1. Several reasons have been given by our sages for the name of this Shabbos: “Shabbos HaGadol.”

Although we are dealing with an halachic concept, which usually presents only one point of view, since we are actually speaking of the reasons for the halachah, there may be many reasons for one halachah.

A classic illustration of this principle would be the case of the two different reasons given in Scripture for the commandment of observing Shabbos. In the Ten Commandments we find:

Because, it was during the six weekdays that G‑d made the heaven, the earth, the sea...but He rested on Shabbos. (Shmos 20:11)

This propounds the principle of recalling creation as the basis for Shabbos observance. While in the second tablets we are told:

You must remember that you were slaves in Egypt, when G‑d your L‑rd brought you out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. It is for this reason that G‑d your L‑rd has commanded you to keep the Shabbos. (Devarim 5:15)

Here Shabbos is presented as a reminder of the Exodus! In the weekly Shabbos liturgy we also emphasize both of these aspects. In a sense these two reasons are not complementary but opposites; one emphasizes the normal order of creation and the other stresses the supernatural occurrences wrought by G‑d. Nevertheless, even in so basic a mitzvah as Shabbos when we find such diverse reasons, both are taught to us by the Torah!

Similarly, in the case of “The Great Shabbos” we will find several reasons.

The Tur as well as several other commentaries on Chumash give the following explanation:

The Shabbos before Pesach is called “The Great Shabbos” because a great miracle happened then. The Paschal Sacrifice in Egypt had to be prepared from the 10th of the month which was a Shabbos.... Every family took a lamb and tied it to their bedposts. When the Egyptians asked them “Why are you doing this?” they responded, “G‑d has commanded us to sacrifice this as a Pesach offering.” The teeth of the Egyptians were blunted and they could not respond or stop the Jews from slaughtering their idol (sheep). In commemoration of that miracle the day was called Shabbos HaGadol (The Great Shabbos). (Tur, Orach Chaim, ch. 430)

A different story is told to us by the Alter Rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch:

When the Jews took the Paschal lambs on that Shabbos the firstborn Egyptians assembled and asked the Jews what they were doing. The Jews answered that they were going to sacrifice the lambs as Paschal offerings, because G‑d would smite the Egyptian firstborn. The firstborn Egyptians then went to their elders and Pharaoh to request that they release the Jewish people, but they refused to do so. The firstborn then waged war against the other Egyptians and killed many of them. This is what is written: “Who struck Egypt through its firstborn” (Tehillim 136). This miracle was designated for commemoration in every generation on this Shabbos and they called it Shabbos HaGadol. (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, ch. 430)

All agree that a great miracle happened on that fateful Shabbos, yet they differ in exactly what the miracle was: that the Jews could fulfill G‑d’s will and prepare their Paschal lambs without hindrance, or that the Egyptians killed each other.

Let us understand.

The fact remains that by taking the lambs for the Paschal Sacrifice two phenomena took place, they were not stopped by the Egyptians and, as a result, Egyptians were killed by their own firstborn. If so, why does the Alter Rebbe mention only one event and not the other? Their inability to say or do anything was certainly a miraculous event and he could have mentioned this miracle as a secondary reason. In fact, by adding more miracles the greatness of the Shabbos would be greatly enhanced. (Just as in the case of the Scriptural reasons for keeping Shabbos.)

The answer to this dilemma will be based on an evaluation of the relative superiority of one miracle over the other, to the point that the miracle of the Egyptian civil war was so much greater than the miracle of non-interference — that the latter is not even considered miraculous by comparison.

An illustration of this logic may be found by comparing creation to the Exodus. On the first commandment:

I am G‑d your L‑rd Who brought you out of Egypt, (Shmos 20:1)

there is a well-known question. Why did G‑d not also say “Who created heaven and earth”? After all, our devotion to G‑d and subservience to his L‑rdship stems, not only from having been freed from Egyptian bondage, but also from the creation itself. G‑d created the universe and man, and He directs the course of material history and human events. The Exodus came after many years and many events in world history. Why does Scripture emphasize G‑d’s role in the Exodus and completely ignore His role as Creator?

