Life, The Life Of A Jew
to Prepare for Yud Shvat 15th of Teives, 5750
Tonight begins the fifteenth of Teives, the day on which “the
moon shines in its fullness.” Accordingly, we can understand
that on this day, all the aspects of the month are revealed in a
uniqueness of Teives is described by our Sages as “the month
when the body derives pleasure from the body.” The previous sicha
(10 Teives) explained that this refers to the pleasure that our
bodies will derive from the Divine equivalent of the body after
completing the service of refining the lowest elements of
existence. On the 15th of Teives this level is completely
fact, this year, since the 15th of Teives is Friday, this quality
is especially pronounced, for this is the day on which the work of
creation was completed. The expression “And G-d saw that it was
good” was repeated twice on Friday —once for Friday itself,
and once for the entire creation. Our Sages described the sixth
day as the day when “everything was prepared for the feast,”
referring to both a physical and a spiritual feast. They also
associate the sixth day with the sixth of Sivan, the day the Torah
was given. The Torah is “the Torah of truth,” which reveals
the truth in every aspect of creation and thus brings the creation
to its ultimate fulfillment.
ultimate fulfillment will be revealed after the Messianic
Redemption. Then, we will see how “all that He made is very
good.” It will then be apparent that not only the first
millennia of creation, reflecting the sfira of kindness, is
good, but also the second millennia, reflecting the sfira of
severity, is also good.
above discussion relates to this week’s Torah portion, which
begins, “And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt.” Yaakov Avinu
was able to live — in the full sense of the word as Torah
defines it — not only in Eretz Yisroel, but even in
Egypt, the lowest levels of this world. Yaakov Avinu spent 17
years in Egypt, 17 being numerically equivalent to “tov,”
Avinu’s soul contains the entire Jewish people; each Jew has a
spark of Yaakov in his soul. This spark grants him the potential
to “live” even when he is in “Egypt,” in the midst of the
exile. This is surely true at present, at the last moments of the
exile, directly before the Redemption. It is the sixth millennia,
which is equivalent to Friday and it is already past midday.
Furthermore, we are in the midst of a unique year, 5750, “A Year
all the concepts involving the 15th of Teives reflect a state of
completeness. It is “A Year of Miracles” and “a month when
the body derives pleasure from the body.” It is the 15th of the
month, the night when the moon is full. The weekly Torah portion
is Parshas VaYechi and it is Friday, the day when the entire
creation is brought to a complete state. We are, therefore,
prepared to proceed from Parshas VaYechi to the Book of Shmos, the
book that describes the exodus of the Jewish people. Similarly,
through the spreading of the wellsprings of Chassidus, we will
soon “emerge from the exile with mercy.”
We are presently within the 30-day period before Yud Shvat. It is,
therefore, appropriate to mention the preparations to be made for
that day. As has been the custom in the past years, the farbrengen
associated with the Rebbe Rayatz’s yahrzeit will be
held on the preceding Shabbos. Afterwards, on Sunday (as is
customary) and on Monday (the day of the yahrzeit), I will
go to the tziyun of the Rebbe Rayatz.
is appropriate to use these days (the day before the yahrzeit
and the day of the yahrzeit) for disseminating Chassidus.
This should be done in a manner that reflects how, after forty
years, we have been given, “a knowing heart, eyes that see, and
ears that hear.”
possible we should repeat — at least one statement of — the
Rebbe Rayatz’s teachings. Emphasis should be placed on the maamer
“Basi L’Gani,” which the Rebbe Rayatz released to
be studied on Yud Shvat, and/or his maamarim that deal with
the weekly portion, Parshas B’Shalach, which alludes to the
Messianic Redemption. Similarly, emphasis should be placed on
carrying out the Rebbe Rayatz’s directives.
order to ensure that all the above is carried out in an organized
manner, a period of preparation is required wherein different
approaches can be tried. This method will ensure a greater measure
of success. May these efforts bring about the era when “those
that lie in the dust will arise and sing,” with the Rebbe Rayatz
among them. This will be accomplished by the service of Yosef, the
Rebbe Rayatz’s first name, which is connected with Rachel’s
prayer, “May G-d add to me another son.” Chassidus explains
that the posuk refers to transforming those aspects of
existence which are “other,” estranged from G-dliness, into a
son. This will herald the coming of the Messianic Redemption,
which is connected with Yitzchok, the Rebbe Rayatz’s second
16th Day of Teives, 5750
Parshas VaYechi is the conclusion of the book of Bereishis, the
first of the five books of the Chumash. It is called, “The Book
of the Just,” “the book of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, who
are called, ‘just.’”
