1. Shabbos Nachamu is the first of the seven Shabbasos of consolation which begin after Tishah BeAv. These seven Shabbasos are distinguished by their Haftoros which are prophecies of consolation related by the prophet, Yeshayahu. The first Haftorah of these Shabbasos, Nachamu begins “Nachamu, Nachamu,” repeating the consolation twice. This sets the tone for all the Shabbasos that follow and they also are a twofold consolation.

On this basis, we can understand the connection between the Haftorah and the weekly portion, Parshas Vaes’chanan. Even though the Haftoros of these portions do not parallel the Torah readings as do the Haftoros of the Shabbasos of the entire year, there is a point of connection. In particular, this applies to Shabbos Nachamu which serves as “the head” of the Shabbasos that follow, including all of them within it and providing consolation for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the Three Weeks of Retribution.

To elaborate: The three Shabbasos of retribution relate to the three intellectual powers, while the seven Shabbasos of Consolation reflect the seven emotional powers. One of the differences between intellect and emotion is that intellect is associated with concealment (i.e., it can be for oneself alone), while emotions are associated with revelation (i.e., they involve communication to another person).

Similarly, the Three Weeks of Retribution contain a great inner good as the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, they are comparable to the love a king shows to his son by personally washing off his filth. This good, however, is not ultimately revealed. On the contrary, the “washing” is painful. Conversely,1 the consolation which follows is openly revealed, a display of kindness that can be openly appreciated.

The above concept also relates to the Torah portion of the week, Parshas Vaes’chanan. Vaes’chanan (ואתחנן) is numerically equal to 515. 500 represents the service of the emotions. (Of the seven emotional qualities, five are more prominent. Each quality includes every one of the ten qualities which themselves include each other. Thus, we have 5 times 10 times 10, equaling 500.) Fifteen (v-h) represents the service of the intellect. 515, i.e., 500 coming before 15, implies that the stress is that the emotions are of primary importance and intellect must be drawn down and revealed in this realm.2

Parshas Vaes’chanan is a portion of general significance which contains concepts that are fundamental to the entire Torah. Thus, the portion contains an extensive description of the giving of the Torah and repeats the Ten Commandments (which include the entire Torah).

Similarly, it contains the first paragraph of the Shema which is of general relevance. The verse Shema refers to the acceptance of G‑d’s yoke, committing ourselves to His service. The following verse states the mitzvah of loving G‑d which is the source for the fulfillment of all the positive mitzvos in the Torah.3 This love must be “with all your heart” — interpreted to mean “with both your hearts,” i.e., even the evil inclination will be transformed and come to love G‑d — “with all your soul” — with every aspect of your being — and “with all your might,” interpreted by our Sages to mean “with all your money,” i.e., one’s love for G‑d affects even the way one relates to material things. This love is expressed in one’s worldly belongings, one’s home, through fulfilling the mitzvah mentioned at the conclusion of the paragraph, placing a mezuzah on one’s gates. This also effects one’s behavior outside one’s home.4

The above theme is also emphasized by the conclusion of the portion Vaes’chanan which states, “to fulfill them today.” In a larger sense, “today” refers to our service throughout the six millennia, which will bring us to “the reward” which will be received “tomorrow” in the Messianic Era.

This leads to the beginning of Parshas Eikev which will be read in the Minchah service, that states, “And it shall come to pass, after you listen to these laws... G‑d, your L‑rd, will keep the covenant...” The term Eikev also alludes to ikvesa diMeshicha, the present age which immediately precedes the Mashiach’s coming. The service in this era will cause G‑d to “keep the covenant” and grant the Jews the rewards of the Messianic era.

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2. The above is also related to the portion of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah which is studied at the present time, the conclusion of Hilchos Keilim [The Laws of (the Ritual Purity) of Vessels]. The Rambam writes that “most of the laws of the Torah are intended... to correct our character traits.” Therefore, one should think over Torah law and try to derive parallels relating to our service of G‑d.

In this context, the conclusion of Hilchos Keilim (The Laws of Vessels) alludes to our completion of the service of making vessels for G‑dliness within every aspect of our human experience and within every aspect of the world at large.

This concept is expressed clearly by one of the laws governing the Shabbos: There is a minimum amount of food for which one is held liable for transferring from one domain to another on the Shabbos. When a person transfers less than the minimum amount of food for which he is held liable in a large vessel, he is still not obligated for a forbidden transfer. Had he transferred the vessel alone, he would have been held liable. Nevertheless, since in this context, he is using the vessel as a container for food, the vessel itself is of no significance whatsoever. We look at the food alone.

