1. Each year, a yahrzeit involves an ascent to a higher spiritual level. This year, the 46th anniversary of Rav Levi Yitzchak’s yahrzeit, is unique for 46 is numerically equivalent to לוי, Rav Levi Yitzchak’s first and primary name. Significantly, this week’s Torah portion also mentions the uniqueness of the tribe of Levi.

The service of Levi is alluded to in the verse which the Matriarch Leah used to explain the rationale for the name Levi, “This time, my man will become attached to me.” This refers to the ultimate marriage bond, with “my man” referring to G‑d and “me” to the Jewish people. This attachment to G‑d is reflected in the Levites’ service: “to stand before G‑d, to serve Him... G‑d is their portion.” Nevertheless, these qualities are not exclusive to the tribe of Levi alone as the Rambam writes:

Not only the tribe of Levi... but each and every person... whose generous spirit and intellectual understanding motivate him to separate himself and stand before G‑d and serve Him... becomes sanctified as holy of holies.

This implies that every individual has the potential to reach the level of the Levites. Furthermore, the expression, “holy of holies,” is an allusion to the High Priest, the most distinguished individual of the tribe of Levi. Even his spiritual level can be reached by others.

In particular, the service of the Levites is characterized by two qualities: On one hand, the Levites are separated from the people at large, as our Torah portion relates, “At this time, G‑d separated the tribe of Levi.”1 Conversely, the Levites were charged with:

Instructing the masses in His just ways and righteous judgments as it is written, “They shall instruct Yaakov in Your judgments and Yisrael in Your Torah.”

Thus, it was their task to reach out to the entire Jewish people and lift them up to a higher level. This applies even when the Jews are on a low spiritual rung as implied by the fact that the selection of the Levites came — as our parshah relates — after the sin of the Golden Calf. Although the Jews had sunken to such a level, the Levites were able to lift them higher and motivate them to teshuvah.

These two extremes are also seen in the Beis HaMikdash, the place of the Levites’ service. On one hand, the Beis HaMikdash — and in particular, the Holy of Holies — is the holiest place in the world. Conversely, the Beis HaMikdash’s windows were structured so that “light would go out from there to the entire world.” Similarly, the concept of a dwelling for G‑d’s Presence, the function of the Holy of Holies, is intended to be extended throughout the entire world until the world at large becomes, “a dwelling for G‑d,” a place where His essence is revealed.

These two extremes are also reflected in the primary service of the Beis HaMikdash, the offering of the sacrifices. The Sefer HaBahir states: “The secret of the sacrifices ascends to the secret of the Ain Sof.” From that level, influence is drawn down into this world, elevating all the animal, vegetable, and, mineral elements of existence.2

This fusion of opposites was revealed within Rav Levi Yitzchak’s life. On one hand, he was an elevated individual, uplifted by his immense Torah knowledge which included both the revealed realm of Torah law and the hidden secrets of Pnimiyus HaTorah. Nevertheless, he also served as a Rav of a large city and was responsible for spreading Torah and strengthening Jewish practice throughout the region.

These activities were particularly significant because, at that time, the persecution of the Soviet Government had forced many Rabbis to reduce their public activities and remain content with observing Torah and mitzvos together with a small core of followers, and, at times, only by themselves. Some Rabbis were even coerced into signing statements for the Government which ran contrary to their own convictions or to the teachings of the Torah.

In this environment, Rav Levi Yitzchok continued to carry on his Rabbinic functions openly and proudly. Indeed, due to the vacuum of Rabbinic leadership, he spread his activities throughout Russia. Not only did he refuse to concede to the Russians’ demands, he traveled to Moscow and interceded on behalf of the Jews and Torah and mitzvos with high government officials, including the President of the Country. Furthermore, he was successful in securing the observance of certain mitzvos,3 for example, shemurah matzah.4

His activities were carried out at a risk to his life. As a result of this activity, he was exiled, a punishment which, from a certain perspective, is more severe than death and ultimately, he passed away in exile.

Even while in exile, he continued his activities to spread Yiddishkeit in whatever degree possible. Furthermore, it was there in which he composed his Torah writings, despite the difficulty in obtaining ink and paper, with the intention that eventually, these be published.5

Rav Levi Yitzchak’s activities extended to the lowest aspects of existence. Thus, as Rabbi and afterwards, while in exile, he also worked to spread justice and righteousness among gentiles. In this manner, he reflected the service of Levi, extending the highest levels of spirituality throughout the world at large.

