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Shabbos Parshas Behar-Bechukosai

The Address to the International Convention of N'shei uBnos Chabad

Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar

Shavuos & Shabbos Parshas Naso, 5750

Yechidus

Shabbos Parshas Behaalos'cha

   16th Day of Sivan, 5750

To the Graduating Class of Bais Rivkah and the Girls who will be Serving as Counselors in Summer Camps

Shabbos Parshas Shelach

Shabbos Parshas Korach

Shabbos Parshas Chukas

Shabbos Parshas Balak

Yechidus

17th Day of Tammuz, 5750

Shabbos Parshas Pinchas

25th of Tammuz, 5750

Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei

Shabbos Parshas Devarim, Shabbos Chazon

Shabbos Parshas Va'eschanan, Shabbos Nachamu

Shabbos Parshas Eikev

Tzivos Hashem, Day Camps

Shabbos Parshas Re'eh

Shabbos Parshas Shoftim

To the Campers of Emunah

Shabbos Parshas Ki Seitzei

Shabbos Parshas Ki Savo

N'shei uBnos Chabad

Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech

The Blessing Delivered by the Rebbe Shlita upon Receiving the Pan Klali

Sichos In English
Volume 45

Shabbos Parshas Behaalos'cha
16th Day of Sivan, 5750
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  11th Day of Sivan, 5750the 19th of Sivan, 5750  

1

Parshas Behaalos'cha is always read after the holiday of Shavuos, indicating that it has a unique connection to the service which follows the giving of the Torah. Thus, the kindling of the Menorah which is described in the beginning of Parshas Behaalos'cha represents a broad-scoped concept in the service of G-d.[67]

Proverbs declares, "The soul of man is the candle of G-d."[68] Thus, the seven candles of the Menorah represent paths in the service of G-d. Our service involves kindling the Menorah, sparking the soul so that it will shine and illuminate the body and one's surrounding environment.

In his commentary on the Torah, Rashi states that the Menorah must be kindled until, "the flame rises up on its own," i.e., until it no longer needs someone else to kindle it. This indicates that the ultimate goal is that our service be dependent on our power and initiative. "A man was created to toil," to produce with his own power and thus, become "a partner of G-d in creation." This is reflected in human nature for we generally derive much greater pleasure from something that we have earned and worked for than something that comes without effort, as "bread of shame."

The Rambam emphasizes this concept in Hilchos Teshuvah, relating how free choice is one of the fundamental principles of Torah and mitzvos. G-d does not force a person to choose either good or bad. Rather everything is given over to man and he, "on his own initiative, based on his own decision," chooses a course of behavior.

The connection of this concept to the kindling of the Menorah is somewhat problematic. Though the ultimate goal is for "the flame to rise up on its own," the flame was kindled by the priest and, were it not for his kindling, it would not shine. In the spiritual parallel to this service, the shining of "the candle of G-d, the soul of man," is dependent on influence from above. We would not be able to serve G-d were He not to help us do so. Furthermore, it is G-d who has granted us the soul with which we praise Him. If so, how is it possible to speak of service on our own initiative, on our power? Our service depends on G-d. Though we have the choice whether to serve Him or not, the positive exercise of this choice is dependent on the assistance which G-d grants us.[69]

This concept can be explained based on the halachic principle, "A person who renders assistance is not considered significant." Based on the principle that "G-d relates His words to Ya'akov," i.e., "What He Himself performs, He commands others to perform," it follows that there is a spiritual parallel to this concept.

The Hebrew expression translated as "is not considered significant," ayn bo mamash, literally means "has no substance," i.e., is not material in nature. Although G-d grants a Jew assistance, this assistance is spiritual in nature and is above the possibility for causing an effect within this material world. Only a Jew -- a soul within a body -- has the potential to choose to bring about a change in this material world.[70]

Thus, though the potential to choose to serve G-d is granted by Him, action within this material world, illuminating the body and one's portion in the world, is dependent on the Jew himself.

In the spiritual worlds, the soul serves G-d as "a natural response." It is within this material world, where the body presents the possibility of acting against G-d's will that there is the possibility of acting on one's own initiative and thus, elevating the material world and transforming it into a holy article.[71]

This relates to the change that was brought about by the giving of the Torah. The Torah was given to souls as enclothed in bodies in this material world. Furthermore, the Torah itself is enclothed in material garbs (Tefillin being written on parchment, Tzitzis being made from wool). Service of this nature is dependent on man's choice.

