1. Today is Shabbos Mevarchim and we bless the month of Adar I (first Adar). This month has the unique distinction of being called “first,” which conveys the impression of first in time, as well as in importance. It is “first” as compared to all the months of the year and also in relation to the (second) Adar. Adar, of course, includes the holiday of Purim and, in fact, the entire month is influenced by Purim, so much so, that we read:

And the month which had been transformed for them...to gladness. (Esther 9:22)

This fact could affect the law of reading the Megillah, as we find in Talmud Yerushalmi:

The Megillah may be read during the entire month [when it will be impossible to read it on the prescribed day], what is the reason, because it is said “And the month which had been transformed....” (Megillah 1:1)

In a spiritual way this same quality applies to the first Adar also.

In discussing when to read the Megillah in a leap year the Gemara cites a debate between Tannaim whether Purim will be celebrated in the first or second Adar. The final ruling remains that we celebrate Purim in the second Adar.

Nevertheless, in a spiritual sense both opinions remain intact for:

These and these are the words of the living G‑d. (Eruvin 13b)

Therefore, during the month of Adar I we can also carry out the spiritual aspects of the Megillah as they apply to our Divine service. This would also enhance the importance of the “first” Adar.

What is the main theme of Purim (and the Megillah)?

The Gemara tells us:

It is written, “The Jews confirmed and took upon themselves,” they confirmed what they had accepted long before. (Shabbos 88a)

This was the reconfirmation of the acceptance of Matan Torah. As a result of this dedication on their part they merited:

The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor (Megillas Esther 8:16) ...light means Torah...honor means phylacteries. (Megillah 16b)

This actually represents the totality of Torah and mitzvos, which brings “light and gladness and joy and honor.” On Purim all of these qualities radiate in a manner of “...cannot tell the difference...” (beyond knowledge and understanding).

We must also include in this theme of Adar the responsibility of reaching out to all Jews in all places and spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit. As the Megillah says:

To all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Achashverosh, near and far, charging them that they should observe.... (Esther 9:20)

This outreach applies also to non-Jews, for in the story of Purim we find:

Moreover, many from among the people of the land professed themselves Jews. (Ibid. 8:17)

When we utilize all of the aspects of the month of Adar we come closer to the ultimate redemption. And G‑d will redeem us and show us wonders.

During Adar we recall the rule that:

These days shall be remembered and celebrated (lit. come into being), (Ibid. 9:28)

which means, that throughout the month of Adar, and from Shabbos Mevarchim, when the initial blessing for the month descends, we must remember and concentrate on these actions and they “will come into being” again.

It is therefore a propitious time for us to make positive commitments and resolutions to carry out all of the aspects of Purim and Adar, so that we will bring the redemption closer.

The portion of Mishpatim which we read today encapsulates all of the Divine service of man in the world — and it leads to the building of the Mishkan — Sanctuary — of the portion of Terumah; this is similar to the Divine service of Adar. So when we read Mishpatim on Shabbos Mevarchim Adar the blessing is enhanced.

And may we merit speedily to the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach. For our sages have said that G‑d will,

bring one period of redemption close to another period of redemption. (Megillah 6b)

Although this adage of our sages is said about the second month of Adar, which is closer to Pesach and it would seem that Adar II would be the period of redemption close to the redemption of Pesach, we may however still make the connection now. We really do not know which Adar this will be for when Mashiach comes in the next few moments the system of sanctification by way of sighting of the moon will be reinstated and then it will become possible that this Adar will in fact be the Adar close to Nissan. So that the redemption will be close to the redemption of Pesach.

So may it be, the coming of Mashiach, truly in our time.

2. Having mentioned the distinct possibility that this year we may be able to sanctify the new month by sighting the “birth of the new moon,” I realize that there are those who wonder:

How is it possible that this Jew is speaking so calmly and “cold-bloodedly” about Mashiach. He speaks in a manner that he honestly expects it to happen in the nextfewmoments. Every-one, speaker and audience, have all made plans for the next few days and probably did not take into account this possibility that Mashiach will come. Is it not strange that here he is speaking as one who actually expects Mashiach before Rosh Chodesh I Adar?!