Further thought on these two subjects will, however, illuminate the great differences between the creation of heaven and earth which deals with the realm of nature and its limitations, vis-à-vis the Exodus from Egypt which was an event that superseded all limitations and restrictions of the natural world. It was the manifestation of the absolute infinite. Finite and infinite are not relative and have no common ground. Thus, it is not possible to mention the creation of nature when speaking of the infinite miraculous power of the Exodus.

In a like manner it would have been inappropriate and unthinkable for the Alter Rebbe to add the “miracle” of non-interference by the Egyptians in the Jewish preparation for the Paschal Sacrifice next to the infinitely, and incomparably greater miracle of Egyptian firstborn insurrection. There is simply no logic for such a juxtaposition.

This bears further analysis.

The gist of the first miracle was that the temporal existence could not suppress the revelation of G‑dliness. By taking the Paschal lambs the Jews revealed G‑dliness in the world and the Egyptians could not stop them. That was a passive miracle.

On the other hand, the second wonder involved worldly forces being mobilized to activelyreveal G‑dliness in the world. Not only did the Egyptians not interfere with the Jew’s action but the Egyptianfirstborn — on their own — demanded the expulsion of the Jews, which brought the murderous results upon themselves. Careful thought will reveal that the world should always conform to the will of the Creator, and only the blindness of the world poses opposition. Remove the blinds and G‑dliness shines through. This is not considered miraculous.

Having established the basis of Shabbos HaGadol as the miracle of firstborn civil war, a truemiracle of G‑d, where nature actively revealed the supernatural, it would be ridiculous to say that the Egyptians also did not stop the Jews from assembling their Paschal Sacrifices! There is nothing wondrous about that — on the contrary — it is the world’s nature to conform to G‑d’s will!

[In Chassidic terminology we might explain this duality as follows: (1) The importance of evil (Eisav) is minimized to realize that Yaakov is really first and foremost. (2) Or, Eisav is allowed to see himself as the firstborn and in his own power he goes out to reveal and radiate G‑dliness!]

Consider another point for a moment. When nature actively reveals G‑dliness we have reached a lofty state. Nevertheless, this cannot be compared to the abundance of G‑dliness which radiates into the world when Jews observe Torah and mitzvos. This brings back the query, the Alter Rebbe should mention the miracle of the non-interference of the Egyptians, since that allowed the compliance with G‑d’s command — and the concomitant abundant revelation of G‑dliness.

This question has a simple response — before Matan Torah the structure of “mitzvah-generated” G‑dliness, above and beyond the natural system of revealing G‑dliness, did not yet exist. Thus, there was no special effulgence of G‑dly light when the Jews performed G‑d’s command and took the lambs, over and beyond what would be revealed by worldly force in the normal manner. So, the greatest miracle was Egyptian firstborn demanding the release of the Jewish people.

This concept of natural events revealing supernatural powers is further enhanced after Matan Torah, for then all mitzvos and observances which existed prior to Matan Torah attain additional facets. They take on the quality of being a command of G‑d, yet they keep their original nature of revealing G‑dliness in the world.

Before Matan Torah the G‑dly acts which were done had the quality of revealing G‑dliness in the world — not because G‑d told us to — but just because that was their nature. Matan Torah revealed the loftier level of G‑dliness, that comes from above the world into the world.

However, those practices which were done before Matan Torah and then were re-commanded at Matan Torah (such as Bris Milah) now retained a double power, i.e. they were able to draw down a revelation of G‑dliness which stems from the supernal levels above the order of creation (the power of Matan Torah) — yet at the same time they continued to reveal G‑dliness through the worlds, materialism and corporeality (just as they did before Matan Torah). This is a form of satisfying the natural tendency of created things, which want G‑dliness to be revealed through them.

