1. The Unique Role of Moshe Rabbeinu. Parshas Mishpatim1 is the weekly reading that immediately follows the account of the Giving of the Torah in Parshas Yisro. On this sequence, the Midrash teaches:2 “As soon as Moshe saw that the Children of Israel were afraid when the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and spoke to them (as it is written,3 ‘All the people saw the sounds..., and the people trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moshe: You speak to us and we will hear; let G‑d not speak to us, lest we die’), Moshe said to them, ‘Do not fear,’ (as it is written,4 ‘Moshe said to the people, Do not fear’).... Thus, Moshe first pacified the Children of Israel, and only then did he present them with the laws of damages and all the other requirements of the law — as it is written thereafter,5 ‘And these are the laws that you shall place before them.

This explains the wording of the verse, “And these are the laws that you shall place before them.” G‑d is thus saying, “From this point on, you, Moshe, shall place the laws of the Torah before the Children of Israel” — in keeping with their request, “You speak to us and we will hear.”

This unique role of Moshe is discussed in chassidic discourses on Parshas Mishpatim — whether published, or in manuscript, or known by oral transmission.

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2. A Maamar. [At this point in the farbrengen the Rebbe delivered the maamar beginning with the words VeEileh HaMishpatim.. Its Heb. text appears in Toras Menachem — Hisvaaduyos, 5711 [1951], Chelek Rishon, Vol. Beis, p. 237. Its Eng. translation is scheduled to appear in a separate volume of maamarim. ]

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3. Which is the Main Adar? In a leap year, such as the present year,6 which of the two months of Adar is the main one, and which is merely the added, intercalated month? This question is the subject of a classic debate.7

It could be suggested that this question hinges on the difference of opinion between R. Meir and R. Yehudah:8 “As we have learned in a beraisa, [a person writing a legal document who wishes to mention] the First Adar must specify ‘the First Adar,’ whereas for the Second Adar he simply writes ‘Adar’. This is the view of R. Meir. R. Yehudah holds that for the First Adar one simply writes ‘Adar’, whereas for the Second Adar one must specify ‘the Second Adar.’”

Simple logic would appear to dictate that the main month of Adar is the second, because it is then that the days of Purim are celebrated, by the Reading of the Megillah, the sending of food gifts,9 and gifts to the poor.10 (In the first Adar, this period is marked merely by Purim Katan — “Minor Purim.”11 ) Hence, if we were to say that the month added in a leap year is the Second Adar, it would follow that a regular year of twelve months12 would lack the month in which Purim is mainly celebrated. This leads to the conclusion that the main month is the Second Adar, and the month added in a leap year is the First Adar. (A regular year thus lacks only Purim Katan, which is of less significance than Purim proper.)

And now, since today is Shabbos Mevarchim Adar Rishon, the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh of the First Adar, which is the added, intercalated month,13 it is appropriate that we should discuss the spiritual meaning and distinctive quality of such a month.

4. Adjusting the Calendar: The Plain Meaning. Let us first clarify the basics of this subject, as set out by Rambam at the beginning of Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh:14 “How much longer is a solar year than a [twelve-month] lunar year? — Close to eleven days.” (For15 “a solar year is 365 days and six hours,” and “if a lunar year is twelve months long..., it will total 354 days, eight hours, and 76/1080 of an hour....16 A solar year thus exceeds a [regular] lunar year by ten days, 21 hours, and 204/1080 of an hour.”) Hence, when about thirty days of this excess have accumulated..., a month is added: that year has thirteen months, and is called shanah meuberes, a leap year.”

Even though the Jewish people17 “calculate by the moon,” the solar year too must be calculated18 “in order that Pesach should fall in the spring, as it is written,19 שמור את חודש האביב — ‘Safeguard the month of spring’: see to it that this month should fall in the spring. For without the addition of the [above] month, Pesach would sometimes fall in summer and sometimes in winter.”

