1. On this Shabbos we have the general theme of a combination Shabbos-Rosh Chodesh day, concurrent with the specific theme of a Shabbos which combines Rosh Chodesh Shvat and the portion of Vaeira.

Viewed through the Beshtian doctrine, that one must glean a lesson in Divine service from every phenomenon, we will discover here a manifold teaching, a fortiori, for if one must learn from secular occurrences, how much more so, must one take a lesson from the sacred: Torah and holiness.

In our case, the general theme of Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh combined with Vaeira and Shvat will certainly provide a rich source of moral teachings for our Divine service to G‑d.

The directive will of course pertain to the entire month of Shvat [as all the days of the month are “gathered” in the “head” day — Rosh Chodesh] and especially to the tenth of Shvat, the Hillula of the Previous Rebbe: “Every tenth one is consecrated to G‑d” (Vayikra 27:32).

Let us first analyze the Shabbos-Rosh Chodesh symbiosis.

It is usually understood that Shabbos fits in with the natural plan of the world — as it proceeds from creation:

During the six weekdays — G‑d made heaven and earth, but on Shabbos, He ceased working and rested. (Finished accomplishing what He intended.) (Shemos 31:17)

Kabbalah and Chassidus see the seven days of creation as the devolution of the seven supernal attributes, after they have descended into the “seven days of construction.” This is the natural aspect of Shabbos.

This is not the case of Rosh Chodesh.

Rosh Chodesh carries the theme of newness and spontaneity and the supra-natural.

A) The lunar cycle, which renews itself each month with the appearance of the new moon on Rosh Chodesh, did not exist at the creation of the world. Remember, that when G‑d created the “great lights,” the sun and moon, they were both equal. It was only after the moon protested its twin role, that it was told: “Go and diminish yourself!” (Chullin 60b) thereby becoming the “small luminary.”

B) Now that we do follow the lunar cycle, every month, when the new moon appears, it is a sign of renewal. A few moments ago there was no moon — and now a new moon is born. For us this takes on special importance, for we, the Jewish people, are compared to the resurging moon:

To those who likewise are destined to be renewed. (Siddur)

C) The existence of Rosh Chodesh depends on the actions of the Jews. Thus, it is something new, freshly created and supra-natural: “The Jewish people sanctify the new moons (Rosh Chodesh)” (Berachos 49a).

The Midrash states, that when the heavenly court asks G‑d about the time for fixing the festivals He replies:

You and I will [will go to the earthly court] and confirm what Israel decides when they intercalate the years. (Shemos Rabbah 15:2)

Establishing the new months and intercalating the months of the years are powers of innovation given to courts of the Jewish people, and their power of creativity is recognized even in relation to Torah itself. In discussing the authority of the Sanhedrin to set the day of Rosh Chodesh the Gemara states:

The text says, “you,” “you,” “you” three times, to indicate that “you” [may fix the new moon and hence the festivals] even if you err inadvertently; “you,” even if you err deliberately; “you,” even if you are misled. (Rosh Hashanah 25a)

We may view this dichotomy (Shabbos-Rosh Chodesh) from another perspective. On Shabbos we do not say “...commemorating the Exodus out of Egypt,” until we have mentioned “...in remembrance of the work of creation, the first of the holy festivals, etc.” The reason? Because Shabbos first commemorates the fact that G‑d rested on the seventh day, and only later was the aspect of remembering the Exodus included.

However, the sanctification and renewal of the moon — Rosh Chodesh — is primarily and directly related to the Exodus. For the mitzvah: “This month shall be for you...” was taught to Moshe in connection with the Exodus. The Midrash states:

When He chose Yaakov and his sons, He appointed for them a New Moon of redemption in which Israel were redeemed from Egypt and in which they are destined to be redeemed again. (Shemos Rabbah 12:11)

So Shabbos is associated with the natural (weekly) cycle and disregards any human input. Rosh Chodesh rises above nature and is not restricted by its rigidity (rather it is determined by halachic ruling) and therefore it symbolizes the aspect of freedom and liberation, beyond the limitations of natural creation.

