1. Every day and everything in existence is composed of multiple facets and themes, some primary and some secondary; intrinsic and superficial.

Today is:

(A) Shabbos, which receives its sanctified nature from above, as the Gemara says: “The Shabbos has already been sanctified [from the creation] and so continues” (Beitzah 17a).

(B) Rosh Chodesh, which is superimposed by the ritual of the Jewish people, for: “the Jewish people sanctify the new moons (Rosh Chodesh)” (Berachos 49a).

(C) The compound of Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh.

(D) The specific combination of Shabbos Re’eh and Rosh Chodesh Elul.

When Chassidim search for the theme of a week, they turn their attention to the “Chassidic portion” of that week, the maamarim (Chassidic discourses) in Torah Or and Likkutei Torah (authored by the Alter Rebbe), as they are divided according to the portions of the weeks of the year and the festivals.

When we want to reveal the theme of the month of Elul we will turn to the first maamar of Elul in Likkutei Torah — “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li,” where we find the following parable:

A noble king is in the fields on the outskirts of his royal city and before entering the capital city is greeted in the fields by the loyal populace who have gone out of the city to receive him. There, in the fields, anyone who so wishes may personally greet the king. The king gives audience to everyone and turns to everyone with grace and friendliness. Then when the king proceeds into the city all the population follow him and accompany him into the royal city, and to his palace.

The maamar concludes:

Similarly, by way of example, in the month of Elul we go out to greet the light of His blessed countenance in the “field.” This means that the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are revealed for us while we are yet in a condition of being in the field, i.e. in the mundane weekday state. Nevertheless: “The L‑rd makes His countenance shine upon you ...” (Bamidbar 6:25), and: “The L‑rd is a benevolent G‑d and He has given us light.” (Tehillim 118:27)

There appears to be no earlier source for this parable, but it is obvious that since the Alter Rebbe, whose ruling we accept in both exoteric and esoteric Torah matters, taught this parable, it certainly holds true in the supernal worlds as well as the terrestrial, corporeal worlds, which need the parable to learn the analogical lesson.

Since a parable is taught to help us understand the concept at hand, it seems strange that we should need an example to teach us of the revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. What does the parable add to our understanding?

From the details of the metaphor it would appear that at the outset the king’s place is in the field. Now, what would the king be doing in the field?

Although we speak not of a wilderness or desert, only of a field, it is still a far cry from the field to the city; even the townsfolk would normally not be in the fields.

For example, when we speak of the city of Yerushalayim, we know that it was surrounded by walls and gates and viewed as an individual domain, for it was dedicated to the “one Master of the world.” Now, why would a city-dweller be in the field and not in the city?

Of course, in the parable, the loyal citizens go out to greet the king, but why is it that the king himself is in the field! [Note: The Rebbe, Shlita, did not answer this question during this farbrengen.]

Another theme of Elul is also discussed in the same maamar:

From Rosh Chodesh Elul till Yom Kippur are the 40 days in which Moshe our teacher ascended to the heavens to receive the second Tablets.

The initial letter of the words “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li” spell the word E’L’U’L’ and the final letter of these words are four “yuds,” the numerical equivalent of which is, 40.

Chassidus explains that there is a spark of Moshe in every individual Jew, so the Divine service of ascending the mountain applies to everyone during the days of grace of Elul, as well as going out to greet the King in the field.

Both of these aspects begin today on Rosh Chodesh Elul. There is some discussion of when the daily customs of Elul begin. The Previous Rebbe has indicated that we start blowing shofar on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul (to practice) and we also start reciting the chapter, “L’Dovid ... Ori”:

By Dovid. The L‑rd is my light and my salvation.... (Tehillim 27:1)

Chassidus explains that the “light” referred to in “L’Dovid ... Ori” is a revelation of the Eternal; like the accessibility of the “King in the field,” in the allegory.

