1. The Previous Rebbe instituted the practice of gathering for a Chassidic farbrengen on every Shabbos Mevarchim.

The importance of a Chassidic gathering was first verbalized by the Alter Rebbe in his adage: “A Chassidic farbrengen has the power to accomplish more than the angel Michael.” This basic quality pertains to any farbrengen at any time.

When a farbrengen is held on Shabbos, it acquires the added blessings of Shabbos: “For the six days receive blessing from the seventh” (Zohar II 63b). Shabbos Mevarchim bestows blessing on the entire month, as described in the language of the Blessing for the New Month (see Siddur). As such, the farbrengen held on Shabbos Mevarchim is endowed with even greater blessing.

Now add to these factors the element of a rule instituted by the Nasi of our generation:

To institute that every Shabbos Mevarchim shall be a time of (Chassidic) gathering,

and since “The Nasi is the whole” (Rashi, Bamidbar 21:21); his power supercharges the Farbrengen with additional vigor and majesty.

What is the substance and goal of a Chassidic farbrengen? To accept good resolutions, to strengthen and increase all aspects of Torah and mitzvos, to disseminate Torah, Yiddishkeit and all matters of holiness and good deeds — as the Previous Rebbe explained numerous times. Above all, that all these resolutions should be acted upon — “Practice is the essential thing” (Avos 1:17). In this context, we, the participants in the farbrengen, also merit a tremendous increase in all aspects of blessing. As the Previous Rebbe wrote:

Stand together ready ... to receive the blessing of the Eternal ... which the Holy One, Blessed be He, will bestow upon you and us ... children, life and sustenance, [all] in abundance. (Letters, Vol. 4 P. 279)

Having touched on the general theme of the farbrengens of Shabbos Mevarchim, we should also note the specific theme of Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av, which always occurs in Tammuz, the month of liberation of the Previous Rebbe.

It is self-evident that the Nasi’s power is transmitted to us in greater measure in his month of liberation. The farbrengen of Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av is the only one of the year which occurs in this month, and since the theme of his liberation is congruous to the theme of the farbrengen, to strengthen and spread Torah and Yiddishkeit, his beneficial influence is most strongly felt in this setting, on this day.

We have spoken of the bountiful influence of the theme of liberation on today’s farbrengen. There is also a connection and enrichment from the liberation of the Previous Rebbe to the general theme of Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av, which is radiated into the entire month.

What is the context of the month of Menachem Av?

The Yalkut writes:

The lion (ari) arose in the constellation lion (ari) and destroyed the Ariel (Beis HaMikdash). The lion arose — that is Nevuchadnetzer, as it is said: “The lion (Nevuchadnetzer) is come up from its thicket” (Yirmeyahu 4:7); in the constellation lion “to the carrying away of Yerushalayim captive in the fifth month (Menachem Av)” (Ibid. 1:3); and destroyed Ariel — “Ho Ariel, Ariel, (Yerushalayim) the city where Dovid encamped” (Yeshayahu 29:1). (Yalkut on Yirmeyahu, Remez 259)

The Yalkut then goes on to explain that the intention is:

So that the Lion (aryeh) will come in the constellation lion (aryeh) and rebuild Ariel. The Lion will come — that is the Holy One, Blessed be He, as it is written: “The Lion has roared who will not fear...” (Amos 3:8); in the constellation lion — “For I will turn their mourning (the month of Menachem Av) to joy” (Yirmeyahu 31:12); and He will rebuild Ariel — “The L‑rd is the rebuilder of Yerushalayim; He will gather the dispersed of Israel” (Tehillim 147:2). (Ibid.)

The theme of Menachem Av is that the true and complete redemption should come, through our righteous Mashiach, which gives special meaning to the text of the Blessing of the New Month:

.. for gladness and for joy, for deliverance and for consolation ... (Siddur, Blessing for New Month)

Now do you see the connection — the deliverance of the Nasi of our generation in the month of Tammuz bestows the blessing on the month of Av. All redemptions are related, and especially the liberation of the leader of the generation, with the ultimate redemption.