Now, in the case of smiting the Egyptians through their firstborn, after Matan Torah this miracle retained its original format of revealing G‑dliness and now it adds the power of needing the revelation of Torah and mitzvos.

So once again the juxtaposition of the “miracle” of non-interference is unsuitable.

The implication of this principle will throw light on a troubling aspect of a well-known incident in Chassidic history. R. Avraham the “Malach” (“angel” — son of the Maggid of Mezritch and close friend of the Alter Rebbe) once reached a state of soulful longing for G‑dliness that would have caused him to expire. The Alter Rebbe realized what was taking place and forced him to eat a piece of “bagel and butter” in order to bring him down to reality and thereby save his life. In the story R. Avraham the Malach had engrossed himself in profound esoteric teachings to the degree that he could have expired; the second half of the story tells of the mundane bagel and butter, a tasty physical food which he was forced to eat.

There is a strange twist to this story. Through the generations this story has been transmitted by Chassidim and never is the topic which he studied mentioned! Why?! We are only told of the “bagel and butter.”

But the answer is that the bagel had to be eaten because he had to live — body and soul — and that he had to continue to reveal G‑dliness through Torah and mitzvos in worldly matters. Here we have the obverse of the coin — eating the kosher bagel represents a positive revelation of G‑dliness in worldly matters; smiting the Egyptians through their firstborn is the negative ramification of the same principle. Spiritual deprivation, however, represents the converse of this idea — that the world is incomplete and cannot be perfected and therefore must be rejected.

So, the Alter Rebbe only tells us of the miracle of the firstborn fighting the Egyptians — the revelation of G‑dliness in the world — and in the story of R. Avraham the Malach we are only told the part about the bagel; the world must radiate G‑dliness!

For us the lesson is:

When a Jew sets out to fulfill his Divine service he has two paths: (A) The world does not oppose him and his fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos — it cannot stop him; and (B) The existence of corporeality will conform with G‑d’s will, and will be used tocarryout His will and bring the ultimate perfection.

This is what we take from Shabbos HaGadol. May it be G‑d’s will that each and everyone take this power to make the world function in this manner, so that we merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

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

And we will reach the revelation of G‑dliness in the world,

The L‑rd shall be king over the entire earth, on that day the L‑rd shall be One and His Name One. (Zechariah 14:9)

Then the true greatness will be revealed: “grandeur and greatness to Him who lives forever” (Siddur), speedily and truly in our times, with joy and gladness of heart.

2. This year Shabbos HaGadol occurs on the tenth of Nissan which is the same date as in the year of the Exodus, when the tenth of the month fell on Shabbos. This concurrence of day and date adds an additional aspect to the theme of “The Great Shabbos” and a lesson for us in our Divine service.

Why does the Torah use the term “Be’osor LaChodesh” (on the tenth of this month), the more common word would be “Asiri” (tenth — in order). “Be’osor” (tenth) indicates one (made up) of ten, while “Asiri” means number10 in a series. The reason must be that the 10th day of Nissan does in fact encompass and complete the first ten days of Nissan.

“Ten” normally symbolizes perfection, as it refers to the ten attributes of the world of Atzilus (Emanation — see Sefer Yetzirah 1:4). This will elucidate the additional quality of the tenth of the month when it concurs with Shabbos HaGadol.

On Shabbos HaGadol there was a manifestation of perfected worldliness, when the physical revealed G‑dliness. The tenth day adds the facet of holiness from the world of Emanation.

This does not negate the higher spheres above Atzilus but when speaking of Atzilus we can be satisfied with the perfection of Atzilus.

