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Publisher’s Foreword

Shabbos Parshas Pinchus
14th Day of Tammuz, 5744

16th Day of Tammuz, 5744

Yechidus to Bar Mitzvah Boys & Their Parents
16th Day of Tammuz, 5744

Yechidus to Chassanim & Kallos
16th Day of Tammuz, 5744

17th Day of Tammuz, 5744
— After Minchah —

Shabbos Parshas Massai
28th Day of Tammuz, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Devorim
6th Day of Menachem-Av, 5744

15th Day of Menachem-Av, 5744

Day Camps
16th Day of Menachem-Av, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Eikev
20th Day of Menachem-Av, 5744

21st Day of Menachem-Av, 5744

Kollel Tiferes Zekainim Levi Yitzchok
23rd Day of Menachem-Av, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Re’ey
27th Day of Menachem-Av, 5744

Gan Yisroel & Emunah Camps
1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5744

The Letter sent out by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
18th Day of Elul, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Ki Sovo
18th Day of Elul, 5744

Tzivos Hashem
21st Day of Elul, 5744

The Letter Sent Out by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
25th Day of Elul, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech
25th Day of Elul, 5744

N’shei Ubnos Chabad
27th Day of Elul, 5744

Erev Rosh Hashanah, 5745

Sichos In English
Excerpts of Sichos delivered by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Vol. 22 — Tammuz-Elul, 5744

17th Day of Tammuz, 5744
— After Minchah —

Published and copyright © by Sichos In English
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  Yechidus to Chassanim & Kallos
16th Day of Tammuz, 5744
Shabbos Parshas Massai
28th Day of Tammuz, 5744

1. It is an ancient custom, recently renewed, to utter “words of admonishment” on a fast. Although a fast is a distinguished day in its own right, for it is “a day desirable to G-d,” even more distinction is added when Jews are inspired through “words of admonishment.” This is particularly true when the “words of admonishment” are connected with thought, speech and deed: For the words (“speech”) to be proper, they must be preceded by thought, and then they must be implemented in deed. When these three elements are present, we have the “threefold cord which is not quickly broken” — meaning, the revelation of G-dliness thereby effected exists forever, similar to the third Beis HaMikdash and third redemption which also will be eternal.

The above applies to all fasts. But in addition the common these of all fasts, the fast of the 17th of Tammuz has a unique aspect. For although we find several things in the world which seem to be identical with each other, each must have some aspect peculiar to itself. In the words of the Mishnah (Avos 6:11): “All that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory.” Since everything in the world was created for G-d’s glory, every single thing must add some new aspect to G-d’s glory that previously did not exist. We therefore conclude that although the fasts share a common theme, they each possess a unique aspect.

The Mishnah (Taanis 26a) states, “Five things happened to our fathers on the 17th of Tammuz.” Of these five things, the event that “the city [wall] was breached” emphasizes the connection between all the four fasts (the 10th of Teves, the 17th of Tammuz, the 9th of Av and Tzom Gedaliah), in that they follow one another chronologically and in their impact.

The breaching of the wall around the city of Yerushalayim on the 17th of Tammuz followed the siege laid around the city on the 10th of Teves; and the siege and the breach resulted in the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash on the 9th of Av, and afterwards, in the assassination of Gedaliah (Governor of Israel) on Tzom Gedaliah.

It is difficult to find such an open connection between any of the other four events that happened on the 17th of Tammuz and the other fasts. That the breaching of the wall followed one tragedy (the siege) and resulted in others (the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the assassination of Gedaliah) obviously makes it an event more catastrophic than a tragedy that is unconnected to others (the other four events of the 17th of Tammuz).

The Talmud says that “the measure of good is greater than the measure of bad.” Thus, if the tragic aspect of the 17th of Tammuz is so severe (as above), its good aspect must certainly be very special. What is the good side of a fast?

A fast, as noted above, is a “day desirable to G-d,” as we say in the Haftorah of a fast day: “Seek the L-rd while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” The ultimate good in a fast is that eventually it will be transformed into a festival. In the words of Rambam: “All these fasts are destined to be abolished in the Messianic era; moreover, they are destined to become festivals and days of gladness and joy.” Although the original root of a fast is a tragedy, the end result of a fast will be a festival — and “everything follows the end.” Because this eventual festival follows prior tragedy, it is loftier than a regular festival, as light that follows darkness is more intense than light of itself.