5. Adjusting the Calendar: The Spiritual Meaning. The brevity of the lunar year relative to the solar year reflects a broader theme — the diminution of the moon20 relative to the sun. At the beginning of creation there were21 “the two great luminaries.” “They22 were created equal,” but ultimately “the moon was diminished because it complained [that two kings cannot use one crown].”

The spiritual root of the diminution of the moon — a lack of light — is explained in a published maamar of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz].23 What causes this diminution and makes it possible is “the fact that24 ‘this [luminary] is not to [G‑d’s] liking,’ and this brought about the Breaking of the Vessels25 of the World of Tohu.” At an earlier stage, there was “a lack of spiritual light in the worlds above — the first tzimtzum,”26 and “this made possible a lack of spiritual light in the world below as the result of sin,” beginning with the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge, the root of all sins.

The Divine intent in this is that avodah be undertaken by individual effort.... Through this one elicits the light that was lacking, and far more. Doing so fulfills the Divine intent underlying tzimtzum, the self-screening of the Divine light — namely, that G‑d’s Essence (Atzmus) should be made manifest.” This means that not only will light be elicited as it was before the Sin and, indeed, before the tzimtzum, but that the light drawn down will be superior to that which radiated before the Sin: it will be a light that was unequalled even before the tzimtzum.27

6. Restituting the Moon; Repairing Sin; Eliciting Light. The above concepts will allow us to understand the spiritual meaning and distinctive quality of an intercalated month.

Since the addition of such a month replenishes and compensates for the lack in the lunar year relative to the solar year, it may be conceived of as a step toward correcting and restituting the diminution of the moon. Hence, it may also be conceived of as a step toward correcting and rehabilitating the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge, and sins in general.

(This explains why in some printed versions of the Siddur, the wording of the Shemoneh Esreh of Mussaf on Rosh Chodesh during a leap year is emended to include the words, ולכפרת פשע — “and for the forgiving of sins.”28 )

Moreover, the addition of the leap month may be conceived of as a step toward correcting and restituting the very root of the moon’s diminution — namely, the Shattering of the Vessels and the first tzimtzum — by calling forth the light that radiated before the tzimtzum. Indeed, the light that is thereby revealed outshines even the light which radiated before the tzimtzum. As a hint of this, the additional month makes the lunar year longer than the solar year.

Furthermore, since (as was explained above29 ) the added month is the First Adar, it follows that the forthcoming month [Adar Rishon] which is being blessed today is a most appropriate time to elicit a light which surpasses the light that radiated before the Sin, and even before there began any limitation of light by means of the first tzimtzum. It is a most appropriate time for G‑d’s Essence (Atzmus) to be made manifest.

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7. A Dire Descent, a Soaring Ascent. Our above discussion of the intercalated month explained the spiritual descent30 implied by the diminution of the moon: the underlying Divine intent was that this descent should ultimately elicit the diffusion of a more sublime light [than this world would otherwise experience]. The same applies to every instance of spiritual descent: the purpose is always to elicit an unprecedentedly sublime light.

An example of this is to be found in the above maamar.257 As was explained there, “the seed of cattle”. Yirmeyahu 31:26. is a metaphor denoting the souls that derive from the [lower] Worlds — Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. These are almost all the souls of our generations,31 and they are so called because they lack [the level of intellectual and spiritual perception called] Daas. [In view of their lowly state, they are] an instance of spiritual descent.

And not only those souls, but even “the seed of man,”283 i.e., the souls that derive from the World of Atzilus and do possess the faculty of Daas, are also in a lowered state. The reason: The World of Atzilus, too, is [merely] a world — an olam, and this word (עולם) is cognate with the word he’elem (העלם), denoting [G‑d’s self-]concealment.32 Hence their perception of Divinity33 is merely intellective: it is not a perception of G‑d’s Essence,34 which may be attained only when one transcends intellectual comprehension.