on the principle, “the deeds of the Patriarchs are a sign for
their descendants,” this book outlines the totality of a Jew’s
service. “Va’yechi” means “and he lived.” Thus,
the lesson of Parshas VaYechi is fundamental, centering around
Sages declared that the Jewish people are truly alive, their life
stemming from the Torah, which is “our life and the length of
our days.” If so, what lesson can be learned from VaYechi? For,
as it stands, a Jew’s existence is one of life.
same question can be asked from a different perspective: The Alter
Rebbe taught that we must “live with the times,” “with the
weekly Torah portion.” What does it mean to live with VaYechi,
to live with life itself?
the name VaYechi warrants explanation, since the parasha actually
speaks about the apparent loss of life, the life of Yaakov Avinu.
portion reveals how Yaakov’s life was eternal. Even after his
passing he remained alive because “his descendants are alive.”
Thus, all the events related in the parasha are expressions
of this life.
thought explains that a person cannot feel his own life-force. We
are limited human beings, capable of feeling and perceiving only
that which is itself limited. Since our life-force is of a general
nature, above all particular divisions, we cannot feel it. Though
we do have certain powers we can feel and take control of. For
example, intellect, sight, and hearing. These powers are limited
in nature, revealed within the limbs of the body. Thus, we can
perceive their presence.
above explanation, however, is problematic. We begin our day by
reciting “Modeh Ani,” thanking G-d for our general
life-force. Not only do we thank Him for the particular
expressions of His beneficence mentioned in the morning blessings,
we acknowledge that He has granted us the gift of life as a
totality. Indeed, this is the most prominent of our expressions of
thanks, recited immediately upon waking up in the morning.
this expression of thanks does not come because we understand and
have meditated upon the fact that G-d has returned our souls. On
the contrary, we express our thanks simply because we feel that
our soul has been returned. If so, this appears to contradict the
statements made above that the soul cannot be felt.
contradiction can be resolved as follows: Since the soul
transcends division, it cannot be felt or perceived. This is true,
however, only within the natural order of creation. The connection
of the body and the soul itself, however, transcends that order.
In fact, this connection is only possible by virtue of G-d’s
miraculous, unlimited power. Hence, the essence of the soul is
able to become connected and permeated through the body and our
active consciousness until it can actually be felt.
on the above, we can better understand the continuation of the “Modeh
Ani” prayer, “Your faithfulness is great.” G-d’s
faithfulness is totally unbounded and thus, permeates even our
similar concept applies in relation to the blessing, “Elokai
Neshama,” which states: “My G-d, the soul which You have
given within me is pure. You created it. You formed it, etc.”
Several questions arise. Among them:
The order of the blessing’s phraseology is difficult: Before the
soul was created, how could it exist and be pure?
After addressing the blessing to “My G-d,” why is it necessary
to add the word “Ataí” (You) in the expression “You
created it” (Ata barasa)”? The same concept is conveyed
by “barasa” without the pronoun “Ata”?
questions can be resolved as follows: The expression “the soul
You have given...is pure,” refers to the soul as it exists in
the world of Atzilus. The three expressions “You created it, You
formed it..., You...” refer to the soul’s manifestation in the
three worlds of Bria, Yetzira, and Asiya. In order for the soul to
descend to the lower levels, a source of influence above Atzilus
(the highest world) is needed. Thus, the liturgy reads “Ata,”
You, i.e., G-d’s essence. G-d’s essence is the force that
makes the soul’s descent possible. G-d’s infinite power causes
even “the soul that You have given within me,” within this
world, to be pure.
on the above, we can understand the lesson to be derived from
Parshas VaYechi. VaYechi refers to the essence of life, not only
the life-energy that is revealed by the soul. It refers to the
life of the soul itself, the very source of life, “the L-rd,
your G-d, is true. He is the living G-d.” The life-energy,
nevertheless, is extended until it serves as the source of life on
the material plane for a soul with a body.
this context, we can understand the opening phrase of Parshas
VaYechi, “And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen
years.” Each of the words has unique significance.
can be broken up into “yud eikev.” The soul, the Yud,
is drawn down throughout the individual’s total personality
until it effects even its heel, the very lowest part of the body.
the land” — Our Sages explain that the word “land” is
connected to the word “want.” “Why was it called land (aretz)?
Because it wanted (ratzta) to do its Creator’s will.”
Despite the great descent, there is still a desire to fulfill
(Mitzrayim) is associated with the concept of boundaries and
limitations (meitzarim). In this context, however, it has a
positive connotation — that the unlimited life-force of the soul
permeates the limitations of human personality.
is numerically equivalent to “tov” (good). The
influence from Above descends to become invested within a
person’s being to the extent that he consciously feels its
this verse clarifies and emphasizes that the life-energy of the
soul, which is unlimited and hence, reflected in the power of
faith, becomes drawn down into our conscious intellect and
emotion. There is a parallel in our prayers, in which the
expression of thanks of “Modeh Ani” becomes
invested in the particulars of the morning blessings, which
include all the person’s needs throughout the day.
