1. Every Shabbos has a relationship to the preceding days, for the seventh day brings completion to the previous week: “Heaven and earth, and all their components, were [thus] completed” (Bereishis 2:1).

Shabbos also is connected to the following week, as we know:

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

In our case, the days before this Shabbos included the 20th of Menachem Av, and the upcoming week includes Rosh Chodesh Elul, as today is Shabbos Mevarchim, which blesses the upcoming new week.

Which aspect of Shabbos should get precedence?

Logic would dictate, that by Torah example, the primary theme of every Shabbos would relate to the preceding week, as it was on the first Shabbos of creation, which came after the six days and brought them perfection.

Yet, in the Kabbalah we learn that there was also a spiritual Shabbos which preceded creation. We, however, will follow the plain interpretation of the Chumash, as the five-year-old Chumash student studies it. Especially, as even for those who do study Kabbalah — they first must study the “revealed” aspect of Torah before approaching the esoteric studies. Similarly, we will approach first, the revealed aspect of Shabbos and how it relates to the past week.

The name Shabbos, itself also indicates rest, which can only be after doing some work. As the verse says: “He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had been doing” (Ibid:2). Thus the word Shabbos refers to the days gone by — rest and relaxation. “The world lacked rest, when Shabbos came, relaxation came” (Rashi, loc. cit.).

Consequently, we will first discuss the theme of Shabbos as it relates to the previous days, for which it accomplishes “completion,” including the Yahrzeit of the 20th of Av.

Another point may be added in our case: the main association of Shabbos is to the six creation days of the past or future week. (The six days are symbolic of the six action attributes.) There is a projection to the past and future Shabbosim too, but it is less obvious, and the clear and definitive relationship, of improvement and blessing, applies only to the six days.

But this year Rosh Chodesh Elul does not fall during the six days of the coming week, it occurs next Shabbos.

Based on this, it would be appropriate now to complete several subjects and topics which were discussed on the 20th of Av, but for whatever reason were not concluded. The theme of Chof (20th of) Av in relation to the past and to the present was adequately developed — the future was not touched upon.

In speaking of the future, we know that the 20th of Av initiates the period of preparation of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of Adam, the first human. The Gemara tells us that: “Forty days before the child is born, ...” certain aspects of his personality and fate are determined. Certainly the same would hold true for the creation of Adam on Rosh Hashanah. The initial stages of creative determination started on Chof Av — forty days before Rosh Hashanah.

Consequently, through the Divine service of preparing from Chof Av, a new, immeasurable elevation is generated. This is described in Tanya:

And every year there descends and radiates ... a new and renewed light ... a new more sublime light ... so sublime a light has never shone yet since the beginning of the world.... (Iggeres Hakodesh 14)

Take a moment to carefully consider this thought. In telling us that this “new light is so sublime ... never shone, etc.,” Tanya is comparing this revelation to all previous G‑dly revelations — even the revelation at Mount Sinai! Then, there surely was a supremely sublime light; for the upper and lower worlds were united. “The higher worlds descended, the nether worlds ascended.” G‑d made the initial movement of unification and transmitted the power of coalescence to all the worlds.

Yet, subsequent to the sublime and lofty revelations of Matan Torah, we are told that “a new light radiates ...” which is “more sublime ...” and “has never shone yet since the beginning of the world!” And moreover, each Rosh Hashanah there is a replay to a greater degree.

Clearly the preparations which begin on the 20th of Av effect some extraordinary elevation in the aspects of the Divine service of Rosh Hashanah.

How will this express itself in the personal Divine service of every Jew?

The creation of Adam on Rosh Hashanah carries a very strong message for every Jew.

We know the dictum of the Mishnah:

For this reason was man created alone to teach you ... whosoever preserves a single soul of Israel Scripture ascribes merit to him as though he had preserved a complete world. (Sanhedrin 37a)

Rashi adds:

To show you that by making one man the whole world was filled. (loc. cit.)

Thus, the reason that Adam was created alone was to teach every Jew that he is a “complete world” just as Adam, the first man, was the whole [civilized] world.

