one of his maamarim,
R. Hillel of Paritch explains that the entire concept of exile derives from the compounding of good and evil [as found in this world]; at a level which is (by contrast) exclusively good, the concept of the Destruction is not applicable. He concludes: "Thus the late R. Yitzchak Aizik [of Homil] quoted the Alter Rebbe as saying that as far as lofty souls (such as of R. Shimon bar Yochai) are concerned, the Beis HaMikdash
was not destroyed at all."
Concerning the stature of Rashbi (R. Shimon bar Yochai), we also find in the Zohar that he caused rain to fall by teaching Torah, unlike Choni HaMe'agel ("the Circle-Drawer"), who had to pray. The difference between them lies in the fact that the initiative taken by Choni HaMe'agel (viz., prayer) focused on worldly matters, by articulating his request that the world needed rain. Rashbi, by contrast, is quoted by the Gemara as saying, "If a man plows... and sows, what will come of the Torah?" He himself was essentially unrelated to worldly matters, except that people came and told him: There exists a physical world, and this world needs rain. Unlike the initiative taken by Choni HaMe'agel (viz., prayer), the initiative taken by Rashbi was the teaching of Torah, which transcends the world -- with the spontaneous corollary that Divine blessings were elicited even into this material world.
Rashbi was principally engaged in the innermost, mystical dimension of the Torah, the pnimiyus of the Torah, which was revealed through him. This level within Torah deals exclusively with the realm of the good, inasmuch as it derives from "the Tree of Life," and not from "the Tree of [Knowledge of both] Good and Evil." Accordingly, at the level of the pnimiyus of the Torah (which was the principal concern of Rashbi), the entire concept of the Destruction is not applicable (as in fact was the case with Rashbi himself). It thus follows that the pnimiyus of the Torah should be endowed with certain characteristics of the era in which the Beis HaMikdash stood.
For a start, this principle may be applied to a timely matter, since we have just celebrated Pesach.
Concerning the three Pilgrim Festivals as celebrated at the time of the Beis HaMikdash, the Sages teach that "just as a man came to see [the Divine Presence], so too did he come to be seen [by the Divine Presence]." The latter phrase is an allusion to the spiritual illumination which was revealed at that time. This revelation needed to be duly integrated, and on this the Alter Rebbe writes in Likkutei Torah, that "from every festival the revelation continued to be elicited... until the following festival."
Just as in the time of the Beis HaMikdash, the spiritual vitality elicited by the revelation of "coming to see and be seen" on Pesach, was forthcoming until the following festival, the same applies now to the vitality which is elicited by the revelation of pnimyus haTorah which took place on Pesach. I refer to the maamarim [of the Rebbe Rayatz] relating to Pesach, which were published just now. This revelation ought to infuse chassidim with vitality that will endure until the next revelation comes in due course.
Someone might ask: Since these maamarim are not new, how can their publication be referred to as a revelation?
In fact, [as we shall presently see,] publication and dissemination do constitute a revelation.
On Yud-Beis Tammuz, 5692 , the Rebbe [Rayatz] declared: "When one repeats a maamar of Chassidus sixty times, one apprehends [the Divine] Essence. And this in fact was sometimes the practice of [my father] the Rebbe Rashab, with respect to the maamarim of his father, the Rebbe Maharash."
I asked the Rebbe [Rayatz] at the time, "Was something new expounded on each of those sixty occasions?"
"Not necessarily," he replied.
I asked further: "Was the [speaker's] comprehension enhanced?"
"For sure," he replied, "and it is likely that the increment in comprehension which the sixtieth time added to the fifty-ninth time, was comparable to the difference in comprehension between the fifty-ninth time and the first!"
Now the Rebbe Maharash used to deliver every new maamar, one-to-one and publicly, at least twice. (He would often first deliver a maamar to his sons, or privately to [his son and successor,] the Rebbe Rashab, and later deliver it publicly; sometimes it was first heard publicly and only then repeated privately.) It was then repeated by others many times over. It is nevertheless clear, in the light of the above reply of the Rebbe [Rayatz], that on each of those occasions -- including its repetition by others, and including its sixtieth repetition -- a new revelation of Divine illumination was elicited.
