1. In describing one of the many facets of Shabbos our sages tell us:

He who took trouble [to prepare] on the eve Shabbos can eat on the Shabbos. (Avodah Zarah 3a)

This would indicate that the Shabbos food (and the pleasure derived therefrom) comes as a direct result of the work done on Friday.

Consequently, there is a special quality in this Shabbos because erev Shabbos was the 2nd of Iyar, the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash, and today’s Shabbos ‘food’ therefore is related to that day. At the same time, the Shabbos day also brings perfection and uplifting to all aspects of the birthday.

What was the uniqueness of the Rebbe Maharash and what exemplified his special approach in Jewish life? The Previous Rebbe encapsulated the essence of the Rebbe Maharash’s philosophy in his well-known aphorism:

People say (Di velt zogt) that [when you are faced with obstacles] if you cannot go from below [and neutralize your problems by direct confrontation] then surmount them and go from above. I say that right from the outset (‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’) you should spring up and leap over from above. [Do not get bogged down in struggling with your problems — transcend them.] (see Likkutei Sichos, English, vol. II, p. 30)

This motto, ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber,’ became the life philosophy of the Rebbe Maharash’s followers during his lifetime and thereafter it continued into the following generations, so that the Previous Rebbe eventually taught this philosophy and saw that it should be propagated. This approach is certainly viable in matters pertaining to the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash.

Lechat’chilah Aribber’ guides us in our path of Divine service both in areas of Torah and mitzvos, as well as permitted matters in other areas of simple human pursuits. And the mission and goal of the soul’s descent, to purify the body and the world around us, is also influenced by ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber.’ This is why the Rebbe Maharash begins his credo with this reference to common conceptions.

By introducing this aphorism with the words ‘Di velt zogt’ the Rebbe Maharash is clearly counterpoising ‘worldliness’ to ‘G‑dliness’ with the intention of subjugating the worldliness of the world to G‑dliness, so that the world will also follow the rules of G‑dliness.

The impact of ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’ will vary with its application, and likewise its strength will increase just as the Divine service of the Tzaddik also grows, as our sages say:

Torah scholars have no rest either in this world or in the world to come (because they are always progressing in their spiritual strivings) as it says, ‘They go from strength to strength,...’ (Tehillim 84:8). (Berachos 64a)

What special quality does ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’ manifest on the Rebbe Maharash’s birthday during the period of Sefiras HaOmer, counting of the Omer. Chassidus explains that ‘Sefirah hasthesamerootas ‘shining,’ ‘brilliant’ and ‘sparkling,’ so that the days of Sefirah carry an aspect of radiance. On ‘Tiferes ShebiTiferes,’ the Rebbe Maharash’s birthday, this brilliance is more pronounced. Add to this that the day is the eve of Shabbos when the preparations for Shabbos are made. The day of Shabbos, which signifies an ascent in all the worlds, goes above and leaps over all the days of the week and especially on this Shabbos which incorporates an ascent in the theme of the birthday.

From this we may gather that on this Shabbos ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’ is emphasized in all its manifestations — and it should therefore be utilized to the fullest extent in action.

It is therefore appropriate to begin this farbrengen with a teaching of the Rebbe Maharash as presented in a Maamar (Chassidic discourse) that has been published and which is associated with the days of Sefirah. It is hoped that the Maamar also will be studied in its source. (The Rebbe proceeded to deliver a Chassidic discourse on the verse Gan Na’ool.)

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2. Having begun the farbrengen with a Maamar we will modify the usual order and speak now about Rashi — but not on this week’s portion.

What was Moshe’s role in Kehunah (Temple service)? There are several opinions; some say he had the status of a Kohen Gadol, some say he was only a regular Kohen while others hold that he did not serve as a Kohen even when he performed the ritual in the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

In the Talmud we find the following discussion:

