1. The same blessings established by the Men of the Great Assembly as a standard matter common to all are made at the wedding of every Jew, whoever he may be. Just as all individuals, despite their personal differences recite the same prayers, so too, the same blessings are made at all weddings.
The latter concept is difficult to understand: Our Sages called prayer “service of the heart,” involving working with one’s feelings. Yet our minds are not alike. Each of us possesses a different character makeup and hence it might seem that the prayer service could not be the same for every individual, that each person should recite different prayers. How then could the Men of the Great Assembly have arranged an order of prayers that is shared by all, without differentiation?
The various personality characteristics which differentiate each Jew from another, all share a common factor. The essence of every Jew, the fundamental core of his being, is the same in all. The various personality characteristics which separate one Jew from another are external factors, secondary in nature to the essence of their beings: an essence in which all are included and find their source. While these factors, because they are external and “added on” to the essence, may vary and change; the essence is unchanging and common to all. And it is to that essence which the prayer service arranged by the Men of the Great Assembly relates and hence it is not individualistic in nature.
This concept is also brought out by the Alter Rebbe in Tanya (Ch. 32) regarding the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael. There, he explains that Ahavas Yisrael must come from the essence of a Jew. True Ahavas Yisrael is possible only because the essence of all Jews is the same; it is only because of that essence that one may truly love someone else as “oneself.” Even though there are different divisions among Jews — heads, leaders of tribes, choppers of wood and drawers of water the fundamental aspect of each of their beings is the same essence. This quality is shared by all Jews equally, the particular differences being only superficial characteristics, extraneous to each one’s essential being.
Although the essence stands above the various particular characteristics, all of those characteristics emanate from it. This concept can be seen in Hillel’s statement (note footnote E) that Ahavas Yisrael is “the entire Torah and the rest is merely explanation. Go and learn.” The mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael itself leads a person to “go and learn” its explanation. Thus, we see a progression. From the essence of Torah — Ahavas Yisrael — one proceeds to its explanation, i.e. relating to all the various different approaches of Torah study and finally reaches Torah’s fundamental goal — the study of Halachah.
The same concept applies to the blessings that are recited at every Jewish wedding. Even though there are marked differences between the parties involved — one may be a head or the leader of a tribe, the others a hewer of wood or a drawer of water; nevertheless each Jew possesses the same essence. >From the standpoint of the essence there is no difference between one Jew and another and hence, the blessings are also the same.
Among the wedding blessings is the blessing “as You bestowed gladness upon Your created beings in the Garden of Eden of old.” The “wedding” referred to in that phrase is interpreted as the union between Adom and Chava, for in the Garden of Eden of old, before confusion and evil were present in the world, there was no one else. This blessing is made at every Jewish wedding for the joy at every wedding must parallel the gladness “You bestowed upon Your created beings in the Garden of Eden of old.” The essence of every Jewish marriage is the same as the essence of the marriage between Adom and Chava.
What is the essence of a Jewish marriage? In a marriage, the power of Ain-Sof — infinity — is revealed through the birth of children. At no other point within all the spiritual worlds and, of course, within this physical world, is this potential expressed. Thus, the essential point of a marriage is related to the essence of Torah, for it is likewise through Torah that we relate to the essence of G-d. This is clearly expressed in regard to the fulfillment of the mitzvah of Terumah where, as our Sages commented, G-d declares, “you are taking Me.”
The above is particularly true at the present time, Ikvesa d’Mashiach (the period right before Mashiach’s coming). The Midrash states that the giving of the Torah was the “Ayrusin” (betrothal) of the Jewish people to G-d and in the Messianic age, the marriage will be consummated. At present, one must have faith in G-d and soon, in the Messianic age, that faith will be reinforced by revelation — “All flesh will see that the mouth of the L-rd has spoken.” In the present time, when only a few days and a few moments are left until the coming of Mashiach, there is a reflection of the marriage relationship. Hence, at present we see the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies “and kings will be your servants and their queens your nursemaids.”
This will be brought about through our action now, in the time of golus. Every mitzvah that a Jew performs should be “for the sake of the union of the Holy One blessed be He with His Shechinah” M. Thus, every mitzvah that we perform and, similarly, the service of “knowing Him in all your ways” and “all your deeds shall be for the sake of Heaven” creates a “union of the Holy One blessed be He with His Shechinah.” This hastens, draws close, and prepares the vessels for the wedding of the Messianic age. That wedding will be revealed within our world, the world in which our service is carried out. In the case of a wedding, the bride and the groom are each involved in preparation for the wedding, and even though in some cases these preparations require much effort, they nevertheless carry them out with joy, realizing they are doing a mitzvah. So too we must carry out our service with joy, knowing it is a mitzvah. Then, we will hasten the wedding of “the Holy one blessed be He with His Shechinah,” speedily in our days.
