Shabbos Parshas VaEira; 26th Day of Teives, 5751
1. The 24th of Teives, the Alter Rebbe’s yahrtzeit,
generally falls in the week of Parshas VaEira. Based on the principle that the
festivals have a connection to the Torah portions read at that time, we can
assume that there is a connection between the Alter Rebbe’s yahrtzeit and
This connection can be seen in the second verse of the Torah
reading which states, "And I revealed Myself to Avrohom, to Yitzchok, and to
Yaakov (the Patriarchs) as the A-mighty G-d." The Hebrew word for A-mighty,
"Sha-dai," is an acronym for the names Shneur, the Alter Rebbe’s name;
Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch’s name; and Yisroel, the Baal Shem
Tov’s name. These three Rebbeim represent the "Patriarchs" of the chassidic
The service of the Patriarchs was a preparatory stage for the
giving of the Torah and the entrance into Eretz Yisroel. G-d redeemed the Jewish
people because of the covenant that He had made with the Patriarchs. Similarly,
the service of the "Patriarchs" of chassidus prepares us for the future
Redemption and the revelation of pnimiyus ha’Torah which comes at that
The Torah is eternal. Its narratives are not merely accounts
of past history, but directives that apply at all times. In regard to the
Patriarchs, "the deeds of the Patriarchs are a sign to their descendants." The
Patriarchs endow their descendants, the Jews in every generation, with their
immense spiritual legacy.
The Torah portion of this week begins, "And I revealed Myself
to Avrohom, to Yitzchok, and to Yaakov as the A-mighty G-d, but I did not reveal
My name, Havaya, to them." Since the name Havaya has been revealed – the fullest
dimension of this revelation coming at the giving of the Torah – of what
significance is it that the Patriarchs were not granted such a revelation?
Furthermore, it is necessary to understand: The name Sha-dai
is associated with Creation, as the Talmud states, "I am He who said dai
(enough) to the world." If so, what is unique about the revelation of the name
Sha-dai to the Patriarchs?
This narrative raises another question. On the phrase "but I
did not reveal My name Havaya to them," Rashi comments, "I did not let My
attribute (midda) of truth become known to them." The use of the word
midda is problematic because it also has the connotation of "measure." How
can the name Havaya, which reflects an infinite dimension of G-dliness, be
associated with a particular midda?
There are two interpretations of the name Sha-dai: "I am He
who said dai (enough) to the world," and "There is dai (enough)
within My Divine potential for every creation."
According to the first interpretation, "dai" refers to
the world, indicating that the world will be confined within certain limits.
According to the second interpretation, "dai" applies to G-d, pointing to
His potential to provide His creations with all their needs.
The revelation of the name Sha-dai to the Patriarchs refers
to the second dimension. At the time of Creation, the revelation of the first
dimension of Sha-dai established the limits of our worldly existence. By
revealing Himself to the Patriarchs, G-d brought about an influx of Divine
beneficence that satisfied "every creation."
Implied by the above is that the Patriarchs were able to
G-dliness within the context of the world’s limits. The revelation they brought
about, however, was also limited. This revelation was only a dimension of
G-dliness that could be invested within the creations themselves, for until the
giving of the Torah there was a decree that separated the spiritual from the
physical. "My name, Havaya," the potential to draw down the dimension of
G-dliness which transcends the world, was not revealed to them.
At the giving of the Torah, G-d nullified this decree. He
granted the potential for the G-dliness that transcends Creation to be revealed
within our limited world. This does not mean that the revelation would nullify
those limits. Instead, the intent was that the world itself would become a
vessel for G-dliness, that the infinite revelations would be internalized within
it, and in this manner, the world would become "a dwelling for G-d."
For this to be accomplished, preparatory stages were
necessary. First the dimension of Sha-dai that established the world’s
limitations had to be revealed. Then the dimension of Sha-dai brought about the
revelation of G-dliness that could be invested within the limits of Creation.
This refined the world and prepared it for the revelation of the giving of the
Even after the Torah has been given, the revelation to the
Patriarchs is significant, for it grants the potential for our limited world to
internalize the revelation of the name Havaya. The revelation of the name
Sha-dai to the Patriarchs was not an independent revelation, but a phase in the
revelation of Havaya.
