Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, p. 61ff.

I. The Tur1 states that from Parshas Bereishis until the Seventeenth of Tammuz, “the haftoros reflect the content of the parshiyos. From [the 17th of Tammuz] onward, they reflect [the spiritual themes] of the times and the events [that took place at those times].”

Nevertheless, since all concepts within the Torah are extremely precise,2

See the Shaloh, Cheilek Torah Shebichsav, the beginning of Parshas Vayeishev [which explains that the weekly cycle of Torah readings shares a connection with the annual cycle of festivals and special dates.] See also p. 366a ff., of that text [which makes similar statements] in particular with reference to the parshiyos read in the three weeks [between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and Tishah BeAv]. the fact that the haftoros read from the Seventeenth of Tammuz onward have become associated with these parshiyos, [for example,] Divrei Yirmeyahu for Parshas Pinchas (or Parshas Mattos)... Nachamu for Parshas Vaes’chanan, indicates that although primarily “they reflect [the spiritual themes] of the times and the events [that took place at those times],” they also share a thematic connection to the parshiyos themselves.

With regard to our parshah: The reason why Nachamu, nachamu is the haftorah of Parshas Vaes’chanan “reflects [the spiritual themes] of the times and the events [that took place at those times].” For on Shabbos Parshas Vaes’chanan, we read the first of the seven haftoros of comfort. Nevertheless, these parshiyos3 and these haftoros also share a thematic connection4

This explanation is not appropriate, however, and we are forced to say that the haftorah beginning Shimu shares a connection to Parshas Mattos. [The proof of this is that] it is agreed — even by the opinion (quoted in the Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim, at the conclusion of ch. 284) which maintains that when two parshiyos are read together we should recite the haftorah from the first parshah — that when Parshas Mattos and Parshas Masei are read together, the haftorah beginning Shimu should be recited. [as will be explained].5

II. [Commenting] on the phrase:6 Nachamu nachamu ami, “Take comfort, take comfort, My people,” the Midrash7states that the repetition — “Take comfort, take comfort” — implies that [the Jews will be] comforted once for the destruction of the First Beis HaMikdash and a second time for the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash.

Explanation is necessary: Comfort is granted when a person suffers misfortune, Heaven forbid, and the person trying to offer comfort cannot compensate for the loss. Hence, he tries to comfort the person who suffered the misfortune. Accordingly, when a person suffers two losses, it is appropriate that he should be comforted twice — [once] for [each of] the two losses which he suffered.

In the present situation, by contrast, the comfort is the promise that the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt.8 The First Beis HaMikdash was on a higher plane than the Second Beis HaMikdash. ([As our Sages commented:]9 The Second Beis HaMikdash lacked five [manifestations of holiness that were present in the First Beis HaMikdash.]) In the Future, we will be comforted for the First Beis HaMikdash, for the Third Beis HaMikdash will contain all the elements that were present in the First Beis HaMikdash. Why then is it necessary to be comforted for the Second Beis HaMikdash? Seemingly, the comfort for its destruction is also included in the comfort granted for the First Beis HaMikdash.

[This difficulty] can be reconciled as follows:10 By and large, the Second Beis HaMikdash was lacking when compared to the First Beis HaMikdash. Nevertheless, [from a certain perspective,] the Second Beis HaMikdash possessed an advantage over the First Beis HaMikdash. In this vein, the Talmud11 interprets the verse:12 “The glory of this latter house will surpass that of the first” as meaning that the glory of the Second Beis HaMikdash13 will be greater than that of the First in that its building was larger14 and it endured for a longer time.15

Therefore the verse states: “Take comfort, take comfort,” once for the First Beis HaMikdash and once for the Second Beis HaMikdash. For the Third Beis HaMikdash will compensate for both losses, for it will possess the positive advantages of both the First Beis HaMikdash and the Second Beis HaMikdash.16

III. To understand the advantage of the Second Beis HaMikdash over the First Beis HaMikdash, we must explain the advantage (from an inner [spiritual perspective]) of the Beis HaMikdash (in general, including even the First Beis HaMikdash) over the Sanctuary. [In that vein, our Sages explain17] that the Beis HaMikdash is considered “G‑d’s permanent dwelling,” while the Sanctuary is considered as [merely] a temporary dwelling18 for Him.19