2. As mentioned above, there are two aspects of Torah:
1) differences as obvious from the fact that Torah contains 600,000 letters and
This is the essence of Torah. The first aspect is expressed by the law that each letter in a Torah scroll must be surrounded by parchment, separate and set aside from the other letters. The second concept is expressed by the statement of Rav Saadia Gaon that the entire Torah is included within the Ten Commandments, the Ten Commandments within the first commandment, and the first commandment within the Aleph of the word Anochi. Thus, Aleph contains within itself the entire Torah.
The letter Aleph is very significant, for Aleph stands for “Alufo Shel Olam — L-rd of the world.” Likewise, it represents unity — Achdus. Similarly, Aleph is the head of all the letters; and just as the head includes within itself all the limbs of the body, the Aleph includes within itself all of the other letters. Likewise, the Aleph of Anochi includes within itself the entire Torah. Even though a Torah is comprised of a multitude of different elements — 600,000 letters, they are all included in the Aleph which represents the essence of Torah.
The Aleph is also connected with man — Adom, and represents the essence of man. In this instance as well, it is shown that man is made up of many different aspects, while possessing a single essence which includes all the other elements. Likewise, an Aleph is also related to the concept of marriage for the aim of marriage is the establishment of achdus, oneness between man and wife. As the Torah declares, “and they shall be one flesh.”
It is customary to try to relate everything to the Torah portion that is read on Shabbos. Likewise, the above concept is related to Parshas Vayishlach as will be explained.
All 600,000 Jews had to be present at the giving of the Torah; and had even one of them been absent, the Torah could not have been given. “The number 600,000 includes the entire range of Jewish souls. These are the roots and all of these roots self-divide into 600,000 sparks.” The concept does not imply that 600,000 is a minimum figure and less than that is insufficient for the giving of Torah, but rather that 600,000 is an all-inclusive figure. 600,000 is the manner in which infinity is expressed in finite terms, the ultimate fullness in a numerical sense. Hence, there is a special blessing, “Chacham Harazim,” recited when 600,000 people congregate together. Likewise, it is stated that King Dovid would enter with 600,000 students and leave with 600,000 students.
Similarly, the number seventy is all-inclusive. Hence, it was with seventy souls that Yaakov entered Egypt. Just as the Torah could not have been given to less than 600,000,the descent into (and the eventual redemption from) Egypt could not have taken place if one of the seventy was lacking. Yocheved’s birth, which took place just as the Jews entered Egypt’s walls, made possible the entrance into Egypt and eventually the exodus from that country.
This demonstrates the importance of the mitzvah “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which applies even to children (for after all, it was Yocheved, a newborn child who helped make up the number seventy). Regarding an adult, one can always find a reason for love — after all the Torah has promised that every Jew will eventually do teshuvah. However, one might ask, what Torah, what mitzvah does a newborn baby fulfill? Yet, it was Yocheved’s birth which made possible the progress of the entire Jewish people. All of the adults, even the Patriarch Yaakov, were dependent upon her. Thus we see the importance of loving even a newborn child as oneself. The essence of the Jewish soul is present at birth. When one grasps part of the essence, one grasps it in its entirety. Hence, even at birth, before she was capable of expressing that essence, she was able to make up the number seventy.
On still a more general level, the totality of the Jewish people are included in the number twelve, the number of the tribes. This represents the completion of Yaakov’s potential as our sages commented, “His bed was complete.” This represents the connection of the above to the portion of the week, for in Parshas Vayishlach, the birth of Binyomin, the last of the twelve tribes is related. The previous portions deal with the Jewish people as they are included within one individual: Avraham or Yitzchok, i.e. in an incomplete state. It is only in Vayishlach that the state of completion, twelve, is reached.
The complete state reached by Yaakov in this portion not only refers to spiritual matters, it includes the material as well. on the verse, “and Yaakov came to Shechem complete,” Rashi comments, “complete in his body, complete in his wealth.” Likewise, Yaakov’s state affected Esav as well. “Esav went into a land away from Yaakov his brother” (36:6), i.e. he fled before him. Likewise, the ultimate conquest of Esav, “Deliverers will go up to Mt. Zion to judge the mount of Esav” is alluded to in this portion.