(Incidentally: A parallel distinction is the difference between the word adam (אדם — “man”) and the word me’od (מאד — “very much”), whose letters are identical, but in a different sequence. The former word signifies [the finite bounds of] reason, whereas the latter word suggests a mode of perception that transcends the constraints of reason.35 )

The above instances of restricted spiritual revelation — even with regard to the souls that derive from the World of Atzilus, and most certainly with regard to the souls that derive fromBeriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah — evoke a question: What is this that G‑d has done to us?36

The same question may be asked with regard to the [current sense of] spiritual deprivation in the wake of the passing37 [of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz].

In a letter written by the Mitteler Rebbe38 after the passing of [his father and predecessor] the Alter Rebbe, he proposes various means by which the chassidim could tighten their personal, spiritual bond39 [with the Alter Rebbe] — for histalkus is a form of spiritual deprivation that can (G‑d forbid!) weaken one’s hiskashrus, to the point that means must be sought to fortify it.

So here, too, the question may be asked: Why did G‑d do this? What intent underlies this descent, this spiritual deprivation?

As is explained in the series of maamarim that was released for publication on the eve of the passing [of the Rebbe Rayatz],40 the purpose of G‑d’s lessened self-revelation is that mortals, [by their Divine service, should respond] by seeing to it that “the glory of G‑d ascends [and is diffused] throughout all the worlds.”41 This “glory of G‑d” is the transcendent spiritual light42 that illumines all the worlds equally. Indeed, the light elicited is such that it does not relate to the worlds at all, not even in the transcendent manner of the spiritual light mentioned above. In this spirit, it was recently explained43 that the phrase “the Essence of the Divine Presence”44 signifies not only the Shechinah in relation to the World of Atzilus (i.e., Malchus deAtzilus [in its various manifestations]); nor does this phrase signify the Shechinah in relation to the Infinite Ein-Sof light, i.e., the Kav; nor does this phrase signify the Shechinah even in relation to the pristine Divine light that preceded [the initial self-imposed contraction of Divine revelation that is known as] the tzimtzum [...]. Rather, “the Essence of the Divine Presence” signifies the innermost Essence of the Shechinah — the revelation of Atzmus, and this can be brought about specifically by nether mortals.45

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8. Anticipating the Seventh Year. Our weekly reading begins with the laws governing a Jewish bondman:46 “If you buy a Jewish bondman, he shall serve for six years, and in the seventh year he shall go free without paying.”47

The haftarah takes up the same theme. Tzidkiyahu (Zedekiah), who was a righteous king, made a covenant with the Jewish people “that every man should set free his Jewish bondman and bondwoman [after six years’ service], so that no one should enslave his brother Jew. All the nobles and all the people who had entered the covenant took heed, each man setting free his bondman and bondwoman and holding them no longer in servitude; they obeyed and released them. But later they relapsed and brought back the bondmen and bondwomen whom they had set free, and subjugated them [again] as bondmen and bondwomen.”48

Now, if the events of the seventh year are to take place as they ought (so that the bondman will then go free without paying), his conduct during the preceding six years must anticipate this appropriately. This means that during the six years that he serves, it should be manifestly apparent that in the seventh year he will go free. Indeed, if the events of the seventh year do not take place as they ought (and he does not fulfill the commandment to go free), this proves that his conduct during the preceding six years was likewise deficient; i.e., the manner of his service during those six years did not make it obvious that at their conclusion he would be ultimately be set free.

Unlike a Canaanite bondman, who can also be acquired as a gift, a Jewish bondman can be acquired only by purchase: either he is sold by the Rabbinical Court (to compensate for a theft) or he sells himself (out of poverty).49 An acquisition by purchase is applicable only when his master stands to gain from his work. (It goes without saying that it will not apply otherwise, for “if a bondman is not worth the bread he eats, what do his master or mistress need him for?”50 ) In other words, it is essential that the bondman work.