From this we can learn something about the above-mentioned maamarim [of the Rebbe Rayatz] that relate to Pesach: Since they have now been published (no doubt by Divine Providence), this fact constitutes a new revelation of light. Accordingly, one ought to absorb and integrate that light, and be enlivened and invigorated by it until the next festival.
Let us therefore begin by raising one of the subjects appearing in the maamarim
The maamar for Pesach states that the song of the angels -- i.e., the manner in which they serve G-d by prostrating themselves -- is the nullification of their materiality.
Now when we are speaking of angels in their heavenly state, what "materiality" could this be, that needs to be nullified?
The answer can be found in a concept discussed in the Hemshech of Rosh HaShanah -- that every entity comprises matter and form, which are body and soul. This applies too to angels. Therefore, even though the matter of angels does not interfere with their divine service, nevertheless, since it is not nullified before G-d to the same degree as is their soul, it needs to undergo nullification by means of their "song" (which, as said above, is the nullification of their materiality).
It should first be noted that any discussion of the divine service of the angels should focus on explaining it insofar as it relates to us.
I stress insofar as it relates to us, in light of the reply which the Rebbe [Rayatz] gave to someone who wrote him two questions -- one concerning his own avodah, his love and awe of G-d, and one concerning the divine service of the angels. After answering his first question, the Rebbe [Rayatz] wrote that since the avodah of the angels was not related to his own avodah, he was not answering that question.
Here, too, our discussion [of the materiality of the angels] will focus on divine service insofar as it relates to us -- on a parallel concept found in this week's reading, Parshas Shemini.
The very beginning of our parshah
("And it came to pass on the eighth day") deals with the superior quality of the eighth
day of miluim
(inauguration of the Mishkan
) relative to the distinctive quality of the preceding seven
days -- the eighth day being the day on which the erection of the Mishkan
was completed, and the Divine Presence descended [to dwell among Israel]: On each of the preceding seven days Moshe Rabbeinu would erect the Mishkan
and dismantle it, whereas on the eighth day of miluim
he erected it but did not dismantle it.
In fact, even the repeated erection of the Mishkan during the first seven days constitutes an eternal act, for anything done according to a directive of the Torah is eternal.
For this reason, by the way, even though any knot which one intends to untie is not defined in the Halachah as a lasting knot, nevertheless, if such a knot is made according to a directive of the Torah, it could be argued that in some respects it is regarded as a lasting knot, in the spirit of the principle that "its commandment renders it important." Though its palpable duration in this lowly world is limited, its spiritual impression is everlasting.
Moreover, even when such a knot (which one intends to untie) is in fact untied according to a directive of the Torah, this knot is nevertheless considered -- for its duration -- as everlasting; at the same time, the untying -- for its duration -- is everlasting. Each of these states, in its own time, partakes of eternity. As explained in Tanya, [describing the bond which a mitzvah sets up between man and G-d,] "In the upper spheres, this union is eternal,... though here, below, it is within the limits of time."
This [dual] conception solves the problem faced by those who hold that [though the law requires that the knot of the tefillin-straps be lasting, a kesher shel kayama,] it should nevertheless be untied and tied afresh every day.
To revert to the Mishkan: Despite the explanation interpolated above, the case explained is different from the case of the Mishkan on the eighth day, which was erected but not actually dismantled. This is especially so, since on the eighth day there was a sublime occurrence which did not take place at all during any of the preceding seven days: "And fire came out from G-d's Presence and consumed upon the altar..."; i.e., the Divine Presence descended to dwell among Israel.
After our parshah opens by describing (as above) the distinctive quality of the days during which the Mishkan was inaugurated, it goes on to relate the death of the two sons of Aharon, which is followed by the commandment that "you shall not drink wine or strong drink... when you enter the Mishkan." Here Rashi explains that "they entered the Sanctuary intoxicated by wine...; after their death [G-d] forbade those who remained to enter the Sanctuary intoxicated by wine."