It is true that several hours remain until the actual moments of lunar renewal — but what momentous occurrence can actually happen in that short span of time? So they wonder: what is this talk about sanctifying the new month by sighting...it is just idle talk to waste time!

Let us therefore seriously approach this problem. First of all, there is a clear ruling in the Rambam:

The Torah already offered assurances that Israel will, in the closing period of the exile, finally repent and thereupon immediately be redeemed. (Laws of Teshuvah 7:5)

No doubt, that the Rambam is precise in his choice of the word immediately!!

Furthermore, the Rambam rules that this deliverance can depend on the actions of even one single Jew:

If he fulfills one commandment, he turns the scale of merit in his favor and in that of the whole world and brings salvation and deliverance to all his fellow creations and to himself. (Ibid. 3:4)

We know that Rambam holds that even the mental exercise of teshuvah can influence the judgment of being considered righteous (See Laws of Marriage ch. 8).

Certainly everyone will admit that there must be one Jew in the world who had the proper feeling of such repentance in his heart during these few moments.

And on Shabbos even ignorant people see and speak the truth. If so, when this takes place, the redemption will be instantaneous and the Third Beis HaMikdash will just descend — it is prefabricated — and be revealed! At that point the Judges of old will be restored in the chamber of hewn stone. Then we will be responsible to get to the business at hand and to determine the beginning of the new month on the basis of true witnesses who saw the new crescent of the moon.

There is a special relationship between the new moon and redemption. For the Exodus out of Egypt began with the mitzvah of sanctifying the moon and similarly the Jewish people are destined to be renewed, just as the moon is, at the time of the redemption, through Dovid King Mashiach, who lives forever!

All this is technically and halachically possible; that the Beis Din of Yerushalayim can still announce the Rosh Chodesh of Adar, this year 5746!

If so, every believing Jew should actually and trulybelieve that this could and will happen.

Why then do these words sound so strange and ethereal? Why do they engender wonder?

Everyone believes that Mashiach could come and do all that was just described — why the surprise?

The answer is that we simply do not spend time contemplating this.

Everyone is involved in his own good, “great and kosher” affairs and interests which have nothing to do with redemption. They have become so accustomed to their worldly matters that it has become their second nature.

When, suddenly, someone bursts into this reverie with the subject of redemption — being that it is unusual it becomes strange and problematic, to the point, that they think it is completely out of the realm of normal thought and does not relate to them at all, not in the past, present or future.

The challenge is:

Let everyone make an honest introspective analysis: “When was the last time you seriously thought about our righteous Mashiach?” that the Holy One, Blessed be He — through Mashiach — will really, actually take you out of galus and lead you to the Holy Land? You don’t have to share this point with anyone — lock yourself in a room and consider it by yourself!

It is certain, without a doubt, that when you make this serious accounting you will attain a serious and genuine feeling of teshuvah.

And then, you will be the one who brings the redemption, for your mood of teshuvah will weigh the scale of judgment to the side of merit and bring salvation for you and the world.

And then we will go immediately to our Holy Land, to Yerushalayim, the Holy City and to the Third Beis HaMikdash, and there the Sanhedrin will sanctify the new moon by seeing. May all this be speedily in our time.

3. The Shabbos which blesses the new month of Adar always occurs in the month of Shvat. This year being a leap year, it is Shabbos Mevarchim Adar I which falls in Shvat.

During the month of Shvat we had occasion to discuss that the theme of Shvat is projected in the words of Scripture:

On the first of the eleventh month...Moshe began to explain the law.... (Devarim 1:3-5)

Rashi added:

In the seventy languages of the ancient world did he explain it to them. (loc. cit.)

Now this clearly indicates a responsibility to reach out to all Jews — so that even those who presently do not understand the Holy Tongue may nevertheless have the opportunity to study Torah.

It would also follow that we have a similar responsibility to influence the nations of the world. They, too, must be taught the principles of the G‑d-given Torah which apply to them (the Seven Noachide Laws) in the languages which they understand.

