Anxious Anticipation Of The Redemption

Sichos in English


Shabbos Parshas R’ei; 1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5751

1. Parshas R’ei is always read at a time associated with the month of Elul – either on the Shabbos on which the month of Elul is blessed or on Rosh Chodesh Elul, as in the present year.


On the surface, Elul and R’ei appear to represent two opposite thrusts. Elul is an acronym for the Hebrew words “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” and thus represents the service performed by a Jew on his own initiative. Such service inspires a revelation from Above. By contrast, Parshas R’ei begins with the verse, “Behold, I am giving before you today the blessing...” It thus relates to revelation from Above. Indeed, each of the words of this verse emphasize that approach:


“Behold” – seeing, implies the establishment of a deep and powerful connection. Our Sages thus state, “hearing does not resemble seeing,” and they forbid a eye witness from serving as a judge. Once someone has seen a misdeed committed, he will never be able to conceive of a redeeming virtue for the defendant. By contrast, when a person merely hears about a misdeed that was committed by someone, he is allowed to serve as a judge. In fact, all trials depend on listening to such testimony.


What is the reason for this difference? Through hearing, one approaches a concept step by step, gathering all the details. This resembles an ascent. With seeing, by contrast, one is brought into direct contact with the totality of the event at once. Only afterwards, does one focus attention on the particulars. This reflects the approach of revelation from Above.


“I” refers to G-d’s essence as it is reflected in an uplifted and exalted manner. This can be seen in the contrast between the words “Ani” and “Anochi.” Although both mean I, Anochi communicates a greater sense of pride and personal magnitude, as is obvious from Shmuel’s statement, “I (anochi) am the seer.”


“Am giving” clearly implies a gift from Above and furthermore, as our Sages comment, “Whoever gives, gives generously.”


“Before you” – “lifneichem” in Hebrew – relates to the word p’nimiyus, (“inner dimension”). This emphasizes the approach of revelation from Above. We begin by focusing on our inner being and then proceed to the external dimensions. (The process of ascent, by contrast, involves the opposite approach, i.e., proceeding from the external to the internal.)


“Today” reflects the concepts of light and revelation, for the day is the time of light. It is also associated with a dimension of eternality, as our Sages state, “Whenever the word ‘today’ is used, [the influence] is eternal and forever.” This is possible because it involves a revelation from Above, which does not take into consideration the limitations of the recipient.


“Blessing” clearly refers to an extension of influence from Above. Moreover, the blessings referred to in this verse are of the highest nature, as reflected in the continuation of the verse, which mentions the opposite of blessing. We see this concept expressed in a Talmudic narrative that relates that Rabbi Shimon sent his son, Rabbi Elazar, to receive a blessing from two Sages. The Sages made statements that appeared to be curses and caused Rabbi Elezar much distress. When he returned to his father, the latter explained that these statements were in fact blessings, but of such a high order that could only descend through outwardly appearing as curses. This relates to the service of baalei t’shuva, who have the potential to transform matters that appear to be of a negative nature into positive influences. This transformation of darkness into light, represents a higher dimension of good.


These concepts reinforce the contrast between the month of Elul, which focuses on the service of ascending upward on one’s initiative, and Parshas R’ei, which focuses on revelation from Above.


It is possible to resolve this difficulty by explaining that since Elul is the month of stocktaking for the entire year, and the time in which we can correct any deficiencies in either of these services, it includes both thrusts of service carried out by the Jewish people throughout the year – the service of ascent and revelation from Above.


These two services are reflected in the two days of Rosh Chodesh Elul. The first day, the thirtieth day of the month of Av, is associated with the service of revelation from Above. This concept is given additional emphasis this year, because the first day of Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbos, a day of revelation. The fundamental dimension of the day is spiritual service, prayer, and Torah study, and this spirituality is extended even into the material realm. Our Shabbos pleasure thus includes eating and drinking. The second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, by contrast, focuses on the service of elevating our material world, and doing so on our own initiative. This is emphasized by the fact that it falls out on Sunday, because Sunday is the beginning of the week, i.e., the first of the days in which man goes out to involve himself in the world, and in doing so, elevate and refine the world at large.


In this context, it can be explained that Parshas R’ei is involved with only a certain dimension of the service of Elul, namely, the stocktaking of the service of revelation from Above. It is, however, a more comprehensive approach to find a connection between Parshas R’ei and the month of Elul as a whole. Since, as mentioned previously, the fundamental aspect of the month of Elul is service on one’s own initiative, it is proper that a connection be established between the Torah reading and this service.