This state alludes to a lofty mode of divine service. For [at the mystical level] the death of the two sons of Aharon signifies ratzo without shov; [that is, the rapturous eagerness of the soul to flee from the body in order to cleave to its Source, without being contained and counterbalanced by a submission to G-d's preference -- which is, to be served by the lifelong strivings of a soul enclothed and encumbered by a corporeal body.]
The fact that there was a need to negate a mode of divine service whose peak is the actual expiry of the soul, shows that the Jewish people at the time were at an extremely lofty spiritual level. If so, however, why should the end of this week's parshah find it necessary to prohibit the eating of insects and vermin, which even by the standards of mortal understanding people find loathsome? This prohibition is even more problematic at this point when one considers that the Torah supports it by kabbalas ol alone, by the unreasoned acceptance of the Divine yoke; in the words of the verse, "For I am G-d Who has brought you out of Egypt to be your G-d" -- to which Rashi adds, "...in order that you accept My mitzvos."
A somewhat parallel case may be found in today's reading of Tanya:
After explaining at length that by means of meditation every Jew can attain a fear of G-d, at least at its lower level, the Tanya goes on to explain that "as in the case of a mortal king, the awe [of him] relates mainly to his inner essence and vitality and not to his body..., [even though] his inner essence and vitality are not perceived by physical eyes, but only by the mind's eye, through the physical eyes' beholding his body and garments, and knowing that his vitality is clothed in them; ...in the same way, he must truly fear G-d when gazing with his physical eyes at the heavens and earth and all their hosts, wherein is clothed the [infinite] light of the blessed Ein Sof that animates them." The Note there goes further: "Even he who has never seen the king and does not recognize him at all, nevertheless, when he enters the royal court, and sees many eminent nobles prostrating themselves before one man, there falls on him a dread and awe." A little later, towards the end of today's reading, the Alter Rebbe adds, "There should also be a constant remembrance of the... acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven...."
A question presents itself: If every individual can arrive at a fear of heaven by means of meditation, why is there a need for kabbalas ol, for the unreasoned acceptance of the yoke of heaven? This question is strengthened by the fact that there is a considerable affinity between the acceptance of the yoke of heaven, and the fear of heaven, both in their content and in their effects.
The above concepts can lend us an insight into the paradoxical structure of the above-mentioned maamar
In discussing the modes of avodah appropriate to each of the five levels of the soul, the maamar considers them in descending order -- relating first to the highest levels of the soul, Chayah and Yechidah, and then in turn to Neshamah, Ruach, and Nefesh. The last and lowest of these refers to actual, practical avodah motivated by the simple acceptance of the yoke of heaven. Despite this order, the conclusion of the maamar reverts to the mode of service appropriate to Yechidah, the highest level of the soul.
One would have expected that if the intention was to conclude with Yechidah, then it would have been more fitting for the maamar to follow the opposite, ascending order. This expectation becomes even more reasonable, when one considers that the ascending order suits the exposition given (at the beginning of the maamar) of the teaching of the Sages, Aser bishvil shetis'asher -- "Tithe in order that you prosper." For according to this mystical exposition, tis'asher signifies the manifestation of the Yechidah.
Parenthetically: In truth, it is not appropriate to pose problematic queries (such as the above) as to why the Rebbe [Rayatz] structured the components of the above maamar
in ascending or descending order, since he is at a level that transcends the bounds of above and below; at the level of transcendence which can simultaneously tolerate logical opposites,
logical problematics are altogether out of place.
As is well known, the task of the Rebbeim of the respective generations is preparing the world for the coming of Mashiach. For concerning that time it is written, "And the glory of G-d shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see." They will see Divinity, with fleshly eyes. In preparation for that time, the word of G-d is revealed to every individual by means of a physical body which is seen by fleshly eyes, face to face. For the replies of the Rebbe [Rayatz] -- [though] usually in Yiddish, with an odd word of English or Russian, or whatever -- were given in the spirit of the verse, "The spirit of G-d spoke within me, and His word is on my tongue."
