1. Today is Shabbos Mevarchim Nissan when we read the additional portion: “This month shall be the head month to you” (Shmos 12:2), referring to the month of Nissan. We should therefore consider the special context of Nissan, relative to which this Shabbos Mevarchim will express its unique Divine service.

Since on this day we bless the month of Nissan there must be some loftier aspect on this day, even in relation to the theme of Nissan.

The theme of the month of Nissan is liberation.

The Midrash tells us:

“This month shall be...to you.” It is written: “Happy is the nation whose G‑d is the L‑rd” (Tehillim 33:12). When G‑d chose His world, He appointed new moons (i.e. months) and years therein, and when He chose Yaakov and his sons, He appointed for them a month of redemption in which Israel were redeemed from Egypt and in which they are destined to be redeemed again, as it says: “As in the days of your coming forth out of the land of Egypt I will show them marvelous things” (Michah 7:15). (Shmos Rabbah 15:11)

Nissan is the “month of liberation,” and for this reason the deliverance from Egypt took place in Nissan, and the future liberation will also be in Nissan. The verse “As in the days...” is clearly understood to mean the month.

Therefore, when Rosh Chodesh Nissan arrives, and even before that, on Shabbos Mevarchim Nissan, we are given the special potential to effect the ultimate redemption. And then the miracles of the Exodus will seem like natural occurrences compared with the supernatural wonders of the ultimate liberation. “I will show...him marvelous things,” even compared to the wonders of the Exodus the future occurrences will be marvelous!

This year the first day of the holiday of Pesach occurs on the same day of the week as when the Jewish people left Egypt — Thursday. Thus we may say that the simile “As in the days” gains greater emphasis when the “days” of the week this year match with the days of Egyptian emancipation.

Another unique aspect: This year Rosh Chodesh Nissan is in the week when we read Shemini — “And it was on the eighth day” — which our sages tell us was the firstday of Nissan. That day also was singled out for preeminence. As the Talmud tells us: “That day took ten crowns” (Shabbos 87b).

The “crown” symbolizes the lofty state above the head, i.e. above the measured, metered and limited system of radiance. The “ten crowns” symbolize the perfection of this lofty state; beyond limitation.

Consequently, the setting of Pesach and Rosh Chodesh Nissan emphasize the potential of the ultimate liberation. Of course we do not have to actually wait for these days to come — the exodus can come right now! So that when Nissan arrives we will already be emancipated.

In all our prayers we beseech G‑d to redeem us quickly and speedily. The fact is that the Jewish people are in galus, as well as the Shechinah, as well as the “supernal chariot” — therefore every moment of delay is very serious. At the time of the Exodus we were not detained even for a moment. Which should make it easier for this redemption to come quickly. We also do not really need miraculous, earth-shattering events to precipitate the liberation, for the Gemara says:

All the predestined dates [for redemption] have passed and the matter now depends only on repentance. (Sanhedrin 97b)

Well, repentance can take place quite calmly in a split-second. And the Rambam says that we only need the Teshuvah (repentance) of one Jew to weigh the scale to salvation. So why the delay!?

A serious analysis of this matter will bring another important point to mind. In the Midrash we had read that when G‑d “...chose Yaakov and his sons, He appointed for them a month of redemption.”

G‑d’s conscious choice of the Jewish people is related to the inner essence of the Jews (not their conduct). If so, the redemption should also not depend on conduct, but should come about only because of G‑d’s choice!

When the Gemara says the first day of Nissan (Shemini) took ten crowns, it is telling us something very basic. It took the crowns; it did not ask, beg or request — but took them — by right! Those crowns of greatness (beyond limitations) actually belonged to the day! Thus the liberation which is symbolized by the ten crowns must automatically revert to Rosh Chodesh Nissan and there should be no need for human involvement or even for Divine service to bring the redemption.

And since we speak of essential, fundamental, intrinsic matters there will be no distinctions among Jews; all will have the same opportunity. For each Jew is included in: “Yisrael is a child and I love him” (Hoshea 11:1), and all Jews have the quality of “the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov.” Hence, even the young child inherits all the lofty crowns, the full deliverance, beyond any restriction or limitation.

These points will also emerge from today’s Rambam study section:

A scroll of the Torah that is fit for use is to be regarded as an object of extreme holiness and treated with great reverence.... It is a duty...to show it extreme honor and courtesy.... For it is a faithful witness concerning all who come into the world, as it is said, “It shall be therefore a witness for you.” (Laws of Torah Scroll 10:2,11)

The Torah bears witness to the covenant and fundamental bond between man and the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Bearing witness applies basically in a case where there is an unknown — we don’t need a witness for something that is common knowledge or something that time will tell.

