Rose And Shechted Rav Zeira
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Wilshansky, Rosh
Yeshiva Chassidei Chabad Lubavitch, Tz’fas. (Adapted from a
is a principle that a Yom Tov has significance
throughout the year, not just the day on which it is celebrated.
(See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 4, p. 1280.) Let us, therefore,
consider what we learned from this past Purim, and apply it in our
major theme of Purim is the obligation “to drink…until one
does not know the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and
‘blessed is Mordechai.’” This symbolizes an avoda
that transcends all boundaries and limitations. Of course, the
obligation to do so in that particular way exists only on Purim,
but the idea of serving Hashem in an unlimited manner is something
we can aspire to throughout the year.
general, the Jew’s avoda in exile is limited,
circumscribed by the natural order of the world. The Torah states,
“Six days shall you do work.” Only on the “seventh day,”
the Days of Moshiach, will our service be “a Shabbos to
Hashem,” transcending the natural order.
the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach has explained that now, during these
last few moments of exile, this higher level of avoda is
Didn’t Taste the Food
take one example: In Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 10 (Parshas
VaYishlach-Yud Tes Kislev), the Rebbe relates the story of the
distinguished guest who once came to stay with the Alter Rebbe.
Because he was such an important personage, all the members of the
household wanted to have the honor of cooking his food. They
divided up all the tasks so that everyone was responsible for a
different part of the menu.
detail, however, was inadvertently omitted: they forgot to assign
someone to add the salt. As each person realized what had
happened, he went over to the pot and added salt without telling
meal was served. The Alter Rebbe ate without complaint, but the
guest took one bite and quickly moved his plate aside. When the
Alter Rebbe asked him why he wasn’t eating, he told him that it
was just too salty. The Alter Rebbe then commented that since the
time he was in Mezritch, he had trained himself not to notice the
taste of food.
Rebbe continues in the sicha: “Even though this level of avoda
only relates to bnei aliya [exalted individuals], such as
the Alter Rebbe, the fact that this story has come down to us
demonstrates that in certain situations every single Jew, even the
simplest, can (and must) act in such a manner.
a person for whom it is simply impossible to reach this level (not
to notice the physicality of the world because he is so unified
with G-dliness) can, at certain times, be so involved in the
service of ‘you shall know Him’ that he simply doesn’t
perceive gashmiyus. This is tangibly demonstrated by the
fact that when a person is in an emotional state, he doesn’t
sense the taste of food, etc.”
are clearly living in these “certain situations” and
“certain times,” and this higher level of avoda is
required of us now.
are presently on the very threshold of the Final Redemption, in
the last few moments of exile. Our unique avoda consists of
learning about and living with the new era about to dawn.
does this mean in practical terms?
we learn in a sicha that every shaliach has the
ability to completely transform the city he lives in, it is very
hard for us to accept literally. We think the Rebbe must be
talking about the Days of Moshiach. However, the Rebbe explains
that although such an avoda certainly pertains to the
Messianic era, it is possible (and indeed obligatory) to
incorporate it into the way we act even now. Every shaliach,
and by extension every Jew, has the capacity to truly alter the
nature of the city he lives in.
similar phenomenon existed just before the Exodus from Egypt. Even
before it actually occurred, “the Children of Israel had light
in their dwelling places.” Since the Jewish people began to live
as if the redemption had already taken place, they merited a
foretaste of the coming redemption.
our case, this means that even before Moshiach’s complete
revelation, we must conduct our lives in a manner that transcends
all boundaries, “until one doesn’t know the difference between
‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.’”
When we live with Moshiach, the limitations of the world no
said than done!” you might react. How are we supposed to
implement this in our daily lives? Where do we get the strength to
answer is that when the Rebbe asks us to do something, he isn’t
just issuing a directive. Together with the directive, he also
gives us the power and ability to succeed. When the Rebbe asks us
to live with Moshiach – relating everything around us to the
imminent Redemption – it means that he has already raised us to
the level at which we can do so.
Talmud relates the famous story of the Purim seuda of Rabba
and Rav Zeira, at which the two sages took the injunction to drink
“until one doesn’t know the difference” quite literally. So
literally, in fact, that in the middle of the meal, “Rabba rose
up and slaughtered Rav Zeira.” (Of course, the following day
Rabba prayed and brought him back to life.)
happened here? In Volume 31 of Likkutei Sichos, the Rebbe
asks the same question. How is it possible that Rabba committed
such an act, even while under the influence? G-d forbid that Rabba
could have done anything even remotely connected to the spilling
Rebbe explains that although Rav Zeira’s neshama did
actually depart from his physical body, the reason wasn’t
murder, G-d forbid. Rather, it was the result of having heard so
many esoteric secrets of Torah (“wine”) at the meal that he
reached a state of k’los ha’nefesh, when the body and
soul are incompatible. The true meaning of the word sh’chita
(slaughtering) is meshicha, drawing near. In fact, Rabba
brought Rav Zeira to such a high level that his physical body
simply wasn’t able to contain the revelations of G-dliness.
