Sichos in English
Shabbos Parshas Tzav; 8th Day of Nissan, 5751
1. Nissan is called the month of redemption, because the
entire month revolves around Pesach, the season of our freedom. Nissan is also
connected with the concept of nissim, miracles. The two concepts are
interrelated, for it was with great miracles and wonders that G-d took the Jews
out of Egypt.
The connection with miracles receives greater emphasis this
Shabbos, which is called Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Shabbos, because of the
great miracle that occurred then. What was this miracle? As the Alter Rebbe
relates in his Shulchan Aruch, the firstborn of Egypt learned that
G-d would slay them and tried to convince Pharaoh to release the Jewish people.
When Pharaoh refused, the firstborns revolted against him, as implied by the
verse, "To strike Egypt with their firstborn..." This represented the beginning
of the miracles of the redemption.
We must understand: Why did our Sages attach so much
importance to the miracle of striking Egypt with their first born? Why is it
considered such a great miracle and the beginning of the redemption? Also, it is
necessary to understand the association between this miracle and Shabbos, since
it occurred on Shabbos and is commemorated on Shabbos.
The redemption from Egypt is associated with Moshe, the one
chosen by G-d to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt. When he requested that G-d
send another person instead, G-d refused, for it was none other than Moshe who
had the power to redeem the Jewish people.
The purpose of the exodus from Egypt was for the Jewish
people to appreciate G-d’s providence, as it is written, "And I will take you
unto Me as a people...so that you will know that I, G-d, your L-rd, am He who
took you out of the bondage of Egypt." As the Jewish people exist within our
material world, they should come to an awareness of G-d and accept His
commandments (i.e., the acceptance of the Torah) and through their service,
reveal G-dliness in the world at large (through the construction of the
The Sanctuary was, however, temporary in nature. The goal of
the revelation of G-dliness in the world was realized in a more permanent manner
in the Beis HaMikdash. The first and the second Batei
Mikdashos were destroyed. Thus, the ultimate vehicle for the revelation of
G-dliness in the world will be the third Beis HaMikdash, which
will be an eternal structure. Then, in the Era of Redemption, "the glory of G-d
will be revealed and all flesh will together see that the mouth of G-d has
spoken"; i.e., there will be an open revelation of G-dliness that will be
appreciated by all mankind.
Since the goal of the exodus was the revelation of G-dliness,
it was associated with miracles that broke the boundaries of nature. The Hebrew
for nature is teva, which also has the meaning of "submerged." The G-dly
power invested in the world is submerged within the natural order, which
obscures our appreciation of Him. Miracles, in contrast, break through nature
and allow us to openly appreciate G-d’s infinite power.
Witnessing these miracles endowed the Jewish people with the
strength to leave Egypt, to go beyond the boundaries and limitations of worldly
existence and experience freedom. In the same manner, the future redemption will
be characterized by miracles, as it is written, "As in the days of your exodus
from Egypt, I will show you wonders," wonders that will transcend the natural
order entirely, and which will be greater than those that accompanied the exodus
from Egypt. Furthermore, G-d Himself will show us these wonders, revealing them
As mentioned, the potential for the redemption is associated
with Moshe. The nature of Moshe’s influence and contribution to the Jewish
people and to the world at large is expressed in the Psalm, Chapter 90 of
Tehillim, "A prayer of Moshe." (There is a unique connection between this Psalm
and the present days, as reflected in the custom initiated by the Baal Shem Tov
to daily recite the Psalm that corresponds to the years of one’s life.)
This Psalm concludes, "May the pleasantness of G-d, our L-rd,
be upon us; establish for us the work of our hands; establish the work of our
hands." Our Sages interpret this as a prayer in connection with the construction
of the Sanctuary in the desert, saying "May the Divine Presence rest in the work
of your hands." With this prayer, Moshe — and this was his unique contribution —
established, in a fixed manner, the dwelling of the Divine Presence among the
Jewish people. The ultimate expression of this process of indwelling will be in
the Era of Redemption, with the construction of the third Beis
HaMikdash, the eternal structure.
To focus on the Psalm in greater depth: The literary
structure of repetition is employed both at the beginning, "A prayer of Moshe,
the man of G-d" and at its conclusion, "establish for us the work of our hands;
establish the work of our hands."
This repetition is intrinsically related to the concept of
establishing G-d’s dwelling within the Jewish people in a permanent manner. For
this, two qualities are necessary: a) One must have a power that is greater than
the natural order, a power that can infuse a revelation of G-dliness into this
world, which is characterized by concealment. This involves changing the nature
of the world, as it were, making it into a vessel fit to receive G-dliness, and
indeed, to receive G-dliness in a permanent manner. b) This power must descend
to the extent that it can invest itself within the world (for that which refines
something else must be on its level). Only in this way, will it be able to
transform the world into a vessel that can receive G-dliness in a permanent
These two qualities are alluded to in the repetition of the
beginning and conclusion of the above Psalm, because both these qualities were
present within Moshe. Moshe served as a connecting intermediary, binding the
Jewish people to G-d.
The two qualities that an intermediary must possess are
reflected in the phrase "the man of G-d." Our Sages commented, "His upper half
resembled G-d; his lower half was like a man." More particularly, however, it is
the phrase "Moshe, the man of G-d," which brings out these two dimensions. The
name for G-d used in the above phrase is Elokim, which is numerically
equivalent to the word ha’teva, meaning "nature." Elokim refers to
G-dliness insofar as it brings the natural order into being. "The man of
Elokim" refers to a person who has been able to establish a oneness with
this G-dliness. It does, however, represent a limitation, for one unites only
with the G-dliness that invests itself within nature and not with the essential
G-dliness that transcends the natural order, represented by the name Havaya.
