1. This week’s portion, Parshas Vayeitzei, begins the narrative of the life of the Patriarch Yaakov which continues until the conclusion of the Book of Bereishis. Our Sages declare: “The deeds of the patriarchs are a sign for their descendants.” Implicit in that statement is that the patriarchs’ deeds are not merely an indication of what will occur to the Jewish people in future generations. Rather the deeds of the patriarchs exert an influence on their descendents’ future, causing it to mirror their different activities. In that context, the events of Yaakov’s life contain significance for every Jew for they help shape his future.

Significantly, we find a contrast between Yaakov and the patriarchs who preceded him, Yitzchok and Avraham. Our Sages explain: Yishmael descended from Avraham; Eisav descended from Yitzchok. In regard to Yaakov: his bed was perfect; i.e. all of his sons were righteous.

The question arises: How is it possible for the patriarchs who were “a chariot for G‑d,” [i.e., they were totally given over to G‑d’s will], to have descendents like Eisav and Yishmael? We are forced to say that the fact that the patriarchs had such children was also representative of their high level. The Hebrew expression for “descended from,” yetzoh mimenu, can also be interpreted as “was expelled from.” Avraham and Yitzchak’s process of self-refinement included the expulsion of the undesirable traits represented by Yishmael and Eisav. Once the patriarchs were purged of these qualities, their own service remained untainted.

To explain the relation of the above to our individual service of G‑d: The service of chessed (“kindness”, the attribute which characterized Avraham’s service, which is related to the service of doing good), must be limited, constrained so that one’s kindness will not be granted to those individuals which are undeserving. Accordingly, it is necessary to nullify, to expel entirely, any undesirable element (for example, Yishmael, who is representative of the chessed associated with kelipah, evil). Correspondently, the service of gevurah (might, associated with the quality of fear and thus, with the patriarch Yitzchok as the verse states “the fear of Yitzchok”) must also involve the negation and the estrangement of all connection with the quality of might associated with kelipah (as personified by Eisav).

This explanation raises a question: Since Yaakov was not at all involved with the service of the expulsion of evil (as reflected in his having children who were all righteous), it would seem appropriate that his service be carried out entirely within Eretz Yisrael, the realm of holiness. In fact, the opposite is true: Yitzchok is described as “a perfect burnt offering” and was forbidden to depart from Eretz Yisrael, while Yaakov left the Holy Land twice: once to Charan and once to Egypt.

The difficulty is further intensified by the fact that Lavan, Yaakov’s host in Charan during the time when he established his household (and thus, laid the foundation for the Jewish people in all future generations), was a dishonest person and Egypt, where Yaakov spent his final1 (and according to our Sages “best”) years, was “the most depraved of all countries.”

The above difficulty can be resolved by the explanation of a related question: On the surface, the statement that all of Yaakov’s sons were righteous is difficult to understand. We find that Reuven “disturbed his father’s bed.”2 This difficulty can be resolved by the Midrash’s description of Reuven as “the first to repent.” The Holy One, blessed be He, told Reuven, ‘There was never a person who sinned before Me and repented. You opened the path of teshuvah.”

From this statement, it appears that Yaakov’s raising a family who were “all righteous” included and depended on the service of teshuvah. Reuven’s teshuvah complements and contributes a deeper dimension to the righteousness of Yaakov’s children as implied by our Sages’ statement: “In the place of Baalei Teshuvah, even the totally righteous cannot stand.” Teshuvah produces a deep and powerful love for G‑d which surpasses the love of the completely righteous.

With this background, we can understand the contrast between Yaakov and Avraham and Yitzchok mentioned above: Through expelling the undesirable qualities represented by Yishmael and Eisav, Avraham and Yitzchok were able to reach a level of perfection. This level, however, has no connection with the transformation of evil. On the contrary, the evil remained in full force and, therefore, it had to be expelled.

