1. This Shabbos completes the three day continuum1 that began Yud-Tes Kislev, the Rosh HaShanah of Chassidus (for the redemption began after midday on Yud-Tes Kislev, and was continued on Chof Kislev). This year, these days lead directly into Shabbos which elevates and adds completion to the days of the previous week and, in particular, to those days which directly precede it.

There is also an intrinsic connection between Yud-Tes Kislev and Shabbos. Shabbos is characterized by rest and is representative of the ultimate state of rest and peace that will be revealed in the Era of Redemption. Similarly, Yud-Tes Kislev represents a redemption and a state of rest after the difficulties of the imprisonment and a foretaste of the ultimate redemption.2

These concepts also relate to Parshas Vayeishev which, as Rashi relates,3 is connected with Yaakov’s “desire to live in prosperity,” i.e., in a situation of rest and comfort. Similarly, there is a connection to the concept of redemption for the difficulties Yaakov experienced previously (with Lavan, Eisav, and in regard to Dinah) parallel the concept of imprisonment.

In particular, there is a connection with Yaakov, the third of the Patriarchs, with the Alter Rebbe, the third in the chain of the revelation of Chassidus. Both Yaakov and the Alter Rebbe are connected with Torah study, both the study of Nigleh, the revealed dimensions of Torah law, and Pnimiyus HaTorah. This is indicated by the Torah’s description of Yaakov as “a dweller of tents.” The use of the plural form is interpreted as a reference to “the tent of Shem and the tent of Ever,” which reflect the teachings of Nigleh and those of Pnimiyus HaTorah. Similarly, the Alter Rebbe’s name Shneur is interpreted as referring to “two lights,” the light of Nigleh and the light of Pnimiyus HaTorah.

Furthermore, “Yaakov’s dwelling (Vayeishev) in the land of his fathers” was paralleled by the Alter Rebbe’s efforts to bring into a settled form (hisyashvus), the teachings of his predecessors, the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid. The Alter Rebbe internalized their teachings in the powers of Chochmah and Binah (“wisdom” and “understanding”). This allowed those teachings to be “spread outward.”

It is through these efforts that we will merit the ultimate prosperity which will come in the Era of the Third Beis HaMikdash, in the ultimate redemption, which is associated with Yaakov, the third of the Patriarchs. This will be “a heritage that has no boundaries,” as appropriate for Yaakov to whom was given the promise, “And you shall spread westward, eastward, northward, and southward.”

The combination of the influences of Shabbos and Parshas Vayeishev will hasten the revelation of the era which is “all Shabbos and rest forever.” The immanence of the era of the Third Beis HaMikdash receives greater influence this year since this Shabbos is the third day after Yud-Tes Kislev.

2. To explain the above concepts in greater depth: After Rashi states that Yaakov “desired to live in prosperity,” he relates how Yaakov was immediately forced to confront the sorrow connected with the sale of Yosef. Thus, Yaakov’s desire to live in prosperity was not fulfilled in the events related in this Torah portion.

This raises a question: Why is the Torah portion given a name (which as Chassidus explains reflects its content and life energy) that relates to Yaakov’s desire to live in prosperity when the main body of the Torah reading (from the second verse onward), describes the factors which led to Yosef’s descent into Egypt, his being sold into slavery, and the sorrow this caused Yaakov? On the surface, this narrative reflects the very opposite of “living in prosperity.”

Furthermore, the connection with Yud-Tes Kislev, “the festival of redemption,” mentioned above also is problematic. On the surface, the main body of the Torah reading deals with the events which brought about the Jews’ descent into Egypt, the very opposite of the concept of redemption.

These difficulties can be resolved through the explanation of another problematic point in the Torah reading. On the second verse of the Torah reading, “These are the chronicles of Yaakov: Yosef...” Rashi explains that indeed the story of Yosef represents “the chronicles of Yaakov,” for Yaakov invested the essence of his being in his relationship with Rachel and this connection was transferred to Yosef.

This leads to another question: Between the narrative of the sale of Yosef and the description of what occurred to him in Egypt, the Torah relates in detail the chronicles of Yehudah, his marriage, and his siring of children. On the surface, what connection do these events have with “the chronicles of Yaakov, Yosef,” the narrative of the story of Yosef.

This leads to the conclusion that, as will be explained, the mention of Yehudah’s siring of children is intrinsically related to the narrative of Yosef. It represents the key to explaining how the descent to Egypt is fundamentally good and leads to the ultimate state of “prosperity,” thus, developing the theme of Vayeishev.