Therefore the Torah, as witness, bears testimony to the hidden, essential connection between G‑d and the Jewish people. On that level the extrinsic actions or occurrences have no bearing, for Torah bears witness to the essential bond of G‑d and Jews. Consequently, the essential existence of the Chosen People also connects them to the redemption and freedom, and to the tencrowns of the ultimate, complete redemption; for it is really theirs.

This witness and testimony of Torah establishes the essential attachment with the Holy One, Blessed be He, and it effects that actuality so that it really is so! And it becomes revealed!

When the Alter Rebbe tells us to live with the Torah portion of the week, in this case, “On the eighth day” which, “took ten crowns,” the intention is not only to relate to the Torah power on the hidden intrinsic level but also to bring it out in a revealed state, in daily life, at all times and in all aspects of life.

The Rambam, in speaking of the respect for the Scroll of the Torah, also rules how it must be carried when riding on a donkey. The Baal Shem Tov had once explained that the “donkey” symbolizes the materialistic body, which must be helped (not debased) in order to serve G‑d with the fullest potential. Take the Rambam’s teaching together with the Baal Shem Tov’s lesson and we see that Torah reveals the bond of G‑d with the Jewish people — including the physicality of the Jewish bodies — in the broadest way.

One point emerges very clearly — redemption is bound up with the Jewish essence by virtue of G‑d’s choice of Yaakov for which reason the ten crowns are applicable for each and every Jew.

This Shabbos reiterates these points. We read “This month shall be for you” together with “the eighth day.” We bless the month and proclaim the “new moon of Nissan,” on the fifth day of the week, similar to the year of the Exodus, we then bestow all manner of benediction and conclude “And let us say, Amen.” This indicates the actual crystallization of the blessing.

And so may it be, the true and complete liberation through our righteous Mashiach, in reality and immediately. When Rosh Chodesh comes we should already be in our Holy Land, in Yerushalayim the Holy City, on the Holy Mountain, and in the Third Beis HaMikdash “with our youth and elders, sons and daughters,” “a great company shall return there.”

2. Shabbos Mevarchim always occurs on the last Shabbos of the month, no matter what date it might be. When we find some special significance in the date of Shabbos Mevarchim this adds importance and special uniqueness to the Shabbos.

What special significance does the 25th of Adar carry? The Gemara relates the debate between R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua concerning the creation of the world:

“R. Eliezer says: ‘In Tishrei the world was created...’“ (Rosh Hashanah 10b). This means that man was created on the first day of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah, and consequently the first day of creation was the 25th of Elul. “Rabbi Yehoshua says: ‘In Nissan the world was created’“ (Ibid. 11a). Again this refers to Adam being created on the first day of Nissan (the sixth day of creation), and the world was therefore created on the 25th of Adar, today.

Normally, when we encounter a fundamental debate in Torah we apply the aphorism: “These and these are words of the Living G‑d” (Eruvin 13a), meaning that in the spiritual realm both opinions are valid and are probably applied on different spiritual planes. Here, however, we will say that both opinions are accepted in the physical world in the realm of Halachah! We find this paradoxical approach in the Gemara. In relation to the prayers of Rosh Hashanah we find:

What authority do we follow in saying nowadays (on New Year) the prayer, “This day is the beginning of Your works, the commemoration of the first day?” (Machzor) What authority? R. Eliezar, who said that the world was created in Tishrei. (Rosh Hashanah 27a)

Clearly the Gemara rules here that we follow R. Eliezer’s opinion. And yet, the Gemara also says, just as clearly:

The wise men of Israel follow...R. Yehoshua in dating the annual cycles. (Ibid. 12a)

This means that in the case of the annual cycles we say the year starts in Nissan and they hold, that the same Jew, in the same year, should follow two opposing views?! How do we reconcile this contradiction?

The answer is that we understand the two opinions as if they are relating to two types of creation: (A) Thought — the thought arose to create the world; (B) Speech and action — the world was actually created.

In this way we may accept both opinions as being valid and true even in Halachah. The physical creation took place in Tishrei — so we may say in the liturgy, “This day is the beginning of Your works.” But, the mental creation of the world preceded the actual. That thought, to create the world, held that it should be in the month of Nissan. And since this thought did not remain sequestered in the supernal worlds — but did come down to reality, it can therefore affect the ruling of halachah, and the annual cycles will follow Rabbi Yehoshua’s opinion and be based on a system placing creation in Nissan.