An analogy may be drawn from the difference between the Divine service of a tzaddik and a baal teshuvah. The tzaddik functions in a metered and orderly way, similar to the ten spheres of Atzilus, but the baal teshuvah reaches higher — for eleven — beyond the order, and converts his unorderly misdeeds into mitzvos. Shabbos HaGadol on the tenth of Nissan represents the orderly system of the “ten” of Atzilus — the Divine service of the tzaddik — the revelation of G‑dliness through the corporeality of the world — in a manner that draws down even the loftierholylevels into the orderly system of a world which reveals holiness.

Let us return now for a moment to the aforementioned story of the Alter Rebbe and R. Avraham the Malach, which has a connection to the Torah portion we begin reading at Minchah, “...when they approached....” We had emphasized that the story told only of the “bagel and butter” but skimmed over the state of expiration he had reached, to indicate that it was undesirable. However, it should be noted that the attribute of the “culminating passion of the soul” is not in itself a negative expression of passion unless it reaches the level of expiration — leaving the world. When, however, the passion is directed to the continuation of man’s Divine service in the world, then it introduces even greater qualities in serving G‑d through the corporeality of the world.

We now see that a Jew’s Divine service encompasses two opposite extremes: on the one hand he can attain a level of “culminating passion of the soul” while at the same time he incorporates this soaring emotion into his temporal activities in worldly matters, even down to a “bagel and butter.”

Both of these paths are hinted at in Acharei.

..after the death of the two sons of Aharon, when they approached unto the Eternal.... (Vayikra 16:1)

The phrase “when they approached unto the Eternal” refers to the state of the “culminating passion of the soul.” This was clearly explained by the commentary Or HaChayim HaKadosh, that the death of Nadav and Avihu came about because they did not refrain from soulful attachment, sweetness and pleasantness to the point of passionate soulful longing and ultimate expiration. (They actually did nothing wrong — they just rose too high.)

After they died, however, the directive was given for controlled reaction only; no more run-away spiritual passion! From then on, this level of spiritual emotion must function within the framework of “entering with peace and exiting with peace” (cf. Chagigah 14b).

The movement to rise above order and measure must be drawn into the worldly framework.

So, too, in the story of the Alter Rebbe and R. Avraham the Malach. The Alter Rebbe, whose theme was Chabad — intellect — could plan and project the passionate emotions of the soul in a way that would not reach extinction from the world, rather it would encompass the infinite feelings in a productive framework.

This will also help us understand the story in the Gemara of Rabbah and R. Zeira: “Rabbah arose and cut R. Zeira’s throat” (Megillah 7b). Chassidus explains that this referred to the “culminating passion of the soul.”

The following year R. Zeira refused Rabbah’s invitation saying “...a miracle does not take place on every occasion” (Ibid.). Now, Rabbah also was well aware that we do not rely on miracles, so what was his theory and how did R. Zeira’s response satisfy him?

The answer is that Rabbah was on so high a level that he could plan and project that no evil would come of his actions. He assumed that R. Zeira was also on his level. R. Zeira was forced to decline his invitation with the argument that while Rabbah could guarantee that he would not reach a state of expiration, R. Zeira himself, however, was not so sure of himself without the addition of a miracle. And you may not rely on miracles.

With this in mind we may be able to better explain a passage in Tzavoas Harivash of the Baal Shem Tov:

The service of prayer must be approached in a manner that if you remain alive afterwards you must see it as one of G‑d’s greater acts of kindness. For by nature one should perish.... (Ch. 35)

(A) The Baal Shem Tov himself surely prayed in this manner of perfection. Yet we do not find that he prepared himself daily for prayer as if it were the last day of his life?!

(B) Since this phenomenon does recur daily why does the Baal Shem Tov say that by nature one should have died, and his life is given to him only as a great kindness of G‑d — a miracle.

This question is reinforced when we remember that the Baal Shem taught that:

A miracle occurs when something happens, one time, above nature; then it is called a miracle. After it happens more times it becomes a natural event. (Kesser Shem Tov, 119)

This means that by right, there really is no intrinsic difference in the creation of a natural phenomenon or a supernatural phenomenon. It makes nodifference to the Holy One blessed be He whether He creates nature or miracle. After all, the continuous creation of the natural world is also a miraculous event.

