1. On the previous Shabbasos, the importance of gathering together on every Shabbos to study Torah communally was mentioned. Similarly, it was suggested that one subject — the beginning or the conclusion of the weekly Torah portion — should be studied by all the communities. Accordingly, it is appropriate to focus on the first verse of the parshah and explain it in a manner which relates to the conclusion of the parshah.

Also, since this Shabbos falls on the 20th of MarCheshvan, it is associated with the birthday of the Rebbe Rashab which also falls on this date. A birthday is a day when “the spiritual source of one’s soul shines powerfully.” Hence, this day is important to us for the Rebbe Rashab was the predecessor of the Nasi of our generation, the Previous Rebbe, and he was the one who appointed him as the director of the Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim.

This connection is brought out by the following story which was related by the Previous Rebbe: When the Rebbe Rashab was a young boy, he went to his grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, for yechidus to receive a blessing in connection with his birthday. When he entered his grandfather’s room, he began to cry. His grandfather asked him why he was crying and he explained that in cheder, he had learned that G‑d had revealed Himself to Avraham and he was upset, why G‑d did not reveal Himself to him.

This story can be understood in terms of Rashi’s commentary on the opening verse of the parshah, “And G‑d revealed Himself to Avraham.” Rashi states: “[G‑d came] to visit the sick. Rabbi Chama bar Chaninah1 said: ‘It was the third day after his circumcision and the Holy One, blessed be He, came and enquired about his well-being.”

We must understand, why did the circumcision cause Avraham to fall sick? As explained in the previous Farbrengen, the great happiness and joy which Avraham should have felt at meriting to fulfill G‑d’s commandment should have prevented him from feeling any pain. We see a parallel to this in halachah: Though Shabbos is intended to be a day of pleasure, when a person has a disturbing dream, he is allowed to fast on the Shabbos because his fasting will give him more satisfaction than eating. Though the fast is connected with discomfort, the person’s emotional state is such that undergoing this discomfort is what will bring him pleasure.2 Similarly, in the present instance, the happiness Avraham felt at fulfilling G‑d’s mitzvah should have transformed his discomfort into pleasure.

It was explained that since G‑d desired that the covenant established through the mitzvah of circumcision permeate through the totality of our beings to the extent that it effects our actual flesh, it was necessary that Avraham let himself experience the feelings that the circumcision naturally brings.

Nevertheless, the question still arises: The fulfillment of mitzvos is intended to develop perfection in every aspect of a person’s soul. That spiritual perfection should, in turn, be reflected in every aspect of one’s body. In particular, in regard to the mitzvah of circumcision, G‑d told Avraham, “Proceed before Me and become perfect.” If so, why should a mitzvah which is intended to bring out perfection within a person cause him to become sick, so sick that on the third day, the sickness became stronger, and G‑d Himself had to “visit the sick?”3

To understand this concept, it is necessary to explain the concept of G‑d’s visiting the sick: In Or HaTorah, the Tzemach Tzedek explains that the source of sickness is the soul’s being lovesick out of a desire to cling to G‑d. [The Hebrew word for sick חולה is numerically equivalent to 49. There are “50 gates of understanding in the world.” Thus, when a person has acquired only 49, he becomes sick, yearning for the completion he lacks.] The remedy for this sickness is the revelation of G‑dliness. This is intimated in the Ramban’s commentary on our parshah which explains that G‑d’s revelation to Avraham healed him from the circumcision.

Based on the above, we can understand the connection between the revelation of G‑dliness and visiting the sick. Through the circumcision, Avraham reached a higher spiritual level, the 49th gate of understanding. This made him “sick,” “lovesick,” yearning for the fiftieth level.

To elaborate: The mitzvah of circumcision came after Avraham’s service of leaving “his land,” “his native country,” and “his father’s home,” i.e., after he completed the service of departing from his previous state (even when that state is itself a level of holiness), in order to proceed to “the land which I (G‑d) will show you,” i.e., to become one with G‑d’s will.4 The mitzvah of circumcision demonstrates how this union with G‑d is reflected in “a covenant in your flesh.” This brought Avraham to the level of perfection.