Which brings us to the theme of the 25th of Adar in relation to an individual’s Divine service.

The day which saw the initial creation is a day of broad general importance and relevance to the rest of the year. It is therefore a propitious time for accepting good resolutions for the whole year, and to bring about that all creation will conform to its purpose “for the sake of the Torah and for the sake of Israel.”

Since we accept both opinions of creation — Elul 25 and Adar 25 — then Adar 25 is also the day of creation and also carries this important theme. In fact, being the anniversary of the mental creation [and thought is loftier than speech and action], therefore the Divine service of Adar 25 should be loftier than the Divine service of Elul 25!

Consequently, on Shabbos Mevarchim Nissan which coincides with Adar 25, we have a special lofty quality which relates not only to the month of Nissan, but also, to the entire year. For on this day the new cycle of creation begins in the realm of thought. So we must appreciate and value every moment and utilize the day to its fullest potential.

The 25th of Adar with all its inherent qualities will gain new importance when it falls on Shabbos. On Shabbos all your work is done, and one experiences rest and pleasure. This day injects into the theme of Adar 25 the potential for pleasurable accomplishments.

Being Shabbos Mevarchim and reading the portion of “This month,” makes this day the “Rosh Chodesh” of redemption, which will allow it to spread is influence on the whole year. With this in mind we must first complement the redemption of Purim — for Purim complements Pesach and vice versa. The redemption of Pesach established that Jews would serve only G‑d and would never again be slaves to slaves. In this sense it set the precedent for the liberation of Purim. True, we were still subjects of Achashverosh, but we were nevertheless free!

At the same time, the liberation of Purim has a direct positive effect on Pesach.

The Midrash (Mishlei 9:2) states that in the future time all the holidays will cease to be observed; even Passover! However, not so the holiday of Purim, for:

The days of Purim will not cease to be observed, as it is said, “and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from among their seed” (Esther 9:28). (Rambam, Laws of Megillah 2:18)

So the liberation of Purim injects Pesach with the potential to bring the true, complete and eternal redemption. This 25th of Adar, which absorbs all of the facets of this day, projects its influence on the entire year with the manner of eternal liberation.

The Torah portion of Shemini likewise imparts a vital message. Rashi describes for us the details of what took place on that “eighth day of initiation”:

..The Shechinah had not rested upon it (the Tabernacle) and the Israelites felt ashamed, saying to Moshe: “O’ our teacher Moshe! All the trouble which we have taken was only that the Shechinah may dwell amongst us....” He therefore said to them, “This is the thing which the L‑rd commanded that you should do so that the glory of the L‑rd may appear unto you. My brother Aharon is more worthy and excellent than I am, so that through his sacrifices and ministrations the Shechinah will rest upon you....” (Rashi, Vayikra 9:23)

The result of course was that:

..The glory of the Eternal appeared unto all the people...when all the people saw [the manifestation of the Shechinah] they uttered cries of exaltation. (Vayikra 9:23-24)

In the context of our discussion one might paraphrase the argument of the people of that time! After all our work we want to see the real liberation now! And so, the answer is, we must follow the Divine service and example of Aharon:

Loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures and bringing them near to Torah. (Avos 1:12)

Aharon’s essence was kindness and peace based on the foundation of truth — Torah.

Moshe’s answer to the people emphasizes that if you want to bring the Shechinah into your handiwork then you must have Ahavas Yisrael! Then you will nullify the reasons for galus!

So we must increase all areas of Ahavas Yisrael — starting with “Mivtza Pesach,” “Maos Chittim,” and like matters.

And may we speedily merit:

The glory of the Eternal appeared unto all the people...they uttered cries of exaltation.

The true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach. And the Shechinah will come to dwell in the Third Beis HaMikdash. And we will offer sacrifices and we “shall eat of the sacrifices and of the Pesach offerings” (Haggadah).

* * *

3. Several questions have been raised on verses in this week’s portion and it is gratifying to see that the suggestion to submit the difficulties in advance of the farbrengen is generating genuine interest and study.

One question dealt with the verse:

G‑d spoke to Moshe and Aharon, telling them.... (Vayikra 11:1)

Rashi comments on this verse:

He spoke to Moshe that he should in turn tell Aharon. (loc. cit.)