This oft quoted Mishnah and its exegesis really needs some more clarification. It would appear from the approach the Mishnah takes, that logic would have dictated that the human species should not have begun with only one specimen. For that reason the Mishnah must question, why was man created individually? Why not? Because all species were created in pairs: male and female! This dual creation applies to the animal kingdom as well as the world of flora. We know, for example, that in the date-palm species some trees are masculine while other are feminine.

In a discourse of the Rebbe Rashab, he elaborates on the concept, that all areas of existence follow the pattern of Mashpia and Mekabel — giver and receiver, benefactor and beneficiary. Why? because it is so in the supernal worlds and the lofty Sefiros where the pattern and matrix is one of male and female, giver and receiver.

If all creation followed this pattern, why not man?! To this query the Mishnah’s answer is “to show you that by making one man the whole world was filled” (Rashi).

Is this not a lesson for all generations? For Adam alone this point would have been redundant; history shows us that the one man, Adam, eventually filled the world. The Mishnah has us in mind — in our generation — every individual can “fill the world” just as Adam did. To teach us this, G‑d changed the system of creation and made man, singly.

Every year, as Rosh Hashanah approaches, and this aspect of creation is renewed, there is also a renewal for all descendants of Adam — and especially among the Jewish people, “For you (Jews) are called Adam” (Yevamos 61a).

Now, all aspects of the creation of Adam began on the 20th of Av. And in our Divine service we must also look to this 40-day period starting on the 20th of Av.

The Gemara of course tells us of those attributes which are predestined 40 days before the creation of the child.

Which aspects are preordained? Some very vital characteristics, including, who will marry whom. Now, the importance of marriage can be understood because its goal is to bring a new generation into the world. This power of reproduction which G‑d gave to the human species [and to all life] is actually the power of the Ein Sof (Infinite). The world normally follows a finite system. Even the world to comeOlam Haba” is also created according to a finite (spiritual) system.

Yet, G‑d imbued earthly life with the power of the infinite, as Tanya describes it:

To make herbs, trees, and fruits sprout ex nihilo into substantiality, constantly from year to year. This is a kind of degree of infinity. (Iggeres Hakodesh 20)

This investment of the infinite power in vegetative life and especially in human life is an amazing gift of the Al‑mighty to the created world.

And it is bestowed upon the Jewish couple at the time of marriage. In the blessings pronounced at the time of the marriage ceremony we speak of the double joy: “Grant abundant joy to these loving friends....” This blessing, which refers to the power of the Ein Sof, is bestowed at the time of the marriage ceremony, before the consummation of the marriage, before conception, and much before birth. Yet we are already expressing — “abundant joy.” The infinite power must be revealed in order to engender joy.

So the announcement of, “who will marry whom” is of vital importance — marriage evokes the revelation of the Ein Sof in the world. And when was this set? Forty days before creation.

From here we see the importance of the forty days before Rosh Hashanah and the 20th of Av. The essential aspects of creation are determined 40 days before creation!

This philosophy must express itself in some action, as the Rann explains regarding the prophecy of the prophets, that they had to be accompanied by some action, even just a small, token act. So too, we find that in the 20th of Av in the Synagogue of the Kabbalists, “Beis Eil,” in Yerushalayim, there is the custom of saying Hataras Nedarim on the 20th of Av. This single act, taking place in only one place in the world, nevertheless is significant, for it brings the theory into the reality of the world.

“The deed is of the essence.” Starting from Chof Av, and especially from the Shabbos following Chof Av, when all aspects of the week reach completion, there should be an awakening of excitement and enthusiasm connected to the preparations for Rosh Hashanah. And although a sudden surge of excitement might upset someone’s normal order of Divine service, do not fret, it is a confusion which will engender a constructive outcome, for there will be an improvement and increase in a tremendous way, relative to his earlier activities. As the Gemara relates about Rabbi Zeira:

He fasted a hundred fasts to forget the Babylonian Gemara, that it should not trouble him, (B. Metzia 85a)

so that he could reach the immeasurably higher levels attained in the study of Talmud Yerushalmi.

