1. In speaking of the many qualities of Shabbos the Zohar states: “For all the six days receive blessing from the seventh.” (Zohar II 63b) The Shabbos radiates and bestows blessing on the following six days. By saying that all the following days are blessed, it is clear that even special days are included.

There are certain days of the month which enjoy special, higher qualities and possess unique attributes associated with, or dependent upon, the days of the month. The preceding Shabbos may not have that particular quality, hence it would appear that Shabbos has no relationship to that special day. However, Torah tells us that there definitely is a connection and that Shabbos raises even the special days of the month, which indicates for us that Shabbos itself has a loftier aspect enabling it to bless the coming special days. When a bridegroom is called to the Torah on the Shabbos before the wedding, it generates a loftier blessing into the wedding day and the marriage itself. Ostensibly, there was no connection between the wedding and the Shabbos; still if it took place this week, there is a connection and the Shabbos raises it.

So, too, the Shabbos before the 12th and 13th of Tammuz. The 12th and 13th of Tammuz are special days not only because the Previous Rebbe was freed from incarceration, but also, as the Rebbe wrote in his epistle the following year:

Not only was I redeemed by the Holy One, Blessed be He, on the 12th of Tammuz, but also all those who hold our holy Torah precious, who observe mitzvos and even those who are called by the name “Jew.”

He included every Jew, even one in the far flung corners of the world, physically or spiritually.

In speaking of the importance of this day of liberation, the 12th of Tammuz, we should keep in mind that the Previous Rebbe referred to the holiday of liberation of the Alter Rebbe — the 19th of Kislev — as the “Holiday of Holidays.” This same term was applied to the 12th of Tammuz. This would be consistent with the fact that the Previous Rebbe was in fact the successor to the Alter Rebbe (sixth generation) and as such all aspects of succession apply.

When we remember that these special days, the 12th and 13th of Tammuz, occur this week and this Shabbos extends its blessing to those special days, we can then understand that this Shabbos is special, for it has the ability to bless the 12th and 13th of Tammuz. Since “Practice is the essential thing,” (Avos 1:17) what practical lesson do we derive from this?

The theme of the 12th and 13th of Tammuz is renewed each year, and we have the responsibility to increase and add our efforts to strengthen all areas of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit, which was the request of the Previous Rebbe. This increase must be accompanied by advancement with greater strength and more vigor.

The preparation for this activity must take place in the preceding Shabbos, for from the Shabbos the blessing will radiate to all aspects of the day of liberation. Therefore it behooves us to utilize this intensity of blessing to increase our Divine service on the 12th and 13th of Tammuz, to reach greater heights than ever before.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that Divine Providence applies to every minute detail, which would indicate that we can learn something from every detail. The fact that this Shabbos occurs on the 10th of Tammuz also bears a lesson for us.

First of all the Torah teaches us that, “The tenth shall be holy to the L‑rd,” (Vayikra 27:32) and although that teaching applies in a certain context, nevertheless it may be extrapolated to other areas where the tenth will similarly be given the quality of holiness.

Being that the Previous Rebbe encouraged and spread the practice of reciting Tehillim daily according to the monthly division, we may look to the first chapter of the tenth day section in Tehillim, where we find the verse: “He has delivered (redeemed) my soul in peace....” (Tehillim 55:19) Here we have the clear connection between Shabbos and the days of liberation that will come during the week. By reciting this verse of redemption on this Shabbos we generate a new force of liberation which radiates forth to bless the days of the week and the 12th and 13th of Tammuz.

Chassidus emphasizes the point that the liberation referred to in this verse was a “peaceful redemption” and that the enemies were transformed into allies. As the Yerushalmi explains, on the words, “For there were many that strove with me” — even the cohorts of Avshalom prayed for Dovid’s victory! Similarly those who had slandered the Rebbe were forced to agree with the decision to free him.

May G‑d grant that everyone should receive the necessary blessings and powers radiated on this Shabbos which precedes the 12th and 13th of Tammuz. And it should invigorate us to be involved in all the areas of Divine service described in the Previous Rebbe’s letter.

