Sichos in English
Parshas VaEschanan, Shabbos Nachamu; 13th Day of Menachem Av, 5750
Haftora of Shabbos Nachamu, the first of the Seven Shabbasos of
Consolation, begins, “Take comfort, take comfort, My people.” Our
Sages explain the repetition of this phrase as follows: The sins of the
Jewish people, the retribution they receive and the consolation they
receive thereafter are interrelated. The Jewish people sinned in a
twofold manner, thus they were punished in a twofold manner and they
will likewise be consoled in a twofold manner.
statement, however, is slightly problematic. Even when a sin is twofold
in nature, a person should receive one just measure of retribution and
after repenting, one equivalent measure of consolation.
repetition of the phrase, “Take comfort, take comfort,” implies not
that we will be given two different consolations, but that there will be
a single consolation that is twofold in nature, relating to both our
spiritual and physical dimensions.
point is reflected in the fact that the consolation is granted for the Beis
HaMikdash, which is also twofold, having both physical and spiritual
dimensions. It was a physical building, yet simultaneously it was also a
Sanctuary for G-d, the place where the Divine presence was openly
revealed. Revealed spirituality permeated every aspect of the Beis
HaMikdash. Thus, the actual building was both physical and
this was evident from the manner in which the Beis HaMikdash and
its vessels were constructed. At the outset, the materials that were
used had to be consecrated, as it states, “And You shall take an
offering for Me;” i.e., “for My sake.” Similarly, the command to
build the Sanctuary states, “And you shall build for Me a
Sanctuary,” i.e., “for My sake.” Correspondingly, the service in
the Beis HaMikdash, the offering of the sacrifices, was twofold
in nature, including a physical deed which was permeated by a spiritual
the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash was twofold in nature. The
intent is not that there were two levels, or two stages of destruction,
but that the destruction was simultaneously physical and spiritual in
nature. Accordingly, the consolation must be twofold, involving both the
spiritual and the physical. This will be revealed in the third Beis
HaMikdash, the “Sanctuary of the L-rd established by Your
hands.” It will reveal the ultimate expression of spirituality within
a physical building, fusing the spiritual and the physical together.
fusion of physicality and spirituality must also be reflected in our
Divine service, which involves drawing G-d’s presence into the world,
transforming the world into a dwelling for G-dliness. The world was
created in a manner allowing its material substance to conceal G-dliness.
G-dliness appears to be an added dimension to our existence. Our service
of Torah and mitzvos involves the material substance of the world
and is intended to invest G-dliness (spiritual power and energy) in that
material substance. This transforms the world into a twofold dwelling
for G-d, a dwelling where spirituality and physicality are fused
together. Indeed, G-dliness will ultimately be openly revealed within
the physical dimension of the world.
precisely, the twofold nature of the service of Torah and mitzvos
is reflected by fusing together the performance of the mitzva (a
physical deed, carried out with material entities) and the intent of the
mitzva (the spiritual service which is reflected in our thoughts
Sages explain that each person is a microcosm of the world at large. In
the world at large, our service involves working to reveal its spiritual
life-force within its material substance. Similarly, each person’s
individual world is two dimensional, including both body and soul. Our
service is to reveal how the two are actually one, by employing our body
and our physical power as intermediaries for the revelation of the soul
through the service of Torah and mitzvos.
process makes the individual into a unified being, whose life is two
dimensional, combining spirituality and physicality, body and soul, in a
single activity – the service of G-d. Not only must a Jew serve G-d
with both a service of the body and a service of the soul, but he must
approach G-d with a service that fuses the two – physicality and
spirituality – together. In this manner he will reveal the soul of the
world, its spiritual life-force.