These qualities receive greater emphasis today, his yahrzeit. Although a yahrzeit commemorates the departure of a soul from the body and an ascent from this world, the Zohar teaches that the presence of a Tzaddik in all the worlds (even this physical world) is felt more powerfully after his death than in his lifetime.6

It is possible to receive influence from a Tzaddik by studying his teachings as implied by the Rebbe Rashab (Rav Levi Yitzchak’s Rebbe) who told Chassidim at the time of his passing, “I am going to heaven, but I am leaving my writings for you.” This implies that through studying his writings, it is possible to establish a connection with him as he is “in heaven.”

This concept can be explained as follows: The word Anochi (the first word of the Ten Commandments) is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “I wrote down and gave over Myself,” i.e., by giving the Torah, G‑d gave Himself over to the Jews. Since, “the righteous resemble their Creator,” they also invest themselves in the texts they compose.

Similarly, in the world at large, after his passing a tzaddik effects even the lowest levels of existence:

All [a tzaddik’s] deeds, teachings, and service which he carried out throughout his lifetime are revealed and shine... from above downward at the time of his passing,... bringing about salvation in the world, atoning for the sins of the generation.

On the day of a tzaddik’s yahrzeit, he ascends to an even higher level.7 Nevertheless, these high peaks are also drawn down into this world — to those who follows the tzaddik’s teaching and to the world at large — as obvious from the text of the Kaddish: “May His great name be exalted and hallowed... May His great name be blessed forever and ever.” The Hebrew word for “blessed” also has the connotation, “be extended” and the Hebrew for “forever,” can also mean, “to the world.” Thus, the above verse can mean: “May G‑d’s great Name be extended into the world.”

To explain this concept from a deeper perspective: Before the soul descends into this world, it is described “as standing,” i.e., confined to a particular level beyond which it cannot advance. Through the descent into a physical body and the service of Torah and mitzvos within the context of our material world, the soul is given the potential to proceed. Thus, all the ascents of the soul in the spiritual worlds are dependent on the soul’s service in this realm.

Because the soul’s service on this plane is the source for its potential to ascend, all the peaks to which it ascends have an effect in this world, influencing the students who are connected to that soul. This, in turn, gives the soul the potential for further and higher ascents. Also, it hastens the coming of the ultimate fulfillment for the soul when it will again encloth itself in this world in the Era of Resurrection.8

2. The date of Rav Levi Yitzchak’s yahrzeit, the 20th of Av, also provides us with a lesson. The Hebrew word for 20 (עשרים) is numerically equivalent to the Hebrew word Kesser, meaning “crown.” There are ten Sefiros, each of which has a dimension which rises upward and a dimension which descends below, thus equaling 20. Kesser which is above all these levels, permeates and pervades them.

This concept is also reflected in our service: Kesser is connected with royalty for a crown is the symbol of kingship. When describing the effect of the Jews’ declaration of Na’aseh V’Nishmah, the Midrash relates the following parable which sheds light on the relationship between a king and the crown: The subjects made three crowns for the king. One, he put on his own head, and two, he placed on the head of his subjects.

This implies that the three crowns are on the same level and thus, the crowns given to the subjects are connected to the crown worn by the king. Furthermore, even the crown worn by the king was given to him by the subjects — metaphorically, is dependent on the service of the Jews in this world. This concept is reflected in the verse, “A king is subjugated to the field.” Although the people in the field are on a lower level than those living in the king’s capitol, their service in the field crowns the king — metaphorically, fulfills G‑d’s intent and desire for a dwelling in the lower worlds.

The service of refining the lower levels shares an intrinsic connection to the 20th of Av: The month of Av is connected with the transformation of the lowest levels to holiness as the Midrash states:

A lion (Nebuchadnezzar) arose in the month whose sign is a lion (Av) and destroyed the “lion of G‑d” (the Beis HaMikdash) in order that a lion (G‑d) should come in the month whose sign is a lion and build the “lion of G‑d.”

Thus, the revelation of the lion of holiness (which is a reference to the level of Kesser) comes about through the transformation of the forces which destroyed the Beis HaMikdash. This begins on Shabbos Nachamu and receives more intensity from Shabbos to Shabbos with G‑d promising9 the Jews, “I, yes I, will console you.”

