1. Tonight [after midnight] we will start saying “Selichos” [the penitential prayers], and for this reason this Shabbos is called “Shabbos Selichos.”

The special “pizmon” [liturgical poem] recited tonight begins with the words, “Bemotzo’ei Menuchah — When the day of rest concludes.” This indicates that the first Selichos has a connection with the day of Shabbos, as we see, that we call the Shabbos, “Shabbos Selichos.”

Since by Divine Providence, that this year we start the Selichos on the night of the conclusion of Shabbos Savo, this would infer that there is also a particular connection between the Selichos prayers and the portion of Savo.

In reviewing the portion of Savo we face a troubling problem which needs clarification. We are told how the people were to accept the entire Torah by oath and covenant:

When you cross the Jordan, the ones who shall stand on Mount Gerizim for the people’s blessing shall be.... The ones who shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse shall be.... The Levi’im shall then speak up and say ... (Devarim 27:11-14)

Rashi comments:

Six tribes ascended the top of Mount Gerizim and the other six the top of Mount Ebal, the Kohanim, the Levi’im, and the ark remained below in the midst (in the valley in-between). The Levi’im turned their faces towards Mount Gerizim and began to recite the blessing: “Blessed be the man that does not make any graven or molten image, etc.,” and both these and those (the tribes on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal) answered, “Amen!” Then they turned their faces towards Mount Ebal and began to recite the curse saying: “Cursed be the man who makes any graven [or molten image] etc.” and so in the case of all of them, till the last: “Cursed be he that does not uphold and keep this entire Torah.” (Rashi, loc. cit.)

When one peruses this chapter of the portion Savo the question arises: We find in the verses of Scripture only the curses and not the blessings! When Rashi goes on to describe the details of this very moving experience he tells us that the Levi’im commenced with the blessings first and only then did they mention the curse. Surely the Torah itself should have mentioned the blessing first. Furthermore, the Torah could have dispensed with citing the curses altogether, by listing all the blessings, and then indicating that the curses were the converse of the blessings.

Instead, the Torah lists all of the curses specifically, does not begin with a blessing and does not even mention one of the blessings specifically?!

What in fact is the meaning of a malediction mentioned in Torah?

In the Zohar we learn that the Torah begins with the letter “bais” (Bereishis) because it is the first letter of “berachah.” This shows us that the Torah, and by interpolation, all creation, represent the aspect of blessing. This is clearly spelled out in the verse:

G‑d saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Bereishis 1:31)

Existence is very good; it should not harbor evil and imprecation. If so, when the Torah does relate some threat of evil or curse, clearly it is for the sole purpose of being converted to the consummate good, i.e. a blessing even greater than “very good.” As we find:

And G‑d your L‑rd transformed the curse into a blessing for you, since G‑d your L‑rd loves you. (Devarim 23:6)

Transforming evil to good produces a higher good, and is expressed by the words: “G‑d your L‑rd loves you.” And in fact, starting with the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, all negative aspects which we find in Torah really exist to be converted to good, and to add goodness to the “perfect” world created by the Holy One, Blessed be He. For “G‑d is the essence of good, and the nature of goodness is to radiate benevolence,” so that the world was madevery good.”

Still, G‑d sought a loftier perfection of goodness: “The quality of light out of darkness and wisdom out of foolishness” (See Koheles 2:13); “The conversion of darkness to light and bitterness to sweetness” (Tanya chapter 10); until the ultimate is reached and, “the night will illuminate as radiant as the day” (Tehillim 139:12). A loftier light will emanate from the darkness.

Let us apply this theme in the case of the eleven curses in our portion.

There would have been no great expression of exceptional goodness by listing the eleven blessings! Of course, G‑d blesses His people! But when we speak of the loftiest manner of transmitting blessing, by converting the evil to goodness, then we truly have an earth-shattering emanation (radiation) of beneficence.

This theme is applied by the Alter Rebbe, in Likkutei Torah, to the Tochechah (the threatened curses for disobedience) of Bechukosai to the point, that he says, that when the intended blessing is very great, coming from the “hidden” levels above, it cannot be expressed in a positive way but must be “hidden” in an expression of imprecation. The purpose of the threats of punishment in Bechukosai, and even moreso in Savo, is only to be converted to the good!