Rav said: Our teacher Moshe was a Kohen Gadol.... This is dependent on Tannaim: ‘And the anger of G‑d the L‑rd was kindled against Moshe. (Shmos 3:14) R. Yehoshua b. Korcha said: A [lasting] effect is recorded of every fierce anger in the Torah, but no [lasting] effect is recorded in this instance. R. Shimon b. Yochai said: A [lasting] effect is recorded in this instance too, for it is said, ‘Is there not Aharon your brother the Levi.’ Now surely he (Aharon) was a Kohen? Rather this is what he meant: ‘I had said that you would be a Kohen and he a Levi. Now, however he will be the Kohen and you will be the Levi. The sages maintain: Moshe was invested with Kehunah only for the seven days of consecration. Some maintain: only Moshe’s descendants were deprived of Kehunah (but as for Moshe he remained a Kohen all his life — this is Rav’s opinion). For it is said, ‘But as for Moshe, the man of G‑d, his sons are named among the tribe of Levi’; and it says ‘Moshe and Aharon among them that call upon His name.’ (Zevachim 101b-102a)

It is interesting to note that the Gemara does not single out any one opinion as being more acceptable and since there is no halachic implication — it would be appropriate to view all opinions as ‘These and these are the words of the living G‑d.’ (Eruvin 13b) We could perhaps leave history alone, except that Moshe’s position must be questioned; if we accept all the opinions how did Moshe actually study this part of Torah and reconcile it for himself.

Let us see what Rashi says on this subject.

In Shmos 3:14 Rashi brings both opinions that Moshe was and remained a Kohen, as well as the view that his (or his children’s) Kehunah was suspended. In Shmos 29:24 Rashi says that Moshe served as a Kohen. In Shmos 40:29, Rashi says that Moshe served as a Kohen and sacrificed offerings. In Vayikra 8:28 Rashi says that Moshe served as a Kohen for eight days in a white tunic, and in Vayikra 21:22 Rashi follows the opinion that in fact Moshe was not a Kohen but was given special dispensations.

In other words, since all of these views are accepted by the Talmud, Rashi feels free to follow any particular one when that view fits better to the plain meaning of a particular verse.

On this subject however we are troubled by several overriding questions. According to the view that Moshe was a Kohen why does the Torah always call him ‘our teacher Moshe’ and never, ‘Moshe the Kohen’? Should you say that the role of teacher is superior to that of Kohen, it could still have been used in some subordinate form.

Furthermore, Moshe’s state of Kehunah was much loftier than Aharon’s, for while Aharon was restricted from entering the Holy of Holies, Moshe was not, and many verses attest to the fact that Moshe was called into the Mishkan to stand in the presence of G‑d’s voice that emanated from the Kapores (Ark cover) in the Holy of Holies. (see Toras Kohanim on Acharei 16:2) So why was the title ‘Kohen’ never used for Moshe?

Let us first understand a fundamental principle of the Sanctuary.

The Rambam writes:

It is a positive commandment to make a house unto the L‑rd, designed for the offering of sacrifices and for making thereto a pilgrimage three times a year. For it is said: ‘And let them make Me a Sanctuary.’ (Shmos 25:8) The Tabernacle which Moshe our teacher made is clearly described in Scripture.... (Laws of the Temple 1:1)

Let us consider this for a moment. The Tabernacle which Moshe made had another most vital purpose, as expressed in the scriptural description of the first vessel to be placed in the Sanctuary, the Holy Ark:

I will commune with you there, speaking to you from above the arkcover, from between the two cherubs that are on the Ark of Testimony. [In this manner] I will give you instruction for the Israelites. (Shmos 25:22)

Clearly, the Tabernacle was to be a place designated for the transmission of G‑d’s word to Moshe. This is clearly stated in the verse and specifically explained by the Ramban. Why does the Rambam ignore this function?

This may be understood if we remember that prior to the construction of the Tabernacle G‑d spoke to Moshe in his special tent which was placed outside the camp. After the Tabernacle was built G‑d no longer spoke to Moshe in his own ‘tent of meeting’ — but only in the Sanctuary. For this reason the Rambam mentions only that the Sanctuary must be an edifice where sacrifices were offered — previously this was done on any altar — now only in a special shrine.

Moreover, since this rule of direct prophetic vision in the Sanctuary did not hold true for the first and second Holy Temples it could not be considered one of the principle functions of the Sanctuary, rather a special role regarding Moshe’s prophecy.

What about the future?

One of the promises of the future is predicted in the Midrash: ‘A new Torah (instruction) shall go forth from Me.’ (Vayikra Rabbah 13:3, based on Yeshayahu 51:4) How will it be then?

A — The Holy One, Blessed be He, might teach us all Torah.

B — We might learn Torah from King Dovid Mashiach, as Chassidus explains that Mashiach will teach Torah to everyone, even Moshe and the Patriarchs.