In our generation this theme of Shvat reached greater intensity, when the tenth of Shvat became the Hillula day of the previous Rebbe, the Nasi of our generation. The “Nasi is the whole” (Rashi, Bamidbar 21:21) and as Tanya teaches, all of his teachings and accomplishments reach their zenith on the day of his passing. The central theme and focal point of the previous Rebbe’s activities and Divine service was his dedication to reaching out and spreading Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos to every single Jew! He especially placed great emphasis on translating Torah, and the esoteric teachings of Torah, into the “seventy languages.”

In the portion Mishpatim we find Moshe being commanded by G‑d to transmit all of the laws with all their details to the Jewish people in an organized and systematic manner — “as a set-table, ready for a person to eat.”

Shvat also brings to mind the ultimate of all our Divine service, the true redemption, which the previous Rebbe longed for, and for which he exhorted us to strive when he proclaimed: “Immediate repentance! Immediate redemption!”

These aspects of the month of Shvat provide a fitting preparation for the month of Adar, which will connect the “redemption with the redemption.”

The concept of “double,” has a close connection to the process of teshuvah and redemption (see Midrash, Shmos ch. 46 and Yalkut par. 64). Thus, in a leap year, when there is a “double” month of Adar and when Rosh Chodesh has two days, it brings to mind these thoughts of redemption.

When Shabbos Mevarchim Adar occurs on the 29th of the month, which is the last day of Shvat, (the 30th of Shvat is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar) then we will find a special source of strength, because the accomplishments of Shvat come to conclusion on that day.

This teaches us that at the close of Shvat we must be concerned about the needs of the community and we must carry forth our “Shvat” devotion, of emulating the previous Rebbe; with that energy we can proceed into the month of Adar. Which, again, is “the month that was changed...to joy” — so that the Jews had light and joy, rejoicing and beauty with all their ramifications. And especially the true redemption.

May this all come true in reality, that we will all be redeemed, with our youth and elders and sons and daughters as we say in the Megillah:

Young and old, children and women. (Esther 3:13)

We will then take with us all our Torah and mitzvos, the spiritual sanctuary of every Jew, which is formed of the “gold and silver,” love and fear of G‑d, bound up in the practice of all Torah and mitzvos.

We will come to our Holy Land:

A land constantly under G‑d your L‑rd’s scrutiny; the eyes of G‑d your L‑rd are on it at all times.... (Devarim 11:12)

and to the holy city Yerushalayim, and the Temple Mount and the Third Beis HaMikdash, real and down to earth — speedily — and truly immediately.

4. In this week’s portion we find an episode connected with the revelation at Sinai:

And upon the nobles of the Israelites.... They had a vision of the Divine and they ate and drank. (Shmos 24:11)

Rashi enlightens us on this verse:

And upon the nobles — these were Nadav and Avihu and the elders. (loc. cit.)

Rashi then goes on to explain the content of the verse and closes with an interpretation of the word — Atzilei — nobles:

Atzilei means “the great men” as in (Yeshayahu 41:9) “I called you from the chief men (atzilei) thereof” (Bamidbar 11:17); “And he increased (Vaye’etzal) some of the spirit” (Yechezkel 41:8); “Six cubits in its size [largeness] (atzilah).” (Ibid.)

This Rashi leaves us with several troubling points:

(1) By bringing the first example from Yeshayahu, it would appear that we do not have a clear example of the word (atzilei) used in this manner in any earlier place in Tanach. Yet, Rashi, himself, follows the example from Yeshayahu with an example from Chumash Bamidbar! If so, why could not Rashi first cite the proof from Bamidbar and then follow the Scriptural order and quote the verse from Yeshayahu?!

2) Why must Rashi depend on three examples as proof of the meaning of the word? The other classic commentaries on this verse, namely Ramban and Ibn Ezra, also quote verses to establish the correct meaning of the word Atzilei, yet, they are satisfied with one or two citations. If Rashi’s role is to give us the plain meaning, why did he need three proofs?!


Rashi’s intention is to teach us that the word “Atzilei” means “great men” or “nobles,” thus he searches for a verse where the word is used in reference to people. The first such usage in the Bible is in Yeshayahu 41 — so he quotes the verse, “I called you from the chief men thereof.”

