1. Today, the third day of Tammuz, commemorates the first stage of liberation of the Previous Rebbe from Soviet imprisonment. Today’s farbrengen is in connection with this important date.

Actually, at the time, it was not known whether being released from prison and ordered to travel to a city of exile was actually the start of his liberation or the beginning of a sentence of exile.

However, it was known in Heaven, and in fact on the 12th-13th of Tammuz the Rebbe was freed from the city of exile and eventually freed from the fortress-like country of Russia. Thus, now that we do know the true facts, we realize that the third of Tammuz was the beginning of the liberation, which led to the strengthening of his untiring efforts on behalf of Jewry and the spreading of the wellsprings of Torah to the corners of the world.

The uncertainty of the sentence on the third of Tammuz of that year carried with it a serious concern. They did not know if he would be freed; and there was also the aspect that sometimes exile can be worse than imprisonment.

In Halachah we find: Four categories of individuals are required to offer thanksgiving (and say the blessing HaGomel, “Who bestows benefits”): Voyagers on the sea when they have landed, travelers in the desert when they reach settled territory, a person who has been sick and recovered, and a prisoner who has been released from prison. (Rambam, Laws of Blessings 10:8, slight var. in order)

We do not, however, find “liberation from exile” as a cause for the blessing of HaGomel. There is an opinion which holds that any situation of danger would necessitate the HaGomel blessing upon becoming free of the danger. But there, too, the reason is because the danger would somehow be similar to the four categories mentioned above. According to this view it would seem that imprisonment would be worse than exile. On the other hand, from a different vantage point, exile would be worse than jail.

Although the Torah lists different punishments for convicted offenders, e.g. fines, lashes and even capital punishment, it does not prescribe jail. Exile, however, is included. Accidental homicide is punishable by exile to a city of refuge. And exile is considered a terrible punishment.

It is true that in the city of refuge one is free to conduct his daily life as he wishes. In fact the Gemara states:

“That ... he might live,” which means provide him with whatever he needs to live. (Makkos 10a)

All his needs must be provided for, even to send his teacher along with him into exile! Nevertheless the punishment of exile is clearly described in the Chinuch:

(It involves) great suffering, nearly as bad as the suffering of death, for the individual is separated from his loved ones and his birthplace, and is forced to dwell all his life with strangers. (Positive Comm. 409)

At first glance we might assume that the sentence of imprisonment would have been worse in the Rebbe’s case. In prison all of his action and movement would have been restricted. He could do nothing without the approval of the jailors. Thus prison had all the negatives of exile but much worse. While in exile, at least there was a bit of freedom of movement, albeit limited. In fact when the Rebbe was transferred to the city of Kostroma to begin the sentence of exile, he was able during those few days, to arrange for the construction of a local mikveh (ritualarium)!

However since the punishment of exile is prescribed by Torah, as opposed to jail, which is not, being transferred to exile (by the Bolsheviks) indicated that spiritually the situation was much more serious!

Another point should be kept in mind. While in prison the final sentencing had not yet been carried out — which provided the hope that it would still be eased. But if the transfer to exile was to be the final sentence, and if in fact it was executed, then it would be much more difficult to effect any lightening of the punishment at that time. So on the third of Tammuz things were really not clear.

Parenthetically, the fact that prison is not considered a legitimate Jewish punition has been questioned. The questioners have presented several historical and Scriptural references, e.g. Yirmeyahu was “arrested” and put in “jail” as well as quotes from various Gaonic responsa. [Note: see “Prisons and Reform — A Torah View,” Sichos In English Vol. 26 pgs. 269-277.]

There is of course a “klotz-kashe” here which will help us to understand this case. All punishments mentioned in Torah are described and carefully studied in the Talmud and in halachic works. Prison is not discussed. Should not Torah take a stand on prisons, after all, if it is not proper it might even be subject to the injunction not to copy the actions of Egypt! If it is permitted, it should describe how and when it does apply.

We must therefore understand, that in fact incarceration was not, and is not, a Torah prescribed sentence. However, there is a general rule in Jewish jurisprudence: “You shall thus rid yourself of evil,” (Devarim 13:6) which means that under certain circumstances the court has the right to innovate forms of punishment when the prescribed Torah sentence is not feasible. The Rambam discusses this principle in chapter 24 of Laws of Sanhedrin and says that the power is granted,

Not to disregard the Halachah but to build a fence around it ... and the judge may ... imprison him.... (Ibid 24:5-9)

The principle however remains, that jailing is not a punishment prescribed by Torah and its details are therefore not discussed in Halachah.