This connection can be established by focusing on the advantages of these two services and the interrelation between them. The service of “I am my Beloved’s” possesses an advantage over the service of “my Beloved is mine,” in that this service is accomplished through man’s own initiative. It possesses a limitation, however, for since man is limited, such service can reach only those levels of G-dliness that relate to the limitations of man, and not to the infinite dimensions of G-dliness. The service of “my Beloved is mine,” by contrast, reflects the revelation of G-d to man, as He is, unlimited and unbounded. Nevertheless, since this comes about as a revelation from Above, it is not appreciated by man. Quite the contrary – it is regarded as “bread of shame.” Therefore, there is a need for the fusion of both modes of service. This is reflected in the name Elul. In this manner, even service carried out by man on his own initiative will have an unlimited dimension.


2.   More particularly, the fusion of these two thrusts is expressed through the five services identified with the five verses from Tanach for which the name Elul serves as an acronym:


Prayer: “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li” – “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” For it is through prayer that the love relationship with G-d is intensified.


Torah study: “Ina le’yado ve’samti lo – “It chance to happen, and I set aside for you a place.” This verse describes the Cities of Refuge and thus refers to Torah study for “the words of Torah provide refuge.”


Deeds of kindness: “ish le’re’eihu u’matanos la’evyonim“A man to his fellow and gifts to the poor.” In this verse, the concept of deeds of kindness is clearly expressed.


T’shuva: “Es levavcha ve’es levav“And G-d your L-rd will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants.” For the service of t’shuva is primarily the inner service of changing one’s inner self, i.e., the feelings of one’s heart.


Redemption: “U’shira la’Shem va’yomru leimor(In this phrase, to arrive at the name Elul the order of the words must be rearranged.) This phrase is taken from the Song of Redemption sung at the Red Sea.


The first three services are identified with the three pillars of man’s service. These services must be permeated by the service of t’shuva and by the service of redemption. They will thus be endowed with an unlimited quality that surpasses the limits of man and of the world at large. Thus, man’s service on his own initiative, “I am my Beloved’s,” has the potential to reflect, not only his human characteristics, but also the unlimited nature of his G-dly soul. The soul, in essence, is one with
G-d’s essence, as the Zohar states, “Israel and the Holy One, Blessed be He, are all one.”


On the basis of the above, we can resolve the difficulty mentioned at the outset, i.e., the seeming contradiction between the approaches of Elul and Parshas R’ei. For Elul emphasizes not only the service of man on his own initiative, but also the fact that this service should be carried out in an unlimited manner, i.e., one that reflects how he is one with G-d. This is the intent of Parshas R’ei – that as a preface to his service of
G-d, there should be an open and revealed expression of the essential G-dly potential every Jew possesses.


This theme is expressed at the beginning of the Torah reading, which relates how we are shown how our connection with Anochi, G-d’s essence, is internalized within us. (See the interpretation of the verse at the beginning of the first section.) Similarly, the Torah reading concludes with the mention of Shmini Atzeres, the holiday when “Israel and the king are alone.”


The concept that man’s service on his own initiative should be carried out in a manner that surpasses our limitations receives greater emphasis when Rosh Chodesh Elul falls out on Shabbos. Shabbos elevates the state of every Jew above his ordinary weekday-level. He is on a different plane; he is a Shabbasdikker Yid. Thus, when Rosh Chodesh Elul falls on Shabbos, the nature of a Jew’s service throughout the month is affected and endowed with a Shabbos-like quality.


In particular, there are times, like this year, when the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul falls out on Shabbos, and other months when the second day of Rosh Chodesh falls-out on Shabbos. There is an advantage to the present month because when the first day of Rosh Chodesh falls-out on Shabbos, the second day is endowed with a Shabbos-like quality, as well.


The manner in which the quality of Shabbos dominates Rosh Chodesh is reflected in our prayers, where the Shabbos prayers are recited and the concept of Rosh Chodesh is merely an addition. In the Grace after Meals, Shabbos is mentioned before Rosh Chodesh. In the recital of Kiddush and in the Haftora blessings, Rosh Chodesh is not mentioned at all. This further emphasizes the Shabbos-like quality of the day.