May it bring us to the ultimate fulfillment of “He has redeemed my soul in peace,” meaning the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach. May it be soon and immediate: “Come with the clouds of heaven.” (Daniel 7:13) And by increasing our efforts to fulfill the Rebbe’s legacy, Mashiach will be “hastened.” (see Sanhedrin 98a)

And since Mashiach is coming — it will not be necessary for the 17th of Tammuz fast day to be postponed to Sunday. Because as the Rambam writes:

All the fast days mentioned above are destined to be abolished in the time of Mashiach; indeed, they are destined to be turned into festive days, days of rejoicing and gladness, in accordance with the verse: “the fast of the fourth month ... shall be to the house of Yehudah joy and gladness, and cheerful seasons; therefore love ye truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:19) (Rambam Laws of Fast Days 5:19)

2. The Gemara explains that Torah has many facets:

Just as a hammer breaks the rock to many pieces, so too, the words of Torah are broken up into many sparks. (Shabbos 88b; according to first edition)

Similarly, the world mirrors the Torah. As the Zohar tells us:

The Holy One, Blessed be He, looked into the Torah and created the world. (Zohar II 161b)

This adage of the Zohar should be understood literally in the following manner. When G‑d looked into the Torah (which existed before the world was created) and saw the words: “G‑d said, ‘there shall be light,’” (Bereishis 1:3) at that point G‑d created the light. Similarly, all creations were made by G‑d after first looking into Torah.

Consequently, every aspect of existence has in it the multifariousness of Torah. This Shabbos too, has many aspects in its role as the Shabbos preceding the 12th and 13th of Tammuz, and in occurring on the 10th of Tammuz.

This Shabbos we read the portion Chukas and first and foremost we should look for the general theme of this portion. The name Chukas clearly indicates an aspect of Torah which applies to all Jews alike — without distinction, for it is beyond reason and knowledge, as the Midrash states:

I have laid down a statute (Chukah), I have issued a decree. (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:1)

And as Rashi explains at the outset of this portion: “I have decreed it and you have no right to criticize it.” (Yoma 67b)

This points up the relationship between this Torah portion and the tribulations of the Rebbe. Was there any reason for the Rebbe to suffer so much torment? It makes no sense!

So you will answer that the general rule in creation is that the descent is for the purpose of ascending. But that does not really answer the question. For everyone understands and will agree that one does not inflict pain on a loved one! How could the Rebbe have been made to suffer so much?!

Clearly this concept is not so simple to understand. It is therefore better to say that it was a Divine decree (chukah) and we have no right to criticize it, for we frankly do not comprehend it.

Generally when we speak of a statute in Torah we are referring to a level of observance which demands Divine service that transcends reason and knowledge; it involves self-sacrifice and acceptance of the yoke of heaven. In other words, the individual fulfills this statute because it is the express command of the Holy One, Blessed be He — “I have laid down a statute, I have issued a decree.”

Paradoxically, in such a case the Jew does not fulfill this mitzvah as if he were forced, i.e. his intellect questions the necessity of the mitzvah, but still he does it. On the contrary — he allows no questionable thoughts, doubts or criticisms to enter his mind. G‑d said, “You have no right to criticize,” he knows that it is the express decree of G‑d and he cannot fathom the true essence of G‑d’s wisdom. Therefore, he finds no contradiction in doing something superlogical with enthusiasm, joy and gladness of heart.

There is another point which is often overlooked. When the Gemara says: “You have no right (reshus) to criticize (doubt) it,” it would seem that we are prohibited from doubting or criticizing, and the language is absolute — not only must you accept — you have no right to even question!

Yet in Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah we find:

Free will is bestowed on every human being. If one desires to turn towards the good way and be righteous, he has the power to do so. If one wishes to turn towards the evil way and be wicked he is at liberty to do so. (Laws of Teshuvah 5:1)

Thus, the Rambam uses the precise word “reshus” (right — free will, power, liberty) and says that the principle of free will places the reshus at your doorstep, you can choose what you like.