Take for example the plague of blood. There was no difference to G‑d if He created blood or water. The only difference was in our perception. Because we are accustomed to natural occurrences, when something out of the ordinary takes place it is deemed a miracle.

Following this logic, when a miraculous event repeats itself many times, e.g. the “manna” in the desert — “bread from heaven” instead of “bread from the earth,” after forty years of receiving the manna it was not considered miraculous!

The question therefore comes to mind, when one becomes accustomed to being alive after prayer is concluded, it is no longer appropriate to call the phenomenon a miracle! Why did the Baal Shem Tov call it one of G‑d’s greater acts of kindness, i.e., miraculous?

This may be understood in light of the earlier discussion.

The movement of “advance” and the “culminating passion of the soul” which takes over during prayer is absolute. It is however followed by a “retreat” — but that is by way of “miracle,” which does not allow the “advance” to transcend the world — rather to retreat and to continue to function in the temporal realm.

There is a connection here with Psalm 84 of Tehillim. [This farbrengen also was in conjunction with Yud-Alef Nissan — the Rebbe Shlita’s 84th birthday.]

They stride from strength to strength, until they see themselves drawing near to G‑d in Tziyun. (Tehillim 84:8)

The Midrash explains that scholars do not have peaceful relaxation in the afterlife, for they must constantly advance until they draw near to G‑d in Tziyun.

Now, if they are moving “from strength to strength,” from one level of holiness to another, why is this unpeaceful and unpleasurable? The answer is, that when they attain a plateau and then must leave it to rise to a higher level, this indicates that the present level is notsatisfactory, and, therefore, they must leave that portion and move on! So they are never satisfied; they are constantly in a state of restless “advance.”

Therefore the Midrash asks, until when must this practice go on, and the answer is “until they see themselves...in Tziyun.” Which will be in the Third Beis HaMikdash — when we will reach the state of rest — the real “retreat” in all its perfection. And if you ask, “Since G‑d is infinite we should advance then also?” the answer is, “Yes, there will be upward mobility but in an orderly fashion, not bursting out of the lower state, but rather in a measured manner.”

Thus, in this Psalm we speak of the future, when they will “draw near to G‑d in Tziyun” and there will still be the movement of “advance and retreat” — but — in a pleasant and gentle way.

Similarly in Psalm 85 we find a verse which refers to the times of Mashiach and the Third Beis HaMikdash.

Surely His salvation is near to them who fear Him, that glory may again dwell in our land. (Ibid. 85:10)

Dovid HaMelech’s prophecy here clearly speaks of the complete “salvation” of Mashiach — for during the Second Temple we did not attain absolute independence.

Similarly, “that glory may again dwell in our land” refers to the Third Beis HaMikdash when the “glory” will be perfect and complete, not like the Second Beis HaMikdash which lacked five things (cf. Yoma 21b) and the First Temple which was destroyed.

In our portion, Metzora, we will also find reference to the Third Beis HaMikdash and to Mashiach. The Third Beis HaMikdash is alluded to when the Midrash discusses this verse:

“And I will put the mark of the leprous curse in a house of the land of your possession.” In a house, etc., alludes to the Temple,... “And he shall break down the house,” alludes to “And he (Nevuchadnetzer) destroyed the house” — i.e. the Temple (Ezra 5:12).... In case one might have thought [that would be] forever, Scripture tells us, “And they shall take up other stones, and put them in the place of those stones,” as it is said, “...Behold, I lay in Tziyun for a foundation stone, a tried stone...” (Yeshayahu 28:16). (Vayikra Rabbah 17:7)

Mashiach is also referred to in the portion Metzora as we find in the Talmud:

By what sign may I recognize him (Mashiach)? — He is sitting among the poor suffering lepers. (Sanhedrin 98a)

Rashi explains:

They are suffering from plague-spots and he too is stricken with plague-spots. As it says: “He was wounded because of our transgressions” and “He has borne our sickness” (Yeshayahu 53:5,4). (Rashi, loc. cit.)