In this context we can appreciate Rashi’s statement, "I did
not let My attribute (midda) of truth become known to them." The intent
was that the name Havaya be revealed with the context of midda (measure).
The measure in which it is revealed, however, is "My midda," G-d’s
infinite measure, not the limited measure of the world.
There is a deeper perspective: The difference between the two
sources of revelation, Havaya and Sha-dai, as they exist after the giving of the
Torah, reflect the difference between the Torah (which is above limitation) and
the world (which is limited). This reflects the difference between the Torah and
the mitzvos. Mitzvos are also related to the limits of the world;
they have limitations regarding the times and places where they are to be
fulfilled. But the Torah is above the limitations of the world. Therefore, the
obligation for Torah study is constant, applying in all times and in all places.
The contrast between the Torah and the mitzvos applies
only regarding actual performance of the mitzvos. As the mitzvos
exist within the Torah, they, like the Torah, are above the limitations of time
and space. Accordingly, even though the Beis HaMikdash has been
destroyed, when a Jew in the Diaspora studies the laws of the sacrifices (even
during the night), his study is considered equivalent to the actual offering of
Within Torah, there is no difference between the positive
commandments and the prohibitions. Within the world, however, the positive
commandments represent the performance of an activity. The prohibitions
represent an act of restraint. But within Torah, they both represent positive
The Sages stated that when the Jewish people received the
Torah, they answered "yes" when they were instructed to fulfill both the
positive commandments and the negative commandments. This implies that one makes
a commitment to the essence of the mitzvos, which is the connection (tzavsa)
with G-d established by the mitzvos. Understood in this way, the negative
commandments can also easily be viewed as mediums to draw down holiness.
These concepts should be reflected in the existence of a Jew
within this material world. He must see his 248 limbs and 365 sinews as
extensions of the 248 positive commandments and the 365 negative commandments.
The intent of the giving of the Torah was that the G-dliness
that transcends Creation should not remain above the limitations of the world,
but rather should permeate those limitations. This is accomplished through the
mitzvos. Mitzvos are associated with the limitations of worldly
existence – for as explained above, the mitzvos are dependent on the
limits of time and place – and yet are connected with the infinite potential of
the Torah. This allows the spiritual source of each entity to be revealed, and
even those entities that appear negative become positive forces that reveal
G-d’s will, which is brought about by the Torah, by the revelation of the name
Before the giving of the Torah, when there was a decree
separating the spiritual and the physical, the world was only able to receive a
revelation of G-dliness that did not negate the limits of the world (Sha-dai).
It was possible to say that the revelation of this level was separate from the
revelation of the name Havaya. The giving of the Torah allowed the infinite
G-dliness of Havaya to permeate all aspects of existence. The revelation of
G-dliness within Creation was also seen to be a dimension of this infinite
The Sages stated that the Patriarchs observed the entire
Torah before it was given. In this manner, they revealed the level of Sha-dai
within the world. The inner dimension of this revelation is the name Havaya.
Of the Patriarchs, the one most closely associated with the
Torah is Yaakov. The Torah describes him as "a simple person, a dweller of
tents," i.e., "the tents of Sheim and Eiver." Similarly, we find the verse,
"They will instruct Your judgments to Yaakov and Your Torah to Israel." Although
Yaakov, more than the other Patriarchs, was forced to confront difficulties and
troubles in the world at large (the difficulties of Lavan, Eisav, Dina, and
Yosef), the Torah emphasizes how he remained on a level of completeness. It is
written, "And Yaakov came to the city of Sh’chem complete." Our Sages comment,
"Complete in his body, that his limp was healed; complete in his finances, that
he was not lacking anything from the large present [sent to Eisav]; complete in
his Torah, that he had not forgotten his studies in the house of Lavan."
Yaakov remained complete even though "a man wrestled with
him." On the contrary, "He strove with an angel and with men and prevailed." He
was able to force the angel to bless him, and the wound he suffered when
wrestling with the angel healed.
This is a reflection of the connection between Yaakov and the
Torah. Torah is the source of all perfection, even the aspects of perfection
connected with worldly matters. Yaakov, who is associated with Torah, confronts
worldliness and remains "complete."
