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A Twofold Consolation
Sichos in English

Shabbos Parshas VaEschanan, Shabbos Nachamu; 13th Day of Menachem Av, 5750

The 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.

This 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.

The 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.

This 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 spiritual.

Indeed, 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 intention.

Accordingly, 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.

This 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.

More 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 and feelings).

Our 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.

This 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.

There 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.

A 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.

The 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 studies.)

Furthermore, 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...”

On 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.

Conversely, 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.

Based 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 HaMikdash.

On 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).

The 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.

This 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.

To 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).

A 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).

In 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 together.

On 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 intellect).

We 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.

This 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 destroyed.

Moshe’s 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.

From 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.

2. 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.

It 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 maamerAsara 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.

This 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 Solomon.

In 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 Beis HaMikdash.


On the surface, swaying disturbs one’s concentration. Nevertheless, this is common practice, since a Jew’s physical and spiritual activities complement each other.





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 Solomon.


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