The above concepts are reflected in the kindling of the Menorah "until the flame rises up on its own." On one hand, the Menorah must be lit by a priest (reflecting the assistance which G-d grants in arousing the soul). Nevertheless, the purpose of this service is that "the flame rise up on its own" (that the soul serve G-d on its own initiative). In this manner, material entities (the Menorah, its wicks, and its oil) illuminate the surroundings, revealing how physical entities can be transformed into a sanctuary for G-d.

In particular, the individual words in the expression "until the flame rises up on its own" are significant. The word "flame" implies that this is not a tiny spark of light, but a large flame. The words "rise up" imply that the process of ascent must be continuous, "proceeding from strength to strength." "On its own" indicates the importance of service on one's own initiative.

An important correlory to the above concepts can be derived from one of the laws mentioned by the Rambam in regard to the kindling of the Menorah. The Rambam writes that even an Israelite may light the Menorah, i.e., if the Menorah is prepared to be lit by a priest and then removed from the Sanctuary and taken to the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash where the Israelites are allowed to stand, an Israelite is permitted to light it.

This law is rather problematic: The Torah states: "Speak to Aharon:... 'When you kindle the candles...,' " seeming to indicate that it is the priests (Aharon's descendants) who are charged with kindling the Menorah. Furthermore, how is it possible that the Menorah not be lit in its place? In regard to the Chanukah candles which: a) were instituted to commemorate the Menorah of the Beis HaMikdash; and b) are only a Rabbinic ordinance, one must light in the place where they are supposed to burn. A person who lights them in another place and then, moves them to the place where they are supposed to burn, does not fulfill his obligation. If so, why is it possible to kindle the Menorah outside the place in which it is intended to burn?

From a homiletic perspective, these questions can be answered based on the above concepts. Since the ultimate intent of the kindling of the Menorah is that "the flame rise up by itself," its kindling is not significant, nor is it considered as one of the acts of service in the Beis HaMikdash. Therefore, it can be kindled by a person who is not a priest.[72] Similarly, it is not necessary that it be influenced by the high level of holiness of the place in which it was kindled. Thus, its being lit in a place and by a person on a lower level of holiness reflect the importance of the flame "rising up on its own."[73]

The expression "when you kindle the candles" is written in a manner which indicates a promise that this service will be carried out,[74] that ultimately, their flame "will rise up on its own." Figuratively, this implies that "the candle of G-d, the soul of man" which is in the heart of each Jew, regardless of his present level in the service of G-d, will ultimately burn with "the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah," with its flame "rising up on its own."

On the surface, since, as explained above, the concept of the flame "rising up on its own" is connected with a Jew's potential for free choice, how is it possible for the Torah to promise that ultimately, each Jew will reach this level? Giving such a promise appears to nullify the possibility for choice.

This difficulty can be resolved as follows: If there would be an influence from above which would bring a Jew to this level, then, the above promise would contradict the concept that a Jew has to choose to raise up his flame of love for G-d by himself. Since, however, the expression of this love is a reflection of a Jew's essential desire, for, as the Rambam writes, each Jew truly wants to fulfill G-d's will, and, if he does not, it is only because his evil inclination forces him to act against his will. Therefore, the fact that ultimately, a Jew will realize his true nature and express his love for G-d is not a contradiction to the concept of free choice. Since a Jew's will to serve G-d is an inner (and often subconscious) desire and, life within the context of material reality offers the possibility for two alternatives -- serving G-d or " the opposite -- a person has a real choice.

[Indeed, it can be explained that the entire reason why the world was created to allow the possibility for transgressing G-d's will was to bring out the potential for free choice and thus, express the higher quality of service on one's own initiative.][75]

Based on the above, we can understand the connection of Parshas Behaalos'cha to "the season of the giving of our Torah." Indeed, it is always read in proximity to the holiday of Shavuos.[76] When G-d gave the Torah to the Jews, He lowered it into the material world[77] and granted them the potential to serve Him on their own initiative[78] and thus, elevate the material aspects of this world.