Based on the above, we can appreciate the connection between
the 24th of Teives, the yom ha’hilula of the Alter Rebbe, and Parshas
VaEira. Of the three "Patriarchs" of the chassidic movement, the Alter
Rebbe, like the Patriarch Yaakov, is associated with Torah study. The Alter
Rebbe is referred to as "the author of the Tanya and the Shulchan
Aruch." These two texts are of fundamental importance – the Tanya
being "the Written Law of pnimiyus ha’Torah" and the Shulchan Aruch,
a fundamental text of nigleh, the revealed dimensions of Torah law.
Just as the revelation of G-dliness by the Patriarchs was a
preparation for the revelation of the Torah, the revelation of pnimiyus
ha’Torah by the "Patriarchs" of chassidus serves as a preparatory
stage for the revelation of pnimiyus ha’Torah in the Era of Redemption.
This will be the complete revelation of the name Havaya. This revelation will
permeate even the lowest dimension of worldly existence.
The fullest expression of the service of the Patriarchs was
exemplified by Yaakov. Similarly, among the "Patriarchs" of chassidus,
the Alter Rebbe epitomized the spreading of pnimiyus ha’Torah, revealing
its teachings within a structured intellectual pattern. This transition into the
realm of intellect reflects how pnimiyus ha’Torah is drawn down into the
limits of the world.
These two concepts – the emphasis on the Torah and the
efforts to draw down that Torah into the limits of the world at large – are
reflected in the Alter Rebbe’s name, Shneur Zalman. "Shneur" relates to the
words "shnei or" (two lights), the light of nigleh and the
light of pnimiyus ha’Torah. Zalman shares the same letters as the word "l’zman"
(to time), reflecting how these lights of Torah will permeate the limits of time
(and thus space), which defines our material world. Since the Alter Rebbe fused
the two dimensions of Torah, nigleh and pnimiyus ha’Torah
together, he also had the potential to reveal Torah, the G-dliness that
transcends Creation, within the Creation itself.
Yaakov was forced to confront many difficulties and
tribulations; so too the Alter Rebbe was subjected to the difficulties of
imprisonment. Nevertheless, these difficulties did not hinder his service. On
the contrary, he was redeemed, and his redemption increased the spreading of the
wellsprings of chassidus outward. This service was continued by the
Rebbeim who followed him, each one spreading chassidus further, preparing
the world at large for the revelation of pnimiyus ha’Torah in the Era of
2. The Hebrew word "Avos," translated as Patriarchs,
literally means fathers. By referring to Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov as the
fathers of the Jewish people, we infer that just as a father’s estate becomes
the property of his children, each Jew, descendant of the Patriarchs, inherits
their great spiritual legacy.
We must look at every Jew as an heir to the Patriarchs and
realize how "His nation is a part of G-d; Yaakov is the cord of His
inheritance." Similarly, every Jew is called Yisroel, one who "strove with an
angel and with men and prevailed." Because of a Jew’s essence, each Jew,
regardless of his present situation, existing within the darkness of exile, can
"strive with an angel and with men and prevail."
Every Jew, regardless of his present situation, inherits the
entire Torah, as it is written, "The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the
inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov." Since each Jew is a member of "the
congregation of Yaakov," he is an heir to the Torah. An heir receives his
inheritance regardless of his personal standing. Similarly, each Jew receives
the entire Torah as his inheritance.
This is what we must perceive when we look at another Jew. If
these positive qualities are not perceived, we must understand that they are
being obscured by the darkness of exile, and it is necessary to search further.
If one sees undesirable qualities, one must realize that the other person is, to
quote the Baal Shem Tov, only a mirror. Those undesirable qualities are, in
fact, one’s own. Appreciating the positive qualities of each Jew is emphasized
by the teachings of the "Patriarchs" of chassidus. The Baal Shem Tov
taught that G-d loves each Jew as dearly as parents love their only son.
The awareness of these concepts should inspire greater
ahavas Yisroel. The Alter Rebbe placed unique emphasis on this idea when he
devoted an entire chapter, Chapter 32 (which is numerically equivalent to "leiv,"
heart), to the subject of ahavas Yisroel. In the first draft of the
Tanya, the Alter Rebbe did not include Chapter 32, implying that the content
of chapters 31 and 33 could be understood without such an addition. The fact
that such an addition was made, highlights its importance and reflects that the
lesson of Chapter 32 is of fundamental significance.
