1. This week’s farbrengen is the third one being held in connection with the “Hillula” [anniversary of passing] of the previous Rebbe. As such, it provides the aspect of “chazakah” [meaning: firm and established], so that all the good resolutions accepted by everyone, to increase their activities relating to the lessons of the previous Rebbe, will be firmly established. The word chazakah also has the connotation of strength, so that there will be an increase in the force and intensity of all these activities.

With the strength of chazakah, the enthusiasm of this period will continue to exert its good influence on the days and years ahead. This might sound strange, since we recite daily in our prayers, “... we hope for Your salvation every day” (Siddur, Shemoneh Esreh). Certainly our faith brings us to believe that the redemption will come immediately, “every day”! When Mashiach comes the resurrection of the dead will commence and certainly the first to rise will be the righteous and among them the Nasi of our generation. If so, why should we say that the aspects of the Yahrzeit shall be carried into the future? When Mashiach comes the idea of following the lessons of the Hillula will no longer be needed — the Rebbe himself will be with us!

Yet there is a Chassidic interpretation for the verse in Yeshayahu 66:22:

For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, says the L‑rd, so shall your seed and your name remain.

Thus, although in the Messianic era there will be the “new” heavens and earth, [which Chassidus interprets to refer to the inner revelation of “Atik”], nevertheless, in the Divine service time of the diaspora, G‑d!

So when we reach the point of “chazakah,” we reiterate that the strength of the chazakah will allow us to take the lesson of the Hillula into the future.

In the future, when this Divine service will still be appreciated it will be mainly the involvement of this last generation, just before the Mashiach.

Our sages tell us that which Moshe was described as being more humble than any person, this was because he looked at the generation before Mashiach, saw their limitations and obstacles and said, “If they can overcome all their problems and still be faithful to G‑d and fulfill the Torah — then what am I?!”

So we see, that our present devotion to G‑d and our careful observance of mitzvos is precious before G‑d — from the vantage point of Moshe and as it will be viewed in Mashiach’s times.

Do we lack problems, obstacles, or temptations? In particular we should note the problem of, “Not to be embarrassed in front of those who scorn you.” These scoffers are not gentiles, but Jews, not agnostics, but believers — at least in other matters — but when it come to believing in the coming of Mashiach they disbelieve and mock, even using Torah to support their position, which makes the test all the more difficult.

Despite the onslaught of the scoffers you withstand the test and are not shamed, but put more energy and effort into your works.

I am speaking to people who have received and cherish the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and all his disciples until the previous Rebbe, the Nasi of our generation.

Those who act against the mitzvah of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and poke their fingers in the “pupil of G‑d’s eye” by attacking Jews, are not the object of my words — what business do we have with such people?

Our sages have said in Yevamos 79a: “This nation is distinguished by three characteristics: They are merciful, bashful and benevolent.” These three attributes form the acrostic “G’V’R”‘ (man) “gimmel,” “bais (vais),” “reish” — “gomlei chassadim,” “baishanim,” “rachmonim” [benevolent, bashful, merciful], one who acts otherwise — well, where is he connected?

Really no mention of this matter should be necessary, other than to strengthen those who might feel some slight embarrassment from the scoffers. To them we say, don’t waste your time thinking about them, when every moment can be, and should be, used for Torah study and acts of kindness.

Thus, “... so shall your seed and your name remain,” refers to this generation specifically, because we are not influenced by the obstacles and restrictions, the scoffers and problems. On the contrary, there is an increase in spreading Torah, Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside. This is what the previous Rebbe wanted! And may all who follow his teachings be blessed with all manner of blessing — for everything they need, physically and spiritually. As the previous Rebbe eloquently described it: “All of you stand ready ... to receive the blessing of G‑d ... which the Eternal, may He be blessed, will radiate to you ... by means of the awakening of great mercies ... which will be engendered ... by the celebrant of the Hillula” [referring to the Yahrzeit of his father].