This perfection, however, reflects only the perfection that can be accomplished by a creation, what a creation can achieve with its own efforts (which relates to the 49th gate of understanding).5 Thus, the possibility of sickness exists, i.e., one yearns for the fiftieth level which cannot be reached by man’s own efforts.6

On this basis, we can understand why the perfection Avraham achieved through the circumcision brought sickness. It was the reaching of the 49th level, the highest level that could be achieved through man’s own efforts, which led Avraham to the intense yearning for the fiftieth level. This yearning was so intense that he became “lovesick,” which, in turn, was reflected in sickness on a simple level. He was healed from this sickness by the revelation of G‑dliness, i.e., the revelation of the fiftieth level.

The words which the Torah uses to describe this revelation, וירא אליו ה' are each significant. The use of the word וירא rather than the Aramaic term for revelation implies that the revelation was direct and manifest.

אליו implies that the revelation permeated through Avraham’s being. His existence was not nullified by its power. Instead, he was able to accept the revelation and make it part of his being.

ה' is the most sublime of the names of G‑d. The revelation to Avraham came from the highest level of G‑dliness.

Combining all three concepts together implies that the highest levels of G‑dliness are revealed in the most complete manner in a way that permeates through the totality of Avraham’s being. Such a revelation is only possible because it emanates from the fiftieth level, the level which transcends all the Sefiros and is totally above the frame of reference of a created being.

The fiftieth level is a simple point totally above all dimensions and yet including within it all the length, breadth, and depth that is found within all the creations in the spiritual cosmos. This point represents, in the Rambam’s words, “the truth of His being,” from which “came into to being all the entities which exist.”

In the personal world associated with our service, this concept can be explained as follows: Although a person must prepare himself to receive the fiftieth level through bittul, the “lovesickness” described above, the revelation of the fiftieth level does not nullify a person’s individual existence. Rather, it permeates through the totality of his being. Since, “Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one,” G‑d’s essence is reflected within the Jew.

2. The Torah relates that this revelation took place “in the plains of Mamre,” i.e., it also had an effect on the surrounding environment in which Avraham lived. The relation of one’s spiritual level to the world in which one lives is reflected in the closing verses of the parshah as well. After the Torah relates the great mesirus nefesh of the Akeidah (the binding of Yitzchok),7 it lists the descendants of Nachor, concluding with the mention of Ma’achoh. Our Sages relate that the latter name is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase meaning, “Reign over the entire world in Your glory.”

This implies that the process in which the bittul and mesirus nefesh (symbolized by the circumcision) emanate from the essential point of the soul to become a fit vessel to receive the revelation of the fiftieth gate of understanding (G‑d’s revelation to Avraham) is not self-contained. Rather, since the fiftieth level is a point beyond all dimension, above the boundaries of above and below, it includes everything, from the highest point until the lowest levels and brings about a unity between those two opposites.

This concept is also reflected in the opening verse of Parshas Chayei Sarah which we begin to read in the minchah service. That verse states that Sarah’s life lasted “one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years.” Each of these three numbers is significant. 100 refers to the supraintellectual powers of will and pleasure, twenty to our mental faculties, wisdom and understanding, and seven, to our seven emotional potentials, thus including every aspect of our personalities. In Sarah’s case, the quality of Mesirus Nefesh was such that it permeated through each of these potentials.8

Furthermore, Sarah’s service had an effect on her portion of the world as implied by her change of name. Previously, she was called Sarai which means “My ruler.” Changing her name to Sarah, “the ruler,” i.e., “the ruler of everyone,” emphasizes the influence she exerted on the world at large. This shows how the quality of mesirus nefesh can permeate, not only through the totality of one’s own personality, but can be extended further and influence one’s surrounding environment.

In this context, we can see the connection between the three portions Lech Lecha, Vayeira, and Chayei Sarah: Lech Lecha represents the service of bittul and mesirus nefesh, leaving one’s previous state. This leads to Vayeira, the revelation of the essential point of G‑dliness. Chayei Sarah alludes to the reflection of that essential G‑dliness in every aspect of our personalities.

