of Tishrei -- both at the beginning of the month, on Rosh HaShanah, and towards the end of the month, on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah -- is characterized by kabbalas ol,
the unquestioning acceptance of the yoke of heaven.
The prime spiritual task of Rosh HaShanah is the fulfillment of G-d's request: "Crown Me as King over yourselves"; i.e., the acceptance of the yoke of G-d's sovereignty.
This theme is also prominent in the Sounding of the Shofar, concerning which it is written, "The mitzvah of this day is the Shofar." For Rambam writes: "Even though the Sounding of the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a Scriptural decree, it does contain a hint, namely: 'Wake up, sleepers, from your slumbers...!'" Is this not problematic? If indeed "it does contain a hint," indicating a comprehensible reason, then how can it be termed "a Scriptural decree"?
The mainstay of even those mitzvos that do have a [stated] reason is not the reason but G-d's command, the "Scriptural decree"; they are to be observed not as a result of the reason but as a result of kabbalas ol -- because this is what G-d commanded. Maamarim of Chassidus give the following illustration: If we had been commanded to chop wood (an activity with neither a reason nor a hint) we would have done it with the same kabbalas ol as we observe all the commandments -- because the core of a mitzvah is the fulfillment of G-d's will. In the Holy Tongue, mitzvah shares a root with the Aramaic word tzavsah ("together"): fulfilling G-d's will connects the observer of the commandment with the Giver of the commandments.
One might add that if a person observes a mitzvah only because of its hinted reason, then not only is he left without the core of the mitzvah, but in addition he is left without the hinted reason. He should therefore observe it out of kabbalas ol, as a "Scriptural decree," and then its hinted reason will also be his.
The same thinking applies to Shemini Atzeres (and Simchas Torah). Since at this time all the spiritual energy evoked by Rosh HaShanah is internalized, this is likewise a time which calls for kabbalas ol, the unquestioning acceptance of the yoke of heaven.
This is reflected in the rejoicing that takes place on those days. Though one's joy is connected with the Torah, which is something to be comprehended intellectually, the prime spiritual task of these days175 is not profound study, but the joyful dancing that accompanies the Hakkafos. The table that one circles with the Sefer Torah in hand is not a table at which the most erudite sages convene to plumb its scholarly depths: it is the table upon which its plain letters are publicly read. This preference emphasizes that people are now rejoicing not in their comprehension of it, but simply in the holy letters of which it is comprised. And this artless joy is an expression of kabbalas ol.
of Tishrei begins the avodah
of the whole year. Avodah
should begin with kabbalas ol,
and the kabbalas ol
of the beginning of one's avodah,
in the month of Tishrei, sets the tone for one's avodah
throughout the year -- so that every one of its aspects, including those involving intellectual comprehension, will echo this tone.
The same is true of every day's avodah. It begins with Modeh Ani ("I offer grateful acknowledgment to You..."), an opening statement of kabbalas ol which sets the tone for one's avodah throughout the day.
A similar theme appears in the building of a Jewish home, with the birth of a son or a daughter.
In the realm of man's divine service, these two possibilities each "contain a hint." A daughter hints at avodah marked by kabbalas ol; as the Sages teach, "A worthy wife is one who fulfills the will of her husband." A son hints at avodah steered by reason.
With this in mind we can understand the statement of our Sages, "A daughter first is a good sign for sons." Beginning one's avodah with kabbalas ol (i.e., "a daughter first") gives an individual the requisite power ("is a good sign") for avodah steered by reason ("for sons").
This perspective also explains the underlying reason for our custom that soon after the birth of a girl, too, the Mi SheBeirach prayer requests that her parents be privileged to bring up their newborn daughter "to Torah, to marriage, and to good deeds." For a daughter connotes kabbalas ol, which lends strength to all aspects of one's Torah and avodah.
The theme of kabbalas ol
is also dominant in the attitude of a chassid to the Rebbe. When a chassid realizes that he is merely a "foot" whereas the Rebbe is the "head", he devotes himself utterly to the Rebbe and fulfills his directives with complete kabbalas ol.
But, one might ask, how can one say that the chassid has no head? Doesn't the Torah command him to put tefillin on his head...?