By beginning our preparation for Rosh Hashanah on the 20th of Av we will evoke abundant blessings from the Holy One, Blessed be He, that all our preparatory actions will be blessed with unusual success, including Shabbos Mevarchim, the month of Elul, the Selichos days, and Erev Rosh Hashanah.

Mainly, may we be blessed with a Kesivah VaChasimah Tovah, even before Rosh Hashanah. For on the eve of Rosh Hashanah:

We don white garments and drape ourselves (cover our heads) in white shawls ... because we know that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will perform miracles for us. (Yerushalmi, Rosh Hashanah 1:3)

There is a custom to wish Kesivah VaChasimah Tovah from the 15th of Av — although the Maharil says to start from Rosh Chodesh Elul. One might ask, why add to what the Maharil wrote?

But the answer is that the Gemara says, that on each day there are new negative forces in the world, so we have to neutralize these evil forces by adding more blessings, so when we add to the blessing among ourselves G‑d will add His blessing to us for all the things that we need.

May G‑d grant that all these blessings will be fulfilled, that everyone, all the Jewish people, will be inscribed and sealed immediately in the book of the truly righteous, for a good and sweet year, in all matters of goodness.

* * *

2. This year Chof Av (the 20th of Av) was on Wednesday. What significance does this have for us?

On the fourth day of creation it says:

There shall be lights in the heavenly sky ... G‑d made the two large lights, the greater light to rule the day and the smaller light to rule the night. (Bereishis 1:14-16)

In contrast to this theme of illumination, we also find an aspect of minimizing light on the fourth day.

Rashi quotes the Gemara which relates that first G‑d created “the two large lights,” however, “The moon complained and said, ‘It is impossible for two kings to make use of one crown.’” As a result of her argument, G‑d told the moon: “Go then and make yourself smaller,” which resulted in one large light and one small light. Since then, each month, the moon goes through the second half of the month by becoming smaller each day until it disappears altogether one moment before the “birth” of the new moon.

Thus, on the fourth day we have the contrasting themes: the great lights were suspended in the firmament, radiating light, and the light of the moon was minimized to the point of oblivion.

Consider also the cause of this diminution.

(A) It was because of a complaint.

(B) The complaint was lodged by one of the great lights.

(C) This complaint came at a time when all creation was in a state of perfection. The Tree of Knowledge had not even been created yet!

In truth, however, the fourth day also has an aspect of rectification and ascent.

Kabbalah explains that the Jewish people are compared to the moon and despite the diminution of the moon there is an aspect of unity of sun and moon and that on the fourth day the aspect of correcting the minimizing of the moon takes effect.

It should also be noted that in the future, the moon will once again regain its original light and even rise above its former luminescence. The descent, thus, will be for the purpose of a greater ascent, so that the fourth day has both of these aspects.

With this in mind we will better understand the remark of the Alter Rebbe in relation to Yud-Tes (19th) Kislev:

On the fourth day the lights were removed (minimized) and on the same day the lights were suspended (increased).

This idea also expressed itself in Chassidic thought, in relation to the liberation of the Alter Rebbe on Wednesday.

Wednesday had seen a descent in the Chassidic world, for the Baal Shem Tov passed away on Wednesday — “the lights were removed.” The same day also saw the adjustment, for the Alter Rebbe was freed from incarceration — “the lights were suspended” — to the point, that there was more light. For, after being liberated, the Alter Rebbe began spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside world.

(Although the Alter Rebbe left the prison on Tuesday he was detained in the home of a oppressive person until Wednesday and consequently was not really free until Wednesday.)

This will help us understand the association of the fourth day of the week to the general theme of Hillula — passing of a tzaddik.