On the third of Tammuz the situation was unclear — and even in the spiritual sense there was a level of uncertainty. On that day, as the Previous Rebbe stood on the train platform waiting for the train that would take him to exile in Kostroma, he spoke to his Chassidim:

We offer a supplication to the Omnipresent, Blessed be His Name, may the L‑rd our G‑d be with us as He was with our fathers; May He not forsake us nor abandon us. This is both a prayer and a promise — that G‑d will be with us as He was with our fathers.

Clearly this expression of prayer signified the feeling on his part of apprehension, not being sure of what would happen later.

The Rebbe continued:

We go into exile not by our will ... and we will return not by our own power ... but all the nations on the face of the earth know, that only our bodies were conveyed into galus and oppression by kingdoms but our souls were never given over.

He concluded:

This is our request of the Holy One, Blessed be His Name, do not forsake us, and grant us sufficient fortitude not to fear the physical torture ... and every punishment decreed upon us because of strengthening Torah classes and mitzvos should increase our power and strength in further strengthening Yiddishkeit.

The Rebbe’s attitude indicated his apprehension and also his hopes — but it was clear that at that point the future was still unknown.

Later when the sequence of events revealed the ultimate liberation, it became clear that the third of Tammuz was in fact the beginning of the redemption. And as in the example of teshuvah, the negative aspect is completely weeded out and converted to the good, retroactively.

All of this teaches us an important lesson. The following year the Previous Rebbe issued a letter for 12th-13th of Tammuz in which he wrote:

It was not only me who G‑d freed on the 12th of Tammuz, but also all who love our holy Torah, who observe mitzvos, and also all those who may be called Jews. It would be appropriate to establish this day as a day of gathering and awakening for the purpose of strengthening Torah and Yiddishkeit.

Since the beginning of the liberation was on the third of Tammuz we do not have to wait for the twelfth to be involved in the Divine service of the auspicious days.

And if someone should ask, why celebrate a day which the Rebbe himself did not celebrate that year, because the liberation was still unclear? The answer is that later when it all became clear, it acted retroactively.

When we speak of increasing Torah and mitzvos it is a good idea to recommend a specific mitzvah, so that the enthusiasm will enclothe itself in a practical result. Without getting into a quandary it can easily be said that the Previous Rebbe has already given us the directive to increase the spreading of Torah and strengthening Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings of Torah and Chassidus outside.

To this the Previous Rebbe extended his blessing of:

Overflowing life and infinitely abundant blessing ... in all manner of goodness spiritually and materially. Simply, in children, health and sustenance, all in great abundance.

2. The third day of Tammuz saw the first stage of the liberation of the Previous Rebbe. When we look back into ancient Jewish history we find another important event commemorated on this date, which brings to light the dictum:

Good things come to pass on an auspicious day. (Taanis 29a)

In Seder Olam Rabba, chapter 11, we are told that on the third of Tammuz:

Then spoke Yehoshua ... sun, stand still (Dom) upon Givon; and moon, in the valley of Ayyalon. (Yehoshua 10:12)

Now if we find that by Divine Providence these two events occurred in the same day, we must say that there is some connection between them.

The verse goes on to tell us:

And the sun stood still and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. (Ibid)

The connection between victory and the sun and moon is a bit puzzling. The commentary Metzudos Dovid approaches this question and gives a relatively simple explanation:

Yehoshua was afraid that the sun would set and he would not be able to chase his enemies after dark, so he asked the sun to stop moving and shine on Givon where he (Yehoshua) was at the time.

This commentary still leaves several unclear points. Why did the moon also have to stop moving? And why use the word “dom” — which means “be quiet,” (still) it would have been more appropriate to say “amod,” which means “halt” — stop moving.

This whole subject is discussed in the Chassidic discourses of the Mitteler Rebbe and the Tzemach Tzedek where the aforementioned questions are elaborated upon. The explanation is presented that Yehoshua’s intention was directed to the spiritual influence that might have been provided to the Emorites, et al, because they worshiped the sun, moon and other celestial bodies.

Let us first understand the details involved here. In the sun’s daily orbit in the solar system it must traverse tens of millions of miles. In 24 hours it covers vast distances of the heavens. Why does it go so fast? This is truly an amazing wonder and enigma!