The holiness which [permeated] the Sanctuary [came as a result of the manifestation of G‑d’s presence,] “I will dwell within.”20 It encompassed all the elements of the Sanctuary, not only the curtains and boards (which came from the animal and plant kingdoms21), but also the earth of the Sanctuary (which was inanimate matter). Nevertheless, the indwelling of G‑d’s presence was not motivated by the material entities themselves (the curtains or the earth), but came because of His initiative.22

To illustrate the concept in personal terms: An arousal from above does not produce an internalized effect within a person’s character. He remains who he is. During the time he is exposed to the arousal from above, he will be inspired. That inspiration will, however, fade when the arousal from above ceases.] {And yet, because the light which shined in the Sanctuary was unlimited, it was able to be drawn down until the lowest levels, even to inanimate matter.}

[Thus the revelation within the Sanctuary followed the motif of revelation from above.] For this reason, when the Sanctuary was [disassembled and] moved from a particular place, the holiness [of the Sanctuary] did not remain within the earth in the place [where it had stood previously].

In contrast, the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash came about because of the material entities from which it was constructed.23 Therefore even after the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, its site remained holy.24

This is the inner reason why the Beis HaMikdash was built in the time of King Shlomo, an era when “the disk of the moon was full.”25 The moon is a recipient of the sun’s light, comparable to the Sefirah of Malchus (in contrast to the sun which is a source of influence — and hence, comparable to the spiritual level of Z’eir Anpin).26 Since the new development brought about by the Beis HaMikdash involves primarily (not drawing down G‑dly influence from above), but refining the created beings, it is therefore connected to the fulfillment of the moon.27

* Significantly, when citing this statement of our Sages, Rashi (Bamidbar 27:20) omits the words “the face of.” The rationale is that from the standpoint of peshat, (the simple meaning of the Torah), there is no difference between the sun and the moon themselves and their “faces.”

IV. There are two patterns within the motif of the refinement of the created beings:

a) Their refinement stems from [the revelation of] light from above. This can be compared to a teacher who instructs a student in such a manner that through the concepts which he taught the student, the student himself (on his own initiative) can appreciate the teacher’s ultimate intent.28 Nevertheless, the ability of the student to appreciate his teacher’s ultimate intent on his own initiative stems from the light of the intellect which his teacher granted him. 29

b) The refinement of the created beings does not come from a light which shines upon them from above, but from their very own selves. Because G‑dliness is the truth of their existence, they will ultimately become refined until “all flesh will see ... that the mouth of G‑d has spoken.”30 The perception will be motivated, not by the revelation of “G‑d’s mouth,” but by the “flesh” itself.

To cite a parallel: Teshuvah in the simplest sense, (i.e., teshuvah for one’s sins). Generally, teshuvah is not motivated by a revelation from above. {On the contrary, (before he repents,) a baal teshuvah is distant from G‑dliness and is incapable of perceiving G‑dly light.} Instead, [the impetus to do teshuvah] comes from the baal teshuvah himself,31 from the fact that the essence of a Jew is G‑dliness. [This inner truth has] apparent effects [as well]. Hence, without exception, every Jew desires to fulfill G‑d’s will, it is only that his natural inclination compels him [and prevents him from doing so], as the Rambam states in his renowned ruling.32

V. Just as there are two patterns with regard to the refinement of the created beings; so, too there are two modes [of revelation] with regard to the moon (which reflects the level of Malchus, the source for [the existence of] the created beings): [the moon’s] present [mode of revelation] and the mode which will exist in the ultimate Future.

At present, the moon is a recipient [of the light] of the sun (which represents Z’eir Anpin26). Nevertheless, when it receives light from the sun, [it does not merely reflect that light]. Instead, it produces its own light,33 in a manner comparable to the analogy of the student mentioned previously. Through receiving concepts from his source of influence, he is able to develop new concepts on his own initiative.

In the ultimate Future, however, “the light of the moon will resemble the light of the sun.”34 The light of the moon will not need [to receive influence from] the light of the sun. Instead, it will shine like the light of the sun which gives off light on its own initiative.35

{[This pattern will continue] until “our eyes will shine like the sun and the moon.”36 Our eyes (— and more precisely, our pupils37 —) will shine with their own light, and they will not need — as is necessary at present — the light of the sun or the moon to see.38

See Toras Chayim, Noach (p. 60b), which explains that there are two interpretations to the phrase (Koheles 2:13): “an advantage of darkness over light.” Note also Or HaTorah, Va’eira, p. 163.}

VI. The three concepts mentioned above — influence which is drawn down from above, the refinement of the created beings because of a revelation of light, and their refinement on their own initiative — [have parallels in] our Divine service. In general terms, they can be interpreted as referring to Torah study, the observance of mitzvos (or prayer), and teshuvah.