This point was illustrated by a story about the Mitteler Rebbe (son of the Alter Rebbe).

It was the custom of the Alter Rebbe to be the “Baal Koreh” every Shabbos. Once it happened that the Alter Rebbe was not at home in the city of Liozna during Shabbos Savo and someone else was appointed to read the Torah. The Mitteler Rebbe was not yet bar-mitzvah then — he heard the Torah Reading — and he experienced terrible anguish, distress and heartache. His health was affected to the point that the Alter Rebbe worried whether his son would be able to fast on Yom Kippur. When the Mitteler Rebbe was asked why he had become so ill, since he had heard the Tochechah being read before, he replied, “When my father reads it, you don’t hear the curses.”

Thus, on the one hand, in Savo we have the potential for serious problems, and on the other hand, when our Merciful Father in Heaven reads it, all the curses will be converted to the greatest blessings!

Thus, the theme of Savo is the transformation of negative aspects to reveal the true good, the inner intentions, the ultimate blessings and goodness.

Although these concepts are based on esoteric aspects of Chassidic philosophy, by analyzing the simple narrative we will also come to the same conclusion.

Remember, all of the portion Savo was spoken to the generation that was about to enter Eretz Yisrael. It was to them that Moshe had said:

Only you the ones who remained attached to G‑d your L‑rd are all alive today. (Devarim 4:4)

Which Rashi had explained to mean:

All of them were perfect, and destined to enter the Promised Land, for amongst them there was not even one of those upon whom it had been deemed that they should not enter the land, because those who were to die in the wilderness had already ceased to exist, and these belonged to those about whom it is written ... who remained attached to G‑d ... are all alive today. (Rashi, Bamidbar 20:22)

Is it possible, that when speaking to such lofty people, at the pinnacle of perfection, who were all guaranteed to enter the land, (despite the theoretical potential for some misdeed) that they could actually be cursed or warned of punishment for disobedience!? This is absurd and absolutely illogical. We must therefore say that the mention of curses or threats of punishment, G‑d forbid, really refers to the ultimate lofty blessing and goodness which will be achieved by transforming the evil and revealing the loftier good.

Let us now approach the connection of Savo to the theme of Selichos.

The context of Selichos and the days of Selichos comes at the end of the month of Elul. Clearly all the aspects of Divine service initiated in the month of Elul and designated by the name of the month, in Torah, prayer, charity and teshuvah have already been implemented. Having passed Chai (18th of) Elul, there was also a new “life” injected into the activities of Elul. At this point the Jewish people surely stand on a higher level. All year round we follow the assumption that “all Jews are qualified,” and that “Your people are all righteous,” how much moreso after passing through the days of Elul, and Chai Elul. In the aspect of blessing bestowed upon us, from above, Torah also dictates that in the month of Elul when we write to another Jew we indicate that he should “merit to be inscribed and sealed in the book of good life.” In addition, we have started reciting the psalm, “By Dovid, the L‑rd is my light and my salvation,” and we started blowing shofar. Certainly all of these actions have already increased the blessings of life, children, sustenance, etc.

Now when the days of Selichos approach, the question pops up: After all this, Selichos? Why? For what reason?!

The answer is, that the true context of Selichos is not to negate sinful action or to nullify evil conduct. This has certainly been cleared away already through the earlier part of the month of Elul. The real context of Selichos is the higher quality of converting the evil to good; transforming the sins to mitzvos, and to generate the bountiful and lofty blessings which follow, the incomparable phenomenon of: “And G‑d your L‑rd transformed the curse into a blessing.” Here we have the connection of the portion of Savo with the start of Selichos — both represent the lofty quality of sublimating the bad and drawing out the ultimate good.

Another point:

Why do we call the penitential prayers, “Selichos?” Although the root of Selichos is the word “selach — pardon,” there are however, several terms of forgiveness used in the penitential prayers, again: “selach, mechol, kaper — pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.” Why “Selichos”?