The main thrust of the Previous Rebbe’s work was to bring the Messianic redemption closer, as he announced and publicized in 1941: “Immediate repentance — immediate redemption.” It was his approach to “immediate repentance-redemption,” which creates the preparatory stages of the redemption of Menachem Av. This influence of the Previous Rebbe’s month of redemption on the power of redemption of the month of Av is something that began in the past, continues into the present, and will go on into the future.

As his descendants are alive, so he too is alive. (Taanis 5b)

This has also influenced our motto “We Want Mashiach Now”; it is the continuation of “Immediate repentance — immediate redemption.” Just as the leadership of Moshe our teacher, the first Nasi, will be reestablished in the time of Mashiach, so too will the leadership of our Nasi be reaffirmed in the days of Mashiach, and it will not be in competition or opposition to the leadership of Mashiach. On the contrary, the role of Nasi will exist for all who once carried the title.

There is another theme to this Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av, that it falls on the Shabbos when we read Parshas Pinchas. Targum Yonason says: “Pinchas, he is Eliyahu” (Vaeira 6:18). In making a comparative statement of this sort the latter person, namely Eliyahu, should be mentioned first to indicate that he is really one and same as a person who lived earlier, namely Pinchas. Why is Pinchas’ name put first? Because there is a special symbolism in the redemption (geulah), which Pinchas accomplished as it metamorphoses into the future geulah of Eliyahu.

How and when did Pinchas become a Kohen?

Pinchas ... turned My anger away ... zealously took up My cause ... Therefore tell him that I have given him the covenant of peace. This shall imply a covenant of eternal Kehunah to him and his descendants after him ... because he zealously took up G‑d’s cause.... (Bamidbar 25:11-13)

And as Rashi brings:

Pinchas did not become a Kohen until he had slain Zimri. (Rashi loc. cit.)

Thus his power of Kehunah — and his power of redemption (the people were saved through his actions) — came from the act of converting something bad to good; he received the covenant of Kehunah because he zealously took up G‑d’s cause and turned away the anger.

Consequently on this Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av, let us emphasize the aspect of geulah — redemption and liberation, and let us increase all activities that will bring closer that deliverance; “Immediate redemption” — “Now.”

At this juncture those who seek a pretext will come along and say, that the Previous Rebbe disseminated his call so many years ago and Mashiach still has not come — if so, his words “immediate” are not so immediate?! And they present this argument with gusto! Woe unto them, that their personal state of destruction (galus — exile) is so dismal.

The truth is, that when He said “Immediate repentance — immediate redemption,” he meant it! His intention was to bring the redemption immediately. But because of our transgressions we were not worthy. A year later, the Rebbe again proclaimed the same call, always stressing the immediacy of his pleas. Similarly, we too, today fully mean our call of “Mashiach Now!”

“But,” you say, “first there must be teshuvah.” Teshuvah takes only a split second!

Teshuvah means that you sincerely accept upon yourself the fulfillment of all Torah and mitzvos; all Torah is one unit, not many disparate and disjoined parts, therefore the acceptance of Torah is not time consuming, but instantaneous.

In Halachah we find this case clearly applied:

If one betroths a woman “... on the understanding that I am a righteous man,” she is betrothed, even if he is absolutely wicked, for he may have meditated repentance in his thoughts.” (Kiddushin 49b)

We see that thoughts of repentance can instantaneously convert the person from wicked to righteous!

[In that case of course the Rambam rules the betrothal is in doubt, because the Beis Din cannot actually know his thoughts.]

Our thoughts are revealed to G‑d — so the “Immediate repentance” does not cause any delay to the “Immediate redemption”! It can be at any moment. And if you feel that this rule of instantaneous righteousness will apply only to an individual Jew and not to a community, then remember the Rambam’s rule:

If he fulfills one mitzvah [in action, speech, or thought] he turns the scale of merit in his favor and in that of the whole world and brings salvation and deliverance to all his fellow creatures and to himself. (Laws of Teshuvah 3:4)

Let all of these doubts be put out of your mind for they came from the side of evil — and accept the call of the Rebbe “Immediate repentance — immediate redemption, Now.”