The Torah represents influence drawn down from above. [G‑d] “gave us His Torah.”39 And “Moshe received the Torah ... and conveyed it....”40 Even the study of the Torah which involves effort so that the student comprehends [the subject matter he is studying] and his understanding becomes unified with the Torah which he studies,41 [does not represent a departure from this motif].42 For his primary thrust is not to make a [conceptual] contribution of his own, but to labor to grasp what the Torah says. [His efforts are focused on] revealing the Torah’s teachings.

Mitzvos, by contrast, are intended primarily [to bring about a change in the material substance of the world], to make the parchment and wool into tefillin and tzitzis respectively. Thus it is written:43 “And you shall make them,” i.e., it is man, as it were, who is the one who brings about the mitzvah.44 [Moreover, the root of the term o,hagu, “And you shall make them,” also serves as the root of the Hebrew term ihagn, which has the connotation of compulsion,] as in the expression:45 “We compel [them to give] tzedakah.” This compulsion, and the bittul [the mitzvos] bring about within the person who fulfills them, [improve his character], as the Midrash states:46 “The mitzvos were given solely to refine the created beings.”

{Another point: The concept of mitzvos can only be understood on the premise that there exists a person who will observe the mitzvos. For mitzvos are commands and directives for a person to observe. The Torah, by contrast, exists [independently]. Before [there was] a person to study it, [it existed].47}

Just as there is a difference between the Torah and the mitzvos in the human sphere, so, too, there is a difference — indeed, a more definitive one — between them in the manner in which they relate to the world at large. Although the Torah speaks about material entities, it merely renders judgments concerning them. It does not enclothe itself in them.48 The mitzvos, by contrast, become enclothed in the material entities with which they are performed to the extent that these entities themselves become holy.

This is one of the reasons why the Torah is described with the analogy of daylight, while mitzvos are described with the analogy of candlelight.49 Daylight does not produce an internalized effect50 within the area in which it shines.51

[Trans. Note: As explained above, the effect of daylight is limited to the time the light shines and it does not bring about an internalized change within the area in which it shines.] There is no change in that area at all. Candlelight, by contrast, transforms the wick and the fuel to (fire and) light.52

VII. Nevertheless, even the refinement of a person and our worldly environment brought about by mitzvos is associated with G‑dly light. It is true that the refinement is internalized within the person and within the world. Nevertheless, [this refinement comes as a result of] listening to the commandment of the Creator and being willing — because of the acceptance of G‑d’s yoke — to fulfill His will.

A baal teshuvah, by contrast, [does not have a connection with G‑dly light]. Through his sins, he has thrown off G‑d’s yoke and he is distant from [the revelation of] G‑dly light (from above). His teshuvah comes, (as explained above, section 4,) from his own53 initiative.54

There is also a difference with regard to the effect within the world at large. Mitzvos are able to refine only the sparks of G‑dliness that are enclothed in permitted entities,55 which stem from kelipas nogah.56 (The sparks [of G‑dliness] which, by contrast, have fallen into forbidden entities which stem from the three totally impure kelipos cannot be elevated through the mitzvos.57 Through teshuvah, by contrast, even the sparks [of G‑dliness] enclothed in purposeful sins (which stem from the three impure kelipos58) are transformed59

Teshuvah, by contrast, brings about a transformation of darkness which is motivated by the darkness itself. Thus even willful transgressions — darkness which has no connection to light — can be transformed into merits. into mitzvos.60

VIII. Based on the above, we can also appreciate the advantage which the Second Beis HaMikdash possesses over the First Beis HaMikdash.61 In the era of the First Beis HaMikdash, it was ordained that the Jews conduct their Divine service primarily as tzaddikim, “righteous men.”62

(Note also Shmos Rabbah, loc. cit., which states: “On the first of Nissan, the shining began.” [As explained in other sources,] the month of Nissan is associated with drawing down [G‑dly] influence from above. Accordingly, the potential had not yet been granted for the world — as it exists within its own context — to become holy.