Although there are differences of opinion regarding the exact day Moshe ascended the mountain, in this case we will follow the opinion which holds that it was on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul.

Thus, the important themes of the month of Elul begin today, Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos, and specifically Shabbos Re’eh and Rosh Chodesh Elul; and we must apply all of these concepts in practical action; the deed is of the essence. In this case, it is to go out to greet the King in the field and to rise onto the mountain. An interesting theme emerges from the concurrence of the four concepts in this Shabbos.

Generally, Shabbos carries the aspect of being sanctified by G‑d from above downwards. Rosh Chodesh, on the other hand, is made holy by the actions and prayers of the Jewish people, rising from below upwards. Consequently, every Shabbos Rosh Chodesh combines these two aspects — rising up and radiating down.

This week of Shabbos Re’eh, Rosh Chodesh Elul has an additional combination of both of these approaches in a special way.

In the Haftorah of this week we read:

And I will make your pinnacles of “kadkod.” (Yeshayahu 54:12)

In discussing the meaning of kadkod the Gemara states:

R. Shmuel b. Nachmani said: There is a dispute between two angels in Heaven, ... one says: onyx, and the other says: jasper. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said unto them: Let it be as this one [says] and as that one. (B. Basra 25a)

Rashi interprets that the word kadkod is a play on the words (k’dain u’k’dain) which mean, “as this one and as that one.”

This discussion is quoted in Likkutei Torah, Re’eh and its esoteric allusion is derived. The two precious stones, onyx and jasper, were the gems of Yosef and Binyamin on the Choshen. Both of them were tzaddikim but the theme of Yosef was to radiate from above downwards, while Binyamin symbolized the Divine service of rising upward. Says the Holy One, Blessed be He: “Let it be as this one and as that one.” Both facets are legitimate forms of Divine service.

Thus, this week of Re’eh emphasizes the combination of the two approaches in Divine service.

Likewise, Rosh Chodesh Elul gives us the same message, “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li” makes the acronym Elul. In this verse we have both — “I am [devoted] to my friend ...” the upward devotion of Jews to G‑d. “My friend is [devoted] to me,” the downward blessings of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to the Jewish people.

There is another area where this duality of approach applies.

The study of the esoteric teachings of Torah, vis-à-vis learning the revealed aspects of Torah, may be compared to the difference between ascending, from below upwards, and descending, from above downwards.

Some may argue that the exoteric studies move in an upward direction being that they depend mainly on the individual’s stages of intellectual accomplishment, while the secrets of Torah are gained by being drawn from above.

Actually however, the opposite is true. The Mishnah teaches as the order of Torah study:

At five years of age, the study of Scripture [should commence]; at ten — the study of Mishnah; ... at forty, understanding....

Clearly, we start studying Torah at an age when we still have not reached the true power of understanding. In a sense we start off learning exoteric knowledge by being given the gift from above. The study of the esoteric teachings of Torah does not begin until the mental faculties are developed, hence it is studied from below, upwards.

When the two aspects of Torah are combined, as indicated in the verse: “I will make your pinnacle of kadkod,” as explained in Gemara and Chassidus, it then incorporates within itself the combined aspects of rising and descending study.

Action is of the essence; we must be involved in all of the abovementioned Divine service: Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, Elul, and especially to go out to greet the King in the field.

May G‑d grant that our going up onto the mountain will be with great success, with grace and mercy. So that we will merit that: “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former” (Chaggai 2:9). The Third Beis HaMikdash, which G‑d, Himself will build will still have the qualities of the “former” and the Mishkan. For the “work of Moshe lasts forever” (Sotah 9a).

By making the proper resolutions now we will gain the merit even before they are carried out — and then of course we must do the good deeds. This will motivate the Holy One, Blessed be He, to accept our good resolutions to fulfill His promise.

