The Tanya describes a fast day as "a day of will." This concept can also be derived from the Haftorah recited on a fast day which begins with the verse, "Seek G-d when He is to be found. Call to Him when He is close." Our Sages explain that this refers to the Ten Days of Repentance, a period when G-d draws near to us, allowing Himself "to be found" and to be "close." Because of this "closeness," He fulfills the wishes of the Jewish people. In a larger sense, this concept also applies on all communal fast days.
This year, this concept receives special emphasis because this is "a year of miracles," a year when we are lifted above the natural order.
The above applies on every fast day. In addition, the tenth of Teves possesses a unique quality as implied by our Sages' statement, "The tenth will be holy." This implies that, by its very nature, the day is holy. Afterwards, additional holiness is added by the service of the Jews who turn to G-d in Teshuvah.
The month of Teves itself possesses unique significance. Our Sages described it as "the month when the body derives pleasure from the body." Chassidic thought explains that every Jew possesses a soul which is "a part of G-d from above." This soul, however, is found in a physical body. Generally, our service involves "making the soul of primary importance and the body of secondary importance." There are, however, certain occasions when the effect of our service is reflected within our bodies themselves. They are able to reveal the spiritual source of the body which is higher than the source of the soul as evident from the principle, "Whatever is higher [in source] descends lower."
There is a Divine parallel to both the body and the soul. The Jews' service in refining the body on this plane has an effect on the Divine parallel to the body, granting it pleasure. "The body (above) derives pleasure from the body (below)." By revealing how the source of our bodies is higher than the source of our souls, we bring about the revelation of how the source of the Divine parallel to the body, surpasses that of the Divine parallel to the soul.
[This concept is related to the concept of a fast day on which we see that it is activities involving the body -- abstaining from food and drink -- which cause the day to be characterized as "a day of will."]
Our Sages' description of Teves as a month when "the body derives pleasure from the body" is mentioned in association with Achashverosh's taking of Esther. Esther refers to the elevation of the lowest levels of existence as evident from our Sages' statement: "What is the allusion to Esther (ÿÜæÇ) in the Torah? The verse, "I will surely hide (ÿëÜæÇ ÿÜæä) My face." The refinement of the lowest aspects of existence, Esther, has an effect on G-d, who is alluded to in the name Achashverosh, "the King to whom the end (Acharis) and the beginning (Reishis) belong."
The influence which our service with our bodies has on the Divine parallel to a body is described as "pleasure." This implies that its effect involves not only what is necessary for the existence of the "body" to be maintained, but rather affords it satisfaction.
The latter concept can be further understood within the context of the Torah's description of Eretz Yisroel as "a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olives which produce oil and [date] honey." Two of the seven species of produce mentioned, wheat and barley, are necessary for the maintenance of the body's existence. The other five are used to grant man pleasure and satisfaction.
The service of transforming the lowest levels relates to the ultimate goal of the exile which is to add an aleph, representative of G-d, "L-rd of the world," to the word äîàé, "exile," and thus produce äîàÇé, "redemption." The aleph has a yud above which is representative of G-d and a yud below which is representative of the Jewish people in a state of bittul. These two yuddim are joined together by a vav.
This will make the exile into a receptacle for the revelation of G-dliness, not only those aspects of G-dliness that are necessary for the maintenance of existence (wheat and barley), but those aspects of G-dliness that are associated with pleasure. This will be revealed not only in the soul, but in our bodies without requiring the nullification of their physical nature.
Each Jew will serve s "a candle to illuminate," spreading light to others. This will begin with the members of his household. He will have "children and grandchildren occupied with Torah study." The revelation will also spread to others as implied by our Sages' statement: " 'Your children,' These are the students." He will spread Torah and also P'nimiyus HaTorah, the teachings of Chassidus. These efforts will hasten the coming of the redemption as evident from the Moshiach's reply when the Baal Shem Tov asked him, "When are you coming?", "When the wellsprings of your Torah spread outward."
- (Back to text) Note the Rambam's statements that the fast days were instituted "to arouse the hearts and open up the paths of Teshuvah."
- (Back to text) The verse mentions the word eretz, "land" twice. This alludes to the two contrasting dimensions which the word eretz reflects: a) earthiness, the lowest level of material existence b) a sensitivity to G-d's will. Our Sages stated, "Why was the land called eretz? Because it wanted (ratztah) to fulfill its Creator's will."
In Hebrew, when different vowels are used for the latter phrase its translation becomes, "Because it ran to fulfill its Creator's will." This implies that this desire has two dimensions, one relating to the soul as represented by will and one relating to the body which is represented by the activity of running.
- (Back to text) The two yuddim also reflect the union of two names of G-d. The first yud refers to the first level in the name Y-H-V-H, the highest rung within the context of limited existence. The second yud refers to the yud in the name A-donai, that level of G-dliness which enclothes itself within creation.