Tonight is Rosh Chodesh Kislev. Both of these factors -- Rosh Chodesh and the month of Kislev -- are unique. Rosh Chodesh represents a renewal of the moon. This renewal does not, however, come unearned, but rather through the moon's "service" of self-diminution "carried out" previously.
This is alluded to in our Sages' statement that G-d told the moon, "Go and make yourself small." On the surface, the question arises: Why did G-d have to say "Go," He could have just told the moon, "Make yourself small." He was, however, informing the moon that to "go," to make genuine progress and rise to a level totally above its previous one, it was necessary to "make yourself small."
Similarly, this concept is alluded in the verse, "And you shall be taken notice of, for your place will be empty." This implies that the path to receiving special attention is making one's place empty, i.e., self-diminution.
This process reflects the service of the soul in its descent to this physical realm. Although this is a process of descent and self-diminution, it ultimately generates the potential for the soul to proceed and reach peaks that it could not at all attain before its descent.
And from the renewal of the moon, a process of growth and increase begins which allows the moon to reach a full state and ultimately, for us to merit the fulfillment of the prophecy "the light of the moon will resemble the light of the sun," in the Era of the Redemption.
There is a question which arises concerning the name of this week's Torah reading. Just as this portion begins with the phrase "These are the toldos ('chronicles') of Yitzchak," we find that Parshas Noach begins with the phrase, "These are the toldos of Noach." On the surface, since Parshas Noach comes before Parshas Toldos, it would seem proper that it have been given the name Toldos
and Parshas Toldos be called Toldos Yitzchak.
This question requires resolution and furthermore, its resolution -- as is true of all Torah concepts -- must be practically applicable within our service of G-d.
Toldos is associated with our service, for Toldos also means "progeny" which in an extended sense refers to our good deeds. As our Sages declared, "The essential progeny of a tzaddik are his good deeds." The term tzaddikim refers to all Jews for the Torah was given to the entire Jewish people and thus every Jew lives for the sake of "Torah and good deeds."
Noach represents the reward for our service for the name Noach is associated with rest and pleasure. We can be certain that since this reward will be granted by G-d, it will transcend the natural order and will be miraculous in nature.
Thus the message from the name chosen for this week's Torah reading is that an emphasis must be placed on our service of observing the Torah and its mitzvos. Even when we conceive of reward as being granted so that, as the Rambam relates, we will be able to continue and enhance our service of Torah and mitzvos, the reward is something which is granted to man. In contrast, our service represents our contribution to the world, serving G-d.
This is the purpose of our creation as the Mishnah writes, "I was created to serve my Creator." In simple terms, a person should not think of the reward he will receive, but rather the service he was intended to accomplish. G-d demands from us only "according to our strength." Thus, we can be certain that we have been given ample strength to make these contributions and thus transform this world into "a dwelling for G-d in the lower realms."
This week's Torah reading also contains Yitzchak's blessings to Yaakov which begin, Veyitain Lecha Elokim, "May G-d grant you." Rashi notes that the word Veyitain, (lit. "And may He grant") is somewhat problematic. What is the purpose of the prefix Ve, ("And")? He explains that this implies that G-d will "give and then give again," granting a manifold blessing. This relates to every Jew. Each of us must know that he is being given blessings by G-d and as our Sages teach, "One who gives, gives generously."
Yaakov is also associated with an allusion to the Redemption for the name Yaakov is written with a vav five times in the Torah. Our Sages associate this with the fact that the name Eliyahu is written without a vav five times in the Tanach and explain that Yaakov took these vavvim as a pledge from Eliyahu that he will come and announce the redemption of his descendants.
The above is particularly relevant in the month of Kislev. The name Kislev (àîæï) represents a fusion of opposites. Kis (æï) refers to hiddenness, the service of self-diminution mentioned above. Lo (àî), in contrast, reflects the ultimate in revelation for it is numerically equivalent to 36. 36 is six times six, i.e., the ultimate fulfillment of our potential for revelation, our six emotional powers. Similarly, 36 is the numerical equivalent of the word eilah meaning "this is," which is representative of revelation. Thus the name Kislev reflects a process of revelation from hiddenness.
(Here we see a connection to Rosh HaShanah which reflects a similar process. This is particularly true of the present year, a year of "wonders in all things.")
Thus in the month of Kislev, there are many unique days, the ninth of Kislev, the tenth of Kislev, and Yud-Tes Kislev, which are associated with the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward and thus, with the result of that service, the coming of the Mashiach. Afterwards, we proceed to Chanukah.
Kislev is called "the month of redemption." As time proceeds, more and more Jews are becoming aware of this title and referring to the month in this manner. And this itself will precipitate that in fact it will be so and we will merit the ultimate redemption in this month. We will not have to wait until the ninth of Kislev, the tenth of Kislev, or Yud-Tes Kislev. Instead, immediately, we will carry out the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward, and immediately we will merit the coming of Mashiach and the true and ultimate redemption.
- (Back to text) It would be inappropriate to call the parshah, eilah, "These are," for many parshiyos in the Torah begin with this word.
- (Back to text) Indeed, we find the Rambam refers to Parshas Noach as Toldos Noach and Parshas Toldos as Toldos Yitzchak.
- (Back to text) In contrast, the service of the Jewish people must be contained within the natural order.
- (Back to text) In this context, one's conception of reward also changes. Our Sages teach "The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah." This can be interpreted to mean: The reward for performing one mitzvah is the opportunity to perform another one.
- (Back to text) This represents a fusion of opposites, that within the context of existence in this lowly world, an ascent to an incomparably higher level will be achieved.
- (Back to text) Giving blessings in this manner, i.e., mentioning the fact that one will give a second time before giving even once, relates to the concept of LeChatchilah Ariber.
- (Back to text) The Hebrew translated as "generously," b'ayin yafeh, literally means "with a good eye." This implies that the generosity of the giver reflects his own goodness and in this instance, the Giver is G-d Himself.
- (Back to text) The connection between Yaakov and the Redemption is also related to the connection between Yaakov and the Shabbos afternoon service which is described as a time of "the will of wills," i.e., the most complete state of rest.
- (Back to text) From Chanukah, we proceed to the month of Teves, a month described as "the month when the body derives pleasure from the body," i.e., a month where there is an emphasis placed on the service of a Jew within this material world.