C — Moshe is the eternal teacher and in the future he will also teach us the ‘new’ Torah. Will this instruction be connected with the Bais HaMikdash?

Having established that in the Mishkan there were two purposes — sacrifices and prophetic dialogues, we may now understand Moshe’s role. One could enter the Mishkan as a Kohen — the role of Aharon and his children, and even Moshe during the days of installation. One may also enter to hear G‑d’s word — only Moshe had this role. When one entered to do the Kohanic ritual he had to dress and function as a Kohen which Moshe did during the days of consecration. However when he entered to hear G‑d’s word, he was on a much higher level and was not restricted by any external limitation. He could also enter the Holy of Holies to learn Torah from G‑d whenever he was called.

The term ‘Kohen’ is used to refer to certain ritual practices in the tabernacle; the term ‘our teacher’ alludes to the loftier role, that of receiving the Torah directly from G‑d and transmitting it to the Jewish people.

Since Moshe was always ready and prepared to receive the word of G‑d he never stood on the level of only being a Kohen. Therefore the Torah need not call him a Kohen, since his role as teacher also included Kehunah. There is much to discuss in these matters, so: ‘Give instruction to a wise man and he will be yet wiser.’ (Mishlei 9:9)

May we speedily merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach and Moshe and Aharon will be with him and then all our puzzles will be cleared up. So may it be speedily and truly in our days, may we not be detained even a moment, truly — now.

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3. In this week’s portion several questions have been raised on Rashi’s commentary to the verse: ‘He shall then have the inside of the house scraped off....’

Rashi says:

Scraped offrogner in Old French, Scraped off, and in Mishnaic Hebrew it occurs many times.

A — Having explained to the five-year-old Chumash student what the word means in his native tongue — Old French — why should Rashi add ‘... in Mishnaic Hebrew it occurs many times’? The five-year-old Chumash student has not yet studied Mishnah and he will gain no better understanding by being told that the word appears often in the Mishnaic literature.

B — Why does Rashi use the term ‘Mishnaic Hebrew,’ he could say simply that the word appears many times in the Mishnah.

Generally speaking, the five-year-old Chumash student knows the meanings of the common or regularly used words of Chumash. When the Torah uses a unique word Rashi exercises his mandate and must translate the word for the child into simple Hebrew or the local language.

When this happens the five-year-old Chumash student understands the meaning of the word but he remains with another query. Why should the Torah use an uncommon term? It would be better to use a popular word, or at least a word that appears several times in the Chumash (this is the only place in Chumash where this word ‘scraped off’ — yaktzia — appears). [The five-year-old Chumash student realizes that to know the meaning of the word he must also have a teacher who speaks the local language.]

So Rashi adds, ‘In Mishnaic Hebrew the word occurs often.’ Although he has not yet learned Mishnah — he knows of its existence and that in a few years he will study Mishnah. He also knows that the language of the Mishnah closely follows the language of Tenach. This eases the child’s question — for although the word is not commonly used in Tenach it is used later in the Mishnah which is closely connected to Tenach. Here Rashi emphasizes that not only is the word found in the Mishnah — it is also part of Mishnaic Hebrew and thereby part of the Hebrew language.

We find here an additional lesson relative to the relationship of a teacher and pupil. Even after explaining the subject matter clearly it is still important for the teacher to add some highlights and sidelights which will further illuminate and enrich the topic. This was Rashi’s intention here. After giving us the meaning of the word, he added that the word is part of Mishnaic Hebrew and often used in the Mishnah.

While it is true that a teacher should demand respect and project a feeling of awe on his students, at the same time he must do what he can to make the study more interesting so that the pupil will be motivated to learn. This applies in all areas of education.

As we are approaching the summer months it is important to make every effort to utilize the summer months to educate Jewish boys and girls with appropriate education. Starting with small children which will bring about the elimination and destruction of the enemy and avenger, and bring the complete redemption.

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4. In the second chapter of Pirkei Avos, which we study this week we find:

He (Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi) used to say: Fulfill His will as you would your own will, so that He may fulfill your will as though it were His will. Set aside your will because of His will, so that He may set aside the will of others before your will. (Avos 2:4)

This bears some clarification:

A — How does this teaching fit into Avos — the ethics of Sinai — which is basically a collection of moral and ethical conduct beyond the requirement of the law. This rule, however, is not an act of super piety — the basic expectation of every Jew is that he should carry out G‑d’s will completely and properly and to subjugate his own will before G‑d’s will.