This is evident from the fact that Yishmael and Eisav did not become Baalei Teshuvah. Furthermore, both Avraham and Yitzchok were willing to accept them even though they remained “wicked.” Thus, Avraham prayed, “May Yishmael live before you,” and Yitzchok desired to bless Eisav.3

In contrast, Yaakov’s “bed was complete,” i.e., he transmitted to his sons the potential to be righteous through the service of teshuvah. Their efforts were not confined to the expulsion of evil. They were involved in its transformation into good through the service of teshuvah, “transforming sins into merits.” Ultimately, Yaakov also has the power4 to refine Eisav5 and draw out the high sparks of G‑dliness which are contained within him.6

2. The connection between Yaakov and the service of teshuvah goes beyond the potential he granted Reuven for that service. Yaakov, himself, carried out a service of a parallel nature. Thus, we find two thrusts within Yaakov’s behavior: the service of the righteous and the service of Baalei Teshuvah. This is paralleled by the fact that he lived both in Eretz Yisrael (the service of the righteous) and in the diaspora (the service of Baalei Teshuvah).

Thus, Yaakov’s descent to Charan and Egypt reflects the unique nature of his service for it is through the transformation of these low lands7 into holiness that Yaakov expressed the ultimate power of teshuvah.8 For this reason, it was in Charan (the diaspora) where Yaakov established his household and in Egypt (the “nakedness of the land”) where he spent his “best years.” By elevating and refining the aspects of the world, transforming darkness into light, one prevents any possibility of the darkness having a negative effect.

This explanation, however, raises a question: Since the highest levels of Yaakov’s service were reached in (and through the transformation of) the diaspora, why did he spend the majority of his life in Eretz Yisrael?

This question can be explained as follows: Yaakov’s service includes the totality of the different approaches to the service of G‑d. In particular, his life can be divided into three different periods: a) the time he spent in Eretz Yisrael. This includes the 63 years he spent together with his parents, Yitzchok and Rivkah, before departing for Charan and also the 31 years he lived there after his return. b) The twenty years he spent in Lavan’s house in Charan; and c) His final seventeen years which were spent in the land of Egypt. These three periods are representative of the three rungs of tzaddikim (“the righteous”), beinonim (“the intermediate”), and resha’im (“the wicked”) which, as explained in the beginning of the Tanya, include the totality of the Jewish people.

Each one of these levels has a unique dimension which the others do not possess. The advantage of a Tzaddik is that he is involved only with good and holiness. Evil has no place in his world. On the contrary, he rejects it and hates it totally.

The advantage of the beinoni — the rung which is “the level of all men and to it all men are drawn” — is that he is involved in a constant battle between the good inclination and the evil inclination and through his service, the good inclination is always victorious. Thus, he “never violated a transgression during his lifetime, nor will he transgress.” His thought, speech, and action are only directed toward good. Though evil thoughts occur to him, he immediately rejects them, pushing them away with both hands.

The Rasha also possess an advantage for through the service of Teshuvah, his wicked deeds are transformed into good and he reaches a level higher than that of the righteous.

The potential to carry out these three levels of service comes from Yaakov’s service in the three places: Eretz Yisrael, Charan, and Egypt. Yaakov’s service in Eretz Yisrael reflects the service of the Tzaddikim. His service in Charan, refining and elevating the sheep of Lavan, reflects the service of the Beinonim and his service in Egypt, the “nakedness of the earth,” is representative of the service of teshuvah which elevates the Resha’im.

Though one might question how it was possible for a single individual, Yaakov, to carry out these three different services, encompassing in three different time periods and in three different places, since the “perfection” of Yaakov’s “bed” includes all three services, we are obligated to say that they are three dimensions of a single thrust.9

This difficulty can be explained as follows: The ultimate rung in the services of G‑d is not a combination of different services, but rather, a single all-encompassing commitment which includes all the different manners of expression. Regardless of the person’s place or situation, he will have an appropriate service with which to express his commitment to G‑d. Yaakov serves as a paradigm for such a commitment. The three services he carried out in the three different places, Eretz Yisrael, Charan, and Egypt, reflect his total and complete commitment to G‑d’s service.10

In this context, we can understand the difference between the “sign for his descendants” generated by Yaakov’s service and the sign generated by the services of Avraham and Yitzchok. Avraham’s and Yitzchak’s services teach us how to live in the realm of holiness and reject the influence of evil. Yaakov’s service generates a more encompassing influence. Yaakov’s soul includes within it all the souls of the entire Jewish people. Thus, his service serves as a sign for all the Tzaddikim, Beinonim, and Resha’im — i.e., the totality of the Jewish people — in all the generations to come. Furthermore, from Yaakov, each Jew derives the potential for making the total commitment described above which finds its expression in all of these three different services.

