1. In all matters of Torah and holiness we apply the well-known dictum: “Every day they should be to you as something new” (Rashi, Shemos 19:1). This, of course, is despite the fact that in reality we are dealing with teachings and practices which we have been studying and observing for millennia — nevertheless the “Torah of truth” teaches us that — there really is an aspect of newness in every day’s Torah and mitzvos.

In addition to this mandated newness we always seek some new aspect which appeals to our simple senses as being “fresh” and “new,” besides the directive of the “Torah of truth.”

We might view this topic from another dimension. When we deal with similar matters we know there is a common factor or denominator in each thing. In Torah matters we are told, that even the common factor has some different aspect in each associated place it is found. But, in addition, each item we are dealing with does have some unique aspect in which it clearly and obviously differs from all other related matters.

Let us take the days of the week by way of example:

All the days of the week have the common factor that they are part of the continuity of one week. In this respect Torah tells us that there are still new aspects in each day. Aside from that, each day does have its own uniqueness which can clearly be observed and does not have anything to do with every other day. For this we do not need the lesson of Torah — anyone can see it.

Therefore in all groups the same will apply, for we have the rule of the Talmud:

When a particular case that is included in a general law is singled out to instruct us concerning something new ... it is to be applied to the whole of the general law. (Sifra; Siddur)

In other words, just as in the case of the days of the week, each day has its own idiosyncrasies not similar to the rest of the group, and at the same time there is also a common denominator; similarly, in all matters which are grouped by common factors.

The general theme of Shabbos Mevarchim may be found in the Shabbos Mevarchim of every month. Yet, even regarding this common factor, that on Shabbos Mevarchim the new month is blessed, we will find that Torah teaches us some unique aspect about each month.

In a broader sense, however, each Shabbos Mevarchim carries a theme particularly relevant to the month which it blesses, that is certainly unique and not related to all other Shabbos Mevarchim weeks. In our case, this Shabbos we bless the month of Kislev — it is self-evident that there is some new and unique theme in this Shabbos Mevarchim relevant to this month, which is not present in the other months of the year.

Kislev differs from all other months in that it ends in the middle of the holiday of Chanukah. It is the only month whose last day is in the midst of a holiday. Since we have a rule that “the conclusion is decisive” (Berachos 12a), we may draw a logical inference; since the final form stamps its imprint in the most indelible fashion, it follows that the whole month of Kislev is influenced retrospectively by the fact that it ends during Chanukah.

One might ask: the influence of Chanukah straddles both Kislev and Teves — so it is not uniquely a Kislev phenomenon! And you might add — the influence of Chanukah on Teves might be even stronger than on Kislev, because it comes at the outset of the month.

The answer is, that starting a month with a holiday is itself not a unique occurrence as we see from Tishrei and Rosh Hashanah. So the aspect of Chanukah as it applies to Teves is not extraordinary. But to end a month with a holiday — now that is the exception — therefore it is a special happening.

Although it comes at the end, nevertheless the month of Kislev is in fact emblazoned with the theme of Chanukah and the conclusion does, in fact, make a deep impression on the entire month, which carries the theme of the holiday of Chanukah. What is the practical lesson of this theme? The essential theme of every holiday is rejoicing — Chanukah, too, is called “days of gladness.” If so, the theme for the entire month is to increase joy.

Having noted this obvious and revealed aspect of the month, we should now turn to the esoteric and intrinsic aspects of the month, which will deal with the intrinsic celebration of joy. The inner theme of Kislev is the revelation of the teachings of Chassidus. The 19th of Kislev is the holiday of liberation of the Alter Rebbe, the founder of Chabad Chassidus, and it was as a result of his liberation that the teachings of Chabad Chassidus were also “liberated.”

The 19th of Kislev is additionally associated with the general Chassidic movement which was revealed by the Baal Shem Tov, as we know, that general Chassidus was also affected and “freed” with the liberation of the Alter Rebbe. Additionally, Chabad Chassidus reveals, that the teachings of the Alter Rebbe reveal the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov on the intellectual level, so that they may be understood and digested.

The Rebbe Rashab added the explanation that the true dissemination of Chassidus began after the Alter Rebbe’s release from Petersburg on the 19th of Kislev.

Add to these points the facts that the Mitteler Rebbe also celebrated his release from incarceration on the 10th of Kislev and that his birthday and Yahrzeit occur on the ninth of Kislev.

All this indicates that the inner “newness” of Kislev is contained in the revelation of Chassidus, which also enhances the theme of joy — for true joy derives from the discovery of the essential innovative teachings of Chassidus.