This dualism of Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh may be analogous to the dual aspects which we find in reference to the different categories of sacrifices in the Beis HaMikdash.

In the holiday liturgy they are referred to by these terms:

The dailyburntofferings according to their order and the Mussaf (additional) offerings according to their rule. (Machzor)

We may parallel Shabbos with the natural, orderly, Divine service of holiness; measured and quoted, as were the “daily burnt offerings....”

Rosh Chodesh will parallel with the novel (supra-natural), above and beyond the measured and ordered, as exemplified by the “Mussaf offerings....”

These parallels symbolize two very different, and perhaps, opposing paths in Divine service: the measured versus the unlimited. Each possesses what the other lacks, thereby complementing each other.

The orderly “daily burnt offerings” represent the regular aspects of Divine service, which develop the character and quality of becoming habitual, ingrained and truly intrinsic; they become imbedded in one’s soul and unite one with one’s essence.

When one breaks out of habit and goes beyond the orderly and regular Divine service at the opportune time, this spurt of super Divine service will carry with it the preciousness and enthusiasm of something fresh and new; it will be very exciting.

Normally in matters of habit one needs diligent work to make the commonplace and regular seem like that which is “new in your eyes.”

This will help us appreciate the unique phenomenon of Shabbos-Rosh Chodesh!

Here we have the unification of nature and novelty, habit and spontaneity. The opposites fuse together and unite in one day, every moment and every point is Shabbos and RoshChodesh.

How does this influence our Divine service?

It generates a novel power which fuses and melds the “daily burnt offering...with the Mussaf offerings,...” so that in the orderly, habitual activities there will suddenly be the excitement and preciousness of something fresh and new. At the same time this novelty and spontaneity will penetrate to the essence of the person’s psyche and will unify with his essentiality just like his habitual Divine service.

An illustration of this concept may be seen in the rule of Yom Kippur, that all ministrations must be done by the Kohen Gadol; even the regular sacrifices are imbued with the special holiness, spirit and loftiness of Yom Kippur and must be performed by the highest Kohen. The daily offerings become Mussaf and metamorphose into one new entity.

Is this only on Yom Kippur, the “Unique Day” of the year? No! The influence of Yom Kippur must seep into the rest of the year. It trickles down into the combined Shabbos-Rosh-Chodesh-Day.

Now that we realize the unique power this day carries, certainly everyone can utilize and exploit the power to the greatest degree and unite the two aspects of daily sacrifices and Mussaf offerings.

This theme is especially emphasized on this Shabbos-Rosh Chodesh, when we connect the portion of Vaeira and Rosh Chodesh Shvat.

Vaeira indicates the ultimate verification of witnessing something: seeing! Our sages tell us that:

Hearing does not compare to seeing. (Mechilta 19:9)

Hearing about something — even from reliable witnesses — does not make the incident so real as when it is actually seen.

If we wish to relate the sense of seeing to one of the paths of Divine service mentioned above it would blend with the order of “daily burnt offering” — for the continuity and regularity has imprinted the reality — somewhat like seeing. Thus Vaeira, the Torah portion, would be synchronous with the orderly and measured; it is limited but sure.

In contrast to this, the month of Shvat would be more congruent with the enthusiasm of the “Mussaf,” above normal Divine service.

The twelve months of the year have been compared to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, in order of their birth, which would associate the eleventh month, Shvat, with Yosef. Yosef, as his name indicates, carries the theme of increasing and adding. The super-addition rather than the regular — this is the theme of “Mussaf offerings.”

This brings us back to an irresistible symbiosis: the daily with the Mussaf, Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, Vaeira and Shvat. There is a practical lesson for our personal Divine service in the month of Shvat to be garnered from this study:

The theme of the month of Shvat is expressed succinctly in the Torah:

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

The fifth book of the Chumash is known as “Mishneh Torah” (lit. a repetition of the Torah), for it provides an explanation on the details of the earlier four books, with the addition of some new material. Rashi adds that the explanation undertaken by Moshe was given:

In the seventy languages of the ancient world did he give it to them. (Rashi, Devarim 1:5)

When we recall and observe days bygone we relive and experience again the phenomena of those times. With the proper remembrance we can engender those aspects which existed the first time.