The reason: The root S’L’Ch’ is used, because it’s gematria (numerical value) is 98, the same as the number of Tochechah — curses — in the portion Savo! A clear indication that the purpose of the Selichos is to convert the evil into good, and another connection between the portion of Savo which has the 98 loftiest blessings, and the beginning of Selichos.

It now behooves us to explain the association of Selichos with Shabbos, represented by the Pizmon, “Bemotzo’ei Menuchah,” and the fact that this Shabbos is called “Shabbos Selichos.”

The two — Shabbos and Selichos are really antithetical: on Shabbos we may not even mention the whole aspect of forgiveness, no sadness is permitted on Shabbos, etc.

By introducing our earlier explanation of Selichos we will justify the connection with Shabbos, for in truth we have shown that Selichos is truly an exercise in joy — not the rejection of undesirable elements; but their transformation to holiness, which evokes the loftiest happiness and blessing.

This is not to say that we may recite Selichos on Shabbos — that must wait till Shabbos ends — but we may still express the connection to the theme of Shabbos by reciting “Bemotzo’ei Menuchah,” and by naming it, “Shabbos Selichos.”

The practical lesson:

Being in the darkness of the diaspora, as expressed in the Haftorah:

For, behold, darkness will cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples ..., (Yeshayahu 60:2)

there may be those who fear the confusion. To this fear comes the reassurance, that the negative forces are only temporary, and their true essence is to be transformed into good, the concept of: “... but G‑d will [arise and] shine over you...” (Ibid).

Another, more important, point. When a child faces unexpected resistance in some undesirable situation, begins to cry, no matter if it be only a minute problem, and the father hears his child’s cries, he is moved by the natural emotion of pity and comes to his aid.

By way of analogy, the Jewish people are referred to as: “Israel is a child and I have loved him,” as the love of a father to his small child. So when a Jew cries out to his Father in heaven, even for a small thing, even if it be only a temporary problem — still, the All-Merciful Father in Heaven hears his cries and fulfills his request. And when this takes place in the month of teshuvah, the Rambam rules that “before they call I will answer!” (Yeshayahu 65:24)

Therefore through our Selichos we will merit even “before they call,” the benevolent blessings of the Holy One, Blessed be He, in all areas of good. Especially the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

Since the first redeemer is the last redeemer, as the Gemara relates:

Let the good come and receive the good from the Good for the good. Let the good come — that is Moshe.... And receive the good — that is the Torah.... From the Good — that is the Holy One, Blessed be He.... For the good — that is Israel.” (Menachos 53a)

This means that we will merit to study the Torah of Mashiach from Mashiach. May it be speedily in our days.

* * *

2. This Shabbos we read the portion of Savo, and we give it the name: “Shabbos Selichos.” It is also the Shabbos after Chai (18th of) Elul, the birthday of the two great luminaries, the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe.

The general theme of Chai Elul is the “dissemination of the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside,” for the “wellsprings” refer to the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov and the concerted effort of “dissemination” of these teachings began after the Alter Rebbe was released from incarceration in Petersburg.

Thus, Chai Elul is a propitious time to annually increase the efforts related to spreading the teachings of Chassidus.

One of the basic modes of this activity is printing and distributing (selling) Chassidic works. The printing of course had to be done before Chai Elul but the dissemination should have been intensified on Chai Elul.

Remember, the Baal Shem Tov told us that the coming of Mashiach depends on disseminating Chassidus! Now, it could just be that the one Chassidic book which you could have sold to one Jew, who thereby would have been given the chance to study Chassidus, would have been the last act needed to bring Mashiach!

As the Rambam described it:

If he fulfills one commandment, 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)

Aside from this, he could have caused another Jew to study the Chassidic teachings of the Baal Shem, or the Alter Rebbe, or later Rebbeim, including the teachings of the Previous Rebbe, the Nasi of our generation.

It is in connection with this theme that the administration of Kehot Publications will announce a “sale” on its publications starting from Chai Elul until after Shabbos Bereishis.

It is important that Chassidic works should be properly priced — it is simple human nature that when something has a appreciable price tag it is viewed as being valuable, and hence, a person will buy it. Later he will take the time to study it — he will want to see what he paid money for!