The Gemara goes on to say that his name includes a reference to his malady:

His name is “the leper scholar,” as it is written, “surely...we did esteem him a leper....” (Ibid. 98b)

Thus, the portion Metzora makes reference to the redemption, Mashiach and the Third Beis HaMikdash.

In relation to the concept discussed earlier that Shabbos HaGadol presents a unique symbiosis of lofty spheres as they are incorporated into the orderly system of the world — we can say that this also relates to the hoped for, future, spiritual revelations. They, too, can be safely absorbed and incorporated into the Divine service of the world after Matan Torah.

When Yaakov and Eisav met, Eisav expressed his readiness for the ultimate liberation but Yaakov hesitated, because of the need to purify the “sparks” of holiness in the world. But by now all the predestined dates for salvation have passed and all the “sparks” have been rectified. We must now call out “Enough! How long must we languish in the exile!?” It is only because we refuse to make this demand that the galus does not end! Why? Even one who imagines that the diaspora is fine, believes that after the redemption it will be evenbetter! So why does he not call out — “How long?!”

May we soon merit to “draw near to G‑d in Tziyun,” “that glory may again dwell in our land.” By reciting these verses of Tehillim we will speed their fulfillment. And we will see the complete and true redemption when we will attain wholeness and perfection: the whole people, Torah and mitzvos and we will return to our Holy Land, Yerushalayim the Holy City, the Temple Mount and Beis HaMikdash truly in our time.

* * *

3. In this week’s portion the Torah relates that when the Metzora came to be cleansed of his tumah:

The Kohen shall then order that for the person undergoing purification there be taken two living kosher birds, a piece of cedar, some crimson wool, and a hyssop branch. (Vayikra 14:4)

Rashi cites the word “living” and explains:

This term excludes terefos, such birds as suffer from some fatal organic disease (or wound). (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Rashi then cites: “kosher” (tehoros) and says:

This term excludes an unkosher bird. Because the plagues come as a punishment for slander.... (Ibid.)

Questions on this portion have been submitted and published in the weekly journal and we will discuss several points that bear clarification:

(A) The term “living” is an antonym for “dead”; why does Rashi say that it excludes those with some “fatal disease” (or wound)?

(B) Realistically speaking, it is impossible to know before slaughtering the bird whether it has signs of (terefah) fatal illness! You must examine the internalorgans to establish that. How can Rashi possibly eliminate a terefah when it simply cannot be known! This is especially true for the second bird which is sentfree, stillalive!

(C) “Kosher — not unkosher”: What does Rashi add with those words? Rashi’s self-appointed mandate is to teach us the plainmeaning of Scripture. When the five-year-old Chumash student has difficulty comprehending a verse, Rashi must come to the rescue, but here the simple language of the verse is precise and clear — “take only kosher birds” — what does Rashi add?

(D) In the case of “living” another point comes to mind. If a terefah (sick) bird willlive, then how does Rashi know that “living” eliminates terefah — and if by nature the terefah can-notlive — then we don’t need Rashi to eliminate it. The verse is self-explanatory. (And Rashi did not deem it necessary to explain this point in previous places when terefah is used.)

(E) There is a general question which comes to mind on this Rashi. If Rashi would leave this verse alone and not comment on it at all, would we lack anything in the plain meaning of the verse?

In answering these questions we must first preface with the apparent fact that the early typesetters erred when they broke the Rashi into the separate captions: “living” and “kosher.” In fact, the whole commentary is onesentence, and the part which begins to speak of the cause for plague-spots is, in fact, pertinent to both “living” and “kosher.” The way it appears now, it would seem that the cause applies only to the caption “kosher,” which is very misleading.