My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once said: "A true soldier has no head. People used to say that a soldier has a head only so that he'll have some place to hang the belt of his rifle...."
This theme is also relevant to the writing of a pidyon
to the Rebbe.
There was once a foolish roving emissary who when asked to deliver a pidyon to the Rebbe in his hometown, would refuse. "You've got to ask G-d yourself," he would explain, "not through intermediaries."
The truth on this subject is clarified by the Chasam Sofer. (In his works, by the way, chassidic insights occasionally surface. After all, he was a leading disciple of R. Nasan Adler, who was a leading disciple of the author of Sefer HaHaflaah, a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch.)
The Chasam Sofer points out that a request by means of angels is regarded as a request through intermediaries, whereas a request by means of Jewish souls -- which are superior to angels -- is not regarded as a request through intermediaries. Why? "All Jews are partners, one body and one soul. If one Jew is distressed, his fellow Jew feels it and shares his distress.... And since they are both in that state, it is preferable that the head rather than the foot should intercede [to request Divine mercy], for the talmid chacham is, metaphorically, the head...." How much more does this apply to each of the Nesi'im of the Jewish people, "the heads of the multitudes of Israel" -- their "head".
We can now understand why the principle that "the patient's prayer for himself is preferable to another's prayer on his behalf" is not relevant here. For this principle relates to another, whereas the Nesi'im of the Jewish people are "the heads of the multitudes of Israel." Hence their prayer is as acceptable as "the patient's prayer for himself," just as the head prays for the foot.
Indeed, their prayer is superior to the patient's prayer for himself, for the Nasi, who is the head, is more aware of the ailment than the ailing foot, for two reasons: (a) the head is superior to the foot because it is the seat of the mind; (b) the foot itself is able to feel the ailment only by virtue of the nervous system based in the brain, which is alone responsible for all sensation.
The above applies only when the individual recognizes that he is a "foot", and devotes himself completely to the "head" -- the Rebbe. If, however, he considers that he, too, has a head, and in this frame of mind he hands his pidyon to the Rebbe, then the question of an intermediary arises. (No such problem arises when he wants to ask advice of the Rebbe, for advice one can ask of any fellow Jew. When he comes to give a pidyon, however, the question of an intermediary arises.)
Everyone present here is no doubt utterly devoted to the Rebbe.
Even those whose devotedness is incomplete are nevertheless utterly devoted to him in their innermost essence; accordingly, all that is needed is a mere statement of their intention to be fully devoted. (In this spirit Rambam explains the rationale underlying the principle, "[The court] coerces [the defendant] until he says, 'I am willing.'" His statement ("I am willing") is meaningful because it matches his true will, which is "to be one of Israel... [and] to fulfill all the commandments....") Hence the question of an intermediary -- even a connecting intermediary -- does not arise.
A chassid's awareness that he is merely a "foot" whereas the Rebbe is the "head" also affects the manner
in which he fulfills the Rebbe's directives.
If the Rebbe instructs a chassid to do something involving self-denial, or even if he instructs him to invest more time in Torah and prayer in a way that makes him tear himself away somewhat from eating and drinking and sleeping, then even if the chassid fulfills the instruction with kabbalas ol (realizing that the foot should obey the head), the thought might nevertheless occur to him: If the Rebbe knew how difficult it was to fulfill this directive, it could well be that he would not have issued it.
The response to this thought has already been explained (in sec. 5 above): Not only is the head more aware of the ailment than the ailing foot, because it is superior to it, but moreover what the foot feels in basically what the head feels. (Indeed, if the connection between the foot and the head is intercepted, G-d forbid, the foot feels no pain.) If, therefore, the head commands the foot to put its heel into hot water, then the foot, without a second thought, should obey immediately. It should understand -- and this much it is "allowed" to understand... -- that the pain is felt by the head.
that is prompted only by unreasoning and unquestioning kabbalas ol
springs from a narrowly restricted frame of mind: it is an avodah
of min hameitzar.
And concerning such a frame of mind it is written,
"From out of the narrow straits I called G-d; with broad and boundless relief G-d answered me." By first experiencing the restrictive discipline of kabbalas ol,
one then arrives at the broad mindspace of intellectual understanding. Moreover, one ultimately comes to appreciate the lofty worth of kabbalas ol,
through which one arrives at true breadth.