Further, we can posit that the lofty nature of the fasts is alluded to even now, before they are transformed into festivals. The very dates on which the fasts happened allude to their lofty nature. Taking them in order:

The 10th of Teves: “The tenth shall be holy”;

The 17th of Tammuz: 17 in Hebrew numerology equals the word “tov,” which means good;

The 9th of Av: the Beis HaMikdash was burned mainly on the 10th of Av — and “The tenth shall be holy.”

Tzom Gedaliah: Most authorities are of the opinion that Gedaliah was assassinated on Rosh Hashanah — a most lofty time. Even according to the opinions that it happened on the day after Rosh Hashanah, this day is also of a lofty nature, for the 7 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are similar to Chol HaMoed.

Despite the inherent lofty nature of these days, the Jews’ wrong conduct led to tragedies. But, as noted before, the ultimate purpose of these tragedies is that eventually they be transformed into festivals and days of joy, higher than regular festivals.

Because the 17th of Tammuz is such a severe fast, following as it does the 10th of Teves and being the cause for the 9th of Av and Tzom Gedaliah, it follows that its good aspect is correspondingly lofty. On every fast Jews must perform service to G-d corresponding to the special nature of that fast. The 17th of Tammuz follows and is an extension of the service performed on the 10th of Teves, and provides the strength for the transformation of the 9th of Av and Tzom Gedaliah into festivals.

The “breach of the city” that occurred on the 17th of Tammuz has parallels in man’s service to G-d. When Jews are as they should be, they are “one whole body” — a whole city, including the wall that surrounds the city. A “breach of the [wall of] the city” means there is a breach in the unity between Jews, a situation which is the opposite of the love that should reign between Jews.

It is in this respect that the tragedy of the 17th of Tammuz exceeds that of the 10th of Teves. On the latter, Yerushalayim was only besieged; its protecting wall remained intact. Moreover, the siege had also a good result: Since all its residents were forced to remain within the city, Yerushalayim was united. When the wall was breached on the 17th of Tammuz, not only was the unity effected on the 10th of Teves abolished but the city lost its protection, and the enemy penetrated Yerushalayim.

The loss of Ahavas Yisrael and unity between Jews is the principal cause for all aspects of the fasts (including the exile), as our Sages say, the last exile is “because there was baseless hatred [between Jews].” Thus the loss of Ahavas Yisrael on the 17th of Tammuz emphasizes its connection to all the other fasts.

We learn from the breach of the city’s wall on the 17th of Tammuz that we must increase in Ahavas Yisrael and unity between Jews. By thus eliminating the cause of the exile, we automatically eliminate the exile — and then these fast days are transformed into festivals and days of joy and gladness.

It is because the transformation of the fasts into festivals depends on Ahavas Yisrael and unity between Jews, that Rambam, when citing the verse that says these fasts will be transformed into festivals, cites also the conclusion of the verse — “The fast of the fourth ... shall be to the house of Yehudah for joy and gladness and festivals; therefore love the truth and peace.”

This same concept is expressed in the conclusion of the Haftorah read on a fast: “Says the L-rd G-d who gathers the dispersed of Israel:

will yet gather others to him besides those already gathered.” This means that besides the unity between Jews that results when Jews gather together, there will be a further gathering — “I will yet gather others to him” — which will be the literal ingathering of Jews at the redemption: the ultimate in Ahavas Yisrael and unity of Jews.

* * *
2. It has been customary in the last few years to study in the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av those matters associated with the Beis HaMikdash. For our Sages have said (Tanchuma 96:14): “The Holy One blessed be He said (to Yechezkel): Reading about it (the Beis HaMikdash) in the Torah is greater than building it. Go, tell them to engage in reading in the Torah about the form of the House (i.e., the Beis HaMikdash) and in reward for occupying themselves in reading about it, I will count it for them as if they are occupied in building the House.”