What lesson do we garner and how do we apply it? for, “Not study, but practice is the essential thing” (Avos 1:17).

On this Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av we must undertake an increase in all activities which will bring the ultimate, true redemption closer. Good resolutions and intentions by themselves are not enough, there must also be action. So you might ask, “Can there be action on Shabbos? All your work is done!”

Moreso, regarding speech there is also an injunction on Shabbos, as the Rambam rules: “One’s conversation on the Shabbos should not be the same as on the weekdays” (Laws of Shabbos 24:4). This restriction on speech is also explained in Tanya, on a more inward level, that there must be:

.. refraining from speech about material affairs, as G‑d ceased from the Ten Utterances through which physical heaven and earth were created. (Kuntreis Acharon, end)

According to these sources it would seem that for Shabbos, good intentions should suffice, and there should be no need for action.

Therefore, right at the outset, we must negate this supposition, because if Shabbos bestows a blessing on the weekdays in all aspects including action — it must include action in itself!

Proof? Oneg Shabbos — the pleasures of Shabbos cannot be satisfied by spiritual activity, you cannot fulfill the mitzvah of eating, drinking, sleeping by thinking!

For this reason the Shulchan Aruch rules:

One is not permitted to fast on Shabbos even for repentance or piety. And even if it brings him pleasure. He may not exchange the actual pleasure of eating three meals established by the sages for a different [non-physical] pleasure. (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 288:2)

It is clear that on Shabbos there is a definite emphasis on physical pleasure in real terms; Oneg Shabbos must be done!

Another proof that Shabbos includes action — the six workdays receive their blessing from Shabbos. How can Shabbos extend a blessing to the work of the weekdays if it lacks action itself?

Although you might respond, that since the source of the actual blessing is always from the root and source of the recipient, so when Shabbos blesses the action week it draws the blessing from the spiritual source of the work week — and not necessarily from Shabbos itself, still, the one who bestows the blessing must have some relationship with the substance of the blessing in order to draw it down to the recipient. One can study the laws of agriculture and the laws of Diverse Kinds; about bending a grape vine down to the earth, but if he never worked in the field, he will not know what to do.

If the blessing of Shabbos is to influence the actual work of the weekdays, it is not sufficient to relate to the spiritual source of work, nor to the “thought” about work, there must be attributes of action pertaining to Shabbos.

How? Simply.

Those actions which are connected to the good resolutions, that are permitted, should be done on Shabbos. Regarding the actions which are not permitted, then the resolution must take on the aspect of “action.” “How can thought be action?” asks the philosopher who continues to challenge. The answer is that in fact this is the case even though we cannot find a rational explanation. [As the Chassidic sages used to say when they stretched the limits of the mind, but still “knew” it was so:] “Thus, is truly the case,” whether you understand it or not.

Of course, after Shabbos the resolution must actually be carried out. For example, when we speak of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit and reaching out to encourage those who are far away, to approach closer one cannot say “I will study about it!” studying will not save the foundering Jewish souls!

Similarly, he might say, that we find that studying about the Beis HaMikdash is considered as if he is involved in the construction. So why not apply the same rule here? That rule applies only when there is no choice, for we are not free to build the Beis HaMikdash!

Being that “We may attend to communal matters on Shabbos” (Shabbos 150a), it is clear that we must speak on Shabbos even about those matters which may not be done today but which must be done as soon as Shabbos is over. And to those who think that I am talking too long on this one subject, they should know, that what I speak now is only a small part of the many words which need to be said about this matter!

The main thing is that through this action we will effect the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Mashiach, “Immediately redeemed” — Now!

* * *

2. In the section of Shevi’i, the seventh reading section of today’s portion, Pinchas, the Torah speaks of the holiday sacrifices, and concludes by telling us:

[All] these are what you must present to G‑d on your festivals (bemoadaichem) ... Moshe spoke to the Israelites [telling them] all that G‑d had commanded him. (Bamidbar 29:39-30:1)

Thus, all the sacrifices discussed in great detail earlier in the portion are included and summarized in the last few sentences, emphasizing the quality of the holidays with more vigor. In the last verse Moshe relates all the commands of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to the people.