2. We find a connection between the portion of Yisro and the directive which we draw from the day of the Hillula.

The theme and content of the Divine service and life goal of the previous Rebbe, was to spread Torah and Yiddishkeit to the farthest reaches, through true Ahavas Yisrael. For this goal a Jew must: (l) leave his own environment and travel to the outside in order to (2) attract another Jew to “return.” The ultimate accomplishments will be (3) the refinement and sanctification of the physical world-making it a dwelling place for the Shechinah. These points may be found in the portion of Yisro.

l. How do we see that one must effect a change in the Jew who is on the outside, to come closer to Torah and Yiddishkeit?

Chassidus explains that Yisro represented the concept of “the quality of light out of darkness and wisdom which excels folly”; the metamorphosis of darkness into light. From his life we see the change, from the “priest of Midyan, who experimented with every possible form of idolatry and reached the nadir of degradation,” from whence he transformed himself to holiness, so that he came to recognize and proclaim: “Now I know that G‑d is greater than any god.” So much so that the Zohar states: “Then the Holy One was exalted in His glory above and below, and then it was that He gave the Torah in the completeness of His dominion” (Zohar III, 68a). Yisro’s proclamation brought Matan Torah! (the revelation and the giving of the Torah at Sinai).

2. How do we see that the mentor, benefactor, must lower himself in order to influence “the outside”?

Chassidus discusses the term “chossein Moshe” (Yisro was the father-in-law of Moshe) to mean the descent of the Torah (related to Moshe) to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.

3. Where do we see the purification of the world?

In the portion of Yisro we are told the whole story of Matan Torah, which reversed the ban against the spiritual being revealed in the physical; after that, G‑dliness may once again permeate and fill the world. For this reason at Matan Torah !

A bird did not chirp ... the bull did not low ..., the whole world was quiet and still. Thus from the four directions of the universe the Voice came forth: “I am the L‑rd your G‑d.”

Thus all the aspects of the previous Rebbe’s life are clearly learned from Yisro. This can also be connected with the portion of Mishpatim which we start reading at Minchah the time of “complete delight.

In Torah Or, Chassidus explains that the verse, “If you buy a Jewish servant ...,” is written in the singular, because it refers to our teacher Moshe, who drew down from above the aspect of knowledge of G‑dliness to all of Israel.

It goes on to explain that Moshe was called the “trusted shepherd” because he was the one — of the seven shepherds — who bestowed upon the Jews the aspect of knowledge. As he said to the Jewish people, “You shall know that I am the L‑rd....” Moshe is also called the final redeemer because at that future time too, there will be an abundance of knowledge as it says: “The world will be filled with the knowledge of the L‑rd....”

The connection is clear. The “extension of Moshe” in our generation, the previous Rebbe, spread the wellsprings of the esoteric teachings of Torah to the outside, thereby bringing the knowledge of G‑dliness even among those who were originally outside.

The coming of Mashiach is also dependent on this revelation, which causes the world to be filled with knowledge of G‑d!

It is this Divine service which our Nasi demands of us. For every Jew has a spark of the “first redeemer,” which is why fear of G‑d is called a small matter, compared to the spark of Moshe within every Jew [Tanya, chapter 42].

Similarly, every Jew has a spark of Mashiach as expressed in the two interpretations of the verse: “A star went forth from Yaakov,” which translates the verse as referring either to Mashiach or to every Jew.

With these points in mind, we can appreciate the importance of this farbrengen and its influence in all the aspects of the day of the Hillula.

A) A farbrengen has the quality of strengthening Ahavas Yisrael — mutual love and unity among Jews, which generates joy and satisfaction in the supernal spheres. The previous Rebbe explained an aphorism of the Alter Rebbe that a farbrengen can accomplish more than the angel Michael, because of the joy it engenders in heaven.

The Ahavas Yisrael evoked during a farbrengen also has the quality that it ultimately leads to the fulfillment of the rest of the Torah. For as Hillel said, referring to Ahavas Yisrael: “This is the whole Torah, the rest is an explanation, go and study it [completely].” When you start with mutual love, you will surely reach the completion of the whole Torah.