Now when the Gemara says, “You don’t have the right (reshus),” it must mean that here this statute is not given to your free will to choose! You do not have the ability to question the statute. What can this mean?

The explanation is that when a Jew hears that a certain mitzvah is the express decree of G‑d, “I have laid down astatute,” by his nature the Jew will not doubt. He doesn’t have to make a free will decision to accept, his nature will tend to accept it and do it.

Now, if despite this natural tendency to accept the decrees of G‑d he still harbors questionable thoughts and doubts, it must be said that these thoughts are not from his existence — not even from his animal soul. It must purely be a fabrication of the evil inclination which has clothed itself in his animal soul. The Rambam refers to this when he says: “His evil inclination has overwhelmed him,” (Laws of Divorce 2:20) it is a form of coercion.

Consequently, the Divine service that we stress in this week of Chukas is to approach the work of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit as a Chukah — using self-sacrifice, this will nullify and obliterate any obstacles and restrictions of the intellect. For there is no room for questions here, G‑d decreed and we must do it with joy and enthusiasm.

This concept will apply to every Jew — scholar and simple Jew alike. In fact, for the average Jew it is not so difficult to accept the superrational statute. He admits more readily that there are mitzvos which he does not understand; his intellect is very limited and he realizes that he must observe the mitzvos despite his intellectual shortcomings. So he has no questions and no contradictions; and he performs the mitzvos.

The intellectual Jew normally finds reason and meaning in all aspects of Torah — and having studied Chassidic philosophy he even has an explanation for all the contradictions of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer). For him it is harder to do the mitzvah because it is a decree!! So it is harder to evoke Divine service on the level of self-sacrifice and acceptance of the yoke — something which comes naturally to the non-scholarly Jew.

There is a story told of a Chassid who once came to the Tzemach Tzedek and complained that, “I don’t feel like learning Torah.” The Tzemach Tzedek responded that when one is not inclined to learn that is good, for then he can activate the power of bending himself to study. “What should I do, when I learn I even enjoy it, what sort of Divine service is it for me?”!

Similarly when we speak of serving G‑d with joy, the scholar who finds joy in his intellectual accomplishments will lack the same gladness when he must perform a mitzvah purely as a decree. It is a “decree” for him to observe a mitzvah only by acceptance. So in such a situation he is normally not happy, whereas the simple Jew will be just as happy, for he realizes that he could not understand, so he performs the mitzvah with joy.

3. Regarding today’s date, the 10th of Tammuz, we find in “Sefer Dvar Yom B’Yomo” that on the 10th of Tammuz Noach opened the ark and sent out the raven and that it was a Shabbos. His purpose was to test whether the land was dry. This needs some explanation.

Being that Noach entered the ark at the specific behest of the Holy One, Blessed be He, he should simply have waited for G‑d’s order to leave the ark. In fact of course, that is exactly what happened:

G‑d spoke to Noach, saying: “Leave the ark,” ... Noach left the ark.... (Bereishis 8:15-19)

Why did Noach deem it necessary to send out birds to test the dryness — in the end he did not leave the ark and he waited for G‑d’s command anyway?

The answer is that Noach was aware that the Holy One, Blessed be He, had placed upon his shoulders the responsibility of rebuilding the world order. Had not the Omnipresent One commanded him to build the ark, to gather “all the species of all flesh,” to stock the ark with all the necessary foods and supplies, and to care for the floating menagerie so that after the flood — after leaving the ark — the world would be repopulated?!

Realizing this grave mission, Noach also understood that it should be done in concert with natural law:

And G‑d your L‑rd will bless you in all you do. (Devarim 15:18)

So, no sooner did he have the slightest inkling that the earth might be dry, then he send out the blackbird to verify it — and then again, later, he sent out the dove.

And in truth, his desire to fulfill his G‑dly mission motivated G‑d to speed up the day when he was told to disembark from the ark.

What does this teach us?