At the beginning of the chapter of communal sacrifices the Torah tells us:

Be careful to offer My fire-offering food sacrifice to Me in its proper time (bemoado) as My appeasing fragrance. (Ibid 28:2)

It would appear from the context (and the term bemoado) that this verse speaks of the festival sacrifices, nevertheless, Rashi clearly states that here the word “bemoado” (in its time) means that each day there is a time of sacrifice.

If so, the word “bemoadaichem” used at the end of the portion, which serves as a summary of all the holiday sacrifices, will also include the daily sacrifices, and the daily sacrifices can then be considered “festival” sacrifices, having used the same term.

In 1927, the year the Previous Rebbe was arrested and liberated, this portion was read on the Shabbos immediately following the 12th and 13th of Tammuz.

This symbolizes that the 12th and 13th of Tammuz are associated with the festivals and although work is not prohibited, they are not simple weekdays. Even moreso, they represent the general theme of the holidays.

The Previous Rebbe, of course, encouraged the custom of studying Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya, every day. Let us therefore also look to today’s Tehillim section, which includes the chapters of Hallel (113-118).

The Talmud says that one may not say Hallel every day. Hallel may be recited only for revealed miracles — and although in all times and all places miraculous events take place, yet they are hidden, and we are not conscious of them. And although the true wonder is known to G‑d — we don’t say Hallel unless the miracle is known to all.

On the 12th and 13th of Tammuz a miracle took place that was open and revealed to all, for which the blessing HaGomel (Blessed ... who bestows beneficences upon the culpable) had to be recited. HaGomel is a form of Hallel, praise and thanks, and in a sense it is also a recognition of a supernatural occurrence.

Beyond all understanding, a miracle happened, which has no logical explanation, so, we offer praise and “accept” — the supralogical, miraculous event. Therefore, today, by reading the section of Hallel in Tehillim we evoke and magnify the theme of the 12th and 13th of Tammuz.

Standing in this last Shabbos of Tammuz, and having read the Torah and Tehillim portions of the day which related to the holiday of liberation of the 12th and 13th day of Tammuz, we must increase our efforts in the aspects of Divine service which the Previous Rebbe exhorted us to do. Spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit.

We have the opportunity to accomplish this especially through the Mivtzoim: Ahavas Yisrael — love of fellow Jews and Jewish unity, Jewish education, Torah, tefillin, mezuzah, tzedakah, holy books at home, candle lighting before Shabbos and Yom-Tov, Kashrus, family purity, Jewish unity through writing the communal Sefer Torahs, studying the daily portion of Rambam; and through these, it will bring to the observance of all Torah and mitzvos.

There is an additional lesson regarding the individual approach to these Mivtzoim and to Torah. (A) Our efforts must be geared to go beyond our immediate limitations, just as the praise of Hallel extols occurrences beyond our comprehension. (B) Do not differentiate or categorize your activities; all should be done with the same enthusiasm, for they all have the aspect of “bemoadaichem” — to bring the ultimate redemption. Similarly, it applies to everyone. For as the Rebbe wrote in his letter: “Not only I was redeemed by the Holy One, Blessed be He, but also anyone called ‘Jew’....”

There are many who have never heard of the arrest and liberation of the Previous Rebbe. This is true not only for Jews who live at the end of the world, but even among Jews living right here in New York. No criticism intended — they are the “children who were captured and raised among the goyim” (Rambam, Laws of Rebels 3:3), they need only be told!

This concept of associating with an event that did not occur personally with us is also found in Halachah.

(A) In the laws of Purim.

It happened in our history that there were far-flung Jewish communities which had not heard of the miracle of Purim and they had never celebrated the holiday. When eventually they did learn all the details of the story of Purim they began to observe the holiday properly, including the Megillah reading, and the blessing: “You have performed miracles,” (even though their ancestors had never been in Shushan and never heard of the miracle that had happened to their brethren.)