B) The place in which this farbrengen is being held is the synagogue and study hall near the precincts where the previous Rebbe lived and worked during the last ten years of his bodily existence.

C) The element of time. The Shabbos of Yisro, in the afternoon, the time of “greatest delight,” associated also with the portion of Mishpatim, both of which carry the message of the previous Rebbe’s life work.

D) This is the third farbrengen in the sequence related to the Hillula which establishes and fixes the chazakah.

The fact that the third farbrengen takes place on Shabbos reinforces this point further:

The theme of Shabbos includes: repose, “with the Shabbos comes repose” (Rashi, Bereishis 2:2), pleasure, “... you will call Shabbos delight” (Yeshayahu 58:13), and joy, “on your days of joy, [this refers to the day of Shabbos” (Sifrei Bamidbar 10:10).

All of the aspects of a person’s Divine service done on Shabbos proceed from repose, joy and pleasure. When the blessing of Shabbos is carried into the following days and weeks it carries with it the threefold aspect of rest, delight and happiness.

Thus, coming from this farbrengen on this Shabbos, the lessons of the Hillula will bear with them the aspects of repose — spiritual and physical — pleasure — bestowed from above downward — permeated with joy, both in Torah and mitzvos. With this richness the resultant activities will be blessed with immeasurable success, to break through all barriers, as the Prophet Michah said: “The ‘breaker’ has come up before them ... [and the L‑rd at the head of them.”

So that G‑d must give us all that we need to find delight in our Divine service and carry it out with joy, pleasure, and repose, and that this benevolence shall be bestowed upon us with the attribute of “chassidus,” namely, completely beyond the requirement.

Mainly and hopefully to reach the point of restoring the Sanhedrin, who teach the “mishpatim,” with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, which will usher in the time of: “And I will restore your judges as at the first...,” speedily and truly in our days.

3. Mention was made earlier of the idea that this [third] farbrengen establishes the fact of chazakah, which gives it the quality of carrying on this aggregate strength into the future. It would therefore be wise to perform some specific act now, which will connect the energy of this day with the days and weeks of the future. This is especially necessary since on Shabbos we stand in the realm of thought, as compared to speech and deed of the weekdays.

What must therefore be done now is to make a resolution and decision concerning the future action! This good resolution will connect the enthusiasm and power of the chazakah of Shabbos with the days of action that follow. Although now is not the time of action, the resolution will have real effect later.

In areas of Halachah we know that an action done in a period when one is exempt will absolve one from doing it again at the time of requirement, if the action still exists, e.g. if a minor, who was included in a Pascal sacrifice, later reaches the age of 13, after Pesach, he must not bring the sacrifice again on Pesach Sheni.

This subject is also seen in the case of Matan Torah — the revelation at Sinai — which we learn about in this week’s portion.

At the moment of Matan Torah all Jews became obligated to fulfill the whole Torah. “But,” you might ask, “how can this be, first you must learn all the mitzvos in order to be obligated; can you be responsible for something you are ignorant of?” When the five-year-old Torah student hears your question he will surely laugh.

Before the Torah was given to the Jewish people it was studied by Avraham, by Moshe, and to varying degrees by all the Jews. True, that at that time they were considered, “doing without being commanded,” still they did have certain knowledge from before. When the Torah was given to them and they became “commanded to do” did they have to relearn what they knew? Of course not! The obligation was not dependent on the study, and vice versa. Similarly they were obligated to do even what they had not yet learned!

Back to our case at hand. When on Shabbos, a time when we are not permitted to do certain activities, we accept the resolution to do these actions during the coming week, the act of resolve continues to exist in the weekdays. There is a real continuity from Shabbos to the following days and the actions done later come as a result of the action [resolution] taken on Shabbos.