In the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, the Jewish people were on the level of baalei teshuvah. Therefore the Second Beis HaMikdash allowed for the possibility that material substance — as it exists within its own context — would become a dwelling for G‑d.

This also explains why it was Koresh — a gentile63

Rashi (Rosh HaShanah 3b) comments on the statement that Koresh “soured” — “he became wicked.” This, however, is not a proof that the source of his soul changed. — who gave the order to build the Second Beis HaMikdash.64 This resembles the concept of teshuvah, that a person’s unintentional sins — and even his intentional sins — are transformed into merits.

IX. [On this basis, we can appreciate the necessity for the Jews to be] comforted twice: once for the First Beis HaMikdash and once for the Second Beis HaMikdash. For each one possessed an advantage over the other. The advantage of the First Beis HaMikdash is that it revealed a higher light. Since the Jewish people were on the level of tzaddikim, they were more appropriate mediums for G‑dliness. This approach was reflected in the Beis HaMikdash as well.

With regard to the Divine service that relates to the world itself, however, the Second Beis HaMikdash represented a higher rung. {This also explains why the Second Beis HaMikdash surpassed the First in size (place) and endured for a longer period (time).65 For the gestalt of our world is dependent on time and space.66}

From this, we can appreciate the advantage of the Third Beis HaMikdash — that it will fuse both advantages together — and thus serve as comfort for both the First and Second Batei HaMikdash.67

X. The difference between the era of the First Beis HaMikdash and that of the Second Beis HaMikdash is also expressed (as are all concepts of P’nimiyus HaTorah) in Nigleh, the revealed dimension of Torah scholarship, and even in Halachah, Torah law.

From one perspective, in the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael was on a lower level than in the era of the First Beis HaMikdash. Thus we find that ([there is a different status in the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash] with regard to certain laws [regarding the status of Eretz Yisrael]).68

A question can, however, be raised with regard to this explanation, for the mitzvah of Yovel was also not observed at the conclusion of the era of the First Beis HaMikdash [from the time of the exile of the tribes of Reuven and Gad] (Erachin 35b). Similarly, there is a difference with regard to the laws regarding the sounding of the shofar when Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbos. In the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash, “[the shofar] would be sounded in the [Beis Ha]Mikdash, but not in the country as a whole,”69 while in the era of the First Beis HaMikdash, by contrast (even when Rosh HaShanah fell on Shabbos70), the shofar is sounded, not only in the Beis HaMikdash, but also in the country as a whole.

The Alter Rebbe explains71 this concept [as follows]: The G‑dly influence which is drawn down through sounding the shofar when Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbos is extremely elevated. [This level] can only be drawn down in the Beis HaMikdash.72

The reason all the various Rabbinic safeguards and decrees were enacted in the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash was that the sublime Hei associated with the Sefirah of Binah did not shine at that time, as explained in Likkutei Torah, loc. cit. [Nevertheless,] in the Beis HaMikdash itself, even in the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash, it was possible for [the Sefirah of] Binah of Atzilus to be revealed. Hence, in the Beis HaMikdash, there was no need for Rabbinic safeguards, and the prohibitions classified as shvus were not applied. [Outside of the Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, these safeguards were necessary.] Nevertheless, (in the era of the First Beis HaMikdash, the shofar was sounded in the entire country, because the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash was drawn down throughout the country at large.

Nevertheless, [there is an advantage to the holiness of Eretz Yisrael in the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash over that of the era of the First Beis HaMikdash]. After the destruction of the First Beis HaMikdash, the holiness of the land was nullified. [During the Babylonian exile, the concept of the sanctity of the land did not apply.] After the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, the sanctity of the land endured.73

The concept can be explained as follows: With regard to the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, there was a higher level revealed in the era of the First Beis HaMikdash. With regard to the potential for that holiness to endure — i.e., not to cease its connection with this earthly realm, [there was an advantage to the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash].

[The perpetuation of the holiness of the land] is dependent on the refinement of the worldly realm. [This dimension received its] primary [emphasis] during the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash when the reentry to Eretz Yisrael (and the holiness of the land) came about through [the directives of] Koresh.74

XI. Every concept has its source in the Torah itself. [The source within] the Torah for the two [motifs of spiritual expression, that of] tzaddikim and baalei teshuvah, are the First Tablets and the Second Tablets.