The fulfillment of that prophecy, to be actualized in the Messianic age, is connected with “the spreading of the wellsprings of Chassidus outward.” This will bring about the redemption. This concept is also related to the present time, the Shabbos in between the 10th and 19th of Kislev. The 19th of Kislev — Yud-Tes Kislev, brought about the spreading of Chassidus outward. The 10th of Kislev — Yud Kislev — represents a further extension of that spreading, the broadening of the wellsprings to even wider expanses. From this, we learn the importance of the study of Chassidus by everyone, men and women. The Previous Rebbe declared that the study of Chassidus is as relevant to women and girls as to men. This can be understood from the statement of the Sefer HaChinuch who writes that all Jews are obligated to love and fear G-d. That can be accomplished only through the study of Chassidus.
The abovementioned concept of the complete state reached by Yaakov in this portion, helps us understand how the principle “the beginning is implanted in the end” applies to our portion. The portion begins “and Yaakov sent messengers before him to Esav his brother” and concludes — “Esav is the father of Edom.” This can be understood by means of a Chassidic concept. Chassidus explains that when Yaakov “tricked” Yitzchok by putting on Esav’s clothes and thus taking his blessings, Yaakov, whose level was that of a tzaddik, acquired the positive qualities of a baal teshuvah as well. This addition is alluded to by Yitzchok’s statement “Gam — Also he shall be blessed.” “Gam” indicates an addition over his own level. Yaakov was not satisfied with carrying out his own service, that of a tzaddik. He also endeavored to refine Esav, i.e. the world around him, and thus attain the level of a baal teshuvah. Hence, Yaakov sent messengers before him to Esav, the intent being to elevate and refine Esav, even at the height of his strength, in the position of “father of Edom.” This service adds to the complete state reached by Yaakov — completion in body, complete in his wealth, and likewise through his service of refining Esav, complete in regard to his position in the world. This brings him to the level of a baal teshuvah, one who refines matters of this world and transforms them into holiness.
This concept contains a lesson applicable to everyone’s service. Each Jew has a portion of Yaakov in him. Every Motzaei Shabbos, the hymn “Do not fear My servant Yaakov” is recited to endow every Jew with the strength to carry out his service. Just as Yaakov was not satisfied with his own personal service but rather “sent messengers” to Esav, similarly every individual must not be satisfied with his own individual service of G-d, but must also go out into the world and work with Esav. Most of the world is Esav’s inheritance and that must be transformed and used for Torah. The strength and vitality of the world must be used for holiness.
This contributes to the service of a baal teshuvah. There is more enthusiasm in the service of a baal teshuvah than in that of a tzaddik. He takes the excitement that was previously directed towards worldly things and redirects it towards Torah, serving G-d with “all your heart” or, as the Talmud interprets, with “both your desires.” The Kabbalah explains this concept as taking the great lights of Tohu which are much greater than the lights of Tikun and drawing them into the vessels of Tikun. Tzaddikim can also carry out a service which parallels these qualities, using not only their G-dly souls, but also the energy of the animal soul for holy matters.
The lesson from the above is obvious. The enthusiasm about worldly matters (Esav) must be transformed and used to generate even greater enthusiasm in the service of Torah and mitzvos. All the Jews are included within Yaakov; hence his service has already given us the strength to refine and elevate the aspects of Esav in the world. Then, the Jewish people will also enjoy Esav’s inheritance — worldly success — as well. This success will not be for the sake of worldliness; rather, the Torah promises worldly success if one fulfills Torah and mitzvos, only in order that one’s service of Torah and mitzvos be completely free of disturbances.
In general, this service is related to a wedding. The conquest of the world by “the lamp of mitzvah and the light of Torah” is similar to the “conquest” of the world which G-d commanded Adom to carry out. Although every mitzvah is a lamp, the mitzvos of the Shabbos lamps, Chanukah lamps, and the lamps of the Temple are the three in which this concept is openly expressed. The lamps of Chanukah have their source in the lamps of the Temple. Likewise, in regard to the Shabbos candles, the Midrash states “If you observe the Shabbos lamps, I will show you the lamps of Zion.” The “lamps of Zion” refer to those of the Temple.
Chanukah candles are closely related to Jewish women, for a woman — Yehudis — had a share in the miracle. Likewise, Shabbos candles are connected with a woman’s service. Hence, this is an appropriate time to stress the other campaigns in which women play a major role — Kashrus and Taharas HaMishpachah. Likewise, in connection with a wedding, it is important to mention the concept of having large families. Yaakov had twelve sons. This was the number of children G-d determined him to have and this made “his bed complete,” teaching us that a couple should not try to interfere with the plans G-d has made for them. They should be willing to have many children, as many as G-d wills. This will not damage one’s health or financial position, for on the contrary, we see that it helped Yaakov achieve a complete state in both health and wealth. In this way, we will fulfill the command “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” We will have many children and merit to see them occupied with Torah and mitzvos. This will lead to happiness “as You bestowed gladness upon your created beings in the Garden of Eden of old” and all the disturbing matters of the world will be transformed into assets as in the “Garden of Eden of old” when even the snake was “a great helper.” And this will lead to the redemption, led by Mashiach, who will rebuild the Temple speedily in our days.