When a tzaddik passes from the world a terrible descent occurs, as Rashi brings:

The death of the righteous is as grievous before the Holy One, Blessed be He, as the day on which the tablets were broken. (Rashi, Devarim 1:6)

On the other hand, Hillula intimates ascension. In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains:

[When a tzaddik passes away] He has left life unto all the living.... As is known, the life of a tzaddik is not a physical life, but a spiritual life ... and when it comes about that the L‑rd takes up and gathers unto Himself his Ruach and Neshamah and he ascends from one elevation to another, to the peak of levels, he then leaves the life of his Ruach, his effectuation on which he has labored previously among Israel [the labor of the righteous is unto the living], to every living being. (Iggeres Hakodesh 27)

Similarly the Zohar states:

When a tzaddik departs this world he is found in the world of action more than when he was alive,

to accomplish salvation in the world.

Thus, the passing of a tzaddik includes both aspects, externally it portends a descent, while intrinsically it indicates an ascent. The decline is for the sake of rising again to a loftier level.

In the fourth reading portion of this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, we find this same idea portrayed.

First. In general the first sentence of the portion of Eikev conveys this contrast and dichotomy: “And it shall come to pass (Eikev) if you will listen.” Eikev represents the heel of the foot, thus referring to the lowest aspect of the person’s activity. Listening is the highest activity, which of course brings to mind the Chassidic interpretation, that at the time of the “heels of Mashiach” when we reach the nadir of all levels, we are assured that we will heed all the commandments. The lowest meets the highest.

In the fourth reading section, which was read on the Yahrzeit of the 20th of Av, we find a discussion of the role of the Tribe of Levi:

At that time [after I came down from the mountain], G‑d designated the tribe of Levi ... to stand before G‑d and serve Him ... G‑d is his heritage. (Devarim 10:8-9)

The name “Levi” indicates both aspects. On the one hand, its source is in Gevurah, the attribute of severity (descending) — while it also indicates the association and unity of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and the community of Israel. “G‑d is his heritage;” an ascent which follows the decline.

The creation of the world through Tzimtzum and revelation, and the concept of spreading the wellsprings to the outside also parallel the phenomenon of falling and rising, which is expressed on the fourth day.

When the Yahrzeit-Hillula falls on Wednesday, of the week of Eikev, we garner a clear and concise lesson:

When a Jew is confronted with problems (Gevurah) or a state of decline, darkness and double darkness, and especially if he encounters specific problems in his personal Divine service, obstacles, restrictions etc., he should not be despondent. On the contrary, the purpose of the severity of Levi is, “...[Now my husband] will become attached,” and, “to stand before G‑d and to serve Him.” Use the obstacles to increase your holiness, as the superior quality of light out of the darkness.

You must know that there would be no falling, without the true goal of rising. G‑d creates no negative phenomenon unless there is the ultimate goal of a positive result.

In this vein there is an interesting incident which occurred with the Previous Rebbe:

In 1929 when the Previous Rebbe sailed from Eretz Yisrael after his historic visit to the Holy Land, the tragic news of the Hebron Massacre reached him, while he was on board the ship. [Affliction shall not rise up a second time (Nachum 1:9).]

The shocking news caused the Rebbe great anguish and suffering, as a result of which he experienced a kidney attack. Together with the Rebbe, on the ship was Dr. Wallach, his personal physician, who traveled with him. He was able to treat the Rebbe and nurse him back to health. Later, Dr. Wallach requested an audience with the Rebbe and asked for a “tikkun” (a form of penitence for a sin). When the Rebbe asked for an explanation of his strange request, the good doctor answered: “As we see, the Rebbe has become well, which shows that ultimately that was the way it should be,” and if so, it appeared to him (the doctor) that his being on the ship brought about the potential for the Rebbe’s sickness! Because there was a doctor who could bring the cure, therefore the sickness could come — if he had not been on the ship, the Rebbe would not have fallen ill! Therefore he requested a tikkun.

The Rebbe’s response, though, has not been revealed to us. The first part of the story has come down to Chassidim and teaches us that if there is an illness, then the possibility for cure must be here. (The cure precedes the illness (Megillah 13b).)

Not only does the cure come before the sickness but the purpose of the decline is to reach the greater heights, for the route to reaching loftier heights is by first descending to the depths.

To make a dwelling place for the Shechinah in the lower worlds there must first be the descent; the lower worlds must come into existence. Then they can be transformed to be an abode for G‑dliness.