The flood (mabul) represents all aspects of the world which interfere with our Divine service. What is the remedy? “Come into the ark.” The Baal Shem Tov taught that the word for “ark” in Hebrew is “taiva” which is a homonym for “word.” A Jew must lock himself inside the “words” of Torah and prayer. And then he will be saved from the waters of the flood. At the same time he must also be concerned about all living things — he must elevate with himself all the good aspects of the world which he is in contact with. They must also become holy.

And yet he cannot be satisfied. His ultimate purpose is to influence the world outside the ark, which can happen only after the deluge. The flood effected a general purification of the world. As a result the person can start to rebuild the world and make it a place of habitation, a world in which the flood would not be necessary!

Although the actual work of renewing the world comes after the deluge, yet we see from Noach’s action that he was rushing things, to see if perhaps he could start a bit sooner?!

This lesson applies to the last period of the diaspora. For the galus is a form of “flood,” everything is mixed up; we don’t see the word of G‑d or the hand of G‑d in the phenomena of the world. We don’t realize that “the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Yeshayahu 6:3)

Can we see that the true existence of the world is to be a dwelling place for G‑dliness? On the contrary, what we see is:

They put darkness for light ... sweet for bitter. (Yeshayahu 5:20)

And yet, the deluge had to effect the ultimate purification, “and I will cause the spirit of tumah (impurity) to pass out of the land.” (Zechariah 13:2) Similarly the galus must refine the world and bring a new world which will negate the possibility of exile (flood).

So “Noach opened the window of the ark.” While we are yet in the galus, before the redemption, if that hoped-for time seems to be approaching, we must do whatever we can to speed things up, through man or beast. We can’t wait for G‑d to command us to leave the exile, we must do what we can.

True, the actual act of redemption will be a G‑dly move — still the Jew has the potential to show G‑d how badly we want, and we long, and we pine for the redemption — “We Want Mashiach Now” — this will speed up G‑d’s command to us to leave the exile. And we will proceed to the true and complete redemption.

This Shabbos which is between the 3rd of Tammuz and the 12th and 13th of Tammuz recalls the time when the Previous Rebbe was still in exile — and while still in galus, we must do whatever is in our power to bring the redemption.

Of course, we know that the Rebbe said that we will not leave the diaspora with our own power — nevertheless when G‑d sees Jews proclaiming, “We Want Mashiach Now,” this will speed up G‑d’s work to redeem the Jewish people from exile.

So may it be with us, let us go out of the diaspora to a new world and “a new Torah will go forth from Me” [the teachings of Mashiach]. May it come with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach speedily and truly in our days.

* * *

4. In approaching the Rashi commentary in this week’s portion we find a difficult Rashi. However, all the commentaries on Rashi discuss the apparent difficulty but fail to realize that there is a much more perplexing “klotz-kashe” on this Rashi.

On the verse:

And they journeyed from Ovos and they encamped at Eeyay Ha’avarim,” (Bamidbar 21:11)

Rashi writes under the heading:

At Eeyay Ha’avarim: I do not know why the name was called Eeyim for the term Ee signifies ruins; it is a thing (spot) that has been swept, as it were, with a broom. Only the single letter ‘E’ (Ayin) in it belongs to the root. It is connected in meaning with “Yaim” (Shmos 27:3) and “Ya’a” (Yeshayahu 28:17) “and the hail shall sweep away.” (Rashi loc. cit.)

The commentaries who discuss this Rashi all debate why Rashi says that this is a one-letter root (Ayin), why not include the letter Yud as part of the root?

But the five-year-old Chumash student has a “klotz-kashe” on Rashi’s whole approach; since when must Rashi explain the root of the name of a place? We have passed through dozens of geographical names prior to this, where Rashi does not seek the root of the word. In fact right here, in the same verse, Rashi ignores the place called “Ovos.” Nor does Rashi seek the root of the other places mentioned in these verses. Why does Rashi suddenly stop to consider the question, “Why was it called Eeyim?”

To explain Rashi we should also first note that there seems to be a contradiction in his words in this verse. Rashi mentions, “the term Ee signifies ruins,” while just before that he had said, “I do not know why the name was called Eeyim?” Does he know or does he not know?!