When we take into account the Rambam’s clear Halachah, that:

Every star and sphere has a soul and is endowed with knowledge and intellect. (Rambam, Laws of Fundamental Principles 3:9)

Or the Midrashic account that angels control the movement of the sun.... If so, there must be a reason for the alacrity of the sun. And we may ask: why?

In the Gemara Nedarim and also in Midrash the daily rising of the sun to shine in the heavens is discussed and the dialogue between G‑d and the luminaries is related to us. From this we learn of the intellectual arguments of the orbs.

So why does the sun race across the heavens?

The explanation expounded in those Chassidic discourses present the movement of the sun as a form of terribly self-nullifying genuflection and prostration. The sun has matter and form, body and soul. The body — the sun orb — circles the heavens in bowed reverence, because its spiritual soul is in a state of spiritual prostration.

Scripture describes this phenomenon in the following manner, on the one hand:

And the host of the heavens bow before You. (Nehemiah 9:6)

This is the physical state. On the other hand:

“When the morning stars sing together.” (Iyov 38:7)

This is the Spiritual bowing (singing).

Going a step further, when the angel in charge of the sun orbit contemplates on its unique role — having been chosen from among an infinite myriad of millions of angels — it becomes over-emotional — for angels can feel emotion — and it sings G‑d’s praise with zealousness. Consequently it causes the sun to zoom through the universe at unbelievable speed. In fact, now it becomes unclear just how it can control that speed and overabundant enthusiasm — for the Seraphim usually lose their whole existence under similar conditions.

This leads us to why Yehoshua had to stop the sun and the moon to ensure success in battle. The Jews were battling idolatrous peoples who worshiped the sun, moon, and the host of heaven. Scripture refers to this when it says:

When you raise your eyes to the sky, and see the sun, the moon, stars and other heavenly bodies, do not bow down to them or worship them. It was to all the other nations under the heavens that G‑d made them a portion. (Devarim 4:19)

On this Rashi comments:

.. as deities, He did not prevent them from erring after them ... (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Why did the heathens believe in the heavenly bodies? — because of their beneficial influence in the physical world. All aspects of mineral, vegetable, animal and human life receive some form of sustenance from the sun, moon etc.

.. with the precious crops [brought forth] by the sun, and with the precious fruits put forth by the moon. (Berachos 33:14)

The early idolators recognized the powerful influence of the heavenly bodies and they declared that these bodies had G‑dly powers and must be worshiped. Thus Yehoshua knew that the source of power and success of the heathen armies lay in the heavenly bodies (of course there was no actual effect from their worship — but the actual benevolence was there). Therefore he had to stop the flow of benevolence.

It is the movement and “genuflection” of the sun orbit and its songs of praise, which causes the descent of the spiritual life force from above to below — and thus causes all the physical abundance and richness to be generated to all aspects of the world. Thus it all comes about because of the “racing” through the heavens.

Therefore, in order to beat the idolaters in war he had to nullify the influence and (physical) power they receive from the sun and moon. By stopping the movement of the sun and the moon — stopping their service of praise and their bowing to G‑d — ipso facto — Yehoshua would be victorious in battle against them.

With this in mind we can understand why Yehoshua said “dom” — be still (quiet) instead of “halt.” It was not sufficient to physically stop the movement of the sun. It was necessary to stop the spiritual song and bowing of the sun which generates the movement and which radiates physical benevolence to earth. By stopping the song you stop the progress of the sun and moon in their orbits. Rashi, too, translates,

Dom — be still — do not say praise ... when the sun is quiet it does not travel, for as long as it moves it recites praise. (Rashi loc. cit.)

Similarly the Midrash also states:

From the moment the sun rises until it sets, it sings praise to the Holy One, Blessed be He. So too you find when Yehoshua stood at Givon and prayed that the sun be still (quiet), he did not say “halt,” but rather “sun, (dom) stand be still upon Givon” — for so long as it travels it praises the Holy One, Blessed be He ... therefore Yehoshua said “be still.” (Yalkut Shimoni loc. cit.)

In order to supersede and command the sun, Yehoshua had to have unique powers. What was the source of that strength? The Midrash tells us:

Thereupon he (Yehoshua) took it (Mishneh Torah) and showed it to the orb of the sun which he apostrophized thus: “Even as I have not stood still from [studying] this, so do you stand still before me!” Straightaway, “And the sun stood still.”

Torah study is loftier than the songs of praise of the celestial bodies and the heavenly angels so that Yehoshua’s study of Torah (Mishneh Torah) could quiet the sun.