From the standpoint of the First Tablets, the Jews [enjoyed] “freedom,” “no nation or people could rule over them.”75 This parallels the era of the First Beis HaMikdash, when the light of the Beis HaMikdash shone throughout Eretz Yisrael in its totality.76

From the standpoint of the Second Tablets, by contrast, only a person who actually occupies himself with the Torah can be considered as “free.”77 This parallels the Second Beis HaMikdash where the light illuminated only the Beis HaMikdash itself, not the outlying areas.76

Conversely, however, because the First Tablets were a present given from above, it is possible that they could be broken. [Breaking them, however,] affected only their lower dimensions, (the actual physical tablets). The letters, by contrast, rose heavenward.78 This parallels the holiness of the land which was nullified after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash except in the place of the Beis HaMikdash itself.79

With regard to the Second Tablets, by contrast, since they came after the First Tablets were broken and after the compensation for this (through teshuvah), they were never broken.80 This parallels the holiness of Eretz Yisrael during the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash which continues forever.

XII. On this basis, we can appreciate the connection between Parshas Vaes’chanan and the twofold comfort [granted] for both the First Beis HaMikdash and the Second Beis HaMikdash. [Parshas Vaes’chanan] contains a recapitulation of the Ten Commandments. One of the differences between the narrative of the Ten Commandments recounted in our Torah reading and that of Parshas Yisro is that the story of the Ten Commandments described in Parshas Yisro took place before the sin of the Golden Calf, when the Jews were on the level of tzaddikim. [ Moshe’s retelling of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Vaes’chanan,81 by contrast, took place after the Sin of the Golden Calf and many other undesirable factors. Indeed, this parshah follows in sequence to the previous parshah which relates [Moshe’s] rebuke [of the Jewish people]. Moreover, within this parshah itself, there are words of rebuke concerning undesirable conduct.82

Nevertheless, this parshah relates the entire story of the giving of the Torah as it took place before the sin. Thus this parshah [parallels the Third Beis HaMikdash which] combines the Divine service of tzaddikim (the First Beis HaMikdash) and baalei teshuvah (the Second Beis HaMikdash).

XIII. The fusion of the First Beis HaMikdash and the Second Beis HaMikdash is also alluded to in the (first word and) name of the parshah, Vaes’chanan, “And I beseeched.” [As explained on many occasions,] the name communicates the fundamental theme of the entire parshah.

Vaes’chanan is numerically equivalent to 515.83 In Chassidus,84 it is explained that the number 500 reflects the middos — the Sefiros which correspond to the emotions. They relate to the letters vav hei [from G‑d’s name v-u-v-h]. (Hence our Sages85 speak of the world which is brought into being from the middos — the seven days of creation — as being measured in sets of 500.)

Fifteen (is numerically equivalent to the letters yud hei and) refers to the intellectual faculties. Thus Vaes’chanan which is 515 (500 and 15 in one word) reflects the fusion of the intellectual faculties with the emotional characteristics.86

This also alludes to the fusion of the First Beis HaMikdash with the Second Beis HaMikdash, because the First Beis HaMikdash87 is associated with the letters yud hei, and the Second Beis HaMikdash with the letters vav hei.

This is one of the reasons why Parshas Vaes’chanan is read on the first Shabbos of comfort, directly after Tishah BeAv. All of the Divine influences are drawn down into the world through the Torah. The ascent which follows Tishah BeAv involves the fusion of the positive advantages of both the First Beis HaMikdash and the Second Beis HaMikdash. Therefore [on this Shabbos], we read Parshas Vaes’chanan, a Torah portion that focuses on the fusion of yud hei and vav hei.

Through [making reference] to the fusion of the First Beis HaMikdash and the Second Beis HaMikdash in the reading of the Torah and the Haftorah {where [this fusion] is referred to explicitly, in the repetition of the phrase: “Take comfort, take comfort”} we precipitate and hasten the fulfillment of that prophecy [and the coming of the era when] we will be comforted for both Batei HaMikdash.

For in that era, the Third Beis HaMikdash — which combines both the First and the Second — will be revealed,88 with the coming of Mashiach. May this take place in the very near future.

(Adapted from Sichos Simchas Beis HaShoevah, 5724;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vaes'chanan, 5728)