Similarly, in a spiritual context, the world should be seen as a vessel for G‑dly light, without any separate identity or purpose. To express a similar thought in the context of Hilchos Keilim: Though a vessel is susceptible to ritual impurity, a Jew can maintain it in a state of purity.

After Hilchos Keilim, we proceed to Hilchos Mikvaos (The Laws of Mikvaos); implying that we are making the world a vessel to be filled with G‑d’s purity. The waters of the mikveh are, to quote the Rambam, symbolic of “the waters of pure knowledge.” Ultimately, these waters, this purity, will be spread throughout the entire world as the Rambam relates in the concluding statement of the Mishneh Torah, “And the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.” At present, a Jew’s service involves maintaining the world in a state of purity. The possibility of impurity does, nevertheless, exist. In the Messianic Age, the world will be lifted up to a level where the entire concept of impurity is nullified.

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3. In his commentary on the Torah, Rashi interprets the word Vaes’chanan, the first word of this Torah portion, as “a free gift;... alternatively, this is one of the ten expressions used to refer to prayer.” When thinking into the deeper meanings of Rashi’s commentary, the “wine of Torah” which it contains, a difficulty arises: Prayer refers to a process of ascent, elevating oneself from a lower level to a higher level. A “free gift” refers to a gift from above which transcends all service on our lowly plane, a level above our service of Torah and mitzvos which cannot be influenced by that service. On the surface, the first phase should be the service which is within our potential and afterwards, the service which is above us will be revealed.5

The beginning of Parshas Eikev also presents a similar difficulty. That portion begins: “And it shall come to pass, after you listen to these laws... G‑d, your L‑rd, will keep the covenant and the grace which He swore to your forefathers.” Although the Jews will merit reward for their own service, the full reward they will be given will be much greater. It will be unlimited as reflected in a covenant which transcends the limits of intellect. The question arises: In ikvesa diMeshicha, we are on a low spiritual level. If so, how will we be capable of accepting this unlimited reward?

The key to the resolution of this difficulty is the word “forefathers” mentioned in the above verse. Each Jew is a child of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov and receives as an inheritance their spiritual heritage. On a deeper level, each Jew is like an only son of G‑d, Himself, and because of this essential connection is capable of receiving the unlimited reward mentioned above.

This concept also explains why Rashi begins the commentary referred to above by mentioning “a free gift.” This refers to a revelation from G‑d’s essence. Because of his essential connection to G‑d, a Jew is capable of receiving such a revelation. Afterwards, through “the ten expressions of prayer,” he internalizes this revelation, causing it to permeate through his ten powers of soul.6

This concept relates to a young child beginning his study of Torah — the individual to whom Rashi directed his commentary. The nature of such a child is that, as soon as sees something attractive, he wants it. He stretches out his hand to take it, expecting that it be given to him as “a free gift.” Only after he grows and matures does he realize that he can’t just take everything, he must request that it be given to him.

This is reflected in a Jew’s spiritual service for we all possess a childlike dimension as reflected in the verse, “Israel is a youth, [therefore,] I love him.” Because of this childlike quality each Jew expects that every good thing should be given to him as a “free gift.” Only afterwards, does he appreciate the need for prayer.

A Jewish child feels a connection with G‑d’s essence. Therefore, one of our great sages exclaimed, “I pray with the intention of a child,” i.e., unlike other sages whose prayers are directed to specific Divine qualities, this sage wanted his prayers, like those of a child, to be directed to G‑d’s essence. Indeed, a child does not need to have this concept explained to him, he fulfills it naturally. When he prays. he has no other thought than directing his prayers to G‑d’s essence.

Similarly, the Jewish people as a whole can be compared to a child. This comparison is more appropriate in the present age when our service centers — not on the “adult” qualities of intellect and emotion — but on actual deed which reflects the inner connection each Jew shares with G‑d. These qualities are “childlike” in nature.

On this basis, we can resolve a problematic matter. Directly after the Three Weeks, we are on a low level, just beginning the service of transforming the undesirable qualities into good. Nevertheless — despite the fact that Mashiach has not come yet — we are granted a twofold consolation, a consolation that emanates from G‑d’s essence.

How is it possible for us to appreciate this high level while in such a low state? We are able to do so because a Jew shares an inner essential connection with G‑d. No matter how low his level, this essential bond remains intact at all times. Indeed, precisely when a Jew is on a low level, when his connection with G‑d on the level of intellect and emotion is lacking, there is an emphasis on this essential bond. Therefore, directly after the depths of the Three Weeks of Retribution, G‑d consoles the Jews in a complete manner, revealing this fundamental connection.