Study of matters associated with the Beis HaMikdash should start with the Written Torah: the Book of Yechezkel which deals with the shape and form of the Beis HaMikdash; and before that, the study of the Mishkan as recorded in the Chumash, from which various laws are derived concerning the Beis HaMikdash. The Oral Law should also be learned: the tractate Middos, and the Laws of Beis HaBechirah by Rambam, which have a special advantage in that they are the straight laws, from which we proceed to actual deed — the actual building of the Beis HaMikdash.

That deed is paramount — that besides the study of its laws we need also the actual Beis HaMikdash — is associated with an aspect in the building of the Beis HaMikdash vis-a-vis the building of the Mishkan. Rambam writes at the beginning of the Laws of the Beis HaBechirah that, “It is a positive mitzvah to make a House for the L-rd ready to offer sacrifices therein.” The mitzvah is not to build a Beis HaMikdash but that there should be a Beis HaMikdash; the actual building is but a preparation to the mitzvah. In the case of the Mishkan however, the mitzvah is to h] it

This emphasizes that in the case of the Beis HaMikdash, the principal thing is not the study of its laws, but to have the actual Beis HaMikdash built — for, as we see, even in the building of the Beis HaMikdash the important thing is not the actual building, but that it be built.

The full text of the above law in Rambam states: “It is a positive mitzvah to make a House for the L-rd ready to offer sacrifices therein, and to make pilgrimage to it three times a year.” These two concepts, sacrifices and pilgrimage, emphasize the unity of Jews, which, we noted earlier, is the matter necessary to rectify the tragedy of the 17th of Tammuz.

All the sacrifices are connected to the daily sacrifices which were offered at the beginning and conclusion of the day’s sacrifices. And the daily sacrifice is a congregational sacrifice offered on the behalf of all Jews.

The pilgrimage made by all Jews to celebrate the three festivals (Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkos) emphasizes how all Jews are united together, to the extent that for this reason Yerushalayim is called “the city that unites together.”

May it be G-d’s will that all Jews learn these subjects during the three weeks, and from this learning may we merit the actual building of the Beis HaMikdash.

3. It is now appropriate to explain a point in Rambam’s “Laws of Beis HaBechirah.” Why does Rambam title the laws concerning the Beis HaMikdash, “Laws of Beis HaBechirah” (“Laws of the Chosen House”), and not “Laws of the Beis HaMikdash”? Rambam’s words are based on the Written Torah, in which the command to build a House for G-d is “They shall make for Me a Mikdash,” as, indeed, cited by Rambam himself. Surely then it would be more appropriate to title these laws “Laws of the Beis HaMikdash,” especially since Rambam titles the following laws, “Laws of the vessels of the Mikdash” and “Laws of entering the Mikdash.”

However, as explained on a previous occasion, Rambam uses the title “Laws of the Chosen House” to emphasize the lofty quality of the Beis HaMikdash in that G-d chose it.

Further, Rambam is thereby emphasizing that Jews must infuse sanctity into all other houses in the world. “Beis HaMikdash” — “The Holy House” — implies a “house” which has no connection to other houses (for they are not in the same category). “Beis HaBechirah” — “The Chosen House” — does have a connection to other houses, for a true choice can be made only when there is more than one alternative.

The name “Beis HaBechirah” emphasizes, therefore, the necessity for Jews to make the other houses in the world holy, to the extent that they will be viable alternatives from which the Beis HaMikdash is chosen.

The relationship between Jews and the other nations of the world expresses the same point. On the one hand, since the soul of a Jew is “a part of G-d Above,” there is absolutely no comparison between Jews and non-Jews. On the other hand, we say “You have chosen us from all the nations,” and choice is possible only when there are close alternatives. For this reason the Alter Rebbe explains that the phrase “You have chosen us from every nation” refers to the choice of Jews’ bodies, which are similar in their corporeality to the bodies of the nations of the world.

It thus follows that Jews, in addition to their service in Torah and mitzvos, must work to elevate the nations to a level that has some relationship to the level of Jews — a situation of which it is then possible to talk of choosing Jews from the other nations.