There is an important parallel to this in the Haftorah of Shavuos, where the Prophet tells us: “... they stood and their wings were stilled.” (Yechezkel 1:24)

On this verse the Midrash explains:

“When they stood their wings were still,” is there any sitting above? ... “Above Him stood the Seraphim,” again, “and all the hosts of the heaven standing by Him ...” yet you actually say “when they stood?” Then what is the meaning of “Beamdom?” Ba’Am’Dom’! (When the people of Israel come, be silent), when Israel say “Hear O’ Israel ...” the angels are silent and drop their wings. (Midrash Rabbah Bereishis 65:21)

Thus the word Beamdom becomes an acrostic form and tells us that the angels are stilled when the Jews recite the “Shema.”

It is described by saying that their wings are still. This is because the movement of the wings generates their song (see Pirkei d’R. Elazar, chap. 4). Thus, when the unity of G‑d is proclaimed by the Jewish people the angels are quiet and their wings rest.

So too, in the case of the sun at Givon. Yehoshua’s Torah study superseded the song of the sun which stopped its praise thereby stopping its movement, just as the angels stop flapping and fluttering their wings.

Now we can return to the connection between the miracle of stopping the sun and the miracle of the beginning of the liberation of the Previous Rebbe which both took place on the 3rd of Tammuz.

The gist of Yehoshua’s miracle was supernatural, that he was able to rise above and control all aspects of nature, the sun and moon, stars and heavenly hosts. He commanded their spiritual source and the angels which control them — to the degree that they came to the aid of the Jewish people. Thus they were able to destroy their enemies, who worshiped the celestial bodies. The success was so great that the Jewish causalities were almost nil.

The Previous Rebbe’s liberation was also supernatural to the point that those who had condemned and sentenced him were forced to agree to his release — the order came from above without explanation. Thus, these two miracles have similarities in general and also in their details.

The directive is clear, we must increase our activities in strengthening and spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit and not be intimidated by any obstacles or opposition.

Even in this country — which thank G‑d is a benevolent and just society and does not interfere with our religious work, sometimes it even enhances our opportunities — we must do everything in our power to see to it that the powers that be, give more strength and more potential to the forces of Torah and Yiddishkeit so that Jews may advance from strength to strength.

And may we merit the ultimate redemption, the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Mashiach. Then the essence of the world will be revealed, that the world was created for the sake of the Torah and for the sake of Israel, and

.. the glory of the L‑rd shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the L‑rd has spoken it. (Yeshayahu 40:5)

The coming of our righteous Mashiach is connected to Moshe, our teacher, and to the leaders and princes of every generation till our generation and our Nasi, the Previous Rebbe.

And may the redemption come in reality speedily and truly in our days as the Rambam rules: “and thereupon immediately be redeemed.” (Laws of Teshuvah 7:5)

* * *

3. At the beginning of the seventh reading section in the portion of Korach we find:

To the descendants of Levi, I am now giving all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance. This is in exchange for their work, the service that they perform in the Communion Tent ... that among the children of Yisrael they have no inheritance ... instead the inheritance that I am giving the Levi’im shall consist of the tithes of the Israelites which they separate as an elevated gift. I have therefore told [the Levi’im] that they shall not have any inheritance among the Israelites. (Bamidbar 18:21-24)

In the last verse of the sixth reading section we find G‑d’s word to the Kohanim:

You will not have any inheritance in the land [of the Israelites] and you will not have a portion among them. I Myself shall be your portion and inheritance among the Israelites. (Ibid:20)

The intention of these verses is that when the Jewish people will conquer the Promised Land, the Tribe of Levi will not receive a portion in that land. Similarly they will not take a share in any spoils of war. In exchange, G‑d bequeaths to the Kohanim, the Kohanic gifts and to the Levi’im, the tithes.

This presents us with a problem. Since the Kohanim and Levi’im are similar in not receiving a part of the land, why does the Torah differentiate between them; to the Kohanim: “I Myself shall be your portion and inheritance among the Israelites,” and to the Levi’im “... among the children of Yisrael they have no inheritance.” Thus the Kohanim are “among the Israelites,” and the Levi’im are not “among the children of Israel.”

There is also a seeming contradiction in the verse relating to the Kohanim. The first half of the verse states: “You will not have any inheritance.” How can the latter part of the verse say “I ... shall be ... inheritance among the Israelites”?!