(B) The Shulchan Aruch rules:

One must recite the blessing for a miracle that occurred with his teacher just as with his father. (Shulchan Aruch 218:6)

For a teacher is considered as a father. The Gemara says:

He who teaches the son of his neighbor Torah Scripture ascribes it to him as if he had begotten him. (Sanhedrin 19b)

Now just as in the laws of blessing for a miracle, the rule is that even children (and grandchildren) born after the miracle occurred must also say the blessing (“Who performed a miracle for our father ...”). Similarly, when one becomes a disciple after the miracle occurred for the teacher, he must still celebrate the miracle of liberation (say the blessing).

So, even those who previously had no apparent connection to the Tzaddik — from now on, they can have an association by following the way of the teacher and their connection is similar even to a disciple who was imprisoned together with the teacher. They both recite the blessing for the teacher’s miracle first.

And if there should be some individual who demurs and is not interested in this association and argues that even if it be a good thing, nevertheless he is not ready for it, and he refuses the honor, the answer to this attitude must be — don’t misinterpret the relationship. We don’t have to give or bestow anything on this person! It is his thing! The fact is that every Jew, no matter what his place, position or calling, whether he knows it, or wants it, has the connection. And just as in the case of the holidays, they automatically apply to everyone, by virtue of the fact that they are Jews. So, too, the holiday of the 12th-13th of Tammuz applies to everyone as the Rebbe wrote in his epistle.

In order to flesh out all the aspects of this association it is still necessary to find him and relate to him, or her, the full story of the arrest and liberation of the Nasi of our generation, and by encouraging and motivating them to observe Torah and mitzvos it will bring their redemption to them as individuals and to the Jewish people in general, through our righteous Mashiach.

* * *

3. In dealing with the personal Divine service expected from the individual we find that the Rebbe took much of the work upon himself. In his letter he writes that we should “stand together” ready to receive the blessing; clearly he has done the work, we must only be united to get the reward.

Does such a system exist elsewhere in mitzvah observance? There is an interesting Midrash on the verse in Iyov:

It is the Holy Spirit that says: “Who has given Me anything beforehand? Yet I shall repay him” (Iyov 41:3). Who offered praise to Me before I gave him a soul ... who made a mezuzah for My sake before I gave him a house.... Who made fringes for My sake before I gave him a garment.... (Vayikra Rabbah 27:2)

We can do the mitzvah only because G‑d gives us an opportunity in a bountiful manner. Nevertheless we merit reward for our performing the simple act of mezuzah, tzitzis, etc.

This thought can be carried further in the case of tzedakah.

Jewish philosophy considers the principle that the money which someone donates to a poor person as charity — really belongs to the poor person. These funds were placed in the possession of the “benefactor” as a keepsake on the condition to be “returned” to the poor person. In a sense the money is not his! On the other hand, Torah admits that the funds do belong to him, he may use it at his discretion — it may be used to effect Kiddushin — betrothal of a woman. He may give a half-shekel as his tithe and half the shekel as tzedakah; both halves belong to him until given.

What important point do we derive from this? That the force and ability, the power and potential are given from above. And in our case, the power comes from the Rebbe. Despite this, the action must be carried out by the individual. Let not the person imagine that he is so powerful or wise, that the power is his; it is bestowed from above! He becomes the conduit for the action.

In an analogous fashion, the orderly Divine service, which occupies a Jew in the temporal world, in the period of diaspora, serves as a trigger to precipitate the infinite aspects of the world to come. They are beyond all comparison and yet they are connected. A paradox, but a fact.

In speaking of the future, the time of Mashiach, we find their two vastly different aspects coming in tandem.

Rambam writes:

In that era ... Israelites will be very wise, they will know the things that are now concealed and will attain an understanding of their Creator....

and then he concludes:

to the utmost capacity of the human mind. (Laws of Kings 12:5)

What does the Rambam mean? Is this not a diminution, a restriction relative to the aforementioned great revelation?