In reviewing the many sites where the Jewish people camped during their wanderings in the desert it would appear logical to say the majority of the sites chosen were suitable for long-term encampment. In a sense, they were “settled” areas [oases, vegetation, water etc.], unless the Torah said specifically the Sinai Desert or the Paran Desert!

When they came to Eeyay Ha’avarim, Rashi is faced with a contradiction, namely, that the word Ee means a ruin — but the Jews would not have camped at a site of a ruin! And if they did camp, it could not have been a ruin! So Rashi says “I do not know why it was called Eeyay.”

Another point becomes clear now in this Rashi. Normally Rashi separates his word meanings from his text commentary and he puts them under separate captions. In our case, for example, Rashi should have made two sentences, in one he should have explained the meaning of the word Ee and in the other he would tell us that there is a problem with the meaning of the name.

However now that we understand that the question on the name arises only from the usual meaning of the word, we may understand why Rashi joins both of these ideas together.

Rashi follows the assumption that a place for a potential camp site had to be a settled area. He then asks, if the word “Ee” normally means a place of ruins, why did they call that place Eeyay? So Rashi is presenting one thought, which obviously must be presented in one sentence, with one caption.

5. In a previous farbrengen a question was raised about Rashi’s commentary and although several possible answers were submitted to me, none was suitable within the system of Rashi’s interpretation.

The question was on the Rashi in Shelach, where Rashi discusses the fruits which the spies brought back from Eretz Yisrael:

Eight of the spies bore the cluster of grapes. One spy took the fig and one the pomegranate, but Yehoshua and Calev did not take anything, because the very essence of their (the other spies) intention was only to bring an evil report: “Just as its fruit is extraordinary (in size) so is its people extraordinary (in size).” (Rashi, Bamidbar 13:23)

When the spies were charged with their mission Moshe commanded them to “bring from the fruit of the land,” why did Yehoshua and Calev not comply with Moshe’s order? Despite the fact that the other ten had wrong intentions, Yehoshua and Calev could have pointed to the fruit and shown that it was a rich land, which “flowed milk and honey.”

In the same vein there is another pertinent paradox. On the verse: “Calev tried to quiet the people for Moshe,” (Ibid 13:30) Rashi explains:

He silenced them that they should hear what he was going to say about Moshe. He cried out aloud saying: “Has the son of Amram done only this to us?” One who heard him (thus speaking) believed that he was about to speak to his disparagement, and because they had something in their mind against Moshe through the spies’ statements, all of them kept silent to hear his disparagement. He, however, said: “Did he not divide the Red Sea for us and bring down the manna for us and collect the quails for us?!”

Later on in this same portion where the Torah speaks of Calev’s good intentions, Rashi elaborates:

To the spies he said, “I am with you in your counsel,” while in his heart he had (the intention) to tell the truth, and it was only on this account that he was able to silence the people as it is said, “Calev tried to silence the people for Moshe.” For they thought that he would say the same as themselves. (Ibid 14:24)

This reasoning is illogical. How could Calev have fooled the other spies into believing that he was of the same mind as they? When they took the fruit to use as a source of disparagement of the land, Calev and Yehoshua refused to take the fruit! It should have been evident to the others that he did not intend to join them in their slander of the land!

Similarly, how did the people misinterpret his intention and assume that he planned to speak more slander against Moshe, when they all saw that the other ten brought back fruit, and used it in a negative way, and Calev had not carried any fruit?! Certainly he was not of one mind with them! Furthermore, the spies surely would have called out to the people, that he was not one of them and should not be given the chance to speak.

In discussing the motives of Calev and Yehoshua, in not taking the fruit of Eretz Yisrael we precipitate another question in our parshah, Chukas.

When Miriam died, the miracle-well dried up. In desperation the people came to Moshe and complained:

Why did you take us out of Egypt and bring us to this terrible place? It is an area where there are no plants (grain), figs, grapes, or pomegranates, [now] there is not even any water to drink. (Ibid 20:5)

In their argument the people presented two points: firstly, that no grain could grow in that place, thus they could not have bread, the staff of life, and secondly, there was also no fruit such as figs, grapes and pomegranates. They stressed first that the essentials of life could not be had — the grains — and certainly the pleasures of life were not available — the fruits. Their complaint pointed that this was the opposite of what he had promised them, a rich and good land.