3. Our present age is called “the footsteps of Mashiach,” the time directly before his coming. However, the fact that our age is so close to Mashiach’s coming has led to the bitter and unfortunate error that many have made, calling our era “the beginning of the redemption” for behold Israel is ours, etc. Despite the bitter and awesome darkness of golus, there are those who shout that this is “the beginning of the redemption.”
The Previous Rebbe declared “One cannot minimize the merits possessed by Jews.” On the other hand, neither can one minimize the importance of, or conceal, those things which require correction.
The present world situation including that of Eretz Yisrael is terrifying. First, let us take the number of Jews who study Torah in Israel. Without causing aggravation by stating the exact percentage, it is surely a figure out of proportion to the number who are not. Likewise, the education of children in Israel leaves much to be desired, with only a small percentage receiving a Jewish education. There are people involved in communal affairs who pay no attention to this issue, being more concerned with other matters. And although these affairs are worthwhile and important, the education of Jewish children is at stake. The Talmud declares that even one Jewish soul is “an entire world” and there are multitudes of Jewish souls in question.
There are a large number of children in Israel who have never seen a Torah scroll or even heard about one except perhaps as a historical anomaly — something which in the ancient past, in a strange land, Jewish people used. But in their eyes it is not relevant to the present age.
It is true that there are institutions that teach Torah, but there they also ingrain within their students the very opposite of Ahavas Yisrael, training them to act completely contrary to the example set by Moshe who was a “lover of Israel.” There is no need to criticize these institutions. Rather, what is necessary is to know that nothing is being done to ensure that all Jewish children in Israel receive a Torah education. Most of them have never even seen a Sefer Torah!
The situation in the Diaspora is even worse. There, less than one fourth of all the Jewish children receive even a smattering of a Jewish education. Not only is nothing being done about the problem, the question is no longer even being debated, not even spoken about. The Jewish community is involved in many worthwhile projects. However, even the most active, will agree that these affairs which receive so much attention do not compare in importance to Jewish education. Furthermore, the lack of Jewish education leads to another problem: intermarriage and assimilation.
Mashiach is soon coming. He will lead us out of the redoubled darkness of golus. However, there are those who declare: “What kind of exile is this? Where is the exile? I’ve never had things so good in my life.” Such people feel they have all they want. What do they need Mashiach for? On the contrary, Mashiach will disturb their situation, for after his coming they and everything they worked for will be of no importance!
There are Jewish children who are not receiving a Jewish education and who are not enrolled in Tzivos Hashem. This holds up the Messianic redemption, forcing the child, his parents, Mashiach, and the Shechinah itself to remain in golus a little longer.
There is no need to make any special meeting: Each person, no matter what his place or situation must apply himself to “walking in My statutes, observing My commandments.” This includes men, women, and children. Each must receive the proper education. If we do apply ourselves we will succeed because G-d will help. We cannot despair and say “Why should we do something, what effect will it have?” We have the promise of the Talmud: “If you toil, you will find.”
- (Back to text) Even though in the blessing of Shomeya Tefillah (“Hear our voice...”), recited in the Amidah, each individual can add whatever personal requests he feels necessary to make, nevertheless the majority of the prayer service is universal, recited by all regardless of their differences.
- (Back to text) The Torah command “Love your fellow as yourself” is also a promise, assuring us that we are capable of attaining that level.
- (Back to text) These various differences are not undesirable. On the contrary, Torah itself recognizes them and they have an effect on many Torah matters.
- (Back to text) These differences are evident in regard to prayer. During prayer one should “request one’s needs.” Hence, just as each person’s needs are different, their prayers will likewise vary. The same concept can be seen in the words of the Mishnah “Who is rich? He who is happy with his portion” his portion and not that of another person.
- (Back to text) In Torah as well, there are these two perspectives.
The Torah contains 600,000 letters. Each letter is unique and set apart from the other letters. On the other land, there is an aspect of Torah where there is no difference between one letter and another. Every letter is necessary. The lack of one letter affects the state of the entire Torah. The Zohar brings an example of a case where an extra ‘Vov’ was found in the verse “Shosas Shesa...” and the Kashrus of the entire Torah was affected. on the surface, a Vov does not change the meaning of the word and yet because of this addition it prevented the Torah’s use. Hence, we see that every letter in the Torah affects the entire Torah. From that perspective there is no difference between one letter and another.