This sequence is also true in the material plane.
If it is decreed (G-d forbid) that a certain individual is to undergo poverty, narrow straits materially, then he ought to accept this lovingly, for in truth "This, too, is for the good," except that "it is not apparent and visible to mortal eyes, for it stems from alma deiskasya, the hidden spiritual world, which is higher than alma deisgalya, the revealed spiritual world," as is explained in Tanya. And if the individual accepts his situation lovingly, out of kabbalas ol, realizing that this is G-d's will, then as a matter of course, "with broad and boundless relief G-d answered me" -- visible and manifest good is drawn down upon him.
The teachings of Chassidus offer another piece of advice on how to rid oneself of a decree of material poverty. One should contemplate his own spiritual state -- how he is remote from G-dliness and from a grasp of G-dliness, and so on, until he feels that he is in a state of spiritual poverty. Through this feeling of spiritual poverty he will rid himself of material poverty, and material prosperity will be called forth upon him, with visible and manifest good.
- (Back to text) The above is an unauthenticated record of the farbrengen held on Shabbos Chol HaMoed Sukkos, 5711 .
- (Back to text) In the original, avodas hayom.
- (Back to text) Rosh HaShanah 16a, and references listed there.
- (Back to text) Op. cit., 26b, 27a; Rambam, Hilchos Shofar 1:2.
- (Back to text) Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4.
- (Back to text) See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIV, p. 124.
- (Back to text) See also Sefer HaMaamarim -- Melukat, Vol. II, p. 19ff., and references listed there.
- (Back to text) Likkutei Torah, Parshas Shlach, p. 40a; the hemshech (series of maamarim) of 5666 , p. 54; and elsewhere.
- (Back to text) Likkutei Torah, Parshas Bechukosai, pp. 45c, 47b; and elsewhere.
- (Back to text) In the original, metzaveh hamitzvos.
- (Back to text) In the original, the corresponding noun is klitah.
- (Back to text) The hemshech of 5666 , p. 379.
- (Back to text) See also ibid., pp. 379-380.
- (Back to text) See also the opening and closing sections of the maamar beginning BaYom HaShemini Atzeres that appeared in Kuntreis Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah, and is reprinted in Sefer HaMaamarim 5711 , pp. 80, 87.
- (Back to text) Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 6.
- (Back to text) Among other things, this farbrengen was a Kiddush held to celebrate the birth of a daughter to one of the local chassidic families.
- (Back to text) Tanna dvei Eliyahu Rabbah, sec. 9, cited by Rama on Even HaEzer, end of sec. 69.
- (Back to text) Bava Basra 141a.
- (Back to text) See Torah Or, Parshas Mishpatim, p. 79a; Likkutei Torah, Derushei Shabbos Shuvah, p. 67a.
- (Back to text) Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 186.
- (Back to text) Igros Kodesh (Letters) of the Rebbe Rashab, Vol. I, p. 210 (and see references listed there); reprinted in HaYom Yom, entry for 25 Menachem Av.
- (Back to text) See the daytime sichah of Simchas Torah, 5710 , sec. 3, in Kuntreis Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah, and in Sefer HaMaamarim 5711 , pp. 99.
- (Back to text) See also Vol. I in the present series, pp. 38ff., 63ff.
- (Back to text) The Responsa entitled Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim, sec. 166.
- (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 2.
- (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 53:14; cited by Rashi on Bereishis 21:17.
- (Back to text) Cf. Bava Basra 116a.
- (Back to text) Cf. Sanhedrin 5b: "Rav said: 'For eighteen months I lived in the company of a shepherd in order to learn to distinguish [for ritual purposes] between permanent and transient blemishes.'"
- (Back to text) See also the above sichah of the First Day of Rosh HaShanah, sec. 4.
- (Back to text) Hilchos Geirushin 2:20.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 118:5.
- (Back to text) Taanis 21a, and see references there.
- (Back to text) Ch. 26; see also Tanya -- Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 11.
- (Back to text) See also the sichah (below) of the eve of Simchas Torah, sec. 8.
- (Back to text) Cf. Tanya -- Iggeres HaTeshuvah, ch. 12.
- (Back to text) See also Vol. II in the present series, pp. 146-8.