By G‑d there is no gap between decision and action, so, we will suddenly find ourselves in the Third Beis HaMikdash in our Holy Land, where:

The eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year till the end of the year, (Devarim 11:12)

with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

2. Let us now further analyze the term “kadkod” mentioned in the Haftorah, which the Gemara said was a play on the words “k’dain u’k’dain — as this one and as that one.”

What details can we find in this matter, on this Shabbos, when we read the portion Re’eh and when we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Elul?

In relation to the portion, we have already made the connection with the Haftorah where the term “kadkod” appears and we elaborated on the themes of: onyx and jasper, Yosef and Binyamin, two levels of tzaddik, and rising and descending.

The individual themes of Yosef and Binyamin actually apply to every Jew. “Yosef” which symbolizes the drawing down from above, applies to every Jew, for we know that the Jewish people are named “Yosef.” In our generation this concept was emphasized since the first name of the Nasi of this generation was Yosef.

How does the “rising” theme of Binyamin find expression in the case of individual Jews?

In Likkutei Torah, the ability of Binyamin to raise the profane levels of creation is discussed, and attributed to the fact that Binyamin was the only son of Yaakov to be born in Eretz Yisrael — the others were born in Aram Naharayim. Having the power of yamin, the right side, analogous to Eretz Yisrael, gives “Ben-Yamin” (the son of the right) the ability to rise from below upwards. Similarly all Jewish souls have an attachment to Eretz Yisrael and to the essence of the land; we are all sons of Yerushalayim: the level of complete awe — as we stand in the spiritual state.

Thus every Jew has both aspects of Yosef and Binyamin.

Now let us see this combined theme in the text of Re’eh.

(A) The first verse states: “You can therefore see” — it is shown to you from above.

The conclusion of Re’eh speaks of the holidays, which indicates that: “The Jewish people sanctify the seasons (holidays),” and the final verse says:

“Each person shall bring his hand-delivered gifts depending on the blessing...” (Devarim 16:17). As Rashi explains that he who has more food and possession must present larger and more sacrifices.

So in the one portion of Re’eh we find the combination of the revelation from above downwards and the rising upwards from below.

In each of these details we might also find both aspects by implication, when the Torah says Re’eh — “You ... see,” it is speaking of the future — you must rise to the stage of “seeing,” meanwhile continue your service of “listening.” Chassidus explains that listening and seeing also symbolize the two directions we are speaking of.

Similarly in the last verse of Re’eh, it first says: “Each person shall bring his ... gift.” Rashi adds — “if he has more he must bring more.” But then the verse reverses and says: “depending on the blessing that G‑d your L‑rd grants you.” The blessings of G‑d bestowed from above generate the power to worship and serve Him by rising higher. It comes from G‑d’s power and it gives you the ability to do.

At Minchah we will read the portion of Shoftim, where we will also find this same theme.

Rashi explains:

“Shoftim” — are the judges who pronounce sentence. (Rashi, Devarim 16:18)

It is the revelation of the Torah position on a matter of the profane world. The sublime was drawn down.

“Shotrim” — are those who chastise the people at their (the judges’) order, (beating and binding the recalcitrant) with a stick and a strap until he accepts the judges’ sentence.

Here the role is clearly to raise the lowly, who of his own accord would be overwhelmed by his own inertia, and not rise to fulfill the Torah directive.

The verse clearly states, “shoftim and shotrim,” you must combine both of these approaches. Being one of the 248 positive commandments there is a lesson to be garnered for everyone, that his personal Divine service must include both aspects of shoftim and shotrim. To draw down a revelation from above and to purify his body and animal soul to rise upwards from below.

In turning our attention to Rosh Chodesh Elul we will find this theme expressed in the details of the days of Elul: The king in the field, and Moshe’s ascent onto the mountain. The former clearly is a descent to the lower worlds. The latter an exercise in rising. So that the month of Elul includes both of these themes.

A further analysis will reveal that in each theme you may discover both aspects. When the king is in the field the townspeople leave the city to greet the king in the field. Going out to the field is a descent for the people of the city, their purpose is to rise and attain greater heights by accompanying the king back into the city. Thus they go up from below while the king came down to them.