Before Chassidus the main path of Divine service followed the route of fear, bitterness and morosity. When a Jew made a just self-evaluation and soulful introspection, he came upon several items needing improvement, and the feeling which such soul-searching engendered was generally bitterness and sullenness.

The teachings of Chassidus introduced and emphasized the involvement of joy and happiness in Divine service. The just evaluation must still be meticulous and nothing may be overlooked, yet, it does not interfere with Divine worship out of joy. This is the Zoharic principle cited by the Alter Rebbe in Tanya:

Weeping is lodged in one side of my heart, and joy is lodged in the other! (Tanya 34)

Serving G‑d with joy is a Scriptural directive:

.. serve G‑d your L‑rd with happiness and a glad heart. (Devarim 28:47 — See Rambam, Laws of Lulav 8:15)

Despite this Biblical directive in ancient times the main thrust of Divine service was to turn to G‑d with fear, trepidation and contrition. The AriZal was the one who revealed the importance of joyous worship and taught his disciples to follow the path of joy. Yet, among the followers of the AriZal’s teachings many reserved their joyous service only for Torah study and actual observance of mitzvos. However, in dealing with their personal character development and their endeavors to purify their corporeality they still practiced fasting and self-flagellation.

Only after the Baal Shem Tov revealed the teachings and techniques of Chassidus, in which he stressed the importance of actual joy in every aspect of Divine service, only then was the path of fasting and self-punishment discredited. On the contrary, the Baal Shem Tov urged a harmonious approach of soul and body in the service of G‑d and purification of the self.

All of this was of course incorporated into the intellectual philosophy of Chabad as propounded by the Alter Rebbe.

In Iggeres HaTeshuvah the Alter Rebbe minimizes the importance of fasting and self-torture; and in Tanya the importance of joy is expounded and bitterness is relegated to limited times and specific goals.

This all goes to show the importance of joy in the teachings of Chassidus, in Torah and in mitzvos, as well as in daily activities done for the sake of heaven.

Therefore, the month of Kislev emphasizes the theme of rejoicing in simple terms, because the month concludes with a holiday of “joyous days,” and at the same time, the inner, intrinsic theme of the revelation of Chassidus redoubles the emphasis on Divine service out of joy.

This esoteric aspect has also “trickled down” to the simple understanding of the average Jew. Even the simple person knows that since the Shaliach of the Nasi of our generation met him and taught him about Chassidus — so that he has become a “chassid” — this has introduced an aspect of joy, motivation, even excitement in his religious life. Why, he even breaks in to a tune every now and then — and he starts to dance!

It is self-evident that one can be joyous for happy reasons even though he still lacks other basic necessities. And one does not have to look far to find reasons for gladness. Upon awakening from sleep and realizing that G‑d has restored your soul, the immediate emotion of thankfulness and happiness is expressed:

I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me.... (Siddur)

This is followed by the blessings of thanks and appreciation which follow in the order of the Morning Blessings. Although you might observe that this joy is obvious and basic, nevertheless it was revealed and radiated by Chassidus — because in earlier times the path of Divine service wound its way through bitterness and trepidation.

The result:

When the month of Kislev arrives, we must increase matters of joy to the greatest degree.

Increased joy will accomplish an added feat; all negative aspects will be nullified.

In fact, a reason for the revelation of the themes of joy is the fact that in modern times the forces of evil, darkness and opposition have become stronger because of the darkness of the diaspora. To counteract this trend we must increase our joy, just as the increase of joy progressed from generation to generation from the time of the Baal Shem Tov till the generation of the Previous Rebbe the Nasi of our generation, who increased the dissemination of Chassidus and called for the translation of Chassidus into the “70 languages.”

Looking around us we see that the forces of the “other side” are still quite potent — this indicates that there is need for still more Divine service with joy. It is therefore appropriate that we should increase the special themes of joy associated with Kislev: Chanukah, 19th of Kislev, 10th and ninth of Kislev and especially Rosh Chodesh Kislev, and start from Shabbos Mevarchim Kislev when the blessing is projected for the entire month.

Should you doubt whether I mean you, perhaps you are thinking that your joy will not accomplish anything — or that it would not be truly sincere.

Let it be known that doubt — “safek” — has the same gematria (numerical equivalent) as “Amalek” — therefore all doubt must be eradicated!

