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True Life, The Life Of A Jew
Sichos in English

Directive to Prepare for Yud Shvat 15th of Teives, 5750

1. 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 complete fashion.

The 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 revealed.

In 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.

This 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.

The 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,” good.

Yaakov 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 of Miracles.”

Thus, 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.”

2. 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.

It 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.”

Wherever 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.

In 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 name.

Shabbos Parshas VaYechi
16th Day of Teives, 5750

1. 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.’”

Based 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 life itself.

Our 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.

The 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?

Also, the name VaYechi warrants explanation, since the parasha actually speaks about the apparent loss of life, the life of Yaakov Avinu.

This 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.

Chassidic 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.

The 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.

Thus, 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.

This 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.

Based 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 conscious powers.

A 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:

a) The order of the blessing’s phraseology is difficult: Before the soul was created, how could it exist and be pure?

b) 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”?

These questions can be resolved as follows: The expression “the soul You have 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.

Based 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.

In 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.

“Yaakov” 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.

“In 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 G-d’s will.

“Egypt” (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.

“Seventeen” 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 goodness.

Thus, 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.

The 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.

VaYechi 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.

G-d “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.”

2. 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.

Thus, 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).

Concluding 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.

3. 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.

“Yaakov” 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.

On 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.

Ephraim 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.

Similarly, 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.

We 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 entire surroundings.

This 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.

The 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.



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...





VaYechi refers to the essence of life, the life of the soul itself, the very source of life.


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