To spread the “wellsprings” to the “outside,” there must first be the decline to the level of “outside.” Then you can spread the wellsprings.

An example of this concept would be the story of the Tanna, Nachum Ish Gamzu. The precious stones and pearls which he bore as a gift to the Emperor were switched for sand. It later turned out that the sand was the “sand of Avraham our father,” (which brought miraculous results.) Not only was there a way found to remedy the loss of the precious stones, but the loss also brought a much greater miracle.

The effect of this gift of sand was much greater than the gift of precious stones would have been.

Our lesson in the work of reaching out and spreading the wellsprings is very clear.

When a Jew sees a situation of concealment and obfuscation in the “outside” he must realize that he is being given the opportunity to repair and correct the problem — don’t be lazy, take the chance — if not, you have caused G‑d to create a negative situation that will not be remedied!

These words are not spoken to engender harsh feelings, rather (after a short moment of soul-searching bitterness) there should be an awakening of enthusiasm in spreading the wellsprings to the outside.

* * *

3. In this week’s portion we find a detailed Rashi on the verse:

[Later], after the Israelites had left the wells of Beney Yaakan [and traveled to] Moserah, Aharon died and was buried there .... (Devarim 10:6)

Rashi comments:

What has this matter to do with what has been related here? Further: Did they indeed journey from the wells of Beney Yaakan to Moserah; did they not come from Moserah to the wells of Beney Yaakan, as it is said, “And they journeyed from Moseroth and they encamped in Beney Yaakan”?

And further:

(it states here) “(There, at) Moserah Aharon died.” But did he not die at Mount Hor? Go and count and you will find that there are eight stations from Moserah to Mount Hor!

But really this is also part of the reproof offered by Moshe. In effect he said, “This also, you did: when Aharon died on Mount Hor at the end of the forty years and the clouds of Divine Glory departed, you feared war with the king of Arad and you appointed a leader that you might return to Egypt and you turned backwards eight stages unto Beney Yaakan and hence to Moserah ... and at Moserah you made a great mourning on account of the death of Aharon which was the cause of your retreat and it seemed to you as though he had died there.”

Rashi continues:

Moshe placed this reproof immediately after the mention of the breaking of the Tablets to intimate that the death of the righteous is as grievous before the Holy One, Blessed be He, as the day on which the Tablets were broken, and to tell you that it was displeasing to Him when they said “Let us set up a head in order to apostatize from Him,” as it was the day on which they made the Golden Calf. (Rashi, loc. cit)

Our question is:

Why does Rashi use the term, “as the day on which the Tablets were broken,” he should say simply: “as the breaking of the Tablets.”

This puzzlement is aggravated by the fact that although Rashi presents his comments as the plain meaning of the verse, yet, he draws his information from Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashim where the following terminology is used:

To teach us that Aharon’s death was as grievous to the Holy One, Blessed be He, as the breaking of the Tablets. (Vayikra Rabbah 2:12)

Why does Rashi alter the language of the Midrash and Yerushalmi to write, “as the day on which the Tablets were broken?”

This brings us to a “Klotz Kashe” of severe magnitude, yet, as often is the case, no one seems to notice the difficulty.

Throughout the first four books of the Torah, the five-year-old Chumash student has learned of many tzaddikim who died: Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, the sons of Yaakov and other righteous people who died in the wilderness.

When the five-year-old Chumash student reaches the third portion of Devarim and he learns that Aharon’s death is juxtaposed to the breaking of the Tablets to teach us that:

The death of the righteous is as grievous before the Holy One, Blessed be He, as the day on which the Tablets were broken,

he ponders and asks: “Why did Scripture wait till the death of Aharon in the fortieth year in the wilderness, to teach us this important lesson about the death of the righteous, what about all the tzaddikim who preceded Aharon?”

This question comes into sharper focus relative to Miriam’s death.