At the same time, during his six years, the manner in which he works should make it manifestly apparent that in the seventh year he will go free. What is gained by this? If he does work in this manner, he will find his toil less burdensome; it will be easier; in fact, he will even be able to find his tasks enjoyable.

9. A Peek Beyond this Exile. Let us now consider this theme as it applies to a man’s service of his Maker.

As is well known,51 the command that “he shall serve for six years” alludes to all our activities and Divine service throughout the “six thousand years [that] the world exists,”52 particularly throughout the era of exile. Likewise, the command that “in the seventh year he shall go free without paying” alludes to the Seventh Millenium, “a day which is entirely Shabbos and rest for life everlasting.”53

In order that our activities and Divine service throughout the era of exile should be as they ought to be, all our avodah must be carried out in a manner that indicates that its underlying intent is that “in the seventh year [we] shall go free.” If one’s mind is directed to this purpose — [to bring about] the elevated and perfected state of the Time to Come — one’s avodah during this era of exile becomes easier, more elevated, and pleasurable.

If this is the case regarding our endeavors throughout the entire era of exile, how much more does it apply now, when we are poised at the end of the era of exile, on the eve of the Seventh Millenium. For this is the time concerning which we are commanded54 to “add part of the weekday to the holy day.” (According to certain views this obligation is explicit in the Torah;55 it is certainly at least of Rabbinic authority.) For sure, then, it is high time for today’s avodah to show clear signs of the forthcoming revelation in the Time to Come. Today’s avodah, too, will thereby be greatly uplifted.

Moreover, as my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], used to say: When Mashiach comes, people will be smitten by anguish when they consider how much they could have accomplished through avodah during the time of exile.56 Therefore, when one knows that we are now at the end of the era of exile, one should grasp the opportunity and intensify his earnest endeavors in all the areas of avodah that belong to this era.

10. Not being Subject to Worldliness. In addition, if during one’s Divine service in this era (“he shall serve for six years”) one has one’s sights on the ultimate Redemption (“and in the seventh year he shall go free”), the result is that even while one is still in exile he is in a state that transcends exile.

When my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, was released from prison and was about to set out for the place to which he was to be exiled, he said: “Our bodies alone were banished into exile to be ruled by the nations of the world. Our souls were never exiled, nor were they subjected to the rule of the nations.”57

This would appear to present a problem, for the Divine intent is that one’s service should be carried out with the body.

This requirement is highlighted in the teaching of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe,58 who revealed and disseminated a classic teaching of the Baal Shem Tov59 on a verse in this week’s reading: “If you see the donkey of your enemy lying under its burden, you might want to refrain from helping him, but instead you must make every effort to help him.”60

As the Baal Shem Tov expounded the verse, the donkey (chamor) alludes to one’s own materiality (chomer), i.e., the body, and in one’s avodah one “must make every effort to help him” (lit., “to help with him”) — that is, to refine the body.

Now, in light of this teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, what is gained by the fact that [in the earlier-quoted statement] the soul was never exiled? How does this benefit one’s service with the body,which was exiled?

This may be explained as follows.61 The soul becomes vested and united with the body in order to carry out its mission of refining the body, as well as that portion of the world’s materiality which it is the soul’s appointed task to sift and refine. The soul, which is thereby not exiled, causes the body, too, not to be exiled; it, too, can then carry out its appointed mission, untrammeled by the veils and hindrances of the era of exile.

This connection is explicit in Tanya:62 When the radiance of the soul becomes manifest, “all the kelipos (i.e., the forces of evil) become nullified, and they vanish as though they had never been.” This applies not only to the three utterly unclean (and irredeemable) kelipos, but also to kelipas nogah (i.e., the kelipah which houses a glimmer of light and is therefore redeemable) — and kelipas nogah “constitutes the vitality of this physical and corporeal world as a whole.”63

The nucleus of this concept is that Jews are not (G‑d forbid) subject to worldliness;64 on the contrary, worldliness is subject to Jews — unless a Jew himself brings about a situation in which worldliness becomes his master.