Torah is “our life and the length of our days,” resembling the
general life-force that cannot be felt until it becomes
internalized in a specific power of the soul. Similarly, the
influence of the Torah as a whole becomes apparent when a person
lives with the particular aspect of Torah that is relevant to the
time at hand, i.e., the weekly Torah portion.
combines the two, revealing the general life-force of Torah,
drawing down the unlimited Divine energy that is above the Torah.
This allows the essential life-energy, the essence of the Torah,
to be drawn down into our consciousness.
“looked into the Torah and created the world.” This statement
implies that the revelation within Torah brings about a revelation
of the life-energy of the world. Thus, it is apparent that “the
heavens and earth and everything they contain came into being only
from the truth of His Being.” This, of course, will be obvious
in the Messianic age when, “the earth will be filled with the
knowledge of G-d as the waters fill up the ocean bed.”
Therefore, Parshas VaYechi is an appropriate conclusion for the
book of Bereishis. Compare Bereishis and the other books of the
Torah and you find that there are many more mitzvos
mentioned in the other books. This is because Bereishis is the
source and root of the other mitzvos. It represents the
middle column, which is above (not restricted by) the divisions of
right and left — the 248 positive mitzvos, which reflect
kindness, the right column, and the 365 negative commandments,
which reflect the left column.
the book of Bereishis speaks about the lives of the Patriarchs,
who reflect the level of Atzilus. In contrast, the other four
books reveal the mitzvos which express G-dliness in the
levels below Atzilus. Therefore, the book of Bereishis, the
essence and the source of Torah, concludes with Parshas VaYechi,
which reflects the essence and the source of life (of the Torah
and of the Jews).
the book of Bereishis, we declare, “Chazak, Chazak,
v’nischazeik,” reinforcing the process of transition
through which these essential powers descend and are internalized
within our consciousness.
Yaakov Avinu represents Atzilus, the highest of the worlds. His
children (with the exception of Yosef) represent the world of
Bria. Yosef’s spiritual source, however, is even beyond the
level of Atzilus. Accordingly, it is within his potential to draw
down the revelation of Atzilus to the world of Bria, and thus, to
the other lower worlds.
refers to the soul as it exists within Atzilus, the essence of the
soul, which is beyond division. The tribes can be compared to the
soul as it is revealed within the body. But Yosef reflects the
essential G-dly energy through which the soul is brought down
within the body, allowing for the essential life-energy of the
Jewish soul to be felt within the body even when the Jews are in a
state of exile.
this basis, we can explain the connection of VaYechi to the
particular concepts mentioned in the portion. The beginning of the
Torah portion relates how Yosef took his two sons, Ephraim and
Menasheh, to be blessed by Yaakov. Similarly, the conclusion of
the portion mentions these two.
and Menasheh are representative of the entire Jewish people, as
implied by Yaakov’s blessing: “By you, Yisroel will be
blessed. They will say, ‘May G-d make you like Ephraim and
Menashe.’” In particular, Ephraim and Menashe represent the
Jewish people in exile. Thus, by bringing Ephraim and Menasheh to
Yaakov, Yosef was preparing for the influence of Yaakov to be
drawn down to the Jewish people in exile.
Yosef’s effort to sustain the Jewish people in Egypt involved
giving them spiritual, as well as material, nurture. This prepared
them for the exodus from Egypt, as we read in the book of Shmos,
which we begin reading at Mincha.
must bring all the above to the level of deed for “action is the
main thing.” On Shabbos Parshas VaYechi, a Jew should feel and
express new life in Torah and mitzvos. It is Shabbos
Chazak, a Shabbos that should strengthen him, his family, and his
should be connected with a Chassidic farbrengen. In
general, it is proper to “gather the congregation together on
Shabbos” through the organization of a Kiddush. May this
custom spread throughout the Jewish community. This is
particularly appropriate on Shabbos Chazak, when we celebrate the
conclusion of one of the books of the Torah. This celebration must
reflect, in microcosm, the celebrations of Simchas Torah.
uniqueness of the present time is emphasized because we are within
30 days of Yud Shvat, the yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rayatz.
Especially this year, the 40th anniversary of his passing. Just as
Yosef gave the Jews the power to emerge from the Egyptian exile,
following the directives of the Yosef of our generation will give
us the potential to proceed to the Messianic Redemption. May it be
speedily in our days.