Understanding this is especially relevant to the current situation.
In the past it was clear to everyone who entered the study of the Rebbe [Rayatz] for yechidus that the Rebbe was a comprehensive soul, a neshamah klalis -- not a totality [of individual component souls], but in essence comprehensive, transcending any division into parts. Likewise, when anyone entered there he would be utterly humbled (for if this were not so, this could not be considered an entry for yechidus, but rather a state in which the divine soul, "even while a sin is being committed, remains faithful to G-d").
Just as these attitudes were true in the past, so too should they be clear now, without logical objections. Indeed, one should keep in mind that today's reading of Tanya stresses that177 "in the case of a mortal king, the awe [of him] relates mainly to his inner essence and vitality,178 and not to his body" -- and as far as the Rebbe [Rayatz]'s inner essence and vitality are concerned, nothing has changed.
Nevertheless, though [as discussed at the beginning of sec. 8] the Rebbe [Rayatz] is at a level which transcends considerations of finitude and order, so that logical objections are out of place, the maamar was given to us to be studied and understood; hence, order [see sec. 7 above] is required. And the same is true of the questions asked above based on today's reading in Tanya [see sec. 6 above] and on the weekly Torah reading [see sec. 5 above].
The following approach may be proposed in explanation of all the above.
On the one hand, kabbalas ol is the lowest mode of divine service, lower than meditation. Seen from this perspective, the preferred mode of divine service would be meditation, except that when this does not yield the expected results, then one has to fall back on kabbalas ol.
On the other hand, kabbalas ol is the highest mode of divine service, higher than meditation. For mortal understanding is finite, and comprises numerous detailed components; hence it cannot grasp the uncompounded Essence (Etzem) of Divinity, which is infinite. (Indeed, because of its uncompounded simplicity, this Essence [as explained in the terms of Chassidus] is able to radiate in diverse ways into mortal understanding; however, it is not contained by it, and the thinker senses that his understanding does not quite grasp the Essence which it contemplates.) Unlike mortal understanding, which is finite, kabbalas ol is essentially infinite, so that even when it radiates into mortal understanding and gives rise to pleasure, it basically transcends the finite categories of understanding and pleasure.
To be more specific: The need for kabbalas ol of the lower kind stems from the body. As a result of the obscurity caused by the materiality of the body (for, as stated in sec. 3 above, even angels need to nullify their materiality), it can happen that meditation will fail to yield results, whereupon there is a need for kabbalas ol.
On the other hand, from a positive perspective, the fact that the spiritual root of the body derives from a superrational source enables it to relate essentially to modes of service that transcend understanding, such as the higher level of kabbalas ol.
The above approach enables us to appreciate the order in which the ideas of today's Tanya
reading are presented [see sec. 6 above], in which meditation is paradoxically followed
by kabbalas ol.
For here the Alter Rebbe is speaking of both
of its opposite aspects: (a) the kabbalas ol
which one has to call upon to motivate one's practical avodah
whenever meditation fails to inspire it; and (b) the kabbalas ol
meditation, and which transcends one's understanding.
Indeed, it could be suggested that this approach is hinted at in the closing words of today's Tanya reading (after the discussion of kabbalas ol): "as is explained elsewhere". For if the Alter Rebbe did not want to add any further explanation, surely he should have closed his discussion with a phrase such as "this will suffice for the understanding", or "the perceptive will understand". Alternatively, if he sought to help his reader by referring to a complementary source, then surely he should have directed him to it. Why, then, did he close the subject as he did?
Perhaps (but this remark should not be taken too literally) the Alter Rebbe chose this phrase in order to drop us a hint -- that whatever further explanation the reader may find in whatever source he may consult, there will always remain an "elsewhere", a yet higher level of spiritual perception, a level at which one's understanding can be even loftier.