In the case of rising onto the mountain, the ascent is in the manner of going upwards — but the goal is to reach the summit and benefit from the benevolence bestowed from above.

The practice of blowing shofar on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul is to prepare oneself for the blowing of the entire month. One of the reasons for the Elul shofar is to awaken the masses and to remind them of the importance of teshuvah. How does this take place? The shofar bestows a feeling of awe from above and bestirs the people to introspection. However since the blowing on the first day is only as a practice run, its goal is to rise to the level of the ability to be able to properly blow the shofar throughout the month — therefore on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul we have a combination of rising upwards and radiating downwards.

Going back for a moment to the theme of Shabbos, which we discussed earlier, we will find that in the general theme of Shabbos we may also find the dual systems we have been discussing.

Shabbos of course “... has already been sanctified [from the creation] and so continues”; the sanctification comes from above. Nevertheless the Gemara says:

He who took the trouble [to prepare] on the eve of the Shabbos can eat on the Shabbos. (Avodah Zarah 3a)

If so, there must be work from below to create the delight of Shabbos and introduce the heavenly sanctification.

It is at the first meal of Shabbos, on Friday night, that this lofty delight is reached, at the time when “Shabbos has been sanctified” from above, in practice then the pleasure is greatest, simply because the meal is scrumptious, and when one enjoys a feast after six days of common fare it is all the more delightful. The second meal of Shabbos eaten on Shabbos midday is not so enjoyable, because it comes so soon after the repast of the night before.

Now, this great delight of Friday night, which is bestowed from above, is also reached because of the down-to-earth preparation of the days before Shabbos — only then can one truly enjoy the festive meal of Shabbos.

The third Shabbos meal is at the time of greatest delight and is connected to the Third Beis HaMikdash. [This is more spiritual than Friday night.]

In the Gemara we find the discussion of the third Shabbos meal and its connection to Yaakov Avinu:

An unbounded heritage, for it is written, ... and I will feed you the heritage of Yaakov your father, not like Avraham of whom it is written ... not like Yitzchok ... but like Yaakov of whom it is written, “and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north and to the south.” (Shabbos 118 a-b)

Similarly the Third Beis HaMikdash is connected to Yaakov Avinu. As we find in the Gemara:

Not like Avraham in connection with whom “mountain” is written, ... nor like Yitzchok in connection with whom “field” is written, but like Yaakov who called Him “home.”

The commentaries explain that mountain and field relate to the First and Second Temples but home refers to the Third Temple which will be eternal. “The infinite heritage.”

The third meal of Shabbos and the Third Temple each include an aspect of combining the previous two stages. The third meal which Kabbalistically symbolizes “Atik,” brings unity between “royalty” and the first six supernal attributes, while the Third Temple unites the disparate aspects of the First and Second Temples.

May our discussion lead to the fulfillment of these words, that the Third Beis HaMikdash will be built, and, “Yerushalayim shall be inhabited like unwalled towns” (Zechariah 2:8), when the promise will be fulfilled that “the breaker is come up before them” (Micha 2:13), and the coming of our righteous Mashiach, may he come and redeem us and lead us, walking upright, to our land, quickly and truly in our days.

* * *

3. In chapter 13, verse 13 of today’s portion we find the directive:

[This is what you must do] if, with regard to one of your cities that G‑d your L‑rd is giving you as a place to live, you hear a report....

Rashi comments on the words:

“As a place to live” — the words “as a place to live” are added to exclude Yerushalayim which city was not intended as a dwelling place. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

In other words, Rashi views the words, “As a place to live,” as ostensibly redundant, from which we may deduce, that they are added to exclude Yerushalayim, which was not intended as a dwelling place.”