The previous Rebbe exhorted us to be involved in spreading Torah, Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside. This general philosophy was broken down to certain specific themes in the last farbrengen. Both from the Rebbe’s name, Yosef, and from the esoteric theme of the month of Shvat, we derived the lesson that our obligation is to reach out and attract a Jew who is in the condition of “other” and transform him to be a “son.” In addition to this, we derived that one who is already considered a “son” must rise to an entirely new level of becoming “another son.”

Additionally, since the acrostic configuration of the letters of the Tetragrammaton which is revealed during Shvat is associated with the verse: “Hamer yemirenu vehaya hu,” therefore this outreach must be done in a manner of “switching.”

The “other” must be switched to become a son! The mentor must switch his normal activities, leave the precincts of holiness, if necessary, and go down to a level where the “other” may be found. Even in his manner of talk the mentor must substitute language and concepts which will be understood and attractive to the potential son, so that the switch can be effected. As the verse says: “... a better [one] for a worse one, or a worse [one] for better one,” which means that the better must go out to the worse in order that the worse shall become better.

And all of this is a positive directive. For the initial letters which comprise the acrostic of the Tetragrammaton come from the words which speak in a positive voice! Another point we observe is that the double usage, “Hamer yemirenu” signifies the idea of continuity and repeated action. Rashi notes this idea on the words: “Posoach Tiftach ... Noson Titein — open your hand generously ... make every effort to give him ...,” that it means: “Even as much as one hundred times,” or until you attain success.

Along with the responsibility comes the promise: “... both the original and its replacement shall be consecrated.” You, the mentor, and your protégé, the recipient of your good intentions, shall retain the full intensity of holiness and purity.

One point should be kept in mind. This just mentioned conclusion of the verse, “... the replacement shall be holy,” is not included in the acrostic of G‑d’s name. Your involvement must be wholehearted and your actions must be dedicated and devoted, your intentions must be sincere, but if you don’t see immediate results, it should not deter you. Don’t be disheartened; do not evaluate the success of your efforts by the result, only by your input. Of course you must be concerned that the result should be complete and the replacement shall be holy — but if the result is not immediately forthcoming, you should still go on with your work. If it doesn’t happen during Shvat the results will appear later on.

I therefore wish to present the following proposal, that everyone should resolve and obligate himself (without an oath — but with firm determination), to increase his actual involvement in the following:

A) Each month, as the acrostic of letters of the Divine Name realign themselves and give life and sustenance to the new month, everyone shall endeavor and strive to effect the theme of: “May G‑d grant me another son” in relation to one more Jew.

B) Each month everyone shall increase his charitable donations in a multiple of 36. This is in addition to his usual contributions, being that this year is the 36th year since the passing of the previous Rebbe o.b.m.

Of course this can be accomplished even with minimal amounts. This tzedakah will also have a beneficial effect on his work of attracting more Jews to Torah and it will cause the Holy One, Blessed be He, to increase His blessings to him in all that he needs. For tzedakah is a mitzvah of which we are told: “... the fruits of which, man enjoys in this world” (Siddur, Morning Prayer).

By increasing our charity in multiples of 36 we will merit that all the blessings and prayers of the celebrant of this Hillula on our behalf will be bestowed upon us.

The elevation attained by the soul of the deceased at the end of the 11 months that the Kaddish is recited, is generally understood to be, to rise from Gehinnom to Gan Eden, for this reason we recite the Kaddish only 11 months, for the judgment of the wicked in Gehinnom is 12 months, and we don’t want to shame anyone by assuming that he spent 12 months in purgatory.

If so why do we recite Kaddish on each subsequent Yahrzeit? The soul is already in Gan Eden? The answer is that the Kaddish of Yahrzeit is beneficent in effecting the annual elevation in Gan Eden. What type of elevation takes place then? The yearly ascent from one Gan Eden to the next Gan Eden is a quantum jump — completely beyond the relativity of levels — it is as great as the jump from Gehinnom to Gan Eden!

