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Masei (Bein HaMetzarim)


The Chassidic Dimension - Volume 5
Interpretations of the Weekly Torah Readings and the Festivals.
Based on the Talks of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.


Compiled by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg, Edited by Sichos In English

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The Cedar and the Date-Palm

We read in the Torah portion Bamidbar, how G-d told Moshe after Moshe had counted the Jewish people, that he should now "bring forth" the Tribe of Levi[442] from amongst the Jews, so that they labor in the Mishkan and subsequently in the Beis HaMikdash.

The Tribe of Levi acted as the representatives of the entire Jewish people in their labors in the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash. Through their service they drew down all of G-d's blessings to His people, blessings that resulted from their service in the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash.

With regard to this form of service, the Midrash quotes the verse in Tehillim,[443] "A righteous person ('tzaddik') will flourish like a date-palm; he will grow tall like a cedar in Lebanon." Explains the Baal Shem Tov:[444]

There are two types of tzaddikim. One is likened to a date-palm and the other is likened to a cedar. A cedar possesses many qualities; it is strong, tall, and beautiful.[445] However, it produces no fruit.

The date-palm, on the other hand, lacks these fine qualities. It possesses, however, another quality, and a crucial one at that: it "flourishes" and produces beautiful and sweet fruit that energizes all who eat it.[446]

The same is true regarding tzaddikim, i.e., the Jewish people as a whole who are all considered tzaddikim, as the verse states,[447] "and your people are all tzaddikim." Here, as well, are to be found two manners of divine service:

There is a righteous individual who is likened to a cedar -- strong, tall, and beautiful. But he produces no fruit. Which is to say, this individual learns Torah, performs mitzvos, and in general lives a thoroughly righteous life. However, he lives only for himself, not wielding any influence over his brethren.

Indubitably, this individual is a tzaddik, and is richly rewarded by G-d for his fine deeds; he grows strong, tall and beautiful. But this is not the ultimate manner of divine service that G-d desires from us.

G-d's ultimate desire is that we "flourish like a cedar," that we produce good and sweet fruit. That is to say, G-d demands of us that we give of our own time, strength and energy, which could have been used for our own benefit, and utilize it to positively influence a fellow Jew.

Like a fruit-producing tree, we are to so positively affect our brethren that they will become -- and G-d will say of them -- that they are good and sweet fruit. When we act in this manner, then we are deemed a date-palm -- a tree that "flourishes," constantly advancing from level to level.

The above interpretation of the verse "A righteous person will flourish..." was transmitted from the Baal Shem Tov to his disciples and his disciples' disciples, among them the Alter Rebbe. In turn, this was transmitted to the Rebbeim of Chabad, including the Previous Rebbe:

It is quite possible to serve G-d in the first manner as well, i.e., in a "cedar-like" manner. Then, as well, one is considered a tzaddik, possessing abundant qualities and merits of spiritual loftiness, strength and beauty. Still this is not the ultimate desire and path that G-d wishes a Jew to take.

That which G-d demands of us is that we not be stingy with our time, effort and soul powers, and devote them -- up to and including the deepest and most profound of our soul powers -- to affect a fellow Jew and our entire environ.

This was the path that the Baal Shem Tov himself followed and transmitted to the leaders of general Chassidus, to the leaders of Chabad and to all Chassidim, that each one follow this path. For this path is a luminous one, the path that transforms darkness into light.

The above is also the path of the Tribe of Levi,[448] not only for themselves, but also as representatives and spiritual guides to all the Jewish people.

There may be some "tribal Jews" who have not yet come to this realization and conclusion. We, however, must conduct ourselves in the path that the Baal Shem Tov has shown us: that we effect spiritual accomplishment both within ourselves and within others, transforming ourselves and other Jews as well into "flourishing date-palms" that possess good and sweet fruit.

This is to be done from the very depth of our souls, calling forth the most profound powers of our being. So that we do our share in affecting our entire surroundings and the world[449] as a whole, that it become purer, loftier, brighter and holier.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. II, pp. 557-558.



  1. (Back to text) Bamidbar 3:6.

  2. (Back to text) 92:13.

  3. (Back to text) Tzava'as HaRivash section 125 (Kehot Edition); repeated as well in the name of the Mezritcher Maggid (conclusion of Or Torah on Tehillim (p. 76c, in the Kehot Edition).

  4. (Back to text) Yechezkel 31:3.

  5. (Back to text) Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim ibid.; Kesuvos 10b.

  6. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 60:21.

  7. (Back to text) See Devarim 33:10. See also Rambam, conclusion of Hilchos Shemitah v'Yoveil, that all Jews can be considered of the Tribe of Levi with regard to their spiritual service.

  8. (Back to text) See Tanya, chapter 37.

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