This remark recalls an exchange recounted in Siddur Maharid. (Though it is not cited in the literature of Chassidus, the directive of the Rebbe [Rayatz] in such cases is well known -- that if one quotes a work in order to upgrade one's avodah, then "there's no harm done....") The exchange involves R. Menachem Mendel of Horodok, who "told the Alter Rebbe that in the verses of Atah hareisa he perceived a hundred insights, but because he could not translate them into practical fulfillment he wanted to refrain from reading the verses." To this the Alter Rebbe replied: "The rule is, that whatever place one's eyes see from afar, there one cannot stand; and when one arrives at that place, his eyes will see another place from afar. Accordingly, when you translate these hundred insights into practical fulfillment, you will perceive yet further insights, insights without end."
The underlying explanation for this, as explained above [see sec. 9], is that mortal understanding is finite, whereas the Divine Essence, even when it radiates into mortal understanding, is not contained by it. Kabbalas ol likewise, even when it radiates into mortal understanding, is essentially infinite.
The above conception of kabbalas ol
also explains the order in which the topics of this week's Torah reading are arranged [see sec. 5 above].
It will be recalled that the reading opens with elevated levels of divine service -- the eight inaugural days of the Mishkan, and the soul's rapturous desire to cast off the body and to expire in klos hanefesh. The same reading, however, closes with the [apparently basic] level of kabbalas ol:176 "For I am G-d Who has brought you out of Egypt to be your G-d" -- to which Rashi adds, "...in order that you accept My mitzvos." Why this progression? -- Because of the supreme worth of kabbalas ol, which transcends all other considerations.
At the same time, this concept appears here in connection with the prohibition against eating vermin. This underlines the necessity for kabbalas ol, for without the unquestioning acceptance of the yoke of heaven, a person could conceivably fall to a state in which he could (G-d forbid) consume such things.
From this it is evident that kabbalas ol is needed in all situations and at all levels.
Finally, this same understanding of kabbalas ol
unveils the order hidden in the maamar
of Pesach [see sec. 7 above].
Why does the maamar discuss the various modes of avodah in descending order, first speaking of meditation and later of kabbalas ol? -- Because what matters above all is actual, practical avodah. Hence, though in the first instance what is required is meditation, nevertheless, if this does not produce results, kabbalas ol is called for.
Having discussed the mode of avodah (viz., kabbalas ol) appropriate to the lowest soul-level, which is called Nefesh, the maamar goes on to conclude by discussing the mode of avodah appropriate to the highest soul-level, which is called Yechidah. This highlights the lofty standing of the kind of kabbalas ol which transcends understanding. For divine service of this caliber brings about the manifestation of one's Yechidah (which is so called because it is illumined by the "minute [Divine] spark," which is called Yachid). And this, as explained in the maamar, is the inner meaning of the teaching of the Sages, Aser bishvil shetis'asher -- "Tithe in order that you prosper," for tis'asher signifies the manifestation of the Yechidah.
- (Back to text) This sichah, delivered by the Rebbe on Shabbos Parshas Shemini, Mevarchim Iyar, 5710 , appears in full (in Hebrew) in Sefer HaMaamarim -- Basi LeGani, Vol. I, p. 278ff., and in part in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 227ff.
- (Back to text) Pelach HaRimon, Shmos, p. 7.
- (Back to text) III, 59b.
- (Back to text) Taanis 23a.
- (Back to text) In the terms of Chassidus, the difference between them (viz., downward and upward thrusts in divine service, respectively) is discussed in the maamar entitled Vaeschanan 5674 (in Hemshech 5672, Vol. I, p. 579), et al. [-- Note by the Rebbe.]
- (Back to text) Berachos 35b.
- (Back to text) Zohar III, 124b, in Raaya Mehemna. (These terms are clarified in the Alter Rebbe's Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 26; see Lessons In Tanya, Vol. V, p. 114ff.)
- (Back to text) Chagigah 2a (and Rashi there).
- (Back to text) Parshas Zos HaBerachah, p. 98b.
- (Back to text) Sefer HaMaamarim 5710 , p. 171ff.