If so, after 36 quantum jumps — there is so much blessing to be had by connecting ourselves with the celebrant of this Hillula. Through giving 36 additional coins to tzedakah he will bestow his blessings on us.

Although there are aspects of Divine service which apply only to adults and not to children, or only to men and not to women, this case applies to every single person, equally. “The Nasi is the whole,” and his legacy applies to everyone!

Therefore everyone should be involved:

1. To attract each and every Jew to Torah and Yiddishkeit. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” applies to all Jews, even the smallest baby. If a Kohen Gadol, on Yom Kippur, is in the Holy of Holies and a small child must be rescued from a pile of fallen stones, if there is a chance that he could help, the Kohen Gadol must leave his sacred work and try to save the child. How much more so with a spiritual life threat.

2. Each and every Jew is responsible to work and be involved in attracting more Jews to Torah and Yiddishkeit. This activity applies also to small children from the age of education. Sometimes the children, with their pure sincerity, will be more successful.

Although it is not practical, or possible, even babies can have the mitzvah of attracting others to Torah. Certainly, even those who may have opposed the Nasi — they still are included in his generation and therefore are obligated to reach out to others. Just as in the desert the bearers of the idol of Michah and Dasan and Aviram were included in the rule: “The Nasi is the whole.”

Consequently it behooves everyone to publicize this among all our Jewish brethren, in all parts of the world, to encourage every Jew to be involved in these two projects: to attract more Jews to Torah and to increase contributions to charity. What is important is to advertise and spread the word.

In order to connect these good resolutions with a physical act and to bring it into the reality of the real world, everyone should now say “LeChaim” on physical wine which one should pour for the other. Since this incorporates an act of permitted tzedakah on Shabbos, it will effect a unity and togetherness among everyone. And may G‑d grant that all of you will accept upon yourselves these good resolutions on the condition to fulfill them later. As, “G‑d sees [the intentions of] the heart” and it is connected with an act — the merit for the good act will be forthcoming immediately!

And speedily in our days the Jewish people should be redeemed from the exile; as at the Exodus from Egypt “with our youth and our elders ... our sons and daughters.” Similarly in the future Exodus: “As in the days of your going out from the land of Egypt I will show them wondrous things,” not even one Jew will remain in galus.

All together we will come to Eretz Yisrael, where everyone will have a share, and then to Yerushalayim, the Holy City, and to the Holy Temple and we will merit the promise: “I will restore your judges as at the first....” May this all happen speedily and actually in our days in the manner of “I will quicken,” and immediately they are redeemed.

4. The Alter Rebbe’s dictum, “to live” with the times — meaning the Torah portion of the week — is well-known, and in relation to the Hillula of the previous Rebbe the three portions of Bo, Beshalach and Yisro will come into consideration. Bo and Beshalach respectively, preceded and followed the Hillula, and today we have gathered for the third farbrengen, the one which makes it a chazakah. on the Shabbos of Yisro.

Question. What common theme can we find in these three portions, which will share the essential philosophy and central theme of the Divine service, of the previous Rebbe?

Answer. Spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit to all Jews, out of a feeling of Ahavas Yisrael (love of fellow Jew) and Jewish unity.

In relating to us the incidents leading up to Matan Torah (the revelation at Sinai — giving of the Torah), we are told in Yisro (Shmos 19:2): “And there Israel camped before the mountain,” on which Rashi notes: “As one man [and] with one mind.

Clearly, we have here an aspect of absolute unity of the Jewish people as a nation, as well as with the Torah, as it says: “... before the mountain,” the mountain of Sinai on which the Torah was given.

The importance of this unity is emphasized by the teaching of Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer — that at the time of the giving of the Torah all souls of all future generations were present, together with the Jews of that time. True unity!

In Beshalach we learn of the Manna, where we again see the unity of the Jewish people.

“An Omer for every person, according to the number of your souls ... for them which are in his tent” (Shmos 16:16). In gathering the Manna true egalitarianism was attained, for: “He that gathered much had no excess, and he that gathered little had no lack,” everyone ended up with the same amount — again an expression of true unity!

