The eighteenth day of Elul, or Chai Elul, marks the birthdate of both the Baal Shem Tov,
founder of the Chassidic movement, and the Alter Rebbe,
founder of Chabad Chassidism. This day invariably falls either on or near the Shabbos during which the Torah portion of Savo is read.
All Jewish festivals and auspicious occasions on the Jewish calendar are alluded to in the Torah portion read during the week when they occur. Understandably, Chai Elul is thus alluded to in the portion of Savo.
Where in this portion can one find this connection?
Savo begins by relating the laws of Bikurim, the first fruits that the Jews were obliged to bring immediately upon "coming to the land that G-d your L-rd is giving you as a heritage, occupying and settling it."
Our Rabbis note that the qualification "occupying and settling it" comes to teach us that the obligation of Bikurim did not begin until after the 14 years during which Eretz Yisrael was conquered and divided among the tribes.
The verse is modified in this way for the following reason: The true meaning of "coming to the land" is that of coming into it entirely. This is in keeping with the saying of our Sages: "A partial entry is not considered an entry at all." The word "coming," therefore means "occupying and settling it," for only then were the Jews considered to have truly entered the Land.
This, then, is the connection between Savo and Chai Elul, the birthdate of the two great Chassidic founders:
Chassidus is unique in its ability to rouse the spirit, mind and heart so that a Jew's service of Torah and mitzvos is in the manner of savo - a complete immersion, with every fibre of one's being suffused by spiritual service.
The importance of this manner of service will be understood by explaining the difference between man's intrinsic and extrinsic states of being; intrinsic referring to man as he exists in relation to himself and extrinsic to man as he exists relative to others.
In terms of spiritual service, this means the following: When a person does something in an external and extrinsic manner, he and the thing he is doing remain two distinct entities.
When, however, a person does something from his innermost self, then his being immerses itself in that which he is doing, for in relation to man's innermost core there exists nothing outside of himself. Thus, when a person acts in this manner, even a specific, seemingly external, action is tied up and united with his innermost self; he and the act are united.
Herein lies that which is unique about Chassidus: Chassidus, as part of "the soul of Torah," reveals a Jew's quintessential life force in all aspects of Torah and mitzvos, and the unique quality of this life force is that it totally unites with that which it enlivens.
For the life force does not add anything to that which it vitalizes - a live body possesses no more parts than a dead corpse. The life force is thus not separate from that which it energizes, rather it is the soul of the enlivened body, and because of it each and every aspect of the body is a living entity.
The reason is that a person's "life" is his soul and innermost essence, and as explained earlier, that which is part of a person's innermost core becomes wholly one with the object with which it unites. Thus, the body in which a life force dwells is entirely permeated by it.
Exactly so is the effect of Chassidus on Torah and mitzvos: It is possible for a Jew to study Torah and perform mitzvos while remaining separate from them. Chassidus, however, enables every Jew to reveal the innermost aspect of his life force - his holy Jewish soul. And in relation to that level - the quality of savo - each and every Jew is truly one with all of Torah and mitzvos.
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIX, pp. 244-247.
- (Back to text) In the year 5458 (1698).
- (Back to text) In the year 5505 (1745).
- (Back to text) Shaloh, Cheilek Torah SheBiksav beginning of Torah portion Vayeishev.
- (Back to text) Devarim 26:1.
- (Back to text) Zevachim 118b.
- (Back to text) Chulin 33b.
- (Back to text) See Kiddushin 37b.
- (Back to text) Zohar III 152a.
- (Back to text) See On the Essence of Chassidus, ch. 6 and onward. See also Sefer HaMa'amarim 5708 p. 295ff.
- (Back to text) See Ki Imcha 5700 ch. 2; Yichayeinu 5701 ch. 2, et al.
- (Back to text) See Hemshech Te'erav ch. 210.
- (Back to text) See also Likkutei Torah, Behar 40b-d.
The portion Savo opens with the commandment of Bikurim, the first fruit offering. During the offering ceremony, the person bringing the fruit would say:
"An Aramean [Lavan] tried to destroy my father [Yaakov]... he descended to Egypt... G-d brought us out from Egypt with a mighty hand ... He brought us to this area... I am now bringing the first fruit of the land that G-d has given me."
Ostensibly, the reason for mentioning G-d's rescue of Yaakov from Lavan's clutches and the miracle of the Exodus was to thank G-d for His many kindnesses, these kindnesses culminating in His giving the Jews "this land flowing with milk and honey."
However, if the purpose were merely to enumerate G-d's many acts of goodness toward the former slaves, why not also mention His splitting of the sea, His providing them with manna, and the many other things that enabled the Jews to survive in the desert for 40 years?
We must conclude that the saving of Yaakov from Lavan and the extrication of the Jewish people from Egypt are singularly connected to the commandment of Bikurim. What is the connection?
The obligation to bring Bikurim only began after the Jewish people entered Eretz Yisrael and settled the Land, as our Sages note that the mitzvah of Bikurim only began after the 14 years during which Eretz Yisrael was conquered and divided among the tribes.
We thus discern that the bringing of Bikurim served not only to offer thanks for the actual gift of Eretz Yisrael, but more importantly for the fact that the Jewish people were now settled there in a permanent manner, for only then did they experience the true joy of being residents in their own land, fully enjoying the fruits thereof.
In order to emphasize this, the person bringing Bikurim was to remember those permanent places of residence in which our ancestors found things going so badly that they were faced with extinction. Thus, Aram and Egypt are particularly noted, for it was there that our ancestors lived on a permanent basis - 20 years in Aram and 210 years in Egypt - and were faced with extinction.
This also explains why the declaration recited while bringing Bikurim focuses more on the Jewish experience in Egypt and the subsequent Exodus than on Yaakov's experience with Lavan, for it was specifically in Egypt - not in Aram - that the Jewish people found themselves for so many generations.
On a deeper level, the answer as to why only these two events are mentioned in the Bikurim recitation is as follows:
Chassidus explains that a tree's fruit is analogous to the soul clothed within a body. The command of Bikurim involves uniting the soul as it is found below with its source Above, this being known as Supernal Bikurim.
More specifically, the offering of Bikurim entails the elevation of the lower level to the higher one, while the recitation of the verses that accompany the Bikurim offering alludes to the drawing down of G-dliness from Above, i.e., the soul's source Above illuminates and unites with the soul below.
Both Lavan and Egypt are thus mentioned during the Bikurim recitation, for both entailed a spiritual descent, inasmuch as Yaakov's descent to Lavan as well as the Jews' descent to Egypt (and thereafter G-d's descent into Egypt to liberate them) are perfect examples of a higher level descending to a lower one.
There is a lesson here for all of us: A person should not be content with merely serving G-d through his own elevation by Torah and prayer. Rather, he must also draw down G-dliness into the world, even unto the choicest matters therein - just as Bikurim was brought from the choicest of fruit - thereby transforming physical reality into a vessel for G-dliness.
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIV, pp. 93-98.
- (Back to text) Devarim 26:5-9.
- (Back to text) Rashi 26:5.
- (Back to text) Devarim ibid.
- (Back to text) Zevachim 118b.
- (Back to text) Or HaTorah, Savo p. 1040ff.
- (Back to text) Rambam conclusion of Hilchos Isurei Mizbeiach.