are two dimensions to this service: Mitzvos that are primarily
spiritual (dependent on the intellect or the emotions) must be performed
in a manner that one’s body and soul join together in a unified
activity. For example, the mitzva of prayer is primarily a
spiritual activity, as our Sages declared: “What is the service of the
heart? Prayer.” The mitzvos of loving G-d and fearing Him
involve the arousal of spiritual feelings, which do not necessarily
affect our physical hearts. However, the ultimate expression of these mitzvos
is for them to affect the heart, causing it to yearn with a burning love
for G-d and to beat faster in fear of Him. The physical and spiritual
dimensions become fused together in a single expression of emotion.
similar principle applies regarding Torah study, an intellectual service
that is on an even higher plane than emotion. There is a natural
connection between our feelings and our physical state. When a person
feels an emotion, there are times when his pulse will be affected. In
contrast, intellectual activity is cold. The comprehension of a concept
does not bring about any physical activity.
ultimate effect of Torah study, however, is that a person’s
intellectual activity should affect his physical brain. Intensive study
causes furrows in the brain, which actually increase the brain’s
capacity for further intellectual activity. (Since this concept applies
to Torah study, it also applies to other intellectual activities and
Torah study must involve “all one’s 248 limbs”; only then will it
be preserved. It is Jewish practice to sway back and forth during study
and prayer. The person is totally involved, physically as well as
spiritually, “My entire being shall declare...”
the surface, swaying in this manner is not desirable, for any physical
activity disturbs one’s concentration. Furthermore, it is common to
shake back and forth when hearing one’s teacher relate words of Torah.
This could even be considered as disrespectful. Nevertheless, this is
common practice, since a Jew’s physical and spiritual activities
complement each other.
most mitzvos involve physical acts whose fulfillment must be
infused with a spiritual dimension, which is the intention motivating
the fulfillment of the mitzva. For example, in regard to the mitzva
of tzedaka, the essential element of the mitzva is to
provide the recipient with his needs. This can be accomplished without
any intellectual or emotional input on the part of the donor. On the
contrary, our Sages teach that if a person loses money and a poor person
finds it, he is considered to have fulfilled the mitzva of tzedaka.
Nevertheless, the proper manner for tzedaka to be given is for
his mind and his heart to be involved, for him to give graciously, etc.
on the above, we can understand the passage from our Sages referred to
originally. The Jewish people’s sin was twofold, affecting their state
and that of the world in both a spiritual and physical way. Accordingly,
the punishment they received, the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash
and the subsequent exile, was also twofold, spiritual and physical, in
nature. It is through a twofold service that one brings about the
conclusion of the exile and the twofold consolation, the ultimate fusion
of physicality and spirituality that will be revealed in the third Beis
a deeper level, the consolation connected with our physical dimension
(and is brought about by our fulfillment of the physical dimensions of
the mitzvos [which is not connected with intellect or reason])
has a higher source than the aspect of the consolation that relates to
our spiritual dimension (and which is brought about by the spiritual
dimensions of the mitzvos).
physical deed, which in and of itself has no connection to reason and
intellect and at times is not motivated by intellect, relates to and
expresses a level which transcends intellect entirely. Nevertheless, the
ultimate intent is to involve all aspects of our being. Hence, there is
also a need for a spiritual service involving our intellect and emotion.
is the inner explanation of our Sages’ statement regarding the
fulfillment of the mitzva of tzedaka cited above.
Intellectually, the person did not think of giving tzedaka; he
lost the money and did not know that it would reach the hands of a poor
man. Nevertheless, the source for his act is rooted in a service of G-d
beyond all intellectual grasp.
internalize this quality, it is proper that tzedaka be given in a
manner in which one does not know the recipient. Of course, giving tzedaka
in this way should still be done with a full heart. This is reflected in
our Sages’ advice to hang tzedaka over one’s shoulder and
allow the poor to take. In this manner, one combines knowledge (the
willful intent to give) with not knowing (that which is above knowledge;
the inability to identify the recipients).
similar fusion of intent should be present in regard to all the mitzvos.
