1. The Shaloh notes that the Torah readings Matos, Maasei, and Devarim are always read in the three weeks of Bein HaMetzorim. This reveals an intrinsic connection that they share with this period of time.

Among the obvious points of connection is the conclusion of Parshas Maasei which speaks of the institution of six Cities of Refuge for someone who inadvertently killed a colleague. The expression the Torah uses for killing is “makkah nefesh,” literally, “one who strikes a soul.” Thus, in an extended sense, it can refer to sin which harms the second soul, the soul which is “a part of G‑d from above.” Shedding blood refers to the effect of sin, taking the energy of the G‑dly soul and bringing it to the forces of evil.

This bloodshed is always “inadvertent,” i.e., a Jew never sins willingly for no Jew can and no Jew wants to be separate from G‑dliness.1 The exile can be understood as atonement for these “inadvertent” sins, “Cities of Refuge” as it were. On this basis, we can understand the verse in the liturgy, “Because of our sins, we were exiled from our land.” Our sins are considered like inadvertent murder for which we received the punishment of exile.

Nevertheless, we have endured many difficulties in exile and have carried out many different acts of service, including the service of teshuvah of which the Rambam states: “The Torah has promised that ultimately Israel will repent at the end of their exile and immediately they will be redeemed.” Surely, each and every Jew has had several thoughts of teshuvah. Therefore, the redemption should come immediately and we should all “return to our ancestral heritage,” to Eretz Yisrael, in the Messianic redemption.

This redemption is also alluded to in the beginning of Parshas Maasei which describes the journeys of the Jews between their departure from Egypt and their entry into Eretz Yisrael. In a larger sense, these journeys represent the travels of the Jews throughout history as they proceed from Egypt — representative of boundaries and limitations — to Eretz Yisrael — the full state of Eretz Yisrael as will be revealed in the Messianic redemption.

The concept of redemption is also expressed by the final verse of Parshas Maasei which is also the conclusion of the Book of Bamidbar: “These are the mitzvos and judgments which G‑d commanded... in the plains of Moav.” Thus, it marks the conclusion of the four Books of the Torah — the Book of Devarim referred to as Mishneh Torah, “the repetition of the Torah,” being in a category of its own.

These four Books allude to the four exiles — and conversely, the four promises of redemption. They reflect the four levels which exist within the downward progression of spiritual worlds which, in turn, stem from the four letters of G‑d’s Name, v-u-v-h.

The conclusion of the fourth Book of the Torah leads to the beginning of the fifth Book which refers to a level of revelation that transcends all boundaries.2 This is reflected in the opening verse of the book, “These are the words which Moshe spoke.” This verse can also refer to the revelation of the new aspects of Torah in the Messianic age for our Sages have taught, “He (Moshe) was the first redeemer. He will be the final redeemer.”

2. Since both the beginning and the conclusion of Parshas Maasei speaks about the concept of redemption, the question arises: Why is the subject of the Cities of Refuge — a reference to the concept of exile as explained above — also included in the same reading?

[It can be explained that the portion describes the preparations the Jews made for the division of Eretz Yisrael. Since the Cities of Refuge were included in the 48 cities given to the Levites, it is appropriate to mention them in this context. This explanation is, however, insufficient, for were that the intention, it would be enough to mention the cities in brief without explaining all the details of inadvertent murder as the portion does.]

This question can be resolved as follows: The opening verse of Parshas Maasei, “These are the journeys of the children of Israel as they left the land of Egypt,” not only relates that the Jews left exile, it also reveals the manner of service which makes it possible for them to leave exile.

The exodus from Egypt reflects a spiritual service of leaving one’s boundaries and limitations which is possible even when one is physically in exile. This means that the person will pay no attention to the hardships of exile. Rather, he will carry out his service of Torah and mitzvos as if he was not in exile at all.3

A Jew’s soul is totally above all concepts of exile. This applies even when the soul is enclothed within a body in this world, even when a person lives in the darkness of exile in the generation preceding Mashiach’s coming when the darkness is greater.