Considering the fact that people did live in Yerushalayim, the Sifsei Chachomim interprets Rashi’s words, “which was not intended as a dwelling place,” to mean:

.. for one particular person, but any Jew who so wished may establish his home there, for Yerushalayim was not designated for a particular tribe.

We may infer from the words of the Sifsei Chachomim, that in other areas of Eretz Yisrael a settlement would be permanent and secure, because each tribe was given the land as an eternal inheritance, and in fact, ownership of land may not even be transferred from tribe to tribe, as the Torah says:

.. and the hereditary property will not be transferred from one tribe to another. (Bamidbar 36:9)

Yerushalayim, however, was not assigned to any one tribe, therefore, settling there would not be permanent, the individual ownership of any Jew would not be total and absolute, because all of the tribes of Israel have some degree of proprietorship in the area.

This approach is not satisfying in the plain meaning of the Scripture.

(A) Even though the area was not designated for a particular tribe, the individual’s dwelling place has all the characteristics of his private property. For example in the case of mezuzah which must be affixed to your dwelling place — a home in Yerushalayim would have to have a mezuzah!

(B) Moreover, how is the five-year-old Chumash student to understand this concept, that Yerushalayim was not assigned to a tribe, when he was never informed of this fact by Rashi.

In fact, the five-year-old Chumash student learned from Rashi in this portion that Yerushalayim was in the domain of Binyamin. He also remembers the Rashi in Vayigash:

And he fell upon the neck of his brother Binyamin and he wept — for the two Sanctuaries which were destined to be in the portion of Binyamin and were eventually to be destroyed. (Bereishis 45:14)

Consequently, the simple meaning of the Scripture is that all of Eretz Yisrael was divided among the tribes, even the place of the Holy Temple and certainly the city of Yerushalayim.

Another point to ponder.

Rashi’s source is in the Sifri, where the exact wording of the text is: “To exclude Yerushalayim which city was not intended as a house for dwelling.”

Why does Rashi skip the word “house” and only quote “dwelling place”?

The Explanation:

Rashi thought about the fact that people do live in Yerushalayim and he illuminated the point by emphasizing “was not intended as a dwelling place.”

Let us backtrack for a moment. It would have been more appropriate for Rashi to say: “There is no dwelling there” — why say, “was not intended as a dwelling place”?

And although he is quoting the Sifri, Rashi often adapts his source to the plain meaning by using his own words — so why did Rashi not say simply: “There is no dwelling there”?

Thus, the term “was not intended,” becomes the key word in Rashi. Clearly it indicates that people did live there and their homes were full-fledged, privately occupied, (needing mezuzos) etc. There was only one reservation, that Yerushalayim, “was not intended as a dwelling place.”

This may be understood in the following manner.

The five-year-old Chumash student knows about the capital city of his homeland [Rashi lived in France, similarly in all countries]. What is the essence of the capital city? — that the palace of the king is there, and all the other buildings are used for governmental purposes. Of course people also live there, but the intention and purpose of the capital city is to be used for governmental purposes.

If perhaps the five-year-old Chumash student never visited the capital city of his homeland, and he lives in a small village, well, he has learned about the camp of the Levi’im in the wilderness, whose whole purpose was to guard the Tabernacle of Testimony. True, their camp was no less a dwelling place than the camp of the other tribes, but the purpose of their camp was to serve the Tabernacle.

From this we may draw an analogy for Yerushalayim.

The purpose and role of Yerushalayim was to be a capital city where the palace of the king and the Beis HaMikdash stood. Yerushalayim had to serve the needs of the Beis HaMikdash. So although people lived in Yerushalayim, just as they lived in other cities, yet, it “was not intended as a dwelling place.” For it was not dedicated as a city of dwelling places rather as a city which had to serve the Holy Temple.

Rashi studied this verse very carefully: “With regard to one of your cities that G‑d your L‑rd is giving you as a place to live.” Why did the verse connect the “giving” to the “living”? This is usually not the case. In the same portion a few verses back we find the classic expression: “... the land which G‑d your L‑rd is giving you, and occupy it. When you have occupied it and you live there....”