Since we speak of “heavenly bread” we can also interpret it to mean, that in their Divine service of Torah and Yiddishkeit they were equal and unified and just as all were given the taste of “dough made with honey” they also all reached the level of “delight” in their G‑dly service.

The story of the Exodus is told to us in Bo. What happened there.

Pharaoh had said to Moshe: “Go serve the L‑rd your G‑d; who are they that shall go?” (Shmos 10:8). To which Moshe replied: “With our youth and our elders ... our sons and our daughters”; not just the men, as Pharaoh had suggested, but all Jews. And when the moment of exodus arrived they all left, as one!

Again we find a unified act, leading them out of Egypt to go to receive the Torah! for they marched forth to “... serve G‑d on this mountain” (Shmos 3:12).

Thus all three portions connected with the Hillula include an aspect of unity of Israel in relation to Torah and Yiddishkeit. Was this not the theme of the life-long work and Divine service of the previous Rebbe?!

An attentive perusal will also come up with another interesting and important observation. These three phenomena were the most basic and fundamental happenings in the communal life of the Jewish people, for all time.

We experienced Matan Torah — the revelation — once, it must last us forever. A jar of manna, which we received in the desert, and which sustained us for 40 years, had to be sequestered and hidden away forever, “... as a keepsake for your descendants” (Shmos 16:33).

The Exodus from Egypt was the root and source of all later redemptions, including the coming redemption, of which it says: “As in the days of your going out from the land of Egypt I will show them wondrous things.”

What greater proof could there be, that the work of spreading Torah to fellow Jews, out of a feeling of love and unity is something basic, fundamental and eternal in the life of the Jewish people, for all eternity.

An additional emphasis must be introduced in our generation, which is the last generation of the galus. It has been explained that the intention of the exile was to be redeemed. As G‑d said to Yaakov prior to descending to Egypt: “... and I will also bring you back again.” This is understood to mean, that only through the diaspora we are able to reach the loftier heights of the ultimate redemption. What is the quality of redemption compared to the level we were on before going into galus (exile)? The condition of independence before the exile represented a state of no exile, but the fear of possibly losing our independence and of potentially descending into exile was there. The quality of the ultimate redemption, which comes after actual diaspora, is the concept of absolute, true and permanent liberation, redemption and freedom. By definition true redemption means there is not even the potential for further galus! [Of course this will only be reached with the ultimate redemption, all previous exoduses being only temporary respites from the ongoing galus.]

This concept, that the intention of exile is exodus, can be seen in the almost similar spelling of “golah” — exile — and “geulah” — exodus — the same word with the addition of the letter “aleph.” The esoteric purpose of the golah is to add the aleph, by revealing G‑dliness in the world, and thereby transforming it to geulah. Spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit in more places of the world will effect this result.

How can we motivate ourselves to do this? By knowing that the aleph is also in exile, as the Talmud states in Megillah: “To every place they were exiled the Shechinah was with them,” for the “Shechinah is in exile.” When we realize that the Holy One, Blessed be He, is exiled, we will do everything in our power to accomplish the geulah, for G‑d’s sake. This thought engenders the movement to teshuvah, for when Jews do teshuvah we can be redeemed in an instant.

A connection may also be found to the first sentence of the portion of Mishpatim which says: “These are the laws that you must set before them,” which is symbolically translated to refer to the sequestered treasures — the inner power of the soul. Facing the challenge of the galus, the Jew is seen as the legionnaire of G‑d, the “Tzivos Hashem,” and is given these precious powers which overcome the obstacles of the exile.

We will then merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, and we will attain unity of our People, Torah and Land, where we will merit the fulfillment of the promise, “I will return your judges as at first,” speedily, and truly in our days.

