Dvar Malchus

Approaching True Unity

Moshiach & Geula

Teives: Time For The Darkness To Illuminate

Action is the Main Thing
Directives Of The Rebbe MH"M For Teives
Shleimus HaAretz
4 Denials & 2 Much Talk
Until The Earth Shakes
Chazara B’Simcha
The Rebbe’s Checks

Teives: Time For The Darkness To Illuminate
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Ginsberg

It is precisely now, when the "enlightening" days of Chanuka are over and we find ourselves in the dark and dreary month of Teives, that the main idea of the "seventh generation" is most strongly expressed.

As mentioned in previous columns, there are many stories Chassidim tell about Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polana and how he became a Chassid of the Baal Shem Tov. Originally a vociferous opponent of Chassidus, the author of the Toldos Yaakov Yosef was later transformed into one of the Baal Shem Tov’s greatest disciples. In fact, Toldos Yaakov Yosef was the first seifer to be printed expounding the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings.

As noted before, it appears that there were several gradual stages to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef’s change of heart, as there always are when it comes to such life-altering, 180-degree philosophical turnarounds. At first, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef began to hear things about the Baal Shem Tov that softened his extreme position. Later he considered going to the Baal Shem Tov to meet him personally, despite his reluctance to waste time on such a long journey.

The following story takes place during the early days of the Baal HaToldos’ spiritual transformation:

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was a great Torah scholar who was the rav and halachic authority of his locality. Extremely punctilious about time, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef’s day was broken into various shiurim, some in which he learned by himself and others in which he taught. He also designated specific hours for answering shaalos and receiving guests, and of course, times when he davened with the community. His main concern was that not one moment of precious time be wasted, G-d forbid.

At this point in time the Baal Shem Tov was still wandering about, mingling with the common folk. Disguised as a simple Jew, he would go to the local marketplace and regale the merchants, wagon drivers, women, and children with stories from the Torah and tales of tzaddikim, always stressing how much Hashem loves each Jew, and how easy it is to draw close to Him. It didn’t matter if a person wasn’t particularly learned; all that was necessary was a little effort and sincerity of heart. With this message the Baal Shem Tov would encourage the pintele Yid in everyone, explaining how G-d loves even the simplest things we do in accordance with His will: not lying, stealing or cursing; always acting honestly; and helping one another, etc. Without fail, the Baal Shem Tov’s audience would drink in his words like a vital elixir, and their avodas Hashem would be greatly strengthened.

In any event, it was already some time since the Baal Shem Tov had first set his holy eyes upon Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polana; all he was waiting for was the right opportunity to introduce him to the light of Chassidus. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, however, was careful to avoid anything with the faintest whiff of Chassidus. The Baal Shem Tov would just have to come up with the perfect ruse…

As mentioned before, every minute of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef’s day was accounted for; a person could set his watch according to the Rav’s daily schedule. That is, until one day when the Baal Shem Tov decided to position himself at a busy intersection on the way to shul. The Baal Shem Tov was dressed in his typical nondescript manner, with a rope tied around his waist as a gartel. As usual, a sizeable crowd was soon gathered around him, listening to his stories. One by one, people on their way to shul came over to investigate; invariably, they all remained rooted to the spot.

In the meantime, the proper time for davening had come and gone, yet the rabbi was still alone in shul. Where was everybody? Nothing like this had ever happened before. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef grew increasingly annoyed as the seconds ticked by. Why, one of his shiurim was due to begin in another few minutes! His entire schedule was being thrown off by these inconsiderate people! Eventually Rabbi Yaakov Yosef decided that he couldn’t wait any longer and he davened without a minyan. By that time, he was totally beside himself. On the way out he asked the shamash why no one had shown up in shul, and was told that a certain Jew had arrived in town and was standing in the middle of the street telling stories. It seemed as though everyone who went over to listen lost track of time…

"Well, go summon that storyteller and bring him here!" Rabbi Yaakov Yosef fumed. The shamash ran outside and did as he was told.

This was exactly what the Baal Shem Tov had been waiting for. He went to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, but before the Rav could even open his mouth the Baal Shem Tov said, "Rabbi, I’d like to tell you a story." Without waiting for a response, he began:

"There were once two neighbors who lived side by side. One was a talmid chocham and the other was a simple laborer. Both men were in the habit of rising very early – close to midnight – to begin their day: The talmid chocham woke up to go to shul for Tikkun Chatzos and to lament the exile of the Divine presence. Afterwards, he would sit and learn until daybreak, daven with a minyan with great kavana, then attend several regular shiurim in Torah. Only around noon, after almost ten hours of avodas Hashem, would he return home to eat something and lay down for a little nap.