Why does Scripture here connect the “giving” to “living”? Because here Torah wants to teach that this law applies only for cities which were given with the intention and purpose for living!

For this reason Rashi deduces that: “To exclude Yerushalayim which city “was not intended as a dwelling place.” What was its purpose, and for what was it intended — to serve the needs of the Beis HaMikdash. Similarly, Rashi deletes the Sifri’s word “house” — because the intention of the Sifri with the word “house” is to indicate a halachic ruling, that “houses” may not be rented in Yerushalayim (because of the common heritage of all the tribes) (See Yoma 12a).

But Rashi’s role is to give us the plain meaning, not halachic rulings, and since the verse here is not discussing the halachic extent of ownership, rather the intention of the “giving” of the city by G‑d, therefore Rashi deletes the word “house” and speaks only of dwelling place. Since Yerushalayim was intended as a city which would serve the Holy Temple, its purpose was not to be a dwelling place, therefore, it is excluded from the laws discussed in this section of the portion.

* * *

4. At this time of the year when schools are opening for registration, every effort must be made to encourage and influence parents to enroll their children in schools which provide proper Jewish education. The theme of the educational program should be the purity of Jewish teachings, based on love of G‑d and fear of G‑d, which will engender the observance of all of the mitzvos of the Torah. It will also train the children to conduct themselves in such a way that, “Let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven” (Avos 2:12), and, “In all your ways acknowledge Him” (Mishlei 3:6).

No one is exempt from this mission and responsibility. For those who feel that they are not capable of being involved in this work, they should see to appoint a delegate, etc.

For those who have already influenced several, or many, parents, don’t be complacent. Search out other Jewish children and enroll them in proper Jewish schools.

For He who preserves one soul of Israel is considered as if he had preserved the whole world. (B. Basra 11a)

Just because you saved several worlds is no reason to desist from helping another “whole world.”

Since we are at the close of the galus period it is clear that there is only one more action to be done — just one more child in yeshivah!

Remember even at the time of the Rambam, he writes:

If he fulfills one commandment, he turns the scale of merit in his favor and brings salvation and deliverance to all his fellow creatures and to himself. (Laws of Teshuvah 3:4)

And in truth, back in the time of the Gemara this was also true; how much more so in these times.

Of course this is not being said as a justification for the extension of the diaspora — “How long must Jews suffer in exile.” Why must we complete all the details of purification? a majority should be enough! As the Rambam says, that we should consider ourselves as half and half and one good deed tips the scales! And as the Gemara says: “All the predestined dates for redemption have passed ...” (Sanhedrin 97b).

If the Holy One, Blessed be He, desires our Divine service and worship, let Him give us Mashiach, for then our Divine service will be much richer and really perfect.

We want the light of G‑d to be revealed to us. If there are fools who mislead themselves and say that we are in a state of “comfort,” well this is a greater proof of the darkness, because they call “darkness — light.” In fact we are in the worst possible state of exile!

Woe to the children who had to be banished from the table of their fathers. (Berachos 3a)

We do not see our Father!

For our own signs we have not seen ... and there is none in our midst who knows what the end will be. (Tehillim 74:9)

Can we find some meritorious word on their behalf? Yes, the darkness of the galus blinds them! But when we explain it, they should realize the situation.

The main thing is that we want the action, the true and complete redemption; Mashiach Now!

However, so long as we are still in the galus, we must labor to purify the world, and therefore at this time we must use every effort to enroll every Jewish child in yeshivah. This of course will also engender the phenomenon: to “... turn the hearts of the fathers to the children” (Malachi 3:24), for these children will bring the light of Torah and Yiddishkeit into their homes. So that their homes will become a place for the Shechinah to dwell — “I will dwell among them” just as it was in the Beis HaMikdash.