But evidently the Rambam wants to tell us specifically this, that all the great levels that will be attained will still relate to human power.

The Creator, hence, knowledge of the Creator, is essentially infinite — but man is finite — Torah says that man is finite. [The laws of mikveh teach that man is of a certain measurement, the average person can be covered in 40 “se’ah” of water.] So the Rambam projects that in the future our grasp and apprehension of G‑d and will be within the powers of human reach.

The Rambam then goes on to complete the halachah and he quotes the verse:

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

This term, “as the waters cover the sea,” indicates a revelation of G‑dly knowledge which is above and beyond the limitation and restriction of the vessels, or powers of his intellect. For the “keli” the vessel will not only be filled, it will run over and it will be covered completely. At this point we must take care to properly understand the intention of the Rambam for we are not dealing with a spiritually infinite aspect, such as faith — completely beyond intellect, because, although we speak of covering and transcending, it is still relative to the intellect that is covered.

The question is: how can the Rambam reconcile the two different aspects; on the one hand, great intellect, and on the other hand the supra-intellect.

So the Rambam says: “as it is stated” — he brings proof from Scripture — the essence of Torah is united with the essence of G‑d [as it says in Tanya: “The Torah and the Holy One, Blessed be He, are one and the same” (Tanya Chapter 4).] and since G‑d “negates all negatives,” and “bears all contradiction” — this power of uniting the two different aspects derives from Torah and G‑d. The power of “bearing all contradictions” will effect that the limited mind of man will encompass the infinite. [This of course is a paradox — which is exactly the power of “bearing all contradictions” — the solution to the paradox.]

Consequently, our Divine service in the finite temporal world — can still influence the infinite world to come, for man has the potential to move the infinite.

Coming back to the concept, that although ultimately it really comes from somewhere else, it is attributed to the giver, we find an example in this Shabbos, Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av — both in the case of Shabbos itself and Rosh Chodesh occurring on Friday.

(1) The blessing which Shabbos bestows comes from the Holy One, Blessed be He, nevertheless, because it comes through Shabbos it is seen and counted as the blessing of the Shabbos.

For the six days receive blessing from the seventh. (Zohar II 63b)

(2) On Friday — the sixth day of creation — the Torah tells us: “G‑d saw that it was good” (1:25), and “G‑d saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Ibid:31).

The Midrash relates:

A [Roman] lady asked R. Yose: “Why is ‘for it was good’ not written in connection with the second day?” “Even so” replied he, “it [the text] subsequently included them all [in this description], for it is said, ‘And G‑d saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good’.” Said she to him: “Supposing six men come to you and you gave a portion to all but one, and then you gave a second portion to all of them [jointly]: would not each of the five now have a portion and a sixth, while the sixth would only have only one sixth!” (Bereishis Rabbah 4:6)

From this Midrash we see that the second “very good” of Friday applies to all the preceding days of the week. Nevertheless because it was spoken on Friday it is applied to Friday; we attribute the quality to the channel through which it comes.

Similarly, the infinite blessing of the times of redemption will come through our present finite activity.

The upshot of this discussion is the importance of our service.

Of course all blessing stems from G‑d. He gave us the wherewithal to do His mitzvos — including also everything that will come in the future. But G‑d desires that everything should be effected by human service so as not to be “bread of shame,” for this reason the potential that is bestowed from above is within the human capacity. And as we find in Tanya:

Yet He leaves both higher and lower [worlds] and uniquely bestows His kingdom upon ... him in particular.... (Chapter 41)

He bestows all the necessary powers and faculties to serve Him and then

.. He looks upon him ... to see if he is serving Him as is fitting. (Ibid)

Coming from the liberation of the Nasi we realize that he too bestows his blessings on us. As the Prophet spoke: “... revealing His secret to His servant the Prophets” (Amos 3:7), and as the Talmud states: “A wise man is even superior to a prophet” (B. Basra 12a). So when we speak of “Immediate redemption,” it stems from his power, but it is triggered and accomplished by our activity and Divine service.

And, yet, concomitantly it is still attributed to the Nasi.