Now, let us study the verses dealing with the purification of the Metzora. The five-year-old Chumash student is perturbed. Why does the Torah emphasize here that birds brought as a korban (sacrifice) must be alive and kosher? These prerequisites apply in allcases of offerings! The five-year-old Chumash student knows this by a deduction a minori ad majus: if a person may not eat a bird which is unkosher or terefah (fatally ill), how much more so would it be improper to place these items on the Altar before G‑d.

So, why does the Torah mention these points here? Rashi approaches the answer directly:

“Living” — excludes terefos, “kosher” -excludes an unkosher species, because the plagues of leprosy came as a punishment for slander, which is done by chattering, etc.

In other words, the Torah uses the terms “living, kosher” here, not as a description of the physical requirements to make them fit as a sacrifice, rather that they represent important characteristics which will help purify the Metzora! Thus, Rashi goes on: “Because the plagues come as a punishment for slander, which is done by chattering.” Rashi means to emphasize two points: (1) There was bad talk — slander — impure words, and (2) the talking was done by chattering; forceful, enthusiastic, relentless slander and evil talk, which caused a break between husband and wife and among friends. This is not a case of a stolen whisper here or there, but a scheming campaign to slander and besmirch, time and again, into which the person invested much time and effort, and was kept up until he saw the evil results.

It was thus to correct the evil character of this nefariousness in that the purification of the Metzora required birds,

because these chatter as it were, continuously, with a twittering sound. (Ibid.)

Here, two characteristics came to light which will rectify the two problems mentioned earlier: (1) For the eviltalk there must be puretalk, thus the birds had to be kosher — so that his talk should be kosher like the birds. (2) His enthusiasm for slander must now be corrected with “living” kosher birds — animated, excited kosher-talk. The birds must be alive — a terefah can-not chatter and twitter with the full strength of a truly healthy bird — so his good bird (talk) must be alive!

This approach to the Rashi will clarify Rashi’s strange comments on the following words.

And cedar wood, because plagues come also as a punishment for haughtiness. (Ibid.)

Has Rashi changed his course? He always explains the plain meaning, why suddenly all this esoteric symbolism and mental intentions (kavanos).

The reason is that Rashi realized that since the purification rite of the Metzora involved many strange observances: cedar wood, red wool, sending the second bird away! etc., there must be some special significance in every detail. Perhaps you might think that this is all an inexplicable statute? No! The chapter began: “This shall be the law (toras) of the leper.” It does not say the statute! Consequently, the steps of ritual musthavemeaning associated with the purification process of the mitzvah — all geared to negate the evil that was done — as Rashi went on to explain.

So we see, that when we carefully analyze the words of Rashi, without introducing any outside commentary we come to a clear understanding of Rashi’s intention.

In our Divine service we may learn from this Rashi the important lesson of Ahavas Yisrael, love of fellow Jews. We see how evil slander is, and how one must steer clear of slandering someone.

If, however, one did fail in this area and was punished by the plague, we must do what we can to purify him and it must penetrate his essence, his ear lobe, right thumb and big toe, every point of his existence!

His purification comes about by a Kohen who must leave the precincts of the Beis HaMikdash and exit from all the camps to the “outside,” to bring him purity. The Kohen must say “You are purified” (tahor). It is also obvious that we must not use an evil or tameh adjective to describe another Jew.

Our Ahavas Yisrael will dissolve the reasons for the galus and we will be purified and redeemed through our righteous Mashiach; so may it be speedily and quickly in our days.

* * *

4. In the section of Rambam which we study today we may find a connection to the day of Shabbos HaGadol.

On Shabbos HaGadol the Jewish people in Egypt carried out the commandment to lead a lamb to their homes, this is connected to today’s halachah in the Rambam which discusses the laws concerning carrying from the public domain into the private domain:

If one carries a domestic or wild animal or a bird into a public domain, he is liable, even if they are alive, a living human being, however, is not deemed a burden. (Laws of Shabbos 18:16)

The gist of this halachah is the difference between an animal and a human. While in the case of a human we rule that “the living creature carries itself” (cf. Shabbos 94a), in the case of an animal we say that “they stiffen themselves” making themselves a “dead weight” and hence a burden (cf. ibid.).