"His neighbor, by contrast, was a poor Jew who had to actively pursue his livelihood. He woke up just as early to shlep his merchandise to all the outlying towns. Going from door to door, he would visit the homes of peasants, farmers, and landowners, offering them the opportunity to purchase his goods. This was not the most conducive atmosphere for cultivating yiras Shamayim. After he finished his morning rounds, he would return home, grab his tallis and t’fillin and run off to shul for some hurried davening.

"The two neighbors would meet each other on the street each day, one returning with ten hours of serious avodas Hashem under his belt, the other racing off to shul after having dealt with his non-Jewish customers since before dawn, trying to convince them to buy his wares. Every day, the talmid chocham would look at his neighbor condescendingly and think to himself, ‘Ribono Shel Olam! What a difference there is between the two of us!’ The simple Jew would likewise look at his neighbor and sigh bitterly at the great divide that separated them. This same scenario repeated itself every day for many years.

"After 120 years, the two men were called before the Heavenly court to give an accounting of their time on earth. The simple Jew was summoned first. When the sum of his accomplishments was tallied, the results were embarrassingly sparse. The man had barely known what was expected of him as a Jew, and had been often unable to do what was required. Things did not look too promising until a defending angel suddenly stood up to speak.

"Every day, the angel pointed out, the Jew would meet his scholarly neighbor on his way to shul and sigh bitterly over the disparity between them. This proved more than anything else that he really had wanted to conduct himself properly, but just hadn’t known how.

"It was time to render a decision. The Heavenly court placed all of the man’s sins on one side of the scale, and the sigh he had uttered each morning on the other. Incredibly, the sigh easily weighed down all his transgressions, and he was found innocent.

"When it was the talmid chocham’s turn to be judged, the stockpile of accomplishments over his lifetime was towering. How many countless hours over so many decades had he spent perfecting his avodas Hashem? However, there was one accusing angel who rose in dissent.

"None of that matters, the angel insisted. The amount of Torah he learned or how much effort he put into avodas Hashem is irrelevant. What matters is the superior and condescending smile he gave his neighbor every morning…

"The Heavenly court placed all of the talmid chocham’s numerous merits on one side of the scale, and the faintly contemptuous smile on the other. Lo and behold, the smile easily weighed down all the merits, and the talmid chocham was found guilty!"

His story concluded, the Baal Shem Tov turned and walked out. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, who had not even had an opportunity to speak, was completely flummoxed. All of the absolutes upon which he had based his life were suddenly a lot less absolute. It is said that this particular incident was one of the main reasons he later sought out the Baal Shem Tov and ultimately became one of his greatest disciples.

* * *

This story, like many others told by Chassidim, illustrates one of the most important principles in Toras ha’Chassidus: Despite the fact that "the main thing is the deed," a Jew’s connection to Hashem cannot be assessed by simply adding up how much Torah he has learned or how many mitzvos or aveiros he has to his credit.

A Jew can be uneducated in Judaism, totally involved in trivial matters, seeming to lack any connection to spirituality and holiness, yet in reality, his bond with Hashem is stronger and deeper than that of the talmid chocham who has worked on perfecting his avoda his whole life.

By the same token, a Jew can be a talmid chocham, lamdan, and gaon, etc., yet never develop his relationship with Hashem properly. The reason is that one can never underestimate the power of the yetzer ha’ra. That is, it is quite possible that everything the talmid chocham does increases his sense of self, and with every rung up the ladder of spiritual perfection he climbs, the more he feels "worthy." Instead of getting closer to Hashem, which can only be done through bittul and self-nullification, his ego actually distances him further, causing him to temporarily add vitality to the realm of klipa, G-d forbid. Our Sages stated, "He who is greater than his fellow also has a greater yetzer ha’ra."

(Of course, this should not be an excuse for not learning or doing mitzvos. As explained by Chassidus, "the main thing is the deed." We are promised that every Jew will ultimately do teshuva: "Not one person will be rejected" – and all the Torah and mitzvos he did will also return to Hashem…)

A person’s yetzer ha’ra isn’t handcuffed when he begins to learn Chassidus. It learns with him, it comes along for the ride when he travels to the Rebbe, and it accompanies him when he goes out on shlichus. The yetzer ha’ra is always there, making the same age-old claim as Lavan HaArami: "The daughters are my daughters and the sons are my sons; the flock is my flock, and everything you see belongs to me!"

Unfortunately, the yetzer ha’ra does sometimes succeed in "defiling all the oil,"
G-d forbid, especially the faculty of pleasure. The only aspect of a Jew that is completely immunized against defilement is the "cruse of oil sealed with the stamp of the Kohen Gadol," the "essential point of hiskashrus" that is utterly impervious to harm. This, of course, is the essential point of Moshiach, the yechida klalis, about which it is said, "I have anointed him in My holy oil." It is something that can never be tainted, contaminated or corrupted in any way.