- (Back to text) In the Yid./Heb. original, derhert-men Etzem.
- (Back to text) See also the Igros Kodesh (Letters) of the Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. IV, p. 178ff.
- (Back to text) Sefer HaMaamarim 5710 , p. 176.
- (Back to text) P. 15ff.
- (Back to text) In the original, chomer and tzurah, respectively.
- (Back to text) See also the Igros Kodesh (Letters) of the Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. II, p. 335ff.
- (Back to text) Sifri, Naso 7:1; Toras Kohanim, Mechilta deMiluim, end of sec. 1; Bamidbar Rabbah 12:15; Rashi on Vayikra 9:23.
- (Back to text) Cf. Eruvin 55b.
- (Back to text) In the Heb./Aram. original, kesher shel kayama.
- (Back to text) Cf. Bechoros 19a; [Rashi on Beitzah 27b, s.v. challah;] Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIV, p. 16, footnote 30, and documentation there.
- (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 25; see Lessons In Tanya, Vol. I, pp. 337-8.
- (Back to text) See Tosafos on Eruvin 97a, s.v. Abbaye; Tosafos on Menachos 35b, s.v. MiShaah; Tosafos on Chullin 9a, s.v. VeIdach; Seder HaDoros, Year 4930. [-- Note by the Rebbe.]
- (Back to text) Vayikra 9:24.
- (Back to text) Rashi on Vayikra 9:23.
- (Back to text) Vayikra 10:1ff.
- (Back to text) Loc. cit., v. 9.
- (Back to text) On v. 2.
- (Back to text) This concept is explained at length in the maamarim beginning Acharei Mos, delivered in the years 5649, 5675 (and 5722).
- (Back to text) Rashi on Makkos 23b.
- (Back to text) Vayikra 11:45, and Rashi ad loc.
- (Back to text) End of ch. 42; see Lessons In Tanya, Vol. II, pp. 628-634.
- (Back to text) In the original, pnimiyuso vechiyuso.
- (Back to text) Taanis 9a, and references there.
- (Back to text) [This level of transcendence is called nimna hanimnaos.] See the Responsa of the Rashba, Vol. I, sec. 418; discussed in Sefer HaChakirah by the Tzemach Tzedek, p. 34b ff., et al.[-- Note by the Rebbe.]
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 40:5.
- (Back to text) II Shmuel 23:2.
- (Back to text) This sichah was delivered less than three months after the histalkus of the Rebbe Rayatz.
- (Back to text) Tanya, end of ch. 24; see Lessons In Tanya, Vol. I, p. 325.
- (Back to text) This concept may be clearly understood in light of the vision which the Maggid of Mezritch once described to the Alter Rebbe. In this vision, Moshe Rabbeinu was teaching schoolchildren the verse (Bereishis 17:17), "And Avraham fell on his face and laughed" [in disbelief at G-d's promise of a son in his old age]. In response to their query, he explained that though all the commentaries (see Bereishis Rabbah 47:4) are true, the verse does not depart from its plain meaning. As to the objection, how is it possible that Avraham Avinu should doubt G-d's word, Moshe Rabbeinu declared that this doubt derived from his body, for even a holy body is flesh. (See HaTamim, Vol. II, p. 71; Kovetz Michtavim [i.e., letters of the Rebbe Rayatz] appended to Tehillim Ohel Yosef Yitzchak, p. 197.) [-- Note by the Rebbe.]
- (Back to text) At the end of the verses of Atah Hareisa (Vol. II, p. 169b).
- (Back to text) See also the Igros Kodesh (Letters) of the Rebbe Rashab, Vol. II, p. 720, and references there.
- (Back to text) I.e., the passages read before Hakkafos on Simchas Torah; see Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 335-6.
- (Back to text) See Sefer HaMaamarim 5710 , p. 115, and the footnote there, with its references. For English translation, see Basi LeGani: Chassidic Discourses (op. cit.), p. 15, and footnote 47, regarding the "minute spark, which is Divinity..., and this is garbed in a created spark... that is called the Yechidah."