The two concepts are interrelated: Through Ahavas Yisrael we can relate to the essence of the Torah. Hillel declared that Ahavas Yisrael is the entire Torah. (Furthermore, the Hebrew expression ‘Kol haTorah Kulo’ implies a complete and totally inclusive state.) Because Ahavas Yisrael is one mitzvah in Torah, one love, one feeling with a totally pure and non-composite nature, it reaches the essence of a Jew and hence, the essence of Torah.
(This interrelation is expressed by our Sages who declared that if one individual of the 600,000 who received the Torah was not present the entire Torah would not have been given. It does not matter who that individual was — a leader of a tribe or a simple water carrier. Any Jew, because he possesses that fundamental essential spark is important and hence the absence of even one would have prevented, Heaven forbid, the Torah from being given.)
- (Back to text) This concept can be derived from an analysis of the terms used. The Hebrew term for “learn” used by Hillel, “gemor”, also implies completion. Ahavas Yisrael can bring a person to the completion of his Torah, i. e. that aspect of study which deals with actual deed, which in turn leads to the fulfillment of the deed.
- (Back to text) The fact that a blessing is recited implies a surety of the nature of the situation. Note the statement of the Alter Rebbe, Iggeres HaTeshuvah 11.
- (Back to text) Note the text Samach T’Samach which discusses this concept in depth. However, as the idea is developed in that work, the same principle applies in regard to the birth of animals or even the growth of crops. There, too, the power of Ain Sof is re-revealed. However, there is an obvious difference. A blessing is recited at a wedding and not when one sows his field.
- (Back to text) The Pri Eitz Chaim states that this expression should be recited before fulfilling all mitzvos. Lubavitch custom, as observed from the previous Rebbeim, is not to make such a declaration. (What their intention was on the plane of thought we cannot know.) However, since before the prayer “Baruch She’amar” this declaration is made, a continuous effect carries on throughout the entire day, particularly in connection with one’s fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos.
- (Back to text) The two are interrelated. The first day of creation is called Yom Echad. The proper term for the first day would be Yom Rishon. The term Echad was used to teach us that it was a day of oneness, a day “when G-d was alone in the world; there was nothing else, but Him in the world.”
- (Back to text) The Talmud Yerushalmi writes that the word Emes is made up of an Aleph — the head of all the letters, the Tof — the end of the alphabet, and Mem — the middle. This shows how “I (G-d) am first, I am last, and there is no other G-d aside from Me.”
- (Back to text) Hence, the Talmud states that 600,000 people be present at a funeral for “just as Torah was given with 600,000 in attendance, it should be returned so.”
- (Back to text) Similarly, the redemption from Egypt started the process leading to the messianic redemption as alluded to in the verse “as in the days of your Exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.”
- (Back to text) The birth of Binyomin is particularly significant. Rashi declares that the promise “Kings will emerge from your loins” refers to Binyomin.
- (Back to text) Similarly, Rashi (33:4) quotes the explanation of R. Shimon bar Yochai, who revealed and drew down Torah’s mystic secrets, that Esav kissed Yaakov “with all his heart.” Even though, it is known that Esav hates Yaakov, that moment was a special instance.
- (Back to text) If Yud Kislev is an extension of Yud-Tes Kislev, it would seem that their order on the calendar should be reversed. However, the Yud Kislev of the present year comes in continuation of the service of Yud-Tes Kislev in the previous year.
- (Back to text) This relates to Esav who was the “father of Edom,” the source of worldly excitement. Tikun is related to Yaakov. The fusion of the two can be seen in King Dovid who was described as “Edmoni,” drawing down the light of Tohu, but was still “small,” the quality of Tikun.
- (Back to text) The lights of the Temple and Chanukah are closely related. The sanctuary in the desert was finished on the 25th of Kislev. It was not dedicated then, but rather in Nissan. In compensation, G-d brought about the rededication of the Temple on Chanukah.
- (Back to text) Furthermore, this must be done in the fullest manner possible. The Talmud relates that when one doesn’t give the proper measure of tzedakah, one’s own wealth is diminished. Tzedakah is the only mitzvah of which G-d declares “Test Me please, in this.” If it is not fulfilled to the proper measure, it creates a negative effect. The same applies in the area of Jewish education.
- (Back to text) However, we must be careful not to attribute this success to our own efforts, but rather to realize that it was powers from G-d that made it possible.
- (Back to text) The word “find” implies a success that is totally beyond one’s expectations.