B — Should you explain that this rule does represent a level of super pious conduct, a question still remains. How can the Mishnah go on to say: ‘So that He may fulfill your will.... So that He may set aside the will of others.’

It is utterly incongruous to speak of such reward for proper action when the whole framework of this teaching is a matter of piety. In such a context it is inappropriate to speak of reward! This is especially incomprehensible when we take into account the admonition of Avos chapter one:

Do not be like servants who serve their masters for the sake of receiving a reward...but rather be like servants who serve their master without the intention of receiving a reward.... (Avos 2:3)

Clearly, the advice and directives of Avos do not deal with simple action, good or bad. Avos deals with matters of piety and Rabban Gamliel’s advice to ‘fulfill His will.... Set aside your will...etc.’ surely deals with the inner intense aspects of a person’s conduct.

We must therefore understand Rabban Gamliel’s advice as relating to the expression of a person’s will and intentions, rather than to his deeds.

Halachah rules that when one performs a mitzvah he does G‑d’s will no matter what his intention was at the time — even if he hollers that he really does not want to do the particular act but he is performing it only because he is being forced to do so — his action is still acceptable, for the mitzvah was done.

When, however, we speak of levels of inner piety and true intention, when we are measuring one’s religious feelings and motivations, intensity of religious devotion, his ‘Chassidic input’ — then we must be very careful in our evaluation, and then Rabban Gamliel advises: action will not suffice. G‑d’s desire must permeate your being and metamorphose into your own will. If your desire did not match G‑d’s desire then subjugate it, refine it and sublimate it so that it metamorphoses into G‑d’s desire.

How powerful is ‘will-power’?

Man’s will is the supreme and essential force of his being, it controls not only his action but also the inner attributes and powers such as intellect, thinking and feeling. A person’s will power has the potential to bend and modify the feelings and the intellectual comprehension of the mind so that they should conform to his will and desire.

An example of just how the will power can control mind and heart may be drawn from the case of bribery, of which the Torah tells us:

Bribery blinds the clear-sighted (wise) and twists the words of the just. (Shmos 23:8)

In his desire to justify the one who gave the bribe his innocent intellect becomes warped — he is still a wise and just man but he sees things from a warped perspective. His view is lopsided. Why? Because his desire overpowers his intellect and the mind begins to think along the lines of the will.

It is even possible for bribery to lead a person to a state where he will ‘interpret the Torah in a manner contrary to its true intent.’ (Avos 3:11) His mind has been so perverted that he imagines this to be true and correct. This has happened in the case of non-halachic conversions where because of receiving money for his Yeshivah he has lost sight of the truth. Here was a case where he should have disqualified himself from ruling, instead he continues to make his claims and teaches his students to do likewise.

This is of course an extreme case — but closer to home we often see that a subjective preconceived notion is set straight by a disinterested Rav who sees things objectively.

For this reason one must not be satisfied with proper action — not even with good attributes and intellect — he must also work on the inner will and desire and see that they conform to the will of G‑d.

When the Mishnah states further that as a result — ‘so that He may fulfill your will’ — we cannot accept this as a simple statement of G‑d’s reward; we seek no reward! What then can it be?

The Rambam explains in Laws of Teshuvah that the promise of rewards in this world listed in Torah are not the real rewards for our good deeds. Rather they represent a state of comfort which we request of G‑d so that we will be able to do more of His mitzvos and study more Torah, etc.

Here, too, we speak not of reward but of a potential state of action with the added power to carry out the Divine service.

We have the assurance that when one carries out G‑d’s will and observes Torah and mitzvos according to the halachic requirement he is given all that he may need to properly carry out more Torah and mitzvos.

But what about one who wishes to perform mitzvos beyond the minimum requirement, who wishes to enrich his observance with true Chassidic fervor. How do we know that G‑d will give him all that he needs for this manner of pious conduct? Here Avos comes and tells us that in matters of piety, when you bring your will in line with G‑d’s, G‑d will make His will like yours and he will give you heavenly assistance so that you may serve him in a pious way beyond the minimum requirement, and He will nullify any obstacles and problems and bestow upon you all the blessings.

And even if G‑d’s original desire was for you to carry out mitzvos only in a minimum fashion, now G‑d will, so to speak, change his desire and want you to fulfill mitzvos with fullness and fervor.