There is also a connection between the above and the coming new year.

ארי-ה, Hebrew for lion, can be interpreted as an acronym for the Hebrew words: Elul, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Hoshana Rabbah. From the 15th of Av, when it is customary to wish a colleague to be inscribed for a good and sweet year, and more particularly, from the 20th of Av10 onward, we begin the preparations for the month of Elul, the month of teshuvah and mercy, when the King goes out into the field and the people in the field greet Him. He receives them all pleasantly, showing a shining countenance to all and fulfilling their requests. {This reflects the advantage of the service of the people in the field as explained above.}

The above concepts can be connected with the end of this week’s Torah portion (11:24) which declares:

Every place on which your feet will tread will become yours. Your boundaries will extend from the desert [to] Lebanon, from the river, the Euphrates river, until the Final Sea.

By referring to the Mediterranean as “the Final Sea” (instead of “the Great Sea” as in Parshas Maasei 34:6), the Torah alludes to the concept that, ultimately, in the Messianic age, Eretz Yisrael will expand throughout the entire world, reaching, “the Final Sea.”11

The Euphrates river mentioned is also significant, as we see that the Torah (Devarim 1:7) refers to the Euphrates as “the Great River.” In his commentary on that verse, Rashi notes that the Euphrates is actually not a large river and is referred to as “great,” because it is next to Eretz Yisrael.12 Rashi concludes, quoting a parable offered by our Sages, “If you come close to a person anointed with oil (Eretz Yisrael, the chosen land), oil will become attached to you (importance is also attached to the Euphrates).”

The significance of the latter statement can be understood in terms of our Sages statement:

All the mitzvos the Patriarchs performed before You were vaporous in nature (i.e., they did not effect the material substance of the world), but in regard to us, “Your name is like oiled poured forth.” [“Like one who pours from one vessel to another;” i.e., the mitzvos we perform have actual substance.]

Oil is connected with the essence and, yet, is drawn down into the lowest levels. Similarly, after the giving of the Torah, holiness can be drawn down into the material substance with which the mitzvos are fulfilled.

This concept is also related to the Euphrates River which Bereishis describes as the fourth of the rivers emanating from Eden. This implies an association with the lowest levels. Thus, our Sages associate this river with the fourth exile which we are presently enduring. Through oil, the revelation of the essence which permeates through all things, even this low level can be elevated.

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3. The first Mishnah of the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avos states, “The world was created with ten utterances.” Our Sages note that the expression, “And G‑d said, ‘Let there be...’ ” is repeated only nine times in the Torah. However, “Bereishis (the verse, “In the beginning,...”) is also considered one of the utterances.”

In Chassidus, it is explained that the utterance Bereishis is general in nature,13 including all the other nine statements which brought about the creation of all the particular elements of the world. Nevertheless, it is also “an utterance,” i.e., its spiritual level shares a commonalty with the other utterances and reflects only the aspect of G‑dliness which is associated with the creation of the worlds.

There is, however, a positive interpretation of the word maamar, “utterance.” In Parshas Ki Savo, it has the meaning of “importance” or “praise.” This implies that it is possible to draw down into the world a level of G‑dliness that transcends the limits of the world. Torah, which is one with G‑d, can be drawn into the world making it more “praiseworthy” and enhancing its “importance.”

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4. This Shabbos follows the fifteenth of Av14 which as mentioned previously,15 is connected with an increase in Torah study. Preferably, this increase should be expressed in communal study, in groups of three, and if possible in groups of ten or more. G‑d promises to bless those who increase their study with extended life. Every Jew, men, women, and children, should make such an increase.

In this context, it is worthy to mention the importance of the education of young children16 and the presence at this farbrengen of the children from Camp Gan Yisrael,17 a camp “in the field.”

May this increase in Torah study lead to the time when, “A new Torah will emerge from Me.” Then, we will merit true extended life, the era of the resurrection when, “Those who lie in the dust will arise and sing,” with Rav Levi Yitzchok at their head (for today, the spiritual source of his soul shines powerfully).18 May this take place immediately, in תש"נ, “a year of miracles,” which will lead to תשנ"א, a year when, “I will show you wonders.”