The problem is that at the beginning of Vayikra Rashi had explained:

Thirteen communications in the Torah are stated (according to the wording of the text), to have been spoken to Moshe and Aharon together; but corresponding to these there are thirteen which include expressions with a limitative force, to teach you that they were spoken not to Aharon but to Moshe only with the view that he should communicate them to Aharon. (Vayikra 1:1)

So, when the five-year-old Chumash student reads the verse: “G‑d spoke to Moshe and Aharon,” in this portion, he certainly remembers what he learned just a few weeks ago. If so, why must Rashi repeat himself concerning the prophetic vision to Aharon? Some have suggested that it was necessary for Rashi to mention this so that he could smoothly continue his commentary concerning the directives to the other sons of Aharon. But this is not so, for in such a case, Rashi could have relied on his oft used preface, “As I have previously explained!” No need to repeat it as if it were a new thought.

Another problematic Rashi:

On the verse:

The only flying insects with four walking legs that you may eat are those which have knees extending above their feet (using their longer legs) to hop on the ground. (Vayikra 11:21)

Rashi explains:

Quite close to the neck it has something like two feet in addition to its real feet: When it wants to fly and to spring off the ground it presses itself strongly on the ground with those two knees and so it flies. (Loc. cit.)

It would appear that this explanation gives us a satisfactory description of the kosher locust. Yet Rashi continues:

There are many of these, such as those which we call “langouste” (sea-locusts), but we are not expert in regard to them — (as to which we are not permitted as food) because four characteristic marks of cleanness (kashrus) are mentioned (by our rabbis) in respect to them, viz, four feet, four wings, the “knees” mentioned here and that their wings cover the greater part of them. All of these characteristics are present in these which are found amongst us, but there are some of them which have a long head and there are some which have no tail, it is however necessary that they should bear the name “chagav” and in this respect we do not know how to distinguish one from another. (Ibid.)

In other words, since we do not know which contemporary species match with the species called chagav at the time of the Talmud we may not rule them kosher, despite the fact that they have the four signs.

Our dilemma is:

Rashi’s role is to explain the plain meaning of Scripture. Rashi is not a book of Halachah! What difference does it make in simple translation whether we are experts at identifying the names of the species? Why must Rashi go into such great detail on this point?!

To answer the first question about the way G‑d spoke to Moshe to tell Aharon, it should be noted that there are places in Torah where Rashi does find it necessary to mention again an earlier rule, in order to emphasize a particular point, or where the case in question has some extraordinary aspects.

In this case we find an additional derivation: (A) “Telling them” seems to be an additional term; more than the usual “saying” — and it could mean that G‑d also spoke directly to Aharon. (B) “Speak (plural) to the Israelites...,” here again we might understand it to mean that this time there was an exception to the rule of the 13 cases, and in fact G‑d did speak to Aharon in this case.

For these reasons Rashi realized that it would be wise to quote the rule which he had taught earlier at the beginning of Vayikra. And so Rashi explains: “He spoke to Moshe that he should in turn speak to Aharon.”

Now, however, we are faced with this dilemma; how did Rashi know that G‑d did not speak to Aharon in this case, seeing that there are special indications which seem to show that He did!?

Throughout the Torah we see that Moshe is singled out and unique in being the one spoken to by G‑d. Aharon has a different role. If we want to establish that here Aharon also heard G‑d’s word, we must show that in this particular case the Torah compares Aharon to Moshe and thus attributes the same qualities of Moshe to Aharon (not just a word meaning them).

In our case this is not so. In fact, Rashi emphasizes in the next verse that Aharon, rather than being compared to Moshe, is actually compared to Elazar and Isamar!

He made all of them alike (Aharon, Elazar and Isamar) His messengers in communicating this utterance, because they were all alike in remaining silent and lovingly accepting the decree of the Omnipresent G‑d (in respect to the death of Nadav and Avihu). (Vayikra 11:2)

Moshe had not been included in the silence that Aharon, Elazar and Ithamar had showed — and because the Torah comments on the matter of the silence, by virtue of which they all merited to transmit these laws of G‑d — we may deduce that Aharon was notlike Moshe in receiving the word of G‑d.

In the second Rashi under discussion we must remember that whenever Rashi teaches an explanation dealing with reality he tries to make it very clear for the five-year-old Chumash student who lived in his country at that time. Which is why Rashi used the Old French words to describe and point out what he was talking about.

So when Rashi mentions the French name of the chagav and tells the child it is a “langouste” there may be some children who were familiar with that species of grasshopper and might be tempted to eat it! Rashi must therefore add — that: “We do not know to distinguish one from the other” and therefore, beware, do not eat those jumping insects!