, when Yosef erred and began to “curl his hair,” then G-d decided to incite the previously tame bear against him — and immediately Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes upon Yosef,” causing him to be thrown into jail.
- (Back to text) Not only did the Written Torah precede the Oral Torah in the order of being heard, but also in their respective contents. For regarding the giving of both parts of the Torah simultaneously, it states: The (Written) Torah was given together with its interpretation (i.e. the Oral Torah). And there can only be an “interpretation” when the “Torah” is already in existence to be interpreted. Especially as we can see from the progression of a child’s learning that it begins with the Written part, and then proceeds to the Oral part.
- (Back to text) Not only is it better, it is infinitely higher. For, “beholding the pleasantness of the L-rd” (world to come), is the pleasure that a creation receives. Whereas the service of making a dwelling in this world (good deeds) provides pleasure to the Creator: The “pleasure that I said, and My will was done.” And the pleasure of the Creator is infinitely higher than that of the created.
- (Back to text) Especially since the concept of Yud-Tes Kislev is elevated on the Shabbos.
- (Back to text) If there were no separate significance to “redemption,” as different from “redemption in peace,” the verse could have stated: “In peace he redeemed (my soul).” This would have clearly indicated that the redemption could only have been in peace, and that “redemption” does not exist as a separate concept.
- (Back to text) (E) The Hebrew word for donkey has the same letters as that for corporeality.
- (Back to text) The “Mitzvah to reveal this wisdom” applies only to Jews. The service of “your wellsprings shall spread to the outside,” however, includes also non-Jews, the farthest level of “outside.” As is the Halachah that a Jew must influence non-Jews to keep the seven Noachide laws.
- (Back to text) In general, this is also the difference between Torah and prayer. Torah brings refinement in a manner of peace, whilst prayer is a form of “redemption,” when one refines through redemption from adversity.
- (Back to text) The revealed portion, actual deed, is the pleasure that the Creator has from the fact that “I said, and My will was done.” And therefore “one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than the whole life of the world to come.” But, even though it has prior importance, this service alone is not enough. It must be immediately followed by that service which gives pleasure to creations, that which comes from the illumination provided by the esoteric.
- (Back to text) One could make such a mistake in so thinking, for it states in the Talmud (Avodah Zorah 5b) that a student does not plumb the depths of his teacher’s wisdom until 40 years after he heard it. If so, one may think that he should spend 40 years striving to understand the Previous Rebbe’s wishes, and only then actually fulfill them. But this is a mistaken notion, for the above Talmud does not mean that one shouldn’t now act. It means that in 40 years time his actions in fulfilling the Rebbe’s wishes will be more perfect. But in the interim he must act according to his present capabilities!
- (Back to text) Which brings us to the fact that on Yud-Tes Kislev we make a collection for Tzedakah called the “Yud-Tes Kislev — Chanukah collection.” All those who have as not yet contributed can still do so.
- (Back to text) There seems to be a contradiction here: The Chanukah lights come from the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash. How can it be then that the Chanukah lights “will never be extinguished,” when the lights of the actual Menorah were extinguished? In reality, however, the lights of the Bais HaMikdash are also eternal, but they exist in a concealed fashion. In the time of the Mashiach, when all truths will be revealed, the lights of the Bais HaMikdash which are presently concealed will be shown to be eternal.
- (Back to text) Trans. Note: The answers for the questions on this Rashi were delivered on Shabbos Parshas Mikeitz.
- (Back to text) Some commentaries attempt to explain this by quoting the Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer, who states that a bear is even more insolent and brazen than a lion, the king of the beasts. Therefore, they explain, Rashi compares Potiphar’s wife, who was a brazen woman, to a bear. But Rashi’s commentary is geared to the level of a five-year-old child who learns the Chumash, who could have not have, as yet, learned the above Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer, and who also would not observe such a trait just by looking at a bear. And so this cannot be Rashi’s reason for the parable of the bear.
- (Back to text) Although the five year old has not as yet learned Talmud, nevertheless, these characteristics are easily observable in a bear. And so when the child learns in Rashi about a bear, and wants to know what it is, he can see (in a zoo etc.) for himself the characteristics noted in the Talmud.
- (Back to text) Again, although a five year old has not yet learned this Midrash, nevertheless, a parable given by the Midrash corresponds to actual experience. And even if such was true only in the times of the Midrash, we nevertheless find in the times of Rashi the practice of forcing a Jew to play with a bear in order that the bear become excited and harm the Jew. Furthermore, it was, and still is, the practice in amusement parks and fairs to attract customers by making a tame bear perform tricks.
- (Back to text) The Talmud enumerates another characteristic of a bear — that it is fleshy. This also fits in with the metaphor of a bear for Potiphar’s wife, for, in general, women are more fleshy than men.