Then, apply the following rule of thumb — if it leads to practical good, it is good. What does your doubt lead to — inaction! — clearly it is no good! Instead — act first — add joy to your Torah and mitzvos. The results of your good actions will be that even in your physical endeavors you will see improvement — and that you will not have anything of a negative nature to fear: “Behold, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” (Tehillim 121:4)

Therefore everyone can be secure in his activities and increase all matters of Torah and mitzvos — and especially the joy of the mitzvos and the joy of Torah with more and more light.

2. In today’s portion we read of the sale of the Cave of Machpelah to Avraham. Rashi explains:

Ephron’s field in Machpelah ... became Avraham’s uncontested property (lit., “it rose”): it received a rise in importance because it passed from the possession of a commoner into the possession of a king. But the simple meaning of the verse is: the field and the cave that was therein and all the trees ... became secured to Avraham as a possession. (Rashi, Bereishis 23:17)

Several points remain unclear:

(A) By adding the words: “But the simple meaning ...” Rashi clearly indicates that his first commentary is not the plain meaning of the verse. We know that Rashi’s self-appointed role is to teach the simple meaning — and only when the plain meaning is deficient or problematic will Rashi then add an Aggadic (homiletic) interpretation to solve or clear up the problem. If so, why does Rashi first cite the Midrashic interpretation before the plain meaning?!

(B) In Rashi’s presentation of the simple meaning he incorporated the text of the verse by weaving it into his own words: “the field, the cave ... and all the trees....” When Rashi had cited the words of the text in his caption he had only written “Ephron’s field in Machpelah (rose),” whereas he should have cited the rest of the verse in the caption. Especially when everything was “raised” in the course of the transfer to Avraham; from the commoner to the king.

(C) On the subject of the cave of Machpelah another point bears clarification.

In explaining the term “Me’aras Hamachpelah” Rashi had said:

Hamachpelah: It had a lower and an upper cavern. Another explanation (of why it was so called) because (it has the characteristic) of being doubled on account of the couples (who are buried there). (Ibid 23:9)

This commentary would associate the term “Machpelah” specifically with the cave. If so, how does Rashi translate the verse: “Ephron’s field which was in the Machpelah,” or, “the cave of the field of Machpelah”? In both of these verses the term “Machpelah” is used to designate the place of the field and not the name of the cave!

Rashi does not discuss this point, nor do the commentaries of Rashi devote any time to explaining Rashi’s position in this regard. Thus, the “Klotz-Kashe” emerges, how does Rashi understand the general use of the term “Machpelah,” relative to his explanation that “Machpelah” meant the “double cave?”

(D) Towards the conclusion of today’s portion Rashi explains the verse which speaks of Eliezer:

And the servant related to Yitzchok all the things that he had done. (Bereishis 24:66)


And the servant related: He reported to him the miracles that had been wrought for him — how the earth had shrunk for him and how Rivkah was ready for him in response to his prayer. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Rashi’s precision is legend, he never quotes a word in the caption when it is unnecessary to the commentary. Why was it imperative for Rashi to cite the word “servant” in his caption, his explanation deals with the telling of what took place, it should have sufficed to quote the words “and related” alone.

The explanation

When Eliezer returned to Avraham and Yitzchok he had to establish that he had fulfilled Avraham’s mission to the fullest degree and that he had carried out every detail exactly as he had been told to do. Therefore, even before he related all the details of the story he reiterated that he had been faithful to his mission as a faithful servant of Avraham.

Consequently, to negate any suspicion or doubt he, Eliezer, stated that he went to Charan and returned home as the “servant” with complete subservience and obedience to his master. Rashi emphasizes this point by citing the word “servant.” This fact gave credence and verification to the whole story which Eliezer was about to tell — and we must be made aware of this fact.

An immediate lesson may be garnered from this point for those who are involved in fulfilling the mission of spreading the wellsprings of Torah to the outside. They must labor with an attitude of subservience as the “servant of the fathers,” then they will find success in their work. So much so, that miracles will happen for them.

To answer the question about Rashi’s discussion of Ephron’s field, let us preface with another question. The five-year-old Chumash student wants to know why Avraham bought the whole field, he had only asked for the cave?! We can understand why Ephron spoke about the field, because he was a “bluffer”; first he offered not to take money, then he demanded an exorbitant price of 400 shekels of silver! But why did Avraham buy it, when he had said that he only needed the cave at the edge of the field?

Rashi endeavors to answer this question, which he had anticipated. So he writes:

It received a rise in importance because it passed from the possession of a commoner to the possession of a king.