For, in the portion of Chukas, Rashi had stated:

Why is the section narrating the death of Miriam placed immediately after the section dealing with the Red Cow? To suggest to you the following comparison: What is the purpose of the sacrifices? They effect atonement! So, too, does the death of the righteous effect atonement! (Rashi, Bamidbar 20:1)

Here the five-year-old Chumash student asks: “If the Torah does intimate a lesson from ‘the death of the righteous’ why not also relate the lesson of ‘the breaking of the Tablets’? In the case of all the other righteous who died nothing is mentioned, but here one interpretation is transmitted to us, why not the other lesson also?”

This question is of course pertinent when we remember that both of these interpretations are brought in the same place in the Midrash, etc.

Another pointed argument. The lesson of the atonement of sacrifices is something quite foreign to the five-year-old Chumash student — even in the time of Rashi. The breaking of the tablets, which led to the other tragedies of the 17th of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av is something which the five-year-old Chumash student experienced, for he is aware of the galus (diaspora) and the destruction of the Temples; he just went through the period of mourning commemorating these events. The portion of Eikev follows Vaeschanan which always is read right after Tishah BeAv.

The Explanation:

Aharon’s death introduced a new aspect in the phenomenon of death of tzaddikim, which did not exist earlier.

From the time of the generation of the flood, the Torah had decreed: “His days shall be 120 years” (Bereishis 6:3). In the earlier generations there had been no such restriction. Those individuals who had greater longevity between the generations of Noach and Avraham were still included as a special, and supernatural continuation of the earlier epoch.

The fact that the Patriarchs lived longer than 120 years was associated to the many miraculous events that surrounded their lives, as the five-year-old Chumash student well knows. Similarly Levi, Kehos and Amram lived long lives in a manner beyond the laws of nature.

Aharon however lived to the age of 123; He was the first of the great generational tzaddikim whose life was limited to the period of 120 years. The fact that he lived to 123 (not 120) does not remove him from the naturally allocated period of life, for “five years before and five years after” (See Rashi, Bereishis 27:2) are considered to be close enough to the total number and not counted as superseding the limit.

Now let us consider the death of different tzaddikim. Not being limited by any rule, the earlier tzaddikim, who lived many years, could have gone on living; therefore when they died, the tragedy was of momentous proportion. Our sages did not have to compare the sorrow of their loss to anything else! But when Aharon died at the age of 123, clearly this was by natural law and therefore one might think that the tragedy was not so overwhelming. For this reason our sages tell us that Scripture intimates for us that the death of the righteous is as grievous as the breaking of the Tablets.

Miriam’s age at her death is also not revealed to us. Thus we would not know whether her death was by natural law or not! For this reason Rashi refrained from quoting the other part of the Midrash.

Having established this rule, we come face to face with the obvious question.

It was G‑d who decreed: “His days shall be 120 years,” how can you say that “the death of the righteous is ... grievous before G‑d”?

It was this question that Rashi had in mind when he altered the words of the Midrash and said: “As the day....” The connotation: Although death must come even to the righteous, because of G‑d’s decree, nevertheless, the fact that it occurs on a particular day indicates for us that there is something troublesome and harsh about that particular day.

“But,” you might ask, “why does Rashi not start his citation by saying ‘the day of the death is as grievous ...’?”

Here we must recognize a technical point. Rashi presents his commentary on the words: “Aharon died ... there.” Scripture speaks of the occurrence of death, not the day of death. If Rashi wants to add the aspect of the distress of the day, he must include it in his commentary, not in the words of the verse. So he says “the death of the righteous is as grievous ...,” and then adds, “as the day on which the Tablets were broken.”

Remember another point, the Tablets themselves were broken on the day after the Golden Calf was made. The Jews proclaimed: “This, Israel, is your god” (Shmos 32:4) on the day before and Chur was killed the day before. Thus, the terrible sins of idolatry and murder were already committed on the day before Moshe came down with (and broke) the Tablets.

Now, although it might seem that the smashing of the Tablets was an inevitable result of the occurrences of the previous day, nevertheless we must recognize that there was some severe harshness on “the day the Tablets were broken.” The five-year-old Chumash student knows this, for he knows that it was the day of the smashing of the Tablets, the 17th of Tammuz, which was established as the fast day.