In this context, we can appreciate the significance of the
fact that Rosh Chodesh Shvat is celebrated on Wednesday, "the day on which the
luminaries were suspended in the heavens." The word "luminaries" is plural,
referring both to the sun, "the great luminary," and the moon, "the small
This provides every Jew with a twofold lesson in his service
of G-d. First, he must appreciate that he is a "luminary," that he can and must
shine forth and provide others with light. Second, the mention of the two
luminaries, the sun and the moon, teaches one that he must be both a great
luminary and a small luminary.
Being a "great luminary" implies the realization that he
possesses important potentials he wants to use in a contributory fashion. (For
his contributions to be received, it is necessary for him to give in a generous
and positive manner.)
Being a "small luminary" implies that a person must
appreciate and radiate to others that other individuals can contribute to him,
as our Sages comment, "Who is a wise man? One who learns from every person." As
a small luminary, one reflects the positive virtues that others possess.
A person must know how to express both these dimensions in
his life and must have the sensitivity to appreciate which quality is demanded
at each particular time.
The above statements concerning the positive qualities of
each Jew are particularly appropriate regarding the present generation, the
heirs to the legacy of holiness left by the martyrs of the previous generation.
We are "a brand saved from the fire," a clear example of how, despite awesome
challenges, "Yaakov came to the city of Sh’chem complete."
One must realize how much G-d loves the Jewish people as a
whole, and each individual Jew in particular, as we recite in our prayers, "With
eternal love, You have loved us." In particular, the present era is a time when
this love is expressed. It resembles the month of Elul, a time when "the King is
in the field," receiving everyone with a pleasant countenance. Now is a time we
can approach G-d with our requests and He will grant them.
Particularly after the Holocaust, G-d owes the Jewish people,
as it were, to make up for the horrors the Jewish people suffered and to bring
them blessing. This includes leading them to t’shuva, which will speed
the coming of the future Redemption. The Jews – each individual and the people
as a whole – will be blessed with open and apparent good, and only with good.
If this is true at all times and particularly in our
generation, it has special relevance at present, when "nations are challenging
each other." G-d gave the Jewish people a special promise that "all that I have
performed, I have performed for your sake." Throughout the world we are
promised, "The Guardian of Israel does not slumber nor sleep." This particularly
applies in Eretz Yisroel, where "the eyes of G-d, your L-rd are always upon it
from the beginning of the year until its end."
3. The verse "And Yaakov came to the city of Sh’chem
complete," provides us with a practical lesson. At first Yaakov feared war over
Sh’chem. Nevertheless, when all the nations around him amassed to attack him, he
put on armor and conquered Sh’chem "with his sword and bow."
In the present, all the nations around Eretz Yisroel attacked
her, and the Jews were forced to "put on armor," after which the Jews conquered
Sh’chem and the areas of Judah and Samaria with "a sword and a bow." After G-d
has given these lands back to the Jewish people, it is absolutely forbidden to
return them; doing so would endanger the lives of millions of Jews. Rather, they
should be settled by the Jewish people.
With unique hashgacha pratis, at this time hundreds of
thousands of Jews are arriving in Eretz Yisroel from Russia. They should be
given the opportunity to settle in these lands in peace and security. In this
manner, through t’shuva, these Jews will be able to correct and make up
for the seventy years they were prevented from observing Torah and mitzvos.
4. In connection with the yahrtzeit of the Alter
Rebbe, it is proper to increase our study of his works, establishing fixed times
to study the Tanya and his Shulchan Aruch, together with the
explanation of these works in the texts of the Rebbeim who followed him. This
applies to everyone, both men and women, for women are also required to study
the laws governing those mitzvos in which they are obligated, including
the teachings of chassidus, which enables us to fulfill the mitzvos
of the love and fear of G-d, which women are also obligated to fulfill.
(In this context, it is worthy to mention the efforts of my
mother, who was known for her ability to carefully copy chassidic texts
to enable them to be circulated throughout the chassidic community.)
The study of the works of the Rebbeim is facilitated by the
fact that at present, there are a multitude of texts of chassidus and the
explanations of the Rebbeim in nigleh that are being printed.
Furthermore, many texts previously printed using the characters of Rashi script
are now being reprinted using square letters.
May the printing of these chassidic texts hasten the
coming of the era when not one Jew will remain in exile, and we will proceed
"with our youth and with our elders, with our sons and with our daughters" to
the ultimate Redemption. May it be in the immediate future.