This would be analogous to the explanation in Tanya that every man can attain a level of Beinoni, but only a select few can be Tzaddikim — on the other hand one must constantly strive to be a Tzaddik, for maybe his longing and striving will awaken a benevolent spirit above and he will be granted the status of Tzaddik. The Supernal will shall conform!

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5. The section of Rambam which we study today covers the closing chapters of Laws of Divorce and the beginning of Laws concerning Levirate Marriage (Yibum) and Chalitzah.

The source of these laws of Yibum and Chalitzah may be found in the Talmud:

Abba Shaul said, ‘If a levir marries his sister-in-law on account of her beauty, or in order to gratify his physical desires or with any other ulterior motive, it is as if he infringed the law of incest....’ But the Sages said, ‘Her husband’s brother shall marry her’ (Devarim 25:5) whatever the motive. (Yevamos 39b)


At first, when the object was the fulfillment of the commandment, the precept of the levirate marriage was preferable to that of Chalitzah, now however when the object is not the fulfillment of the commandment, the precept of Chalitzah...is preferable to that of the levirate marriage. Said Rami b. Chama in the name of R. Yitzchok. It was reenacted that the precept of the levirate marriage is preferable to that of Chalitzah.... At first they held the opinion of Abba Shaul, and finally they adopted that of the Rabbis. (loc. cit.)

As for the halachic ruling we find two opposing opinions. The Rambam holds:

The commandment to contract levirate marriage has precedence over the commandment to perform Chalitzah. (Laws of Levirate Marriage 1:2)

This would be so even when there are ulterior motives. On the other hand the Shulchan Aruch rules that chalitzah has precedence over yibum and unless it can be shown that the motives are altruistic we do not allow the yibum to take place. (Even HaEzer ch. 165)

A review of the various codifiers through the centuries will turn up the interesting fact that generally the Chachmei Sefard (Oriental and Spanish Rabbis) ruled that yibum was given preference over chalitzah while the Ashkenazic rabbis ruled that chalitzah is first choice.

Another related subject in which we find the same ongoing difference of opinion concerns the permissibility of marrying more than one wife. Among Ashkenazim the cherem (ban and prohibition) of Rabbeinu Gershon (Me’or Hagolah) is strictly adhered to in all religious circles while Sephardic Jews never accepted the cherem and up to modern times continue to practice polygamy in Sephardic countries.

We may suggest an explanation of this dichotomy in correlation to the general philosophy covering marriage as expressed by the Rambam:

The sensible course is for man first to choose an occupation that will give him a livelihood, then buy himself a home; and after that take a wife; as it is said ‘and what man is there that has planted a vineyard and not redeemed it...what man is there that has built a new house and has not dedicated it? ...and what man is there that has betrothed a woman and not taken her?’ (Devarim 20:5-7) But the foolish first marry, then if one of this sort can afford it, he purchases a house; and last of all, towards the end of his life, he sets about seeking a trade or lives on charity. Thus it is said in the imprecations: ‘A wife you shall betroth...a house you shall build...a vineyard you shall plant’ (Devarim 28:30); that is, all your activities shall be in the reverse order of what they should be (Laws of Moral Disposition and Ethical Conduct 5:11)

It is clear that the Rambam predicates the institution of marriage on the ability to support a wife and family.

How have Jews prospered during the long years of exile? We have seen a tangible difference between the condition in Sephardic lands among the Moslems as compared to Ashkenazic lands among Christians. The galus among the Edomites (Christians) has been considerably worse. This may depend on the fact that the Rambam rules that the Yishmaelites (Moslems) believe in G‑d while Christians are actually idolaters. For this reason the galus among the Edomites has been so much more fearful.

With this in mind the Sages of Ashkenaz have felt that the pressure of the exile precluded a Jew from having more than one wife or consummating the levirate marriage. In Sephardi lands where life was easier the restrictions did not apply.

May G‑d grant that speedily we will see the end of both the exile of Edom and Yishmael. ‘For so many years have passed since all the predestined times have passed,’ and we can only say ‘How long!’

Certainly, G‑d will fulfill our request and redeem us from the galus with our youth and elders, sons and daughters, with our complete Torah and mitzvos, to our Holy Land, Yerushalayim the Holy City and the Bais HaMikdash. So may it be, speedily and truly in our time.