This, by the way, explains why the informers who incriminated the Alter Rebbe and the men who arrested my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz],65 were none other than Jews. It is not within the power of a gentile66 to secure the arrest of a Divine soul and body, (especially) of such stature. Such a thing can be done only by a Jew.67

No undesirable thing can exist unless it has a root in holiness. This is evident in the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge. The root of that sin was holy, in that Chavah (Eve) added to the Divine command (by saying that the prohibition related not only to eating but also to touching)68 — as a kind of hiddur, a fulfillment beyond the letter of the command.

Therefore, when a Jew stands firm with the requisite determination that stems from his Divine soul, he overcomes the obscuring veils and obstacles of exile, and succeeds in properly fulfilling his role and mission in the world.

11. Even a Mere Resolve is Real. In cases such as this, there is value even in the fact that one resolves and undertakes to raise oneself to a higher level. This is true even if the result may prove to be transient and may later be displaced by differing conduct; moreover, it is true even if during this transient period the result is not yet actual but still potential.

Even in this situation blessings are bestowed from Above for, as the Sages teach,69 “A man is judged only according to his actions at that time, and not according to what he is going to do in the future.” Since at the moment of his resolve his spiritual state is in order, he is found worthy of being granted Divine blessings. All this applies even when this desirable spiritual state has not yet materialized into actuality, but is still potential. In the mortal realm, a potential can exist alone without materializing; this is not the case in the Divine realm.70 Hence the downward flow of blessings is elicited from Above in actuality.

(It should be noted in passing that even if an individual’s actual practice diverges from the potential of his resolve, or even if the results of that resolve are merely transient, this will bring about retribution to cleanse him of his sin — but will not obstruct the downward flow of blessings from Above.)

An example on the individual level. There is a segulah in the writings of the Alter Rebbe71 for people who (G‑d forbid) have not been blessed with children, whereby through arousing within themselves a love and awe of G‑d, which in spiritual terms are “offspring,”72 they are found worthy also of physical offspring.

Since, as was explained, the potential expressed in a resolve can also suffice, it is obvious that even if one cannot bring himself to an actual arousal of love and awe [in his heart], making a resolve regarding this at the potential level, at least, can also suffice — by undertaking intellectual meditation. Thus the Alter Rebbe writes73 that the means to attain a love and an awe of G‑d is to “bind one’s mind with a very firm, strong bond and firmly fix one’s thought on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof.” That done, it is still possible that for whatever reasons the love and awe do not eventuate as actual emotions. Nevertheless, this individual did his part and followed the directives which according to the Alter Rebbe’s ruling will bring a person to love and awe. Accordingly, a resolve at the level of potential is also sufficient to make him worthy of receiving G‑d’s blessings for physical children, too.

If his meditation, too, is deficient, the counsel offered is that he bind himself to Moshe Rabbeinu,74 for “there is an extension of Moshe in every generation,”. Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 69 (pp. 112a, 114a). who elicits and bestows the faculty of Daas in the souls of Jews.. See: Tanya, beginning of ch. 42; Torah Or on Parshas Mishpatim, p. 75b. See also the above-mentioned maamar. As a result, this individual will arrive at an arousal of love and awe in actuality, or at least potentially. Then the Holy One, blessed be He, will assuredly not remain a debtor, but will grant him His blessing for spiritual offspring and also — most importantly — for physical offspring.

This principle applies to all of our activities and Divine service throughout the era of exile. The resolve by which a person undertakes to elevate himself to a spiritual plane which transcends exile, even if only temporarily and potentially, has its effect — so that it materializes in actuality as well. It is then within his power and ability to fully carry out his role and mission during the era of exile. And when that happens, the Divine intent underlying the command to “serve for six years” will be realized and become manifest: “In the seventh year he shall go free.”