Thus, when the month of Shvat begins there is an intensification of the review and clarification of the Torah through the spark of Moshe in each generation and the aspect of Moshe within every Jew. This will retroactively invigorate and buttress all of his previous Divine service in a manner of:

Raising an object to a higher grade of sanctity. (Berachos 28a)

In this manner, each individual acquires the added power to rise in his own Torah knowledge as well as his ability for the multilingual Torah exposition referred to by Rashi, which incorporates spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit to far away Jews. Even a Jew who cannot comprehend Torah in its original Hebrew will now benefit from the translation into his mother tongue.

This theme is congruous with the symbolism of Shvat associated with the tribe of Yosef.

The Tzemach Tzedek interpreted the Scriptural verse: “May G‑d grant another son to me” (Bereishis 30:21), to mean, that even a Jew who externally appears to be like an “acher,” an “other,” can also be restored to the position of “ben” — son. As a “son” he will transmit all of the characteristics of the “father.” This is accomplished when we expound Torah in 70 languages.

Shvat also includes the theme of the tenth day of Shvat, “Every tenth one shall be consecrated to G‑d,” which emphasizes the importance of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit. Being the Yahrzeit (Hillula) of the Previous Rebbe we may find in it the Chassidic principle that,

All his doings, his Torah and the Divine service which he served all the days of his life...become revealed and radiate in a manifest way from above downwards at the time of his passing...and effect salvation in the midst of the earth. (Iggeres HaKodesh 27-28)

The theme of the tenth of Shvat is related to the theme of the complete month and since the month represents Yosef, and the Previous Rebbe’s first name was Yosef, this intertwining and interweaving of theme and purpose is quite strong.

The Previous Rebbe epitomizes this principle of attracting the “others” and making them sons. His monumental sacrifice and untiring efforts on behalf of spreading Torah and the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside were legend. Translating the deepest, most complicated, Chassidic philosophy into common language was one of his most important goals. Here we have the modern day Moshe, once again teaching the Torah in “70 languages.”

We have seen the complex interrelationship between all these themes and facets of the month of Shvat.

* * *

Among the commentators who associate the months of the year with the tribes of Israel, some list them in order of birth, which would relate Yosef to the month of Shvat, while others follow the order assigned to them during their travels in the desert according to their camps. That system follows the same order as the Nesi’im who brought their offerings for the dedication of the Mishkan, which took place during the first twelve days of Nissan. The eleventh Nasi was the prince of the tribe of Asher.

The Torah tells us about Asher:

From Asher shall come the richest foods; he shall provide the king’s delight. (Bereishis 49:20)


Let him dip his food in oil — it means that his land flowed with oil as a fountain. (Rashi, Devarim 33:24)

Now, Chassidus explains that the “oil” of Torah represents the inner secrets of Torah — the fountain. Asher’s land flowed oil just as a fountain flows forth and waters the surrounding region.

This is analogous to spreading the “fountains” of Chassidus to the outside — so that the landflows with oil like a giant fountain.

When Rosh Chodesh Shvat occurs on Shabbos we have an additional lesson of combining the regular Divine service of nature with the novelty of the supernatural: the daily burnt offering with the Mussaf sacrifices.

And when this day comes, every year, we must increase all areas of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings of Chassidus, for we must rise to a higher state of sanctity. Rosh Chodesh Shvat is fused with the theme of Yosef to add and increase beyond all hopes the enthusiasm of the newness, which should penetrate to the essence, so that the regular will have new enthusiasm and the new will attain continuity.

Vaeira teaches us something more.

All of one’s actions in the area of disseminating Torah and Chassidic teachings should attain the reality of seeing; they must move, influence and motivate the recipient with as much vitality and surety as if he really sees the truth, value and perfection of your teachings.