On a deeper level, the precedence of Shabbos over Rosh Chodesh can be explained as follows: Shabbos existed from the beginning of Creation. In fact, our Sages relate that Shabbos preceded Creation. By contrast, it was not until after “the Holy One, blessed be He, chose His world” that “He established roshei chadashim.”


Thus, the fact that the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul falls-out on Shabbos indicates that the service of “I am my Beloved’s” must be infused with a quality of transcendence that is entirely above the limits of Creation. This is particularly emphasized by the Torah reading which begins “Behold, I am granting you...” which as explained above, indicates how the blessing from Anochi, G-d’s essence, becomes internalized within man’s consciousness and enhances his service within the limits of his worldly environment.


3. In truth, the power to serve G-d without any limitations will only be possible in the era of Redemption. This level of service stems from the yechida, the essence of the Jewish soul. Moshiach represents the yechida of the Jewish people as a whole. Hence, his coming allows each Jew to reveal his own yechida, i.e., the spark of Moshiach in his soul. This introduces an unlimited quality into the service of the people as a whole.


Moshiach’s coming is imminent, for our Sages declared that, “All the appointed times for Moshiach’s coming have passed. Additionally, it is one of the fundamental principles of our faith to “wait for his coming every day.” In particular the above is relevant in the present year, which is a year when “I will show you wonders.” We have indeed seen wonders, miracles that have brought redemption to many individuals and even to thousands of people, especially to Jews in Russia. Many have been granted permission to leave that country and even those who have remained have been granted the rights to observe Torah and mitzvos and to live their lives as Jews. Moreover, just very recently, a greater wonder took place. An International Shluchim Convention has been held in Russia, with sittings in Lubavitch, in Alma Attar [the site of the grave of the Rebbe shlita’s father], and in Moscow, the capital of that country. At the convention, resolutions were taken to spread Yiddishkeit and Chassidus in Russia and throughout the world.


Despite these wonders, when we reach the month of Elul, we must take stock and ask: Is it possible that eleven months of the year have passed and Moshiach has not come?! The bottom-line of the stocktaking is ad masai?! – Until when must we remain in exile?!


To connect the above with Parshas R’ei: It is not enough that we believe that Moshiach will come, we want to actually see his coming. The present occasion is a uniquely appropriate time for his coming. Firstly, it is Shabbos, which is “a microcosm of the World to Come.” Furthermore, this is the third of the seven Shabbasos of Consolation and thus shares a connection to the Third Beis HaMikdash. Also, since today is the thirtieth day of the month of Av, it represents the sum total of that month. Av is connected with the Redemption, for the month is referred to as Menachem Av and our Sages state that “Menachem is the name of Moshiach.” The connection is further emphasized by the statement of our Sages that, “A lion (Nebuchadnetzar) came in the month whose sign is a lion and destroyed Ariel (the lion of G-d, the Beis HaMikdash), so that a lion
(G-d) would come in the month whose sign is a lion and rebuild Ariel.”


On Parshas R’ei, we can – as mentioned above – demand that
G-d bring the Redemption in a manner that allows it to be openly seen. This is particularly relevant at present, when these statements are being made at a Chassidic farbrengen. A farbrengen has the power to draw down Divine blessing, especially when the farbrengen is attended by many people, and is being held in the Rebbe Rayatz’s shul, house of study, and house of good deeds. May this farbrengen have the power to draw down the ultimate blessing, the coming of Moshiach.


To conclude with directives for action: Efforts should be made to publicize the five services connected with the month of Elul. Particular emphasis should be placed on the service of Redemption, and this should influence all the other services. In other words, the totality of one’s service to G-d should be infused with a dimension of infinity that results from anxious anticipation of the Redemption.


This anticipation should be so powerful that one actually considers the Redemption a reality. When his happens, one should share the feeling with others, telling them that we can actually see the coming of the ultimate Redemption.


Furthermore, even a person who has not fully internalized the concept of the Redemption in his own mind should make efforts to spread this concept to others, beginning with his own family and circle of acquaintances. Why should one’s own failure to internalize these concepts cause others to be denied this knowledge?


Ultimately, talking about the Redemption will precipitate its imminent coming. Indeed, the potential exists for Moshiach to come this very Shabbos


The totality of one’s service to G-d should be infused with a dimension of infinity that results from anxious anticipation of the Redemption.




A revelation from Above is not appreciated by man. Quite the contrary – it is regarded as “bread of shame.” Therefore, there is a need for the fusion of both modes of service.




Why should one’s own failure to internalize these concepts cause others to be denied this knowledge?






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