Rashi wants us to understand that Avraham subsequently decided that the whole area had to rise in importance. If he had only bought the cave, then Sarah would be buried in a cave which was situated in the corner of a field of a lowly person — there was no honor in this. Therefore Avraham wanted that first the field should rise in importance and then thecave would also have its proper honor. At first he was apprehensive lest they would not sell the field, so he only asked for the cave. But then, when they mentioned the field he quickly grabbed the opportunity and approached it in a progressive manner; first the field rose in importance, then he buried Sarah.

With this intention in mind Rashi cites only the words describing the transfer of the field and he does not quote the rest of the verse because the main point here is that the field rose; all that followed was secondary.

For this reason Rashi also spoke of the homiletic meaning first. True, that the word “vayakom” (rose) also means “to be sold” and it should therefore have been presented as the first meaning for the verse — but since Rashi must first tell us why Avraham decided to buy the whole field — he had to tell us the Midrash first — that the field rose — then he goes back to the simple meaning.

In translating the term “Me’aras Hamachpelah” we find the Rashbam (Rashi’s grandson) says: “the whole valley was called Machpelah ... this is evident from the verse: ‘Ephron’s field that was in Machpelah.’“ The Ramban and others follow this same approach.

Rashi says that the meaning of “Me’aras Hamachpelah” is: “it had a lower and upper cavern” or “on account of the couples.”

Thus Rashi says that the term “Machpelah” refers to the cave and the other commentators say that the term Machpelah refers to the geographical area.

We must however, also infer, that Rashi concurs with the others, that the entire area was called by the name “Machpelah” because the Torah specifically says: “the cave in the field of Machpelah” or “Ephron’s field in Machpelah.” This is so obvious, that Rashi sees no need to even mention it.

Their difference is only over the meaning of the “Cave of Machpelah.” Was it just the “cavein “Machpelah” or was it the “double cave”?

What compels Rashi to this translation?

The term “Me’aras Hamachpelah” appears first in verse nine:

Let him sell me the Machpelah Cave, which belongs to him, at the edge of his field....

It appears later with further elaboration in the penultimate verse of this chapter:

In the cave of the Machpelah field, which adjoins Mamre also known as Chevron, in the Land of Canaan. (Ibid:19)

If, as the Rashbam says, the purpose of the word “Machpelah” in verse nine is not to indicate that is was thus called, rather to describe its whereabouts — then the Torah should have listed all the details of its geographic position in verse nine and not wait till verse 19 to do so.

Rashi however sees the first mention of Machpelah as the name of the cave — the “double cave” — not its location. Rashi says it was only necessary to cite the exact location at the end of the discussion at the point of consummation of the sale.

Later when the word “Machpelah” is used in the “cave in the field of Machpelah,” there, it is only telling us that the cave was in the Machpelah field. We might note that the Zohar, too, calls the entire area “Machpelah.” [For some reason even the Chassidic elementary teachers who teach this portion to cheder children do not make this clear and seem to be afraid to teach something which is mentioned specifically in Zohar.]

Another question now surfaces — if Rashi explains the reason for the name “double cave,” why does he not explain the reason for the regional name “Machpelah”?

But the simple answer is, that in the plain translation of Scripture nothing compels us to search for the meaning of geographical names, unless there is some problem. Rashi generally does not elaborate on the source or meaning of place names.

Why does he analyze the name of the cave? Here Rashi wondered: Why did Avraham specify to the children of Ches, the name “double cave”; he could have said “the cave in the field of Ephron.” Avraham was in mourning and suffering because of the tragic death of his beloved wife; he needed a burial place, but why be so picky and pedantic?

Rashi realizes that not only was the term “double cave” the name of the cave [he did not even have to say the name — how many burial caves did Ephron have!] but it described certain characteristics that Avraham was interested in at that moment.

Therefore Rashi says: “It had a lower and upper cavern; on account of the couples....” From here we can deduce what Avraham had in mind and what he was interested in. He wanted a burial cave where there would also be place for himself, close by. Therefore he wanted the “double cave” and he said so.

Chassidus explains that the concept of “double” is connected with Mashiach and to speed his coming we must increase all matters of joy so that we reach the promise: “Everlasting joy upon their heads” (Yeshayahu 35:10).

In connection with this I will give bottles for the various celebrations that will take place this week. When Mashiach will see that we do this zealously and speedily he will race to redeem the Jewish people, with the true and complete redemption speedily and truly in our days.

[During this farbrengen the Rebbe Shlita discussed the subject of not surrendering any land of Yehudah and Shomron, within the general context of the Camp David Accord. This sichah was published, as a separate essay titled Peace In The Land.]