The miracle of Chanuka is the "cruse of oil sealed with the stamp of the Kohen Gadol" we utilize an entire year, until it permeates all aspects of our soul. This signifies the intrinsic connection between Chanuka and Chabad Chassidus.

* * *

It is not coincidental that many important events in the history of Chabad took place during Chanuka. On the fourth day of Chanuka 5559, the Alter Rebbe returned home and recited HaGomel after being released from prison on Yud-Tes Kislev. On the third and fifth days of Chanuka, we celebrate the Alter Rebbe’s redemption from his second incarceration in 5561, exactly 200 years ago, which was much more serious than the first. The set of accusations leading up to the Alter Rebbe’s second arrest were not as personal as the first set, such as the charge that he was smuggling money to Eretz Yisroel, etc. Rather, the new accusations challenged the very basis of Chassidus: Why did the Alter Rebbe teach that malchus was the lowest of all the s’firos? Why did he preach that a person should aim to rise above the world? Wasn’t this in contradiction to settling it? The Alter Rebbe’s subsequent vindication and release was proof – and encouragement from Above – for him to continue to disseminate Chassidus after his incarceration.

Zos Chanuka, aside from being the last day of the holiday (and "everything goes according to its conclusion"), was always treated as special by the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach. Who can forget how the Rebbe shlita would gaze at the menora’s lights until late in the evening, and how he gave extra encouragement to Mivtza Chanuka on Zos Chanuka? Zos Chanuka was also the day the Rebbe made a seudas hodaa after his heart attack in 5738. (The Chassidim celebrated on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, but the seudas hodaa with kos shel bracha was held on Motzaei Zos Chanuka.)

There are many connections and similarities between Chanuka and Sukkos: the number 8, the opinion of Beis Shamai that the number of lights should decrease (like the animal sacrifices on Sukkos), and the concept of ushpizin (guests) who come to visit. According to the order of Chassidishe ushpizin starting with the Baal Shem Tov, the ushpiz who visits on Motzaei Zos Chanuka is the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach shlita.

As the Rebbe explained at his seudas hodaa in 5738, the fact that there isn’t a minhag to increase in joy on Motzaei Zos Chanuka indicates that the concept of Motzaei Zos Chanuka is so elevated that it cannot be contained in any form, even a minhag

The reason, the Rebbe continued, is that the s’fira of malchus, being last, relates to the very endpoint, when it seems as if all the light is gone. The function of malchus is to cause the darkness itself to illuminate until even the lower worlds declare, "Everything is G-dliness, and G-dliness is everything."

We saw this principle demonstrated many times in 770. When would the Rebbe encourage the singing most strongly? At the very end of a niggun, just before it repeats itself: "HaAderes V’HaEmuna," "Al Nisecha," "Lecha Dodi." At the precise moment when everything seems to be finished and done with, the main point is really just beginning, as it is then that the essence that transcends all boundaries and limitations becomes revealed.

The ultimate objective, of course, is the Messianic era, when "the night will illuminate as the day." Not only will the darkness be dispelled by an infusion of light, but the darkness itself will be a source of illumination.

Thus it is precisely now, at the conclusion of the "enlightening" days of Chanuka, when we find ourselves in the dark and dreary month of Teives, that the main idea of the "seventh generation" is most strongly expressed: that "the darkness itself should illuminate."

This leads us into Hei Teives, when we celebrate the pidyon shvuyim of the s’farim of our holy Rebbeim. As explained many times, the legal victory was a sign from Above for the seventh generation to continue to spread Chassidus until the only thing left is to "greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu in reality."

* * *

But getting back to our story about Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polana…

A Jew can study Torah and daven a whole day long, but if he isn’t "with the Rebbe," he can actually be a lot further from the truth than someone who outwardly seems distant but follows the Rebbe with tmimus and sincerity.

At this crucial time in history we must proceed toward the future with the "cruse of oil sealed with the stamp of the Kohen Gadol." Without looking to the left or the right, without becoming "weak and straggling behind," we will continue to march toward our goal with the Rebbe at our head, secure in the knowledge of G-d’s promise: "No stranger shall sit on his throne, nor shall others any longer inherit his glory. For You have sworn to him in Your holy Name that his light will never be extinguished."

Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed!


Rabbi Yaakov Yosef grew increasingly annoyed as the seconds ticked by. His entire schedule was being thrown off by these inconsiderate people!





His accomplishments were embarrassingly sparse. Things did not look too promising until a defending angel suddenly stood up to speak...






When would the Rebbe encourage the singing most strongly? At the very end of a niggun, just before it repeats itself.


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