Since the Jew’s soul is, to quote Tanya, “actually a part of G‑d,” or to rephrase that expression, “a part of G‑d that has become actual,” i.e., that can be felt, it stands above all the difficulties of exile. Accordingly, when a Jew makes his soul primary and his body secondary, the powers of the soul are revealed within the body and no obstacles can keep the body in exile.

Thus, a Jew’s entire life becomes a series of exoduses from Egypt, i.e., departures from boundaries and limitations. This is alluded to in the verse, “These are the journeys of the children of Israel as they left the land of Egypt.” On the surface, after the first journey, they had “left the land of Egypt.” The verse, nevertheless, mentions “journeys,” to teach that every state, even a level of holiness, can be considered Egypt, a place of boundaries and limitations in regard to the level above it. Thus, a Jew must continually, “proceed from strength to strength,” constantly progressing to higher levels in a never-ending process.

Within this process, however, there are distinctions between the extent in which some of the intermediate levels are perceived as “boundaries and limitations (Egypt)” when compared to the level above it. There are times when a person realizes that he can proceed to a higher level, but does not feel constrained by his present state. There are, however, situations when the awareness of the potential for further growth causes a person to feel limited and constrained by his present state.

In general, the higher a person’s level is, the more he realizes his potential to proceed to further peaks and therefore, the more he feels limited by his present state. There are times when his awareness of his ultimate potential is so strong that he cannot see any positive value in his present state. On the contrary, he sees it as a sin, i.e., a state of lack.4

In this context, we can appreciate why the Torah mentions the details of inadvertent murder in the portion Maasei which describes the Jews’ journey to the ultimate redemption. A Jew must constantly serve his Creator, employing every one of the potentials that he has been given and every moment of his existence with this goal in mind. Furthermore, he must constantly progress further in this service, continually reaching higher levels.

Despite this resolve, when a person makes an account of his service of G‑d, he may realize that his service is lacking, that compared to the peaks which he could reach, his service cannot be considered service at all. Indeed, it may appear sinful, as if he is — albeit inadvertently — “striking his soul.”5

This realization is, nevertheless, not an indication that his service is on a low level. On the contrary, because he has continuously risen higher and higher in G‑d’s service, stepping beyond his boundaries and limitations, he is aware of the ultimate potential he has. That awareness causes him to feel a lack — and even to consider as “sinful” — his present level of service.

These concepts can be applied within the context of Bein HaMetzorim. We have carried out a variety of services in a journey through the exile. When compared, however, to the ultimate service that is possible in the Messianic Era, our present service is surely constrained and can even be considered comparable to “striking a soul.”

The awareness of these constraints should motivate a Jew to call to G‑d — “Out of the straits, I call You, G‑d,” — “Ad Mosai — Until when!” Because he desires to serve G‑d in the most complete manner, he asks for the end to the exile. This call arouses a response from G‑d — “With abounding [relief], G‑d answered me,” bringing the Messianic redemption and removing entirely all constraints and limits. Then, G‑d’s essence will be revealed.

When interpreted in this manner, “striking a soul,” serving G‑d in a limited manner when compared to one’s ultimate potential, is surely an “inadvertent act.” A Jew cannot be held responsible for this lack for it results from the constraints established by G‑d, Himself. The fact that a Jew is unable to reach a complete level of service despite his desire to do so, stems ultimately from G‑d’s concealment of His infinite light.6

Therefore, the Torah teaches that when a person is tried for a murder, he must be taken from the City of Refuge where, “the congregation (the judges) will save him,” i.e., they will release him. In spiritual terms, this means that the limitation of G‑d’s light (the Tzimtzum) will be nullified for G‑d’s intent in this limitation was only that it bring forth a greater revelation. Similarly, the intent of the descent of exile is that — through the service of teshuvah — we proceed to an even higher level as the higher quality of light comes from (the transformation of) the darkness. In this context, the descent is merely one phase in the ultimate ascent.7

In this context, we can understand why the Torah uses the expression “And the congregation shall save him” to refer to the activity of the judges. A “congregation” refers to a group of at least ten Jews and thus, alludes to the Jewish people as a whole who are divided into ten categories. Despite their individual differences, they join together as one communal entity, reflecting the true unity that stems from the essence of the soul which is present in every Jew. This potential also establishes unity between them and G‑d.