When we were in Riga, and the discourses (maamarim) of the Previous Rebbe were printed for distribution, the price was printed on the pamphlets. I asked the Previous Rebbe why it was necessary to print the price on the cover. In Russia when the Chassidic discourses were printed the price was included in the cover letter or in the flyer announcing the publication of the work, but not on the pamphlet itself. Why in Riga was it necessary to put the price on the book? The Rebbe answered: “Now we are among people for whom the price will be the determining factor.” In other words if it has a price, it is important!

Relative to the importance of Chassidus the prices should be very high. And in truth, their value cannot be measured in gold. However we must take into consideration the condition of the poor people and set a reasonable price which everyone may afford.

From time to time however, it is advisable to make a “sale” and as we see, that during these “sale” times there really is an increase of sales of the books. Consequently, from Chai Elul till after Shabbos Bereishis there will be a sale of Kehot books.

What is disturbing, is that in the administration of Kehot no one thought of making the sale, despite the fact that it was done during the past two years. There was a time when it was difficult and costly to print Chassidic works but now it can be done in abundance. What makes it all the more troubling is that the distribution is neglected. On the one hand, so much effort has been invested in printing Chassidic works in clear type and with notes and references, and yet they remain in storage, why all the effort and work?!

However, my hope is that from now on this will be corrected; the distribution will be improved and the time for special reduction of the prices will be announced. And all who wish to purchase Kehot books may do so at “sale” prices.

[This same theme will also apply in several other areas where people have been given, or have assumed, responsibilities, but tend to rely on others, to get the job done or simply to shirk from their missions. G‑d wants everyone to do that which is incumbent upon him.]

I will conclude by referring to the beginning of the portion:

When you come into the land that your L‑rd is giving you as a heritage, occupying it and settling it.

Entering Eretz Yisrael was effected by Yehoshua, but “occupying it and settling it” had to be done by each individual Jew; and the action of each Jew was dependent on the action of every other Jew, as Rashi explains:

The Israelites were not under the obligation to bring first fruits until they had conquered the land and divided it. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

They could not bring the first fruit (Bikkurim) until all the Jews had settled in the land.

When we speak of action, everyone must do the part assigned to him or her, and the success of the entire nation depends on each individual.

The deed is the essence, so everyone should increase their activities through which we will merit the “great deed,” the true and complete redemption, and together with Mashiach we will “come into the land,” with our youth and elders, sons and daughters. We will come to the Holy Land, where “the eyes of G‑d your L‑rd are constantly upon it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” So may it be, with the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Mashiach, speedily in our time.

3. On Chai Elul we discussed the theme of the “two great luminaries,” what aspects they shared, what each expressed individually, and what we may learn from their teachings and from their lives. As the Torah says: “This is the book of chronicles of man” (Bereishis 5:1).

The general theme of Nasi is expressed by the dictum of Rashi: “For the Nasi is the whole” (Rashi, Bamidbar 21:21). We find this description in the case of the first Nasi, Moshe, the trusted shepherd, of whom it was said: “... Moshe, who is like a trusted servant throughout My house” (Bamidbar 12:7).

Rashi brings his commentary in a discussion of contradictory verses; one says: “Moshe sent,” and the other says: “The Israelites sent,” Rashi explains as follows:

Each of these verses is necessary one to the other; one keeps back information and the other describes it. You may gather from them that Moshe is Israel and Israel is Moshe, thus telling you that the prince of any generation is the equal of the whole generation, for the prince (Nasi) is the whole. (Rashi, Ibid)

This classic role of Nasi is related both to spiritual as well as material matters. When the Jewish people clamored for meat, Moshe said: “Where can I get enough meat.” The Torah goes on to relate that G‑d ordered the assembling of the seventy Elders and G‑d said:

I will cause some of the spirit that you possess to emanate, and I will grant it to them. (Bamidbar 11:17)

Chassidus explains that all worldly benevolence — spiritual and material — must emanate from the Nasi! But Moshe could not condense and constrict his spirituality to the level of bringing the Jews corporeal meat! Therefore, there had to be a Tzimtzum (condensation) of Moshe’s power through the Elders, and then the desires of the people for meat could be met.