3. The above concepts also share a connection to the present date, the 20th of Cheshvan, the birthday of the Rebbe Rashab and the story of his crying related above. The Rebbe Rashab told the Tzemach Tzedek why he was crying, “In cheder, I learned that ‘G‑d revealed Himself to Avraham.’9 Why doesn’t G‑d reveal Himself to me?”

This story implies that the “lovesickness” that possessed Avraham after his circumcision also affected the Rebbe Rashab. Indeed, his desire was powerful enough to move him to tears. Since this story occurred in his early childhood, it is self-understood that as the Rebbe Rashab matured and experienced different revelations of G‑dliness, his thirst and desire grew to reach even higher levels until he reached the ultimate peak, the revelation of the fiftieth gate of understanding. This approach should serve as a lesson to all his followers, teaching them not to remain content with the spiritual level they have achieved, but rather to constantly strive to rise to higher peaks, going from strength to strength.

Although the Rebbe Rashab displayed this powerful thrust of yearning, nullifying himself entirely, his service also reflected the importance of drawing down influence into the totality of his personality and into the world at large. This is emphasized in his name, Sholom DovBer. Sholom (“Peace”) is one of G‑d’s names and reflects the essential point which includes the totality of existence as our Sages declared, “Sholom is equivalent to everything.” Thus, it is also drawn down and reflected in the lowest levels, even in the flesh of our physical bodies. This is connected with the Rebbe Rashab’s second name DovBer, which combines the Hebrew and Yiddish equivalents of “bear.” Our Sages explained that a bear is “overladen with meat,” i.e., it reflects the lowest levels.

The thrust on relating G‑dliness to the world can also be seen in the Rebbe Rashab’s activities. The Rebbe Rashab placed a heavy emphasis on explaining Chassidic subjects in a manner which could be understood and comprehended by human intellect. Similarly, he was the one who founded the yeshivah, Tomchei Temimim,10 which was dedicated to studying Chassidus in a systematic and organized manner, just as one studies a subject in Nigleh (the revealed, legal realm of Torah study).

He placed an emphasis on extending the essential connection beyond the intellect, effecting a person’s emotions and also his deeds and actions. This is also reflected in an effect on the world at large. Thus, the students of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim became “soldiers of the House of David,” spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward. This was carried further by the Previous Rebbe, the successor to the Rebbe Rashab11 and the Nasi of our generation until Chassidus has been spread throughout the world, revealing how G‑d “reigns over the entire world in His glory,” as alluded to in the name Ma’achoh as explained above.

The above provides each of us with a practical directive. On Shabbos Vayeira — particularly, when it falls on the 20th of Cheshvan — each one of us should think over the story of the Rebbe Rashab’s crying and realize that regardless of the level he has already reached, he must strive to reach an even higher rung. This can be accomplished by increasing his Torah study, both Nigleh and Chassidus, in particular the Chassidus of the Rebbe Rashab, fulfilling mitzvos b’hiddur, and spreading the wellsprings of Yiddishkeit and Chassidus outward. This should be done by gathering together as a community with Ahavas Yisrael as the Rebbe Rashab stressed in Kuntreis Heichaltzu.12

Added potential for such service is granted this year, תש"נ, “a year of miracles.” The Hebrew for miracles “Nais” also means “lift up.” Thus, it relates to the efforts to rise above one’s previous level mentioned above.13 It also shares a connection to the revelation of the fiftieth level mentioned above for the נ in תש"נ, stands for 50. This also is connected with the concept of Ma’achoh, extending one’s spiritual service to include one’s environment, since the intent of “a year of miracles” is to infuse “the year,” one’s everyday routine, with miracles.

This will bring the most important miracle, the coming of Mashiach. His coming will be hastened by the service of Heichaltzu as performed by “the soldiers of the House of David” in their efforts to spread Chassidus. The shout of Ad massai (“Until when”) which they will inspire reflects the great yearning for G‑dliness which will be satisfied by the revelations of the Messianic era. May it be now, immediately.