Therefore, the potential to save a person who inadvertently “strikes a soul,” — in all its interpretations, from the highest8 to the lowest — comes from the unity of the Jewish people, which reflects the essence of their souls and the essence of G‑d. Our Sages teach that the present exile came about because of unwonted hatred. By showing Jewish unity, we thus negate the cause for the exile. When the cause is negated, the effect — the exile — will also cease to exist.

3. As a practical expression of the above, it is important to increase our achdus Yisrael (the unity of the Jewish people); for each individual to view himself as part of the entire Jewish people so that his individual achievements in the service of G‑d are considered as part of the service of the Jewish people as a whole. This begins with saying, “I, hereby, take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellowman as yourself’ ”9 and is reflected in one’s actual deeds. One seeks the welfare of each individual Jew and the Jewish people as a whole, in regard to material matters and in regard to spiritual matters. In the latter context, this involves spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit as implied by our Sages’ words, “Raise up many students.”

In particular, the above applies to a communal official, elected democratically by the community as a whole. When a community composed of many different individuals chooses a single individual out of the awareness of the unique potentials he possesses, he has the responsibility to use those potentials to the utmost.

Furthermore, as the representative of the community, he is granted unique blessings because of the merit of the community. Indeed, we see that “those who faithfully occupy themselves with the needs of the community” have been able to achieve far greater success than would be possible because of their own individual potentials, however great those potentials might be.

A community official must resolve to use these blessings to the fullest degree possible. This, in turn, will bring him blessings in everything he personally needs to allow him to carry out the above tasks.

In particular, the two portions, Matos and Maasei, provide significant guidelines for a communal leader. Matos meaning “staff” implies that he must show the necessary personal strength. Maasei meaning “journeys” teaches that he cannot rest comfortably on his past achievements, but must constantly strive to reach higher peaks, appreciating the loss caused if he does not use his powers to the fullest as explained above.

The above particularly applies to communal officials in Eretz Yisrael. There is a unique Divine providence controlling Eretz Yisrael as implied by the Torah’s description of it as “a land which... always the eyes of the L‑rd, your G‑d, are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” Consequently, they are given even greater powers which they must use in the fullest and most complete manner.

In particular, they have a responsibility not to give up one inch of Eretz Yisrael. G‑d has granted the Jews the potential to live as free men — and “there are no free men aside from those occupied in Torah study” — in Eretz Yisrael before Mashiach’s coming. There, they will live with security and composure until the ultimate entry into Eretz Yisrael led by Mashiach.

Also, in the weeks to come efforts should be made in the following areas: a) Torah study, in particular, the study of the laws of the construction of the Beis HaMikdash. When G‑d revealed to Yechezkel the vision of the Messianic Beis HaMikdash, He told him:

Shall the construction of My house be negated because My children are in the exile...I will consider your involvement in reading about it as if you actually built the Beis HaMikdash.

[Also, efforts should be made to make siyumim during the Nine Days.] b) The construction of “sanctuaries in microcosm” — houses associated with Torah, prayer, and deeds of kindness, both on the communal and on the individual level.

In this context, it is worthy to acknowledge the efforts of a group of individuals from Toronto who journeyed from their city to spend Shabbos here to announce a construction project within that city. They should say LeChaim — and LeChaim U’livrocha” — and may this drawn down life and blessing in all their activities. May their efforts find great success and may they serve as an example to other cities.

To participate in the construction of buildings for these purposes in all places — whether communal or individual — $100 will be given from a fund of the Previous Rebbe. May these efforts hasten the time when the synagogues and houses of study (including also the private homes where these activities were carried out) in the Diaspora will be taken and permanently established in Eretz Yisrael and may this help reveal the ultimate building, the third Beis HaMikdash.