Each individual can find parallels to these three services within his personal life.11 Everyone has certain holy objectives which by nature he strives to fulfill (Eretz Yisrael, the service of the righteous). Similarly, we all have certain areas in which we find ourselves faced by a challenge and a conflict arising from our evil inclination (Charan, the service of the Beinoni). Also, there are other areas where the challenge is greater12 and the influence of Teshuvah is necessary to correct our behavior (Egypt, the elevation of the wicked).

There is a connection between these three services: Generally, a Baal Teshuvah (the level to which the resha’im must aspire) does not become a tzaddik immediately. This represents too extreme a transformation. Instead, he passes through a stage where he has a conflict between his good inclination and his evil inclination, and yet does not transgress (the level of the Beinoni). Only afterwards does he reach a level where his evil inclination does not present a conflict for he has transformed it and thus, negated all possibility for sin.13

Similarly, within a beinoni, we can also find a parallel to these three services. There are aspects of a beinoni’s service in which he resembles a righteous man, i.e., he has no conflict and no desire other than the fulfillment of G‑d’s will. Similarly, he has aspects of his service where he faces greater challenges. Though he does not sin, in these aspects he must consider himself “like a wicked person,” i.e., “not that he is actually wicked, but that he shares the temptations of the wicked in his thoughts and meditations and he must constantly fight to divert his attention from them.”

Within a Tzaddik as well, there are also parallels to these three services as implied by the expression, “there will never be a righteous man on earth who will do only good and not sin.” Even according to the Chassidic interpretation of the level of a Tzaddik, there are still certain challenges which he faces. Furthermore, as explained above, even a tzaddik must carry out the service of teshuvah (the service of the resha’im). To reach this level, he must strive hard, a struggle which parallels the constant efforts of the Beinoni.

Parallels to these three services can also be found in a Jew’s daily life. The time a Jew spends in shul, the times of study and prayer parallel Eretz Yisrael, the service of the righteous. His activity in permitted matters, earning a livelihood and the like parallels the challenges of the diaspora. Within this general category, there are two subdivisions: one which resembles Charan and the service of the beinonim, and more severe challenges where he confronts gentiles who worship false gods and indeed, think that the money which the Jews received from them was granted to them by these false gods (the service within Egypt which parallels the elevation of the resha’im).

Similarly, parallels to these three services can be found within the history of our people. The first level relates to the era when the Beis HaMikdash was standing and the second two levels relate to different periods within our service in exile. The power to carry out all thee three services comes from Yaakov’s journey to Charan.

In particular, in the present generation, the last period of exile, the exile of Edom, we are involved with gentiles who are associated with idol worship. Nevertheless, from Yaakov our patriarch, we derive the power to elevate these gentiles and influence them to fulfill the seven universal commandments given to Noach and his descendants. Indeed, from the events of last few weeks, we see the gentiles’ society being transformed and overturned and all this happening in a peaceful manner, without disruption. This is surely an indication that, as the Previous Rebbe stated, we are nearing the end of the exile. All that is necessary to do is “polish the buttons” and Mashiach will come.

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3. The above concepts are related to the tenth of (Yud) Kislev, the Mitteler Rebbe’s day of redemption which was celebrated this year on Erev Shabbos, the day which is directly related to the preparations for this Shabbos. The essence of that redemption is that despite the Mitteler Rebbe’s imprisonment (an exile within exile), ultimately, the gentiles recognized the need to free him. This redemption like the redemption of the other Rebbeim (the Alter Rebbe, Tzemach Tzedek and the Previous Rebbe) is also a reflection of the refinement of the gentile nations to the extent that when the Tzemach Tzedek was redeemed, he received the title, “an honored citizen for all generations.”

The “deeds of our Chassidic patriarchs are a sign for their descendants.” The Mitteler Rebbe’s redemption gives the potential for every Jew to be redeemed, to rise above all limitations and all factors which hinder his service. To connect the redemption of Yud Kislev with an unbounded increase in our service, it is proper to organize Chassidic farbrengens in every place where Jews are found.

These farbrengens should be continued on Yud-Daled (the 14th of) Kislev14 and the 15th of Kislev (the day in Kislev when the moon is full), thus leading to the redemptions of Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah. May these redemptions lead to the ultimate redemption led by Mashiach. May it come now, immediately.