Sichos In English
Shabbos Parshas VaYeishev; 21st Day Of Kislev, 5751
This Shabbos completes the three-day continuum that began
Yud-Tes Kislev, the Rosh HaShana of chassidus (for the redemption began
after midday on Yud-Tes Kislev and was continued on Chaf Kislev). This year,
these days lead directly into Shabbos, which elevates and adds completion to the
days of the previous week and, in particular, to those days which directly
There is an intrinsic connection between Yud-Tes Kislev and
Shabbos. Shabbos is characterized by rest and is representative of the ultimate
state of rest and peace that will be revealed in the Era of Redemption. Yud-Tes
Kislev represents a redemption and a state of rest after the difficulties of the
imprisonment, and a foretaste of the ultimate redemption.
These concepts also relate to Parshas VaYeishev, which, as
Rashi relates, is connected with Yaakov’s "desire to live in prosperity," i.e.,
in a situation of rest and comfort. Similarly, there is a connection to the
concept of redemption, for the difficulties Yaakov experienced previously (with
Lavan, Eisav, and in regard to Dina) parallel the concept of imprisonment.
In particular, there is a connection with Yaakov, the third
of the Patriarchs, with the Alter Rebbe, the third in the chain of the
revelation of chassidus. Both Yaakov and the Alter Rebbe are connected
with Torah study - both the study of nigleh, the revealed dimensions of
Torah law, and pnimiyus HaTorah. This is indicated by the Torah’s
description of Yaakov as "a dweller of tents." The use of the plural form is
interpreted as a reference to "the tent of Shem and the tent of Eiver," which
reflect the teachings of nigleh and those of pnimiyus ha’Torah.
Similarly, the Alter Rebbe’s name, Shneur, is interpreted as referring to "two
lights," the light of nigleh and the light of pnimiyus ha’Torah.
Furthermore, "Yaakov’s dwelling (VaYeishev) in the land of
his fathers" was paralleled by the Alter Rebbe’s efforts to bring into a settled
form (hisyashvus), the teachings of his predecessors, the Baal Shem Tov
and the Maggid. The Alter Rebbe internalized their teachings within the realm of
the intellect. This allowed those teachings to be "spread outward."
It is through these efforts that we will merit the ultimate
prosperity which will come in the Era of the Third Beis HaMikdash, in the
ultimate Redemption, which is associated with Yaakov Avinu, the third of the
Patriarchs. This will be "a heritage that has no boundaries," as appropriate for
Yaakov to whom was given the promise, "And you shall spread westward, eastward,
northward and southward."
The combination of the influences of Shabbos and Parshas
VaYeishev will hasten the revelation of the era that is "all Shabbos and rest
forever." The imminence of the era of the Third Beis HaMikdash receives greater
influence this year since this Shabbos is the third day after Yud-Tes Kislev.
2. After Rashi states that Yaakov "desired to live in
prosperity," he relates how Yaakov was immediately forced to confront the sorrow
connected with the sale of Yosef. Thus, Yaakov’s desire to live in prosperity
was not fulfilled in this Torah portion.
This raises a question: Why is the Torah portion given a name
(which, as chassidus explains, reflects its content and life energy) that
relates to Yaakov’s desire to live in prosperity when the main body of the Torah
reading (from the second verse onward) describes the factors which led to
Yosef’s descent into Egypt, his being sold into slavery, and the sorrow this
caused Yaakov? On the surface, this narrative reflects the very opposite of
"living in prosperity."
Furthermore, the connection with Yud-Tes Kislev, the Festival
of Redemption, mentioned above also is problematic. On the surface, the main
body of the Torah reading deals with the events that brought about the Jewish
people’s descent into Egypt, the very opposite of the concept of redemption.
These difficulties can be resolved through the explanation of
another problematic point in the Torah reading. On the second verse of the Torah
reading, "These are the chronicles of Yaakov: Yosef..." Rashi explains that
indeed the story of Yosef represents "the chronicles of Yaakov," for Yaakov
invested the essence of his being in his relationship with Rachel, and this
connection was transferred to Yosef.
This leads to another question: Between the narrative of the
sale of Yosef and the description of what occurred to him in Egypt, the Torah
relates in detail the chronicles of Yehuda, his marriage, and his siring of
children. On the surface, what connection do these events have with "the
chronicles of Yaakov: Yosef," the narrative of the story of Yosef?
Yehuda’s siring of children is intrinsically related to the
narrative of Yosef. It represents the key to explaining how the descent to Egypt
is fundamentally good and leads to the ultimate state of "prosperity," thus,
developing the theme of VaYeishev.