However, since this verse does not deal with Jews, Rashi is not satisfied and feels it necessary to add another verse which deals with the great Jews — although the word in question refers to the spirit and not the men. Hence Rashi cites: “And he increased some of the spirit.” This would help us to decide that the word (Atzilei) refers to the “Nobles of the children of Israel”!

Rashi is nevertheless left unsatisfied even with these two verses. He reasoned as follows: Perhaps that second verse, which refers to increasing the “spirit,” would indicate that the word atzilei may be used to mean nobility only in reference to “spiritual” or “holy” qualities (or perhaps intellectual matters), whereas in this verse, which talks of “eating and drinking” maybe the word atzilei does not refer to “nobles”?

For this reason Rashi adds another source, a verse where the word atzilei refers to physical size and space (greatness), “six cubits in its largeness.” Now Rashi can allow for the word atzilei to mean “nobles,” even in this verse which deals with the mundane activities of eating and drinking.

As to why Ramban and Ibn Ezra suffice with one or two references. For the Ramban we may say that being that he always quotes Rashi, here, too, he relies on Rashi’s rationalization. The Ibn Ezra’s approach is to explain a word based on its etymological root — as such, it will suffice when we find even one example of Scripture using the same root for the same meaning, no matter in what context.

5. This week we are hosting a Pegishah (Encounter With Chabad) weekend for Jewish women and daughters. The Pegishah began on Friday and will continue into Sunday. It is therefore appropriate that we find some teaching from the portion of the Torah which was read last week, and this week’s portion, as well as the portion which will be read next week.

In the portion of Yisro, which we read last week, the Torah relates the story of Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah at Sinai). Several incidents of that narrative are also related in this week’s portion, Mishpatim.

We know that in the process of receiving the Torah the women were given precedence over the men. We derive this from the verse:

This is what you must say to the house of Yaakov and tell the Israelites. (Shmos 19:3)

Rashi immediately indicates:

The house of Yaakov — this describes the women. (loc. cit.)

Clearly, the women were approached first. In the upcoming portion of Terumah the Torah speaks of the donations made for the construction of the Tabernacle in the desert. It is known that the women played an important role in the donations made for the Mishkan, as well as in the unique craftwork involved in preparing the woven curtains and animal skin coverings for the Tabernacle.

Every skilled woman put her hand to spinning...highly skilled women volunteers also spun the goats’ wool. (Shmos 35:25-26)

In the narrative about bringing the donations for the Tabernacle Scripture tells us: “The men accompanied the women” (Ibid:22). And Rashi explains: (They came) “With the women, and closely following them” (loc. cit.).

In fact, the Ramban explains:

Ornaments were more common among the women,... therefore they immediately pulled off their earrings and signet rings and were the first to come to Moshe...and afterwards they brought with them the men.... (loc. cit.)

Thus, the women actually led the men in contributing for the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and donated their time and expertise as well.

In the portion of Mishpatim we find reference to the laws of a Jewish male-servant and maid-servant. As we peruse the distinct laws we will clearly see how Torah gives greater consideration to the honor of a Jewish daughter.

Let us review some of the details:

(A) First of all there is a basic difference in how a man can enter servitude, and under what mitigating circumstances, a girl may enter servitude.

In the case of a man:

The Hebrew slave mentioned in Scripture refers to an Israelite whom the court sells into servitude against his will (e.g. if he stole money and cannot repay) or to one who sells himself voluntarily into servitude (e.g. if one becomes so poor that he remains with no possessions). (Rambam, Laws of Slaves 1:1)

This phenomenon does not apply at all in the case of a Jewish girl, as we know:

A woman is not sold into servitude because of theft. Nor may she personally sell herself. (Ibid. 1:2)

When can a Jewish girl enter into servitude? There is only one possible case. When a father “sells” his minor daughter. This servitude lasts only until the girl reaches the age category of “Na’arah” (puberty), 12 years old and a day, at which time she automatically goes free.