Added emphasis to the above comes this year when Parshas Behaalos'cha is read on the 16th of Sivan, the day following the 15th of Sivan, when "the moon shines in its fullness," i.e., all the aspects of the present month are revealed in a full manner. Our Sages state, "Whoever prepares on Friday, eats on Shabbos." Thus, the present date is associated with the revelation prepared for by the completion of the service of the month of the giving of the Torah.


2

This week's chapter of Pirkei Avos contains the teaching (2:15):

Rabbi Tarfon states: "The day is short and the task is manifold. The workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is pressing."

One might ask what can we learn from the association of this teaching with Rabbi Tarfon for, as explained many times, the fact that a teaching is explicitly associated with its author indicates that there is an intrinsic connection between them. Furthermore, the very name Tarfon is problematic. It is a Roman name. Since one of the reasons the Jews were redeemed from Egypt is because "they did not change their names," why was this name given to a Jewish child?[79]

There are several other problematic aspects to this Mishnah: a) The expression "Master" refers to G-d. Why does the Mishnah describe G-d as "pressing"? On the contrary, G-d does everything possible to make our service easier. Therefore, as the Rambam explains, He grants material rewards for the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos so that the Jews will be able to serve Him in peace and serenity. Thus, describing Him as "pressing" does not appear appropriate. b) Our Sages have taught that G-d only demands from us a service which we are capable of performing. This principle appears to contradict the statement that "The day is short and the task is manifold."[80] c) How can one describe the workers as "lazy"? Torah law is addressed to people who observe it and Pirkei Avos, to those who strive for "pious behavior," "beyond the measure of the law." Such an approach surely runs contrary to laziness. d) How does this Mishnah fulfill the intent of Pirkei Avos to teach "pious behavior"?

The above difficulties can be explained as follows: When a person follows the measure of the law, he will have no difficulty in fitting the fulfillment of his service into the time allotted to him. G-d grants him the time and the potential to fulfill his service as required. When, however, a person penetrates to the depth of the matter and appreciates that the intent of the descent of his soul is for him to serve G-d on his own initiative, he will strive to go beyond the measure of the law and evoke a level of service which transcends the powers which he has been granted. At this point, he will realize how, "the day is short and the task is manifold...."

This can be understood within the context of our Sages' interpretation of the verse, "And you shall again discern between... one who serves G-d and one who does not serve Him." "One who serves G-d" refers to an individual who reviews his subject matter 101 times, while "one who does not serve Him" refers to an individual who reviews his subject matter 100 times.

Tanya explains that, in that era, it was customary for each individual to review what he was studying 100 times. Therefore, reviewing the subject matter for the 101st time required a person to break his habit and rise above his natural tendencies. Expending the effort to do this makes him worthy of the title, "one who serves G-d."[81] In contrast, a person who does not expend this extra effort, even though he carries out his service in a complete manner is still referred to as "one who does not serve Him."

A person who labors to "serve G-d" in this fashion will always feel that "the day is short and the task is manifold." Since he desires to go beyond his nature, he does not see how he can fit this service within the limits of time given him. He is always worried that "the workers are lazy," i.e., unwilling to make the effort to go beyond their natures. Nevertheless, for such a service, "the reward is great," much more than is given for serving G-d within the limits of one's nature.

In this context, we can also understand the final clause, "the Master is pressing." G-d pushes a Jew, not " to cause him difficulty, but because G-d "desired to bring merit to the Jews. [Therefore,] He multiplied Torah and mitzvos for them." G-d pushes a Jew to reveal a higher quality of service, service that comes "on his own initiative."

Based on this explanation, we can understand the connection with Rabbi Tarfon, the author of this teaching. A Hebrew name implies service within the natural limits of holiness. A name taken from a secular tongue implies that one extends himself beyond those limits and -- in a manner which parallels the service of teshuvah -- transforms the secular into holiness.

In particular, the name Tarfon, related to the Hebrew word teraif meaning "seize," alludes to such a service. We "seize" the sparks of holiness that have fallen into the material world and elevate them into holiness.