The Midrash relates: The brothers were involved in the sale
of Yosef... Yehuda was involved in marrying a wife... The Holy One, Blessed be
He, was involved in creating the light of Moshiach [who would be born from
Tamar]... Before the first power to subjugate the Jewish people [Pharaoh] was
born, the [progenitor of the] ultimate redeemer [Peretz, Moshiach’s ancestor]
This reflects the connection between the narratives of
Yehuda’s children and Yosef’s descent into Egypt. Yehuda’s siring of Peretz
reflected how "the cure preceded the blow." Before the descent of the Jewish
people to Egypt (the ultimate result of the sale of Yosef) the "light of
Moshiach," Peretz, Moshiach’s direct ancestor, was born.
Not only does the birth of Peretz reflect the positive
resolution of the difficulties resulting from Yosef’s sale, it shares an
intrinsic connection to - and brings out the inner meaning of - the narrative of
The name Yosef is related to the concept of "increase," an
addition in the realm of holiness, as reflected by Rachel’s prayer when naming
him: "May G-d add to me another son." Furthermore, his service involves the
transformation of undesirable qualities into good. In this context, chassidus
interprets Rachel’s prayer as an intimation that Yosef has the power to
transform "another," a person who is estranged from his Jewish roots, into a
Thus Yosef reflects an infinite potential, a capacity that
knows no boundaries. On the lowest levels, the undesirable is transformed into
good, and on the highest levels, there is always a potential for a further
increase. Likewise, this reflects the quality of Peretz, whose name means "break
through"; poretz represents breaking through boundaries, going beyond all
Thus, the birth of Peretz contributes a potential to break
through barriers, a potential which is fundamentally related to Yosef’s descent
into Egypt. The ultimate concept of unbounded increase (yosef) is
fundamentally expressed when one breaks through (poretz) the boundaries
of Egypt, the limitations of the lowest dimensions of this material world.
The service of both Peretz and Yosef involves transcending
all limitations, even those which exist in the sphere of holiness. Nevertheless,
in a complete sense, the unlimited aspect of their service is expressed when it
is carried out within the limitations of "the nakedness of the land," and
despite the undeveloped nature of such surroundings, one continues to increase,
breaking through barriers.
Thus, Yosef - in contrast to his other brothers who were
shepherds, i.e., isolated from the material concerns of this world - became
involved in the material affairs of the land of Egypt and assumed a role of
leadership among them and, nevertheless, remained totally at one with G-dliness,
clinging to Him completely. Moreover, he was ultimately able to refine the
Egyptians as well, compelling them to accept circumcision. The potential for
Yosef to carry out this service was contributed by the birth of Peretz, which
introduced the concept of breaking through barriers.
In this context, we can understand the intent of the Jewish
people’s descent into exile. The purpose for this descent is to reap an increase
(yosef), as our Sages stated, "The Holy One, blessed be He, exiled Israel
among the nations for the sole purpose of having converts added to them." In a
very literal sense, this refers to actual converts, a clear example of a person
who was "other" becoming a "son." In an expanded sense, it means attracting and
elevating the sparks of G-dliness invested in the material substance of the
The service of Yosef, i.e., the increases made in exile, is
enhanced by the service of Peretz, breaking through limitations. Even though the
Jewish people are in exile and have descended within the darkness of the lowest
levels of this material world, they are able to carry out their service - both
in adding holiness and in refining the world - in a complete manner. In this
way, they break through the limitations of the world and the limitations of
exile. Within the darkness of exile, Gola, they reveal the Alef, which
stands for G-d, Alufo Shel Olam, "the L-rd of the world," and thus,
transform the exile into redemption, Geula, revealing
G-dliness that transcends the world, making this lowly world a dwelling for G-d.
Thus, as the Midrash emphasizes, while everyone was
involved with their private concerns, G-d was involved in "creating the light of
Moshiach," bringing Peretz, the power to break through limitations, into the
world. In this way, the possibility for the sale of Yosef was prepared, the
first stage of the Jewish people’s descent into exile, in order to bring about
an unbounded increase and to ultimately lead to the establishment of a dwelling
for G-d in the lower worlds.
In this context, we can understand the connection between the
sale of Yosef into Egypt and Yaakov’s desire to "live in prosperity." Since "He
fulfills the desire of those who fear Him," surely, G-d would fulfill the desire
of Yaakov, "the chosen of the Patriarchs." G-d’s fulfillment of Yaakov’s desire
came in two forms: the limited prosperity Yaakov enjoyed for nine years in the
land of K’naan before the sale of Yosef, and the higher dimension of prosperity
he enjoyed for seventeen years in the land of Egypt.