In later generations, in the era just before the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe, the power and spirit of the Nesi’im was revealed only in one area, either physical or spiritual. It was only with the revelation of the Baal Shem Tov that the dual powers were again established. As we see, that the Baal Shem and the Alter Rebbe, and their successors, openly radiated and bestowed spiritual benevolence relating to Divine service, study of Torah, observance of mitzvos, and the revelation of Chassidic philosophy; as well as help and assistance in earning a livelihood and providing for physical needs. [This dual spirit continues still, to the end of time.] So we have touched upon an aspect of the classic role of Nasi, common to the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe.

When we discuss the individual, differing, roles of the Baal Shem Tov and Alter Rebbe, we will find a noteworthy connection to the time frame when Rosh Hashanah occurs on Monday, as this year, or on Tuesday — in both of these cases — we start saying Selichos on Shabbos Savo.

There is a well-known mnemonic rule used to remind us when the portion of Vayeilech is read together with Nitzavim or not. It is based on a phrase in a verse in Daniel (1:13), “Pa’T’Ba’G’ HaMelech” (the food of the king) (Daniel 1:13). The rule explains that when Rosh Hashanah (HaMelech) falls on Monday (bais) or Tuesday (gimmel) then we separate Vayeilech from Nitzavim.

Chassidus adds further insight into the verses and explains that the numerical value (gematria) of B’G’ (bais gimmel) is five, representing the five forces of severity (Gevurah), and on Rosh Hashanah the attribute of severity is changed to kindness. As the Midrash relates:

When Israel take their shofars and blow them in the presence of the Holy One, Blessed be He, He rises from the Throne of Judgment and sits upon the throne of Mercy.” (Vayikra Rabbah 29:3)

Thus the theme of Rosh Hashanah is especially emphasized when it falls on Monday or Tuesday — the second or third day of the week.

Now, these numbers: two (bais) and three, (gimmel) may also be related to the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe.

The Baal Shem Tov’s manner of Divine service was to leave his synagogue and study hall and travel around through the towns and villages. He would seek out simple Jews and talk to them about their common interests, how they were doing in earning a living, how they were getting along in their health, and so on. His purpose was to encourage them to express themselves and say: “Baruch Hashem — Thank G‑d” or “Praised be the One Above.” This inner expression of appreciation to G‑d effected and revealed the inherent bond between the essence of the Jew and the essence of the Creator.

The Alter Rebbe followed a different path of Divine service, centered mainly on teaching Torah, both in his own synagogue and study hall, and also, when he traveled from place to place. Wherever the Alter Rebbe went he would deliver Chassidic discourses and encourage his listeners to review and study his words.

The Baal Shem Tov awakened the essence of the soul of the Jew, raised him and helped him improve himself, but because he was dealing with transcendental powers they could not be absorbed into the inner spiritual lifeblood of the people. On the other hand the Alter Rebbe dealt with the immanent, intellectual powers, of Torah learning, and although he may not have touched the inner essence of the soul, still his influence was fully absorbed into the lifeblood of his adherents and students. This point is clearly explained in Tanya:

In the case of knowledge of the Torah, the Torah is clothed in the soul and intellect of a person and is absorbed in them; it is called “bread” and “food” of the soul. For just as physical bread nourishes the body as it is absorbed internally, in his very inner self, where it is transformed into blood and flesh of his flesh, whereby he lives and exists — so, too, is it with the knowledge of the Torah.... This is the meaning of the verse, “Yea, Your Torah is within my inward parts.” (Tanya, chapter 5)

The path of Divine service followed by the Nasi is also transferred and absorbed by his students.

We may now associate these two modes of Divine service with the numbers — two and three — associated with the first day of Rosh Hashanah occurring on the second or third day of the week, [when Selichos is begun on Shabbos Savo].

The number two represents the joining of two opposite, or different, forces in a manner where each retains its individuality. The influence of the Baal Shem Tov did not permeate the essential lifeblood of his adherents, so, although they were connected to him, it was only as two independent beings joined together for some higher goal.

On the other hand, the influence of the Alter Rebbe did penetrate the inner essence of the spiritual lifeblood of his disciples — therefore their unity was like the number three which indicates a new entity, created by the coalescence of the preexisting two objects. Each loses its independence in the process and they become one.