It must be noted that even this singular case can only be implemented under dire circumstances, i.e. when the father is so poor that he has nothing left to his name: “land or movables, or even the garment upon his body” (Ibid 4:2).

And even then, “We may compel the father to redeem his daughter after he sold her...” (Ibid).

(B) A second area of important distinction applies in the question of the purpose or intention of “selling” a girl as a maid-servant. For even in those extenuating circumstances where a father may enter such a deal:

A Hebrew female slave may be sold (by her father) only to one with whom or with whose son a valid marriage can be effected, in order that she may be eligible for espousal. (Ibid.:11)

In other words, the end purpose of maid-servitude is to lead eventually to marriage with the master or his son. This is the condition for, and purpose of, the arrangement. Thus the goal of maid-servitude is diametrically opposite to the purpose of slavery! In fact there is a mitzvah attached to the marriage of a master with his maid! As the Rambam rules:

The duty of espousing a Hebrew bondwoman takes precedence over the duty of redeeming her. (Ibid.:7)

All this indicates how seriously the Torah considers the importance of the honor of Jewish women, even as compared to the honor due a Jewish man.

Let us now view this concept from the vantage point of the inner meaning of Torah and the Chassidic interpretation.

In a Chassidic discourse on the subject of Jewish servants the Alter Rebbe explained that the first level of man’s Divine service is the state of “Canaanite slave.” He may then rise to the level of “Jewish servant,” and finally reach the state of Divine service, called “Jewish maid-servant,” the ultimate purpose of which is for the Jewish soul to be united with the Master, the Holy One, Blessed be He, just as a bride is taken by her groom.

Thus, just as the condition for, and purpose of, “maid-servitude” is essentially to marry the master, so, too, is the goal of the Divine service of the Jewish people to effect a “marriage” between the “Congregation of Israel” and the Holy One, Blessed be He.

This purpose and goal leads to the ultimate goal of redemption, which will be effected by our actions. As we find in Midrash:

This world is like the betrothal.... The actual marriage ceremony will take place in the Messianic days. (Shmos Rabbah 15:31)

This is what the prophet was referring to:

On that day...you shall say: my husband. (Hoshea 2:18)

It should also be noted that women have a special association with redemption, for our sages tell us:

As a reward for the righteous women who lived in that generation were the Israelites delivered from Egypt. (Sotah 11b)

Similarly, in our generation the redemption will be brought about in the merit of the good deeds and actions of the righteous women of our generation, which is what the prophet meant when he said:

As in the days of your coming out of the land of Egypt I will show him marvelous things. (Michah 7:15)

There is an important practical lesson to be gleaned from this teaching.

Just as G‑d is so very careful concerning the honor due to Jewish women and girls, so too, must every Jew be extremely careful in the honor and esteem he shows his wife. As the Alter Rebbe writes in Shulchan Aruch:

A man should always take care to show his wife the proper esteem.

The Rambam similarly quotes the Gemara in teaching us:

The sages have likewise ordained that a man should honor his wife more than his own self. (Rambam, Laws of Marriage 15:19 from Yevamos 62b)

This of course follows on the strict laws of self-respect, and the recognition that one’s body is the possession of G‑d and not his own.

Now, in addition to the greater measure of respect due to his wife, one must also make every effort to assist his wife in all matters related to Torah and mitzvos as well as her efforts in spreading Yiddishkeit.

As we have seen, in the basic matters of Torah and Yiddishkeit, such as Matan Torah and the building of the Tabernacle, the women were actually first!

So, man must assist his wife in all these matters of Torah and mitzvos even to the point that he must make sacrifices in order to extend to her “greater esteem.”

In this way Torah assures us:

When husband and wife are worthy, the Shechinah abides with them.... (Sotah 17b)

Their home will become a repository for the Shechinah, which will speed the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash. May it be built speedily in our days.

May G‑d grant that through the Divine service of Jewish women and daughters we will merit, very soon, the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Mashiach.

May we go with our youth and elders, sons and daughters to Eretz Yisrael, to Yerushalayim our Holy City, and to our Third Beis HaMikdash, may it be built speedily and truly in our time.