What lesson do we garner in our Divine service? The human being (adam) refers to the G‑dly soul in every Jew. The animals in the halachah symbolize the animal soul. And since the Rambam delineates “domestic animal,” “wild animal” or “bird,” we may infer the three states of the animal soul:

“Domestic animal” (behemah) indicates the animalistic character of the animal soul, in all its power, before any sublimation.

“Wild animal” (chayah) indicates the emergence of some spirituality above the gross materialism. Through the Divine service of man even the animal soul reveals its “soul.”

“Bird” refers to the highest state of purification of the animal soul, for it can fly up to the heavens — opposite the nature of being drawn downwards to corporeality.

Here we may take the lesson:

Even after much effort in purifying the animal soul and raising it to the state of bird, which wings upwards, you cannot rely on it, because it is still animalistic. The spirit of the animal goes downwards.

On the other hand, one should not feel that it is futile to try to purify his animal soul, since it will always have the tendency to descend, because in the long run there is a great difference between domestic animals, wild animals and birds.

This is why the Rambam listed each separately, to show that there is a distinction within the animal soul on each of the particular levels.

The question still remains as to the case of fish. Are they compared to animals, or can they be compared to humans who carry themselves?

5. It is appropriate at this time to reiterate some of the important areas where special emphasis should be placed, in preparation for the approaching holiday of Pesach.

First and foremost the subject of Maos Chittim, charity to help those in need to celebrate the Pesach holiday properly, comfortably and joyously.

There are also several aspects of personal Divine service which should be stressed before Pesach. For example, the spiritual act of “circumcision” which symbolizes a penetrating bond between man and G‑d which permeates even the physicality of the Jew in an eternal manner.

Similarly, education upon which the “Haggadah” of the Seder is based. In fact, we perform certain practices at the Seder which are geared to educating the children by arousing their curiosity, to get them to ask questions. We encourage them to stay awake. Care and attention must be given to educate each of the “four sons” at the Seder so that eventually they all become “wise” sons.

It is therefore disappointing to see that so many Jewish yeshivos and Day-Schools have given long school holidays over the period of Pesach — instead of using the time to strengthen Torah study.

Another practice is the “destruction of the chametz,” which symbolizes the spiritual counterpart of nullifying and eliminating the yetzer hora — the evil impulse. Chametz of course is formed when the dough is left idle — our lesson is to be zealous in our observance of Torah and mitzvos.

At the same time one must be an illuminating lantern, to go out and influence others in all these matters.

In fact, Chassidus explains the word “Pesach” may be divided into two words peh-sach — speech — communication with others, and at the same time our “shoes must be on our feet” to be ready to march out if necessary to carry the message to others.

It is also now appropriate to mention the request for the publication of books on the study of the Rambam for his birthday on the 14th of Nissan so that they will be studied on his birthday. This would also include transcriptions of the various discourses and lectures delivered at the various siyum celebrations held this year.

So as not to allow the thought, that that which is not mentioned is forgotten, I want to reiterate the importance of establishing Chabad Houses, study groups for senior citizens — Kollel Tiferes Z’keinim and Chochmas Noshim — and chapters of Tzivos Hashem for the children.

I will once again announce a 40% sale on all books of Kehot retroactively from the 2nd of Nissan — the Yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rashab — until Lag BaOmer — the Yahrzeit of the Rashbi. Hopefully this will lead to greater purchases of Chassidic works and the study of these books so that the shelves in the warehouse will be emptied and then they will have to be refilled. May it bring an expansion of wisdom and knowledge until:

The earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea. (Yeshayahu 11:9)