This is achieved by convincing non-Jews to keep the Seven Noachide Laws, as Rambam rules: “Moshe Rabbeinu commanded from the mouth of G-d to influence all the world’s inhabitants to accept the mitzvos that were commanded to the sons of Noach ... that he should accept them and do them because G-d commanded them in His Torah and let us know about it through Moshe Rabbeinu.”

Jews’ efforts to convince the world’s nations to keep the Seven Noachide Laws may be related to the breaking of the city’s wall on the 17th of Tammuz. The function of the wall around Yerushalayim was not to close Yerushalayim off from the rest of the world, for a wall has gates wherewith to enter and to leave. Its function was to both prevent undesirable outside influences from entering the city, and to improve things outside the city. Thus, as long as the wall was intact, the Jews were protected from these undesirable influences — and indeed, through the wall’s gates the Jews went forth to rectify the world. The breach in the wall signified a deficiency in the protection against outside influences (literally, the enemy nations entered the city through the breach) — meaning an undesirable bond was established between Jew and non-Jew. The rectification of this grave matter is the establishment of a good bond between Jew and non-Jew — when Jews influence the nations to keep the Seven Noachide Laws.

Today, the 17th of Tammuz, is therefore the appropriate time to once again urge people to convince the world’s nations to keep the Seven Noachide Laws. In earlier generations, such efforts on the part of a Jew would have meant literal danger to one’s life. Today, not only does such danger not exist, and not only is there no opposition, but the President of this country has publicly stated that all people should keep the Seven Noachide Laws as commanded by G-d.

* * *
4. We spoke above of the study of Rambam’s Laws of Beis HaBechirah. It is therefore appropriate to analyze a law in today’s portion of Rambam. Today’s portion deals with the laws of divorce, which is connected with the time of exile in general, and the 17th of Tammuz in particular. G-d and Jewry are as man and wife, the betrothal taking place at Matan Torah. One of the ways a woman is betrothed is by a betrothal contract (“shtar”), which in the case of the betrothal between G-d and Jewry is the tablets given at Matan Torah. One of the five tragedies that happened on the 17th of Tammuz was the breaking of the tablets, which means the breaking of the betrothal contract. As a result, exile follows, which is similar to the idea of divorce or the case when a woman’s husband goes overseas.

The purpose of the breaking of the tablets and the exile is that afterwards the marriage (between Jews and G-d) should take place with husband and wife infinitely closer than before. The second tablets which were given after the first were broken were of a loftier nature than the first, and in the future era, they and the broken first ones will reach the ultimate in perfection. Likewise, concerning exile, after the husband returns from overseas the affection between him and his wife will be that much greater.

Not only is the purpose of exile so that afterwards there will be an infinitely closer bond between G-d and Jews (man and wife), but even in the exile itself G-d and Jews are not really divorced; it only seems so externally. This is expressed in the beginning of today’s portion of Rambam (7:1), which talks of the law when an agent, not the husband himself, brings the bill of divorce to the wife. [A man divorces his wife by giving her a bill of divorce. He may give it to her himself, or he may deliver it through an agent (“shaliach”).] In a case when we know only that an agent brought a bill of divorce claiming it was sent from the husband, the husband may well [later] claim, “I never divorced her,” and that the bill of divorce brought by the agent is a total forgery (Ibid., 7:2). In our case, G-d claims He never divorced the Jews (it only seems like He did, having sent the Jews into exile — like a man sends away his wife — but didn’t actually divorce her). In the words of the prophet Yeshayahu (50:1): “Thus says the L-rd: Where is the bill of your mother’s divorce with which I sent her away?”

Further on (7:4), Rambam writes the following: “A person (an agent) who brings a bill of divorce ... and he fell ill or couldn’t [deliver the bill of divorce himself], sends it with another. Likewise the second [agent], if he fell ill or couldn’t [deliver it], sends it with another. And [the same applies] even with a hundred [agents].”

G-d, the husband, doesn’t really want to divorce the Jews. He therefore arranges it that the giving of the bill of divorce to the wife (Jews) be delayed, hoping that the Jews in the meantime will repent and then G-d will annul the whole thing. He thus causes the agent to fall ill or otherwise be unable to deliver the divorce. Even when the agent sends it with another, he too falls ill or is unable to deliver it. And so on, “even with a hundred” — by which time Mashiach will certainly have come!