To explain: The Midrash relates:

The brothers were involved in the sale of Yosef.... Yehudah was involved in marrying a wife.... The Holy One, Blessed be He, was involved in creating the light of Mashiach [who would be born from Tamar]... Before the first power to subjugate the Jews [Pharaoh] was born, the [progenitor of the] ultimate redeemer [Poretz, Mashiach’s ancestor] was born.

This reflects the connection between the narratives of Yehudah’s children and Yosef’s descent into Egypt. Yehudah’s siring of Poretz reflected how “the cure preceded the blow.” Before the descent of the Jews to Egypt which was the ultimate result of the sale of Yosef, the “light of Mashiach,” Poretz, Mashiach’s direct ancestor, was born.4

Furthermore, not only does the birth of Peretz reflect the positive resolution of the difficulties resulting from Yosef’s sale, it shares an intrinsic connection to — and brings out the inner meaning of — the narrative of Yosef’s chronicles.

The name Yosef is related to the concept of “increase,” an addition in the realm of holiness, as reflected by Rachel’s prayer when naming him, “May G‑d add to me another son.” Furthermore, his service involves the transformation of undesirable qualities into good. In this context, Chassidus interprets Rachel’s prayer as an intimation that Yosef has the power to transform “another,” a person who is estranged from his Jewish roots, into a “son.”

Thus Yosef reflects an infinite potential, a capacity that knows no boundaries: On the lowest levels, the undesirable is transformed into good and on the highest levels, there is always a potential for a further increase. This reflects the quality of Poretz whose name means “break through;” Poretz represents breaking through boundaries, going beyond all limitations.5

Thus, the birth of Poretz contributes a potential to break through barriers, a potential which is fundamentally related to Yosef’s descent into Egypt. The ultimate concept of unbounded increase (Yosef) is fundamentally expressed when one breaks through (Poretz) the boundaries of Egypt, the limitations of the lowest dimensions of this material world.

The service of both Poretz and Yosef involves transcending all limitations, even those which exist in the sphere of holiness. Nevertheless, in a complete sense, the unlimited aspect of their service is expressed when it is carried out within the limitations of “the nakedness of the land,” and despite the undeveloped nature of such surroundings, one continues to increase, breaking through barriers.

Thus, Yosef — in contrast to his other brothers who were shepherds, i.e., isolated from the material concerns of this world — became involved in the material affairs of the land of Egypt and took a leadership role in them6 and, nevertheless, remained totally at one with G‑dliness, clinging to Him completely. Moreover, he was ultimately able to refine the Egyptians as well, compelling them to accept circumcision. The potential for Yosef to carry out this service was contributed by the birth of Poretz which introduced the concept of breaking through barriers into existence.

In this context, we can understand the intent of the Jews’ descent into exile. The purpose for this descent is to reach an increase (Yosef) as our Sages stated, “The Holy One, blessed be He, exiled Israel among the nations for the sole purpose of having converts added to them.” In a very literal sense, this refers to actual converts, a clear example of a person who was “other” becoming a “son.” In an expanded sense, it means attracting and elevating the sparks of G‑dliness which are enclothed in the material substance of the world.

The service of Yosef, i.e., the increases made in exile, is enhanced by the service of Poretz, breaking through limitations. Even though the Jews are in exile and have descended within the darkness of the lowest levels of this material world, they are able to carry out their service — both in adding holiness and in refining the world — in a complete manner. In this way, they break through the limitations of the world and the limitations of exile. Within the darkness of exile (גולה), they reveal the Alef, which stands for G‑d, Alufo Shel Olam, “the L‑rd of the world,” and thus, transform the exile into redemption (גאולה), revealing G‑dliness which transcends the world, making this lowly world a dwelling for Him.

Thus, as the Midrash emphasizes, while everyone was involved with their private concerns, G‑d was involved in “creating the light of Mashiach,” bringing Poretz, the power to break through limitations, into the world. In this way, He prepared the possibility for the sale of Yosef, the first stage of the Jews’ descent into exile, to bring about an unbounded increase and ultimately, lead to the establishment of a dwelling for G‑d in the lower worlds.

In this context, we can understand the connection between the sale of Yosef into Egypt and Yaakov’s desire to “live in prosperity.” Since, “He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him,” surely, G‑d would fulfill the desire of Yaakov, “the chosen of the Patriarchs.” G‑d’s fulfillment of Yaakov’s desire came in two forms: the limited prosperity Yaakov enjoyed for nine years in the land of Canaan before the sale of Yosef, and the higher dimension of prosperity, he enjoyed for seventeen7 years in the land of Egypt.