This year Rosh Hashanah occurs on Monday which would associate it more closely to the Baal Shem Tov’s path: to travel and reach out to the people in order to bring their hearts closer to their Father in heaven. Which points to the many guests who have traveled and undergone the travail of travel to come here for the purpose of strengthening all areas of their Yiddishkeit, Torah, Chassidic lifestyle, etc. And when they return they will go back and influence others in all these matters.

May they see much success in all their endeavors in receiving the benevolence here and in disseminating it back in their own areas.

Certainly they will be blessed with a Kesivah VaChasimah Tovah, for a good and sweet year.

* * *

4. In today’s portion, on the verse:

Today you have become a nation to G‑d your L‑rd. (Devarim 27:9)

Rashi comments:

Today you have become a nation: Every day it should appear in your eyes as though today you entered into a covenant with Him. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Rashi’s careful choice of words is well known. Which evokes some puzzlement, why does Rashi add the phrase, “in your eyes”? The verse is referring to the covenant which was made at Sinai and the covenant which Moshe was making at that time. The commitment of the covenant applies to all organs of the body: the ears, to hear Torah; the hands, to do mitzvos; the feet, to run to do a good deed, etc. Why would Rashi single out the sense of vision and say: “in your eyes”? It would be more logical to have said: “Every day it should be for you as though you entered a covenant ...”!

Let us refer to the Talmud for a moment and see how the Gemara handles this verse. In the tractate Berachos we find:

Today you have become a nation: Now was it on that day that the Torah was given to the Jewish people? Was not that day the end of the forty years of wandering? It is however to teach you that the Torah is as beloved every day to those that study it as on the day when it was given from Mount Sinai. (Berachos 63b)

Why could Rashi not have explained the verse in the same manner as the Gemara? To say, that “the Torah is as beloved ... as the day when it was given,” would be an ideal explanation for this verse! Why must Rashi add the phrase: “in your eyes ...”?

It should be noted that this is not the first time Rashi used this phraseology. At an earlier opportunity in the same portion, on the verse: “Today G‑d your L‑rd is commanding you” (26:16), Rashi comments:

Every day they should seem new in your eyes, as though on that very day you were commanded regarding them. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Similarly, back in Vaeschanan, on the verse:

These words which I am commanding you this day. (6:6)

Rashi had commented:

Let them not be in your eyes like an antiquated ordinance which nobody minds, but like a recent one towards which everybody hastens. (loc. cit.)

Clearly, Rashi repeats this phrase, “in your eyes” three times for special emphasis, which heightens our incomprehension: Why does Rashi emphasize the term “in your eyes” and what is Rashi’s subliminal meaning?

When the five-year-old Chumash student studies Rashi’s advice, that Torah matters must be “fresh and new” everyday, he wonders: “How can such a demand be made? It is against the nature of a person.” Normally you cannot compare the enthusiasm and preciousness of something new, with the same object after a long period of time. A simple example of this is the excitement the child feels with a new toy, or a tasty new food, or delicacy, which he never had before. The excitement and enthusiasm will wane once he gets accustomed to it!

Rashi anticipates this sound challenge, he therefore presents an example from real life, from the daily experience — of any person — which may be used as an analogy to help understand how something done in repetition can also retain its full flavor. The first time and the nth time will all be the same. What is this common phenomenon? Vision!

When you look at something, you see the object in the field of vision instantaneously and in its entirety. It is a comprehensive sighting. Each time you look at the same object or scene and your eyes take in the same field of vision, you see the same thing. The first sighting and the thousandth sighting present you with the same instant picture.

Hearing is different. The details of sound take time to transmit, so when you hear the same series of sounds the second time, as each moment goes by you remember what is to come next. As a result your experience of hearing is different each time.

The five-year-old Chumash student justly asked how the enthusiasm for Torah can be the same day after day, It is unnatural! Rashi patiently explains: it will not be easy to accomplish, but it can and must be done — and I will suggest an analogy to help you see that it can be done. Take the sense of vision as an example. Every time you look you will see the entire scene just as you saw it in your first comprehensive glance — so too, Torah can be just as exciting, and refreshing, and new, today, as it was on the day that it was first given, thousands of years ago, to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.