May all this discussion bring to renewed enthusiasm and positive action. And mainly, the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

* * *

4. Our portion this week contains a Rashi which is exceptionally problematic, yet the real wonder is that none of the commentaries on Rashi give it a second thought to clarify it for us.

Scripture relates how Moshe, our teacher, requested of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to appoint a leader for the Jewish people.

Moshe spoke to G‑d saying. Let the Omnipotent G‑d of all living souls appoint a man over the community. Let him come and go before them and let him bring them forth and lead them. Let G‑d’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd. (Bamidbar 27:15-16)

Being so momentous a subject Rashi comments on several points:

At the outset:

This statement serves to show forth the praise of the righteous: when they are about to depart from the world they abandon all thoughts of their own affairs and occupy themselves with the affairs of the community. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

On the words “Saying,” (which usually connotes to “tell to others” — clearly not applicable here):

He said to Him, “Answer me whether you will appoint a leader for them or not.” (Rashi, loc. cit.)

On the words: “G‑d of all living souls,” Rashi says:

Why is this expression used? He said to Him: L‑rd of the Universe! The dispositions of everyone are manifest to you, and you know that these are not similar one to another, appoint a leader for them who will bear with each person according to his disposition. (Ibid.)

Rashi goes on to explain the words: “Who will go out before them”:

Not as is the way of the kings of the nations who sit at home and send their armies to battle but as “I” have done — I who fought against Sichon and Og.... (Ibid)

This is all very understandable; what is perplexing is the fact that Rashi ignores the most blatant question on the whole subject, namely:

Here Moshe our teacher finds it proper and right to request of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to appoint a successor. He even finds it necessary to tell G‑d what attributes G‑d should look for in screening such an appointee — “To go out and to lead them as I did.” So much so, that he goes on to explain to G‑d the rationale for so careful a screening: “Let G‑d’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”

The problem here is stupefying!

Did not G‑d, of His own accord, know that there was a need to appoint a leader for the people?! Did not the Omniscient One know what characteristics and qualities such a leader must have?!

Who “found” Moshe and chose him to be the leader and redeemer of the Jewish people when they were in bondage? Can Moshe seriously imagine that now he must present this need to G‑d and explain to G‑d its importance, in order to insure that the people will be well cared for? In his mind does he have the slightest doubt that G‑d would allow any other scenario?!

The perplexity is compounded by the fact that Moshe uses the term “saying,” asking G‑d to respond and acknowledge whether he will comply with his request or not!! Such strange audacity!

One would think that Rashi would immediately approach the problem and yet, Rashi completely ignores this paradox, as do the other commentators.

We must therefore say that Rashi feels that this matter is so clear that even the five-year-old Chumash student understands it without further comment.

There is an additional subject in Rashi which lacks clarity.

For the holiday of Pesach, Scripture teaches:

As a burnt offering to G‑d, you shall offer two young bulls, one ram, and seven yearling sheep; making sure that all are without blemish. (28:19)

Rashi comments:

Bulls — an allusion to Avraham, as it is said, “And unto the herd Avraham ran.” Rams — an allusion to the ram of Yitzchok. Lambs — an allusion to Yaakov as it is said: “And the lambs did Yaakov set aside.” I saw this in the work of R. Moshe the Preacher. (Rashi 28:19)

This Rashi is perturbing because the same three animals were mentioned a few verses earlier in the sacrifices of the New Moon and Rashi did not bother to relate to us their symbolic meaning. Why did Rashi wait for the sacrifices of Pesach to tell us of their symbolism?

Another disturbing point. This same symbolic reference is brought by Rashi earlier in the portion of Naso where the sacrifices of the princes included the same list of animals. The wording of Rashi there is different from here.

(1) Why does Rashi repeat the interpretation here? It should have sufficed that he explained it in Naso.

(2) In Naso, Rashi also waited for the second Nasi before explaining the meaning. Why?

(3) Why the different wording in the Rashi, and why does Rashi skip the explanation for “goats” in this chapter while he does interpret it in Naso.