One should combine kabbalas ol (an acceptance of the yoke, a
commitment that transcends intellect) with a commitment based on
knowledge of the mitzva and its intent (intellect).
this context, the twofold nature of our service does not mean only the
fusion of the spiritual and the physical, but also the fusion of the
levels above reason with reason. This is possible because every fusion
of opposites has its source in G-d’s essence, which is above all
limits and qualities, includes them all, and thus, can fuse them all
this foundation, the consolation of the Jewish people that will come in
the Messianic age can be conceived as a single essential point, the
level of yechida, which represents the ultimate expression of all
qualities. Accordingly, Moshiach — who is connected with the level of yechida
— “will come at a time of distraction,” (i.e., the level above
intellect) and yet will, at the same time, be a teacher (reflecting
see a similar fusion of the supra-intellectual and the intellectual in
regard to G-d. G-d declares, “I discovered Dovid, My servant.”
Something that is discovered was not known about previously; it relates
to a level above knowledge. Nevertheless, although the choice of Dovid
transcended intellect, it was expressed through a careful series of
events. There were two sisters, Ruth and Orpa. Ruth clung to Naomi,
whereas Orpa did not. Ultimately, this sequence led to the birth of
Yishai, who was the father of Dovid HaMelech. After Dovid was born, G-d
tested his leadership qualities through his care for sheep and caused
him to undergo several trials until he became king of Israel. Thus, the
two-fold consolation mentioned above is also connected with Moshiach and
the quality of yechida that he will reveal.
shares a connection to Parshas VaEschanan, which describes Moshe
Rabbeinu’s prayer to enter Eretz Yisroel. Had his prayer been
accepted, Moshe would have led the Jewish people into Eretz Yisroel and
built an eternal Beis HaMikdash which could never have been
prayer includes the totality of existence, for “va’eschanan”
is numerically equivalent to 515. Our Sages relate that there are seven
heavens and seven spaces between these heavens. The size of the earth
and each of these heavens and spaces is the distance that a person can
walk in five hundred years. Thus, 15 times 500 represents the entire
scope of existence.
VaEschanan, we proceed to Parshas Eikev, “And it shall come to pass
after you listen.” Chassidus interprets “listening” as stemming
from kabbalas ol, a commitment transcending all limits, but
becomes internalized through the powers of the intellect. This brings
about “And the L-rd, your G-d, will preserve for you the covenant and
the kindness which He swore to your ancestors,” a covenant resulting
from a commitment that is not limited by intellect.
The Talmud explains that from the fifteenth of Av onward, the power of
the sun decreases and “whoever increases will receive an increase.”
Rashi explains that whoever increases his Torah study at night will have
his life increased. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch mentions
the importance of increasing Torah study at night from the fifteenth of
Av onward. Since the Torah is “our life and the length of our days,”
an increase in Torah study will lead to an increase in our life spans.
is proper to publicize the importance of increasing Torah study from the
fifteenth of Av onward so that it will affect each individual, his
family and the entire Jewish people. Furthermore, as explained in the
Rebbe Rayatz’s maamer “Asara SheYoshvim,” it is
preferable that this study be communal in nature. Therefore, we should
strengthen existing Torah shiurim and establish new shiurim
wherever possible. Since “study is great because it leads to deed,”
this increase in Torah study will surely bring about an increase in the
performance of mitzvos.
will also lead to an increase in life. In simple terms, those who
increase their Torah study will have their life span increased.
Furthermore, a Jew’s commitment to Torah study will lift him above all
worries. Thus, our Sages declared, “The Torah was given only to the
eaters of mann”; a Jew who studies Torah should be able to
devote himself to that study entirely without any concern for worldly
affairs. He can rely on G-d to provide for all his needs and for the
needs of his family. Even if a person has financial worries, making a
commitment to Torah study will lift him above them entirely, for as our
Sages relate, every Jew deserves affluence equal to that of King
this manner we will merit a long, prosperous and healthy life which will
be dedicated to the study of Torah. This will lead to the time when,
together with the entire Jewish people, we proceed with Moshiach to
Eretz Yisroel and to the ultimate consolation, the building of the third