This allows us to comprehend the connection between the two opening verses of the Torah reading: “And Yaakov dwelled...” which, as Rashi explains, reflects Yaakov’s desire to live in prosperity , and “And these are the chronicles of Yaakov: Yosef....” From Yaakov’s own perspective, the prosperity he enjoyed in “the land of his fathers” was sufficient. Indeed, this is the natural place for a Jew to enjoy prosperity. However, the “chronicles (toldos in Hebrew which also means “offspring”) of Yaakov,” the extension and increase of his service brought about by Yosef required a progression to a higher level of prosperity, the prosperity realized through the transformation of Egypt, the lowest levels of the world. In this way, the Jews broke through the limitations of the world and revealed a prosperity that transcends the limitations of nature. Furthermore, this began the process which will lead to the ultimate prosperity that will be realized through the “light of Mashiach.”

On the basis of the above, we can appreciate the connection between Parshas Vayeishev and Yud-Tes Kislev. The verse, “And Yaakov dwelled in the land of his fathers,” can be interpreted as a reference to the Alter Rebbe’s presentation of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid (his spiritual “fathers”) in a settled (hisyashvus) manner, i.e., as they can be internalized within our intellectual powers.

“The chronicles (‘offspring’) of Yaakov: Yosef,”8 refers to the increase in the spread of Chassidus by the Rebbeim who succeeded the Alter Rebbe, until this service was brought to its fulfillment by the Previous Rebbe, Yosef,9 who transferred the center for Chassidic teachings to America, “the lower half of the world,” and from there, spread Chassidus throughout the world at large. In the forty years since his passing, we have broken through barriers (Poretz), spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus, “westward, eastward, northward, and southward,” and preparing the world for the coming of the descendant of Poretz, the Mashiach.

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3. The celebration of Yud-Tes Kislev this year is enhanced by several unique dimensions. Firstly, this is a year when, “I will show you wonders.” Although the previous year was “a year of miracles,” this year, G‑d will “show,” openly reveal, the “wonders” He performs.10

Secondly, this year marks the 192nd anniversary of the Alter Rebbe’s redemption in 5559. 192 is numerically equivalent to the word קבץ which means “collected.” This implies that we have completed the task of collecting the sparks of G‑dliness throughout the world (the purpose for G‑d’s dispersing the Jews in exile).

Similarly, 192 is numerically equivalent to the word קצב which means “measure.” The full measure of the task of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward has been completed and it is time to receive the reward for this service, the coming of Mashiach.

In connection with this, the Tanya11 (the “Written Torah of Chassidus”) was printed again and distributed to men, women, and children. This was intended to emphasize the complete state reached in the tasking of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward and our anticipation of the coming of Mashiach. Then the promise related in the well-known chapter of Tehillim which we recite this year, “I found David, My servant, I have anointed him with holy oil,” will be fulfilled with the coming of Mashiach.

4. This, the Shabbos following Yud-Tes Kislev, is an appropriate time to accept positive resolutions in regard to increasing our study and spreading of the teachings of Chassidus in addition to those resolutions accepted on Yud-Tes Kislev. Surely, this involves the study of the Tanya as divided in Chitas.

This increase should also be coupled with an increase in the study of Nigleh (the revealed dimensions of Torah law). In this context, it is worthy to mention the custom associated with Yud-Tes Kislev12 — and mentioned in the Tanya — of dividing the Talmud among each community of Anash. Each individual should take a tractate to study. Ideally, each individual should study the entire Talmud himself. Since this is not possible at present, by dividing the Talmud’s study among an entire community, it is considered as if each individual has studied the entire Talmud himself.13

Surely, there are many places where the study of the Talmud was divided on Yud-Tes Kislev itself. Those communities which did not do so then, should carry out this custom as soon as possible. [Similarly, in this context, it is worthy to mention the importance of taking part in the study of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah according to its annual cycle. This allows each individual to conclude the study of the entire Oral Torah in a single year.]

Similarly, in connection with our Sages’ interpretation of the verse from Tehillim associated with Yud-Tes Kislev, “He redeemed my soul in peace,” it is proper to make an increase in the three pillars of Torah, service of G‑d, and deeds of kindness.” All of this should be carried out in a manner of a “continuing activity,” with continued growth, extending into the coming days, including the days of Chanukah.

There is a connection between Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah: The Chanukah miracle concerned oil which is used as a metaphor for Pnimiyus HaTorah which was revealed on Yud-Tes Kislev. Similarly, the Chanukah candles are placed “at the outside of the entrance to one’s home” which corresponds to the efforts to spread the wellsprings of Chassidus outward which began on Yud-Tes Kislev. Indeed, in regard to the Alter Rebbe’s own redemption, it was not until the third day of Chanukah that he returned from Petersburg to Vitebsk where he was among Chassidim.

May the above activities hasten the coming of Mashiach and may we merit — even before Chanukah — the building and the dedication of the Third Beis HaMikdash. May it be in the immediate future.