Additionally, when Rashi quotes the verse, to caption his commentary, he usually cites a word from the verse, but here Rashi uses the word “eilim” — rams — plural! while in the verse it says one ram!! Not rams!

Most amazing, these question are so apparent yet everyone peruses this so quickly, and does not sense the problems.

[The Rebbe smiled and said:

I have no complaints, nor will I “shake worlds,” at the lack of realizing these questions. I myself did not notice them when I was a five-year-old Chumash student nor through all the years that I studied Chumash. But that doesn’t minimize the impact of the actual question: Why did no one realize these obvious questions? — although they studied it so many times.]

The Explanation:

After the sin of the Golden Calf we find a strange dialogue in Torah. G‑d tells Moshe, who is still on the mountain, that the Jews made a golden idol etc., and then He says: “Now therefore let Me alone” (Shmos 32:10), on which Rashi comments:

So far we have not heard that Moshe had prayed on their behalf, and yet he says: “let Me alone.” But by saying this He opened the door to him (offered him a suggestion) intimating to him that if he prayed for them He would not destroy them. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

This presents the five-year-old Chumash student with a basic principle, that there are times and events which G‑d directs in a certain way; however, when Moshe comes and prays and pleads with G‑d, the Holy One, Blessed be He, accepts his entreaties and acts according to the desires of Moshe!

In our case.

Although it was obvious, that when the Jews left Egypt G‑d found for them the best, most qualified leader, but since then they had sinned with the Golden Calf, so that there was room for a doubt about how G‑d would treat the people after Moshe’s death.

In fact one of the points that figures centrally in the dialogue between G‑d and Moshe after the Golden Calf is the question of leadership. Moshe pleads forgiveness for the people, G‑d finally accepts his pleas and tells Moshe:

Now go, you still have to lead the people ... (concluding) ... I will send My angel before you. (Ibid 32:34)

To which Moshe pleads and argues:

If Your Presence does not accompany us do not make us leave this place. (Ibid 33:15)

At the end, G‑d accepts his pleas and tells Moshe:

My Presence (and not the angel) will go and lead you.” (Ibid 33:14)

So leadership was a central theme in Moshe’s prayer for the people.

Years later, when Yehoshua assumed the leadership of the Jewish people and led them into the Promised Land, we find him confronting the angel of G‑d:

And he (the angel) said ... I am the captain of the host of the L‑rd; I have now come.

Rashi explains:

But in the time of Moshe your master I came and he did not want me, as it is stated, “If Your Presence does not accompany....” (Yehoshua 5:14)

From here we see that Moshe’s prayer had some influence. As we see, there was a change (Yehoshua could only muster an angel, while Moshe engendered the Shechinah). Clearly if Moshe had not prayed, the situation would have been even worse!

Moshe was also afraid, that when his own sin (for which he did not enter the land and a new leader was appointed) would be remembered, G‑d might add a bit of the sin of the Golden Calf and because of the two sins together the merit of the Jews would drop and they would not get the proper leader.

For this reason Moshe knew that it behooved him to do everything he could to insure the positive outcome; he prayed to G‑d and indicated all the details —

A person who will lead them, ... so that they should not be as sheep without a shepherd....

He knew that a lot depended on his prayer — just as G‑d had told him, “Now therefore let me be.”

Another point worth noting:

Rashi includes in his commentary, here, the fact that Yehoshua did act as Moshe requested, (which normally would have no bearing on the explanation of this verse) and he quotes the verse from Yehoshua. It is in his commentary on that verse in Yehoshua that Rashi reminded us that there was a difference between Moshe’s leadership and Yehoshua’s. Rashi emphasizes that without Moshe’s prayer there would have been a much greater difference, between his power and the power of his successor.

Regarding the question on bulls, rams and sheep. I will clarify only one part and leave the others to those gathered here today to research the subject and come up with the answers.

The word “rams,” which seems to be quoted by Rashi in the plural form indicates that Rashi was clearly not quoting the verse as a caption — rather he was including it in the text of his commentary as a reference to all the rams mentioned in the entire chapter.