4. On the basis of the above, we can understand the significance of the present date, the 11th of Av. The first ten days of the month are connected with destruction — for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash was begun on the ninth of Av and continued into the tenth. The 11th represents a level above all limitation — “You are one, but not in a numerical sense.” A level above the ten Sefiros, relating to G‑d’s essence.7

Nevertheless, even when a Jew is on the lowest levels, he shares an essential bond with G‑d. Therefore, there exists within him a level that transcends totally the entire concept of exile and destruction. On that level, wherever a Jew is to be found, regardless of the situation he is in, even in the darkness of ikvesa diMeshicha, his essential being is Tzion, i.e., the essence of the soul.

This level is revealed directly after the destruction. Then, the essential love that binds G‑d to the Jews is revealed and He comforts them completely, with a twofold consolation.

5. In order to allow the twofold consolation mentioned above to be drawn down into the context of our existence, it is necessary for us to perform a twofold service. This applies both in regards to our own personal service and also our efforts to influence others. In both of these realms, we must apply ourselves with redoubled intensity.

This applies to people at both ends of the spectrum of service. Even a person at the lowest levels must begin immediately fulfilling mitzvos behiddur (in a complete and attractive manner).8 This also applies to the approach to educating children. They must be exposed to the concept of fulfilling mitzvos behiddur. On the contrary, a child will respond to this approach eagerly for as explained above, children are immediately attracted to desirable things.

Conversely, even a person on a high spiritual peak must strive to increase — double — his service. This relates to our Sages’ statement: “Whoever has 100, desires 200. Whoever has 200, desires 400.” Though our Sages emphasized the importance of being satisfied with one’s portion, this applies in the realm of material affairs alone. In regard to spiritual matters, one must constantly desire to rise higher.

This service is also reflected in one of the subjects mentioned in the Torah reading, the Cities of Refuge. Our Sages explain that on the crossroads leading to the Cities of Refuge there were signs which pointed the way and stated, “Refuge, Refuge.”

“Refuge” refers to the Torah as our Sages stated, “the words of Torah are a refuge.” The concept of a crossroads reflects a situation where a person is presented with the choice between good and bad. At these crossroads, i.e., when a person feels that he is at the crossroads between the path of the good inclination and that of the bad, there must be a sign stating, “Refuge, Refuge,”9 there must be a sign directing him to Torah.

This applies not only to our lives, but in regard to our relationship with others. We must become living signs, pointing the way to Torah practice.

To conclude with a practical directive since “Deed is most essential:” The service of “Tzion will be redeemed through judgment (Torah study) and those who return to her through tzedakah,” should be intensified, doubled. In particular, this is related to the 15th of Av, when our Sages advised us to increase our Torah study at night, promising that this will add to an increase in life.

May all the above hasten the coming of the ultimate and complete consolation, the Messianic redemption. May it come now, immediately.

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6. A number of guests have visited this Shabbos, giving us the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of greeting guests which is, in our Sages’ words, “greater than receiving the Divine presence.” Since they also merited, coming to a meritorious place, the Beis Midrash of the Previous Rebbe and it is a meritorious time, the Shabbos, they should say LeChaim. They should be joined by all those here who merited to fulfill this great mitzvah. Generally, to encourage others to do something, it is proper to show an example. Therefore, I will begin saying LeChaim and may I be joined by others. LeChaim!

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7. The Zohar states that from Shabbos, “all the days of the coming week are blessed.” In the present instance, this includes the 15th of Av, a unique day, as our Sages said, “The Jews never had festivals like the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.”

The 15th of Av possesses an advantage over Yom Kippur as explained in the interpretation of the name Yom Kippurim which can be rendered “a day like Purim;” i.e., the uniqueness of Yom Kippur is almost as great as Purim. The advantages of the service of Purim over Yom Kippur are twofold. Though the essence of the soul, the quality of yechidah is revealed on both days, on Purim, this quality was revealed for an entire year previously through the mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) of the Jewish people. Also, on Purim, this level is revealed within the physical activities of this world, eating, drinking, and celebration.

Similarly, regarding the 15th of Av, this reflects the transformation of darkness into light. It reflects the fullness of the moon of Av, the time when the positive intent hidden within the negative factors of that month will be revealed. This is emphasized by our Sages’ statement that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed in Av “so that” it be rebuilt in Av.