The above law — that an agent who cannot himself deliver the bill of divorce sends it with other agents — concludes with the statement: “The

last [agent] to whom the bill of divorce reaches, delivers it to her in the presence of two [witnesses], and she is divorced with it although the first agent died.”

The source of this law is the Talmud (Gittin 29b), which states: “Rav Ashi said: If the first one dies [before the bill of divorce was delivered], they [all the other agents] cease to function. Mar son of Rav Ashi said: This statement of my father dates from when he was small (i.e., his youth) [and is therefore open to criticism]. If the husband dies, is there any substance left in them [any of the agents]? From whom do they all derive their status [as legal agents to deliver a bill of divorce]? From the husband. As long as the husband is alive, they are all agents; if the husband dies they all cease to be agents.” Rambam rules like Mar son of Rav Ashi.

The above difference in opinions between Rav Ashi and his son may be traced to two views of how the original agent may appoint another agent.

    1) “An agent of a person is as the person”: Thus, when a principal appoints someone to be his agent, the agent becomes as the principal in all respects. When the agent appoints another agent, he hands to him all his powers, including the power of the principal that was invested in him due to the rule, “An agent of a person is as the person.” Hence, the power of agency of the second agent does not derive from the first agent, but from the power of the principal. When the first agent dies, the power of agency invested in the second agent is still in force, since the principal is alive.

    2) The original agent does not hand over to the second agent the power of the principal, but only the power of agency. Thus the power of agency of the second agent derives from the first agent, and not from the principal. When the first agent dies, the power of agency invested in the second by the first automatically ceases.

The above explanation sheds light on Mar son of Rav Ashi’s comment concerning his father’s statement, “if the first one dies, they all cease to function” — that “This statement of my father dates from when he was small (i.e., young).” There are various levels in agency:

    1) only the agent’s actual deed is counted as if it were the principal’s;

    2) also the agent’s power of doing is counted as if it were the principal’s;

    3) the agent himself is as the principal.

In different terms: An agency may be “small” — the agency encompasses only the actual deed or at most the power of doing; or it may be “large”

the agent himself becomes as the principal.

Mar son of Rav Ashi’s words, “This statement of my father’s dates from when he was small,” means that his father, Rav Ashi, was referring to the “smallness” of the agency: That the agent, when appointing another agent, handed over the deed of the agency only, not the fact that he is as the principal.

We can derive a lesson for service to G-d from the law that the last agent possesses the power of agency from the principal himself.

We said above that Matan Torah was the betrothal between G-d and Jews, and the breaking of the tablets was as the breaking of the betrothal. The purpose of remembering this tragic event is that we thereby repent and turn to good — to strengthen the betrothal between G-d and Jews by fulfilling Torah and mitzvos (Matan Torah).

A Jew knows that it was Moshe Rabbeinu who received the Torah from G-d, passed it on to Yehoshua, who then passed it on to the elders, and so on down the generations. Thus a Jew realizes that he is not the first agent to receive the Torah} but that there have been many, many other agents between Moshe and him. This is similar to the above law cited in Rambam: Moshe, the first agent to receive the Torah, was unable to personally deliver the Torah to a Jew in later generations (for he was taken to heaven); he therefore “passed it on to Yehoshua.” who. when he couldn’t deliver it (because he also passed away), “passed it on to the Elders,” and so on through many agents. Until it reaches a Jew today, the “first agent has died,” and a Jew may therefore think that the Torah (the betrothal) has become weakened in its transmittal.

The above cited law in Rambam teaches that the last agent carries out the mission although the first agent has died. The last agent does not receive his power from the first agent, but from the principal — from G-d Himself, the husband — and therefore the betrothal remains in full force. For since “the agent of a person is as himself,” when the first agent (Moshe) delivers the mission he delivers it in its totality — including the aspect that “the agent of a person is as himself.” The second agent therefore becomes as the principal, and the third also; and “even a hundred.”

When a Jew today receives the Torah, then, he receives it not via many agents but from G-d Himself.

  Yechidus to Chassanim & Kallos
16th Day of Tammuz, 5744
Shabbos Parshas Massai
28th Day of Tammuz, 5744
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