The question begs to be asked. Since they referred to both grains and fruits and clearly they had in mind the promise of the “seven kinds” which would be abundant in Eretz Yisrael, why did they mention only figs, grapes and pomegranates? The Torah includes dates (honey) and olives (oil) in the list of promised fruits.

This will bring us to the key which will reveal the reason Yehoshua and Calev did not carry any fruit. Just as the Jews demanded figs, grapes and pomegranates, the spies only had to carry a bunch of grapes (eight spies carried one bunch), one fig (one spy) and one pomegranate (one spy); there was no need to carry any more!

When Moshe told the spies: “bring back some of the land’s fruit” (13:20) his intention was in order to show their superior quality to the people. In fact, all the spies admitted to the richness of the land when they said:

We came to the land where you sent us and it is indeed flowing with milk and honey, as you can see from its fruits. (Ibid 13:27)

But this indicates another point, that the purpose was to bring back fruits which would evoke extreme amazement among the people. This would occur if the kind of fruit would be something exotic, which they rarely, if ever, had or saw before. The hoped-for impact would not result from showing common fruit which was just larger than normal.

That is why, in conforming with Moshe’s directive, they brought only a bunch of grapes, a fig and a pomegranate. These fruits were rare or non-existent in the experience of the Jews and would engender gasps of amazement and wonder when they would be exhibited upon their return. There was no need to carry back wheat, barley, olives, or dates from Eretz Yisrael for despite their great size they were common to the people in the desert.

The five-year-old Chumash student already knows that by this point the other four kinds were familiar to the Jews. How so? Wheat and barley they had in Egypt. So much so that for a time Egypt had been the bread basket of the world as we know from Chumash Bereishis.

What about the olive and its oil? The olive is bitter and if it had been brought as a sample of the good fruits, one taste would have ruined that theory. The oil of olives, on the other hand, is referred to several times in Chumash Shmos and again here in Behaaloscha, regarding the lighting of the Menorah — so they already had abundant olive oil in the desert which they no doubt bought from passing caravans.

Now, dates are sweet and tasty and they satisfy, why were they not brought? The answer:

Then they came to Elim, here there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms. (Shmos 15:27)

They had dates in the desert!

We may now interpret all the verses we questioned and clarify all the contradictions. The spies were told only to bring a bunch of grapes, a fig and a pomegranate, exotic fruits which would amaze the people. Well, eight spies took the grapes, one spy carried the fig and one took the pomegranate; it is quite obvious that there was simply nothing left for Yehoshua and Calev. (Moshe’s directive to bring back fruit, was not an individual command to each spy, rather it was a collective mission.)

Now it becomes clear why the other spies did not suspect Calev of duplicity. He did not help them carry fruit because there was nothing else to carry! So they did not question his assurance to them that he was with them, despite the fact that he didn’t carry any fruit.

It now falls to Rashi to elaborate and explain just why Yehoshua, the disciple of Moshe, and Calev, the Prince of Yehudah, were not zealous to fulfill Moshe’s request and grab the fruit first, before the others — in order to bring them back and show them to the people.

So Rashi says that when Yehoshua and Calev realized that the intention of the others was to use the fruit in a detrimental fashion, they drew back and did not rush to be part of the plan. As it worked out there was nothing more for them to carry, so their motive was not suspected by the other spies.

With this in mind, the arguments of the people against Moshe, in this portion — Chukas — also becomes clear:

It is an area where there are no plants (grains), figs, grapes or pomegranates.

First they complained why they were taken out of the land of Egypt which was a place of grain. Additionally they complained that they had been promised a good, rich land where they would find new exotic fruits like grapes, figs and pomegranates; instead, they were in a desolate wasteland which did not have either the grain or those fruits. Why didn’t they complain that they didn’t have olives and dates? — because they did have olive oil and they did have dates.