This may be applied even for the Jew who is completely absorbed in the exile in the midst of the land. Bring him personal redemption and then, consequently, you will also effect universal redemption for all Israel.

This path of outreach must be publicized, together with the details of the theme of Shvat and the tenth of Shvat.

Word should go out to everyone about the special customs of the Hillula day and the preceding Shabbos. The special observances include prayer, Torah study (Mishnayos etc.), the study of the teachings of the Previous Rebbe, to increase tzedakah, especially for institutions connected to the Previous Rebbe.

Additionally, it should be publicized to organize farbrengens in all areas where good resolutions will be adopted to follow in the footsteps of the Previous Rebbe; to increase all activities on behalf of spreading Torah and mitzvos and the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside. This publicity should be done as soon as possible so that all the activities may be planned and executed in an orderly fashion.

May G‑d grant that our good resolutions, today, will speed up the true and complete redemption even before the tenth of Shvat. Then we will see the fulfillment of the promise: “Awake and sing ye that dwell in the dust” (Yeshayahu 26:19), and we will be able to observe the tenth of Shvat togetherwith the Previous Rebbe, body and soul.

May the redemption come with the threefold perfection — the complete people, Torah and land, not only complete, but expanded, as the Torah promises:

When G‑d expands your borders as He promised you, (Devarim 12:20)

with the coming of Mashiach, speedily and truly in our time.

* * *

2. In the Torah portion this week the five-year-old Chumash student, as well as the 40-year-old mature scholar, is perplexed by a persistent “Klotz-Kashe.”

Scripture tells us:

I will make Pharaoh obstinate and will thus have the opportunity to display many miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt. (Shemos 7:3)

Rashi comments:

Since he has wickedly resisted Me, and it is manifest to Me that the heathen nations find no spiritual satisfaction in setting their whole heart to return to Me penitently, it is better that his heart should be hardened in order that My signs may be multiplied against him so that you may recognize My Divine power. Such, indeed is the method of the Holy One, Blessed be He: He brings punishment upon the nations so that Israel may hear of it and fear Him, as it is said (Tzephaniah 3:6-7), “I have cut off nations, their corners are desolate etc....I said: Surely you will fear Me, you will receive correction.” Nevertheless, in the case of the first five plagues it is not stated “The L‑rd hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” but “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.” (Rashi, loc. cit.)

The difficulty here is elementary. If the goal of the plagues is so that “you may recognize my Divine power,” then why was it necessary for each plague to last so long? As Rashi explains:

For each plague functioned a quarter of a month and for three quarters he warned and cautioned them. (Ibid.:25)

To impress the Jews with the punishment of the gentile nations does not need a plague which lasts a full week! A day or two, or at most three, is enough! Additionally, why the stretch of three weeks in-between each plague.

In fact, we do find later in the case of the plague of darkness, that it lasted only six days not seven, as the earlier ones had. Or even more express the plague of the death of the firstborn, which was instantaneous.

The length of the warning period also comes into question. Was it necessary to warn the Egyptians for three weeks? The warning for the plague of the firstborn was given only one time. As Rashi tells us:

And Moshe said...whilst he was standing before Pharaoh this prophecy was spoken to him, because after he left him, he did not see his face again. (Rashi, Ibid. 11:4)

Why then was it necessary for long warning periods for the earlier nine plagues?

What is most troubling is, that, as this time was stretching on, the Jews remained in Egyptian bondage!

Oh yes, it is true that the actual body-breaking work ceased as of Rosh Hashanah that year, a full six months before the Exodus, but they were still in galus! They were still imprisoned in a condition that:

No slave had ever been able to escape from Egypt, because that land was so closely shut on all sides. (Rashi, Ibid. 18:9)

Why should they have been forced to remain another winter in Egypt?

As we do not find that Rashi addresses this question directly we must assume that the answer is obvious and clear to the five-year-old Chumash student by simple logic, or based on a previous Rashi interpretation.