This allows us to comprehend the connection between the two
opening verses of the Torah reading: "And Yaakov dwelled..." which, as Rashi
explains, reflects Yaakov’s desire to live in prosperity, and "And these are the
chronicles of Yaakov: Yosef...." From Yaakov’s own perspective, the prosperity
he enjoyed in "the land of his fathers" was sufficient. Indeed, this is the
natural place for a Jew to enjoy prosperity. However, the "chronicles (toldos
in Hebrew, which also means offspring) of Yaakov," the extension and increase of
his service brought about by Yosef required a progression to a higher level of
prosperity, the prosperity realized through the transformation of Egypt, the
lowest levels of the world. In this way, the Jewish people broke through the
limitations of the world and revealed a prosperity that transcends the
limitations of nature. Furthermore, this began the process that will lead to the
ultimate prosperity that will be realized through the "light of Moshiach."
On the basis of the above, we can appreciate the connection
between Parshas VaYeishev and Yud-Tes Kislev. The verse, "And Yaakov dwelled in
the land of his fathers," can be interpreted as a reference to the Alter Rebbe’s
presentation of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid (his spiritual
"fathers") in a settled (hisyashvus) manner, i.e., as they can be
internalized within our intellectual powers.
"The chronicles (offspring) of Yaakov: Yosef," refers to the
increase in the spread of chassidus by the Rebbeim who succeeded the
Alter Rebbe, until this service was brought to its fulfillment by the Rebbe
Rayatz, Yosef, who transferred the center for chassidic teachings to
America, "the lower half of the world," and from there, spread chassidus
throughout the world at large. In the forty years since his passing, we have
broken through barriers (poretz), spreading the wellsprings of
chassidus, "westward, eastward, northward, and southward," and preparing the
world for the coming of the descendant of Peretz, the Moshiach.
3. The celebration of Yud-Tes Kislev this year is enhanced by
several unique dimensions. Firstly, this is a year when "I will show you
wonders." Although the previous year was "a year of miracles," this year G-d
will "show" - openly reveal - the wonders He performs.
Secondly, this year marks the 192nd anniversary of the Alter
Rebbe’s redemption in 5559. 192 is numerically equivalent to the word "kabeitz,"
which means collected. This implies that we have completed the task of
collecting the sparks of
G-dliness throughout the world (the purpose for G-d’s dispersing the Jews in
Similarly, 192 is numerically equivalent to the word "ketzev,"
which means measure. The full measure of the task of spreading the wellsprings
of chassidus outward has been completed and it is time to receive the
reward for this service, the coming of Moshiach.
In connection with this, the Tanya (the "Written Torah
of Chassidus") was printed again and distributed to men, women, and children.
This was intended to emphasize the complete state reached in the tasking of
spreading the wellsprings of chassidus outward and our anticipation of
the coming of Moshiach. Then the promise related in the well-known chapter of
T’hillim which we recite this year, "I found David, My servant, I have
anointed him with holy oil," will be fulfilled with the coming of Moshiach.
4. The Shabbos following Yud-Tes Kislev is an appropriate
time to accept positive resolutions in regard to increasing our study and
spreading of the teachings of chassidus, in addition to those resolutions
accepted on Yud-Tes Kislev. Surely, this involves the study of the Tanya
as divided in Chitas.
This increase should also be coupled with an increase in the
study of nigleh (the revealed dimensions of Torah law). In this context,
it is worthy to mention the custom associated with Yud-Tes Kislev - and
mentioned in the Tanya - of dividing the Talmud among each community of
anash. Each individual should take a tractate to study. Ideally, each
individual should study the entire Talmud himself. Since this is not possible at
present, by dividing the Talmud’s study among an entire community, it is
considered as if each individual has studied the entire Talmud himself.
Surely, there are many places where the study of the Talmud
was divided on Yud-Tes Kislev itself. Those communities which did not do so on
that date should carry out this custom as soon as possible. (Similarly, in this
context, it is worthy to mention the importance of taking part in the study of
the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah according to its annual cycle. This allows
each individual to conclude the study of the entire Oral Torah in a single
Similarly, in connection with our Sages’ interpretation of
the verse from T’hillim associated with Yud-Tes Kislev, "He redeemed my
soul in peace," it is proper to make an increase in the three pillars of Torah,
service of G-d, and deeds of kindness." All of this should be carried out in a
manner of a "continuing activity," with continued growth, extending into the
coming days, including the days of Chanuka.
There is a connection between Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanuka: The
Chanuka miracle concerned oil, which is used as a metaphor for pnimiyus
ha’Torah, which was revealed on Yud-Tes Kislev. Similarly, the Chanuka
candles are placed "at the outside of the entrance to one’s home," which
corresponds to the efforts to spread the wellsprings of chassidus
outward, which began on Yud-Tes Kislev. Indeed, in regard to the Alter Rebbe’s
own redemption, it was not until the third day of Chanuka that he returned from
Petersburg to Vitebsk, where he was among chassidim.
May the above activities hasten the coming of Moshiach, and
may we merit - even before Chanuka - the building and the dedication of the
Third Beis HaMikdash. May it be in the immediate future.