contains a lesson for us in our times:
none of us is of the stature of Rav Zeira, “Rabba,” the Rebbe
MH”M, has already elevated us to a level at which we can now
perform our avoda above all boundaries and limitations
“until one doesn’t know the difference.”
truth, the Rebbe has elevated the entire world, raising it to the
point at which it is ready for Moshiach. This perspective must be
internalized and acted upon, with the clear knowledge that the
stage is already set for the Redemption.
we know that the world is ready, our avoda is easier. The
very awareness facilitates our living with Moshiach, and enables
us to rise above all obstacles and difficulties.
Small Alef and the Large Alef
letters of the Torah come in three sizes: large, small, and the
standard letters with which most of the Torah is written. A large Alef
is known as an Alef Rabbasi, a small Alef as an Alef
Ze’ira. A medium-sized Alef is called an Alef
Regila (a regular Alef).
the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek was a young boy, his grandfather, the
Alter Rebbe, sent him to learn in cheider. The Alter Rebbe
instructed the teacher to begin with the first chapter of VaYikra.
he returned from school, the Tzemach Tzedek asked his grandfather
why the Alef of VaYikra was smaller than the other
letters. The Alter Rebbe pondered the question in great dveikus
for some time before answering:
the beginning of Divrei HaYamim [the Book of Chronicles]
Adam HaRishon’s name is written with a large Alef,
because Adam considered himself to be very important. After all,
none other than G-d Himself had created him! Adam HaRishon was
aware of his own significance, which later led to the sin of the Eitz
HaDaas [Tree of Knowledge].
contrast, in the verse ‘VaYikra el Moshe,’ the Alef
is small, alluding to Moshe Rabbeinu’s humility. Although Moshe
was well aware of his extraordinary talents and abilities, he did
not take pride in them or consider himself great. It states in the
Torah, ‘And the man Moshe was very humble.’ According to
Moshe’s way of thinking, had someone else been blessed with the
same abilities, he would have certainly utilized them better.”
Volume 17 of Likkutei Sichos, the Rebbe elucidates what
this means for us:
sometimes happens that the yetzer ha’ra comes to us
dressed in a coat of humility. The yetzer ha’ra gives us
all kinds of reasons why we cannot possibly perform a certain avoda.
“You’re not on that level,” it attempts to convince us.
“That’s only for tzaddikim, not for you.”
this kind of humility is misplaced. It is bad humility, not good
humility. Like Adam HaRishon, we must be able to correctly
perceive our own positive qualities. This prevents us from having
the other hand, we must also emulate Moshe Rabbeinu and realize
that our talents and abilities are only given to us to use
properly. In fact, when we appreciate all that we’ve been
blessed with, it leads to the sense that someone else in our shoes
might be doing a better job.
Rebbe has entrusted us with a special mission – the large Alef.
He has given us a wonderful and unique merit, that of belonging to
the first generation of the Redemption. And not only that, he has
appointed each and every one of us as his personal shaliach.
When we fulfill our mission, we are bound to the Rebbe in complete
unity and become one essence.
the same time, we must be completely nullified to the meshaleiach,
the one who sends us on our mission. The small Alef is the
awareness that we do not act under our own power, but under the
Rebbe’s. The meshaleiach is merely working through us,
provided we are totally battel to him.
also underscores the obligation of our shlichus. The fact
that we are given special powers to succeed only illustrates just
how important it is that we use them properly.
both aspects, the small Alef and the large Alef,
enables us to perform our avoda in a manner of “until one
doesn’t know the difference,” transcending all boundaries and
limitations throughout the entire year. When we know that we are
acting under the Rebbe’s power, we can truly live with Moshiach
in the literal sense.
World is Ready
9th of Adar recently passed, the day on which the Rebbe Rayatz
arrived in the United States. With the statement “America is not
different,” the Rebbe Rayatz characterized the avoda that
would be required in the lower hemisphere, the bottom half of the
world, in which the Torah was not given.
Rebbe Rayatz’s plans were apparently too radical for the
delegation of Chassidim that came to greet him. In their opinion,
they just weren’t based on reality. But despite their dire
predictions and the seeming impossibility of the task at hand, the
Rebbe Rayatz proved them wrong.
then, there are many in our own times who insist that the world
just isn’t ready for Moshiach, but the Rebbe has repeatedly told
us that they are wrong. Having been entrusted with the mission to
greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu, there is no doubt that we will succeed
in the very near future, and bring about the immediate revelation
of the Rebbe, and he will redeem us.