The practical directive from the above is that each person must seek to kindle the flame of his soul with "the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah," until "the flame rises up by itself." Simultaneously, he must also seek to kindle the souls of others in keeping with the directive, "Raise up many students."[82] In this context, it is worthy to mention the importance of each man, woman, and child, establishing public shiurim of Torah study. Preferably, these shiurim should include at least ten students. May they be expanded until they include "many students" as the Mishnah instructs. Regardless of the number of students one has "raised up" until now, one must work to raise up more conscious that "the day is short and the task is manifold."

These efforts will cause "the Master to press," i.e., G-d will press for the coming of the Messianic redemption. The Jews are tired of exile. Furthermore, since "I am with them in difficulty," i.e., G-d empathizes with the Jews and shares their suffering in exile, as it were, He also cannot bear the exile any longer. Particularly after the sufferings of the last generation -- May they never be repeated -- it is time for the Jews, together with G-d Himself, to demand the coming of Moshiach. May it be in the immediate future.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) As explained by the Rama in the text, Toras HaOleh, all the dimensions of the service in the Beis HaMikdash reflect different aspects of our spiritual service of G-d.

  2. (Back to text) In particular, a candle -- and the Menorah as a whole -- have two dimensions: the material entity and the light it gives off. These refer to the soul and the body. Our service is twofold, revealing the light of the soul within the body and revealing that the body itself is a Menorah.

  3. (Back to text) Furthermore, this choice is also a G-d-given gift.

  4. (Back to text) It is only in this material world which conceals (the Hebrew for "world" olam, relating to the Hebrew helam, "concealment") the G-dly life-force that there is a possibility for a person to choose to act against G-d's will.

  5. (Back to text) Within the context of Torah and mitzvos, the concept of service on one's own initiative and with one's own power is revealed in teshuvah which (generally) involves a person arousing himself to serve G-d on his own without any external influence.

  6. (Back to text) Though the Torah mentions Aharon's kindling the Menorah as related above, that is a narrative, and not a command.

  7. (Back to text) This emphasizes that the important factor is not who is lighting the Menorah, but that the Menorah is being lit.

  8. (Back to text) This principle is found in regard to all the commandments of the Torah. For example, the command to love G-d is also a promise that ultimately, this love will be expressed.

  9. (Back to text) Thus, this dimension of the world is only an intermediary. Furthermore, it will ultimately cease to exist. Accordingly, even at present, it is not considered a true existence. This concept is reflected in the halachah, "An entity which is required to be burned is considered as having been burnt already."

  10. (Back to text) It is the first portion of the Torah which is always read after the holiday of Shavuos. Though Parshas Nasso is read after Shavuos in many years, there are some years when it is read before Shavuos. In contrast, Behaalos'cha is always read after Shavuos.

    There is a difference in the themes of the two names: Nasso is associated with the meaning "lift up" and refers to the manner in which the Torah lifts the Jews up from above. In contrast, as explained above, Behaalos'cha emphasizes the service of the Jews on their own initiative.

  11. (Back to text) This is emphasized by our Sages' association of the giving of the Torah with the number three. Torah is essentially one. In the process of its descent into this world, it takes on the aspect of multiplicity (three) so that it will relate to a people -- and through them, a world -- which is multiple in nature.

  12. (Back to text) Although the giving of the Torah was a revelation from above, as it is written, "And G-d descended on Mount Sinai," it was intended to bring about the service of the Jews on their own initiative. This service was realized in the construction of the Sanctuary.

  13. (Back to text) We find that the name Alexander was given to Jewish children in recognition of the favor Alexander the Great showed the Jews. This, however, does not apply in regard to the name Tarfon.

  14. (Back to text) It is possible to explain that "the day is short," only because "the workers are lazy." Ideally, however, such a situation would not exist. Nevertheless, since Pirkei Avos is a collection of instructions for "pious behavior," "beyond the measure of the law," surely, it is directed at a person who uses his time wisely. Accordingly, the question arises: Why did G-d structure the world in a manner that "the day is short and the task is manifold"?

  15. (Back to text) The Hebrew word for "service" is also used to refer to the processing of leather, taking an animal hide and making it into a useful article. This requires much effort and also brings about a descent (for leather working is a base profession). Nevertheless, the ultimate result of these efforts are desirable.

  16. (Back to text) The expression "raise up" indicates that our efforts must concentrate on helping the students stand on their own, preparing them to carry out service on their own initiative.


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