The name Moshe refers to a higher level. The Torah states
that he was given this name because "I drew him from the water." "Water" refers
to the name Havaya, the level of Mah, G-dliness that transcends
creation. Moshe’s soul had its source in these high levels of G-dliness, and
from them it was drawn into this world. Furthermore, even as Moshe existed
within this world, his soul was united with its source in the spiritual realms,
like fish who live in constant contact with their source of life.
Thus, the phrase "Moshe, the man of G-d," represents the two
qualities mentioned above: Moshe represents the connection with the levels of
G-dliness that transcend nature. Since this connection continued even as Moshe
existed within this material world, he had the potential to reveal G-dliness
within the world and transform its nature in a permanent manner, as explained
above. "The man of G-d," on the other hand, emphasizes the other dimension, the
connection that allows G-dliness to be drawn down within the world in an
internalized manner, and thus allow for permanent change. The revelation of
G-dliness that is above nature can be drawn into the creation itself.
A similar concept is reflected in the conclusion of the
Psalm, "establish for us the work of our hands; establish the work of our
hands." The expression "for us" in the first phrase indicates that the
revelation has its source in a level above our own. The second phrase, however,
indicates that this level has become internalized within us to the extent that
it is the work of our hands that is being established.
Our Sages relate the concept of repetition to the redemption,
and to the aspect of eternity within the redemption. Similarly, repetition is
related to Shabbos. Each Shabbos is twofold in nature, reflecting a rest from
the difficulties of the world (which parallels the G-dliness that is invested
within nature) and the essential dimension of rest (the G-dliness that
transcends nature). The two are interconnected, as our Sages comment on the
Psalm, "A Psalm, a song for the Shabbos day," "a song for the era that is all
Shabbos and rest forever," referring to the Era of Redemption, when the concept
of permanence and eternity (the contribution of Moshe) will be given full
In that era, "the pleasantness of G-d, our L-rd, will be upon
us," i.e., the essential pleasure will be revealed, and it will be "established
for us the work of our hands." …
3. Based on the above, we can understand the uniqueness of
Moshe and why he was chosen as the redeemer of the Jewish people. Since Moshe
was, as explained above, "the man of G-d," he had the potential to draw the
revelation of the unlimited dimensions of G-dliness into the world. This granted
him the potential to take the Jewish people out of the limitations of exile,
even the lowest limitations, the k’lipa of Egypt.
Similarly, it is this potential that ultimately will lead to
the era when, "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you
wonders." Miracles will be revealed; not only miracles invested in nature, but
miracles transcending the limits of nature entirely. This will be a redemption
that will not be followed by exile. The entire world will be permanently
established as a dwelling for G-d.
The above also enables us to understand the greatness of the
miracle of "smiting Egypt with their firstborn." The transformation of the
firstborn of Egypt into a force that acted on behalf of the Jewish people
represents an elevation of the lowest elements of existence. This, to a greater
extent than the miracles that happened to the Jewish people themselves, revealed
the infinite dimension of G-dliness within the limits of our material world.
For this reason, this miracle is associated with Shabbos, for
Shabbos is associated with the redemption, "the day which is all Shabbos and
rest for eternity." Indeed, the commemoration of this miracle enhances the
nature of Shabbos, making it Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Shabbos.
There is also a connection between the above and this week’s
parsha, Parshas Tzav. Our Sages explain that Tzav refers to "an
encouragement effective immediately and for all time." Here we see the eternal
dimension mentioned above. Significantly, the verse relates how G-d tells Moshe
to command Aharon, who serves as the medium, to communicate to the entire Jewish
people. Aharon is characterized by the qualities of "loving peace and pursuing
peace, loving the creations and bringing them close to the Torah." The command
given in the above verse encourages this service in a manner that is effective
immediately and for all time.
The above is enhanced by the unique nature of the present
year, a year when "I will show you wonders." As we have seen in a clear and
manifest wonder, it has been a wondrous year and we can be sure that these
wonders will continue and include the greatest wonder, the coming of Moshiach,
as mentioned in the Yalkut Shimoni.
The miraculous nature of the present year should be reflected
in the conduct of every Jew. Each one of us should increase his study of the
Torah and fulfillment of mitzvos b’hiddur, in a manner that
appears truly miraculous when compared to his previous efforts. There is a
unique potential for this service, granted by Moshe’s prayer, "May it be G-d’s
will that the Divine Presence rest in the work of your hands."
Moshe grants each Jew the power to reveal the service of
tzaddik in his service — for "Your nation are all tzaddikim." This
begins with the service of…giving oneself over to the Torah to the point that
there is no possibility for the existence of another side. Similarly, this
approach must be communicated to others, spreading the study of the Torah and
the performance of its mitzvos among Jews and spreading the observance of
the seven universal laws commanded to Noach and his descendants to all mankind.
…The above activities should also involve an emphasis on
providing each individual with his Pesach needs. One should not wait until the
poor come asking. Instead, efforts should be made to discover who is needy
beforehand and supply them with all that they require.
This leads to a second point. In this country, it is
customary to arrange communal sedarim. Generally, however, only one
communal seider is arranged and not two. It is important that all those
who hold communal sedarim should hold communal sedarim for both
Often, the reason only one seider is held is that
there are not enough funds for two. If necessary, the first seider should
be held in a simpler manner to allow for a second seider to be held.
Furthermore, there is enough time that, if the proper efforts are made, enough
funds can be raised to allow both sedarim to be celebrated in the proper
May we merit the ultimate fulfillment of the prayer of Moshe, "that the
Divine Presence rest in the work of our hands" in the third Beis
HaMikdash, "the Sanctuary of G-d, established by Your hands."