How may we explain this problem?

Actually when Rashi tells us that the reason for hardening Pharaoh’s heart was to teach the Jewish people a lesson, Rashi is not negating a more basic premise, relative to the purpose of the plagues and the intervals in-between.

The five-year-old Chumash student understands that each plague brought some measure of accomplishment relative to Pharaoh’s attitude. True, even after several plagues Pharaoh still did not agree to release the Jews, but some movement was made after each plague.

In the case of the scourge of blood Rashi had indicated:

The Egyptians worshiped the Nile, therefore G‑d first smote their deity. (Rashi, Ibid. 7:17)

[This was a terrible shock for them and broke their faith in their idol.] Later, during the pestilence of lice, the Torah indicates:

The master symbolists (magicians) tried to produce lice with their hidden arts, but they could not.... “It is the finger of G‑d” said the master symbolists to Pharaoh. (Ibid. 8:14,5)

Here again we see some movement on the part of Pharaoh’s magicians and priests.

In the ensuing plagues this gradual change of mind continues, and Moshe warns the people about the threat of the hail. What happens?

Some of Pharaoh’s subjects feared G‑d’s word and they made their slaves and livestock flee indoors. (Ibid. 9:20)

Thus, by then, some of Pharaoh’s subjects “feared G‑d” and even acted in accordance with Moshe’s threat!

This progressed to the point that when Moshe brought the warning about locust the Torah reveals that:

Pharaoh’s officials said to him.... “Let the men go and let them serve G‑d their L‑rd.” ...Moshe and Aharon were brought back to Pharaoh, “Go serve G‑d your L‑rd” he said.... (Ibid. 10:7-8)

This process moved on from plague to plague.

This clearly indicates that each plague had to be separated from the other by a span of time, so that the Egyptian’s could contemplate their plight and come to the proper conclusions.

Rashi did not deem it necessary to comment on this process because it really is self-evident.

What Rashi does comment on, is a completely different matter — the connection between the numerous plagues and the need to make Pharaoh obstinate. What was the reason? So that the Jewishpeople will listen and learn to fear G‑d. We must see in Rashi’s view, that in addition to all the hoped-for results of the sequence of plagues in relation to the Egyptians, there was an additional Divine purpose of educating the Jewish people by witnessing the many-layered scourge on the Egyptians.

For us there is a powerful lesson in this teaching.

Those who are involved in teaching and spreading Torah, Yiddishkeit, and the fountains of Chassidus often encounter Jews who are not moved by all the good influence, talk and teachings. They are simply not moved in the slightest.

Take heart and do not be discouraged. A clear reading of the verses tells us that even Pharaoh, who refused to heed G‑d’s call to free the Jewish people, nevertheless, changed after each plague. There was some genuine movement, however slight, on his part and on the part of his people.

If such were the case with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, at a time when mitzvos did not have a direct impact on the physical world — how much more so will every action bring success now, when Torah and mitzvos have true control in the world.

Talk to a fellow Jew with words from the heart about Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos, ethics and fear of G‑d; do it in a pleasant and peaceful manner; your efforts cannot fail. If you do not see the result immediately, don’t make a hasty judgment based on externalities — your efforts certainly had some effect, but sometimes it may take some reflection or contemplation on his part. It might just need some time. Eventually it will reveal itself.

When the outreach efforts are motivated by the Nasi of the generation, then you do not proceed by your own power; it is the power of the Nasi through his emissary; and your efforts will certainly meet with success. If the immediate results are not obvious then you must raise yourself a bit, to see the more spiritual aspect of the Jew — then you will see the accomplishment.

Eventually, success will come and Yiddishkeit will be truly integrated into his essence, and he will “see.” As the Alter Rebbe explained, “Vaeira” may mean appearing to the forefathers in the past, and it also has the connotation of the present and future; He always sees. This brings us to the ultimate seeing — learning the Torah of Mashiach. So may it be for us, speedily and truly in our days.