If Rashi does not mention these difficulties it would appear that Rashi thought that the clarification is so obvious that even the five-year-old Chumash student would understand it. In truth when the five-year-old Chumash student learns these chapters he senses that there is a difference between Kohanim and Levi’im.

To the Kohanim G‑d had said, “I myself shall be your portion...,” and in fact the chapter dealing with the Kohanic share clearly states:

.. the following shall be yours: all sacrifices, all their sin offerings, all their guilt offerings ... this is what shall be bestowed as an elevated gift to you.... The first born ... like the chest presented as a wave offering and the right thigh.... (18:9-21)

All of these gifts the Kohanim receive as,

fire offerings that are holy of holies. (Ibid:9)

They get them directly from the Holy One, Blessed be He. In other words, the Kohanim did not receive their share from the people, rather the people donated their offerings to G‑d, to be presented on the Altar, etc., and the Holy One, Blessed be He, designated certain parts to be allocated for the Kohanim, as the Gemara says:

They receive it from the table of the Most High. (Betza 21a)

Why is this? — because, “I Myself shall be your portion”!

In contrast to this the Levi’im are not receiving G‑d’s portion, rather:

To the descendants of Levi ... all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance. This is in exchange for their work, the service that they perform in the Communion Tent.

They do not receive their share from the Altar, rather they get it directly from the people. The Levi’im serve the people and the people support them.

Consequently, we will understand that the Kohanim who receive their share directly from G‑d are inheriting in a manner similar to all the other Jews. The difference is only that everyone gets land from G‑d, and they get the Kohanic gifts. Therefore the Torah says: “Inheritance among the Israelites.” The Levi’im, on the other hand, get their share from the people, therefore their inheritance is not the same as everyone else’s; it is not directly from G‑d, rather it is from the people, as payment for their service and work which they perform in place of all the Jews:

When you take from the Israelites the tithe that I have given you as your inheritance from them ... (Ibid:26)

Now, the sharp student comes up with another question. The Levi’im were commanded to give a tithe from their receipts to the Kohanim:

.. You must separate from it an elevated gift to G‑d, a tithe of the tithe ... and you must give it as G‑d’s elevated gift to Aharon the Kohen. (Ibid:26-28)

Now if the Israelites had to give a tithe to the Levi and the Levi had to separate a tithe for the Kohen, why doesn’t the Kohen have to separate a tithe to someone higher?! To the Altar, or to another Kohen?

But the answer is that the Kohen receives his portion not from the people or from the Levi’im but from the Altar — therefore it would be inappropriate for him to tithe in return. The Levi’im do receive their portion from the people so they must tithe and elevate an offering to the Kohanim.

* * *

4. The central theme of the days of the 12th and 13th of Tammuz is to unify and Jews in matters of Torah and Yiddishkeit. In his letter the Previous Rebbe had stressed that the liberation was not personal, rather it included all Jews who held Torah precious and anyone called by the name “Jew.” The Rebbe also stressed this idea of unity in the Chassidic discourse (Maamar) which he issued for the 12th of Tammuz on the following year.

Since all aspects of the liberation of the 12th of Tammuz began on the third of Tammuz it would also apply to this theme. This relates specifically to the group of guests, men and women, who have come here for this Shabbos. They have undergone the weariness of the way in order to spend the Shabbos of the third of Tammuz in this synagogue and study hall, in the precincts where the Previous Rebbe lived and prayed during the last ten years of his worldly existence.

When Jews gather together from different places and different backgrounds, in order to strengthen Torah and Yiddishkeit this is a true expression of Jewish unity. And it applies to women as well as to men. For the Alter Rebbe rules in Laws of Torah Study, chapter 1:

Women must also study those halachos which pertain to them and which they must know, such as the laws of niddah and ritual immersion, salting meat, the prohibition against seclusion and similar laws; all positive commandments not connected with a time limitation, all negative commandments, Scriptural or Rabbinic; for in these her prohibition is equal to men.

Additionally, woman should learn Chassidic philosophy in following the dictum “Know the G‑d of your father,” and so that they will achieve love and fear of G‑d, which all Jews are always responsible for.

To connect this with a physical action I will give a bottle for the guests who will certainly say LeChaim. And may this physical drink be transformed into the spiritual strength to encourage more Torah and mitzvos from now on and throughout the entire year, to go higher in matters of holiness.

[The Rebbe poured from the bottle for Rabbi Hershel Greenberg and then gave the bottle to Rabbi Gurary of Buffalo, New York.]