* * *

5. In approaching the commentary of Rashi on this week’s Torah portion we are faced with a burdensome question that at first glance might seem superficial and foolish, but is really very perplexing. The paradox is compounded by the strange fact that the commentators on Rashi do not note or explain the dilemma!

The Torah tells us that Moshe went up onto Mount Sinai and G‑d called to him and said: “... This is what you must say to the family of Yaakov, and tell the children of Israel” (Shmos 19:3)

Rashi cites the words, “This is what you must say ...,” and comments:

.. In this language and in this order of words, “... to the family of Yaakov — this denotes the women,” “You must say — to them you shall speak in a gentle language,” “And tell to the children of Israel — explain to the men the punishments and the details of the commandments in words that are as hard as sinews.”

The question.

The five-year-old Chumash student knows and sees in his daily experience that in all matters men go before women, e.g. they are first to enter a house.

He also learned in Rashi on Bereishis 31:17:

[Then Yaakov rose up] placing his children and wives [on the camels]. — He put the males before the females. Eisav, however, put the females before the males as it says, “And Eisav took his wives and his sons....

The proper conduct of the Jew (Yaakov) was to place the males before the females, while the conduct of Eisav was the opposite.

[On the other hand when Yaakov later had to confront Eisav, his wives went before the children, from which we might also deduce that the reason for the normal sequence of males first is to show, A) the preciousness of the women and, B) as a form of protection. Thus when confronting Eisav the women went ahead of the sons — to protect their children. For this reason also, Rashi there explains that Yosef’s reason for changing the order and stepping in front of his mother was to hide and protect her from Eisav’s evil glance.]

On several prior occasions the sequence of males first presented itself in the Chumash, as for example at the Song of the Sea — first came the song of: “... Moshe and the sons of Israel...,” and only afterwards the song of Miriam and the Jewish women.

All of this brings the paradox into sharp focus. Why here, at the giving of the Torah, certainly the most important event in Jewish history and in the lives of the Jewish people, should the women be first?

The question cannot be circumvented by applying the oft used rule that in Torah, events are not always arranged in chronological order, because here Rashi specifically translates the words, “This is what you must say — in this language and in this order.”

The sequence in this case is specific: First the women and then the men!

Looking for a solution, we might turn to the Midrash which Rives the following exegesis:

.. G‑d said: “When I created the world, I only commanded Adam first, and then Chava, too, was commanded, with the result that she transgressed and upset the world; if I do not now come to the women first, they will nullify the Torah”; for this reason does it say, “This is what you must say to the family of Yaakov.”

Can we accept the pertinence of this interpretation, when Rashi himself does not even mention it at all? Additionally, from the point of view of simple translation, whichever way you look at it there is a problem. On the one hand there are those of the opinion that Chava was yet to be created when G‑d commanded Adam. Ipso facto, she could not have been present! On the other hand, if she was previously created — simple logic forces us to assume that she was at Adam’s side when he was so commanded by G‑d and that she was included in the admonition and caution about the Tree of Knowledge. You have nothing to indicate that she was not present at the time of the warning.

Thus we are face to face with a real “klotz kashe” — a truly perplexing question, which perturbs the five-year-old Chumash student — who wonders also, why Rashi fails to clarify it.

There is a companion question here which bothers the five year old, according to Rashi. It appeared from Rashi that there is some established rule, that the word, “v’sagid” refers to, “words as hard as sinews.” If so, how will we translate the verse, a few lines further, which reads: “‘Vayaged’ — Moshe brought the peoples reply back to G‑d” (Shmos 19:8).

Can it be that Moshe spoke to G‑d, “words as hard as sinews”? Absurd!

To find the answer let us look back to an earlier commentary of Rashi, which speaks of the period just before the giving of the Torah. On the words, “And they journeyed from Refidim” (Ibid 19:2), Rashi comments:

What does Scripture teach us by again expressly stating from where they set forth on their journey, for is it not already written that they had encamped at Refidim and it is therefore evident that they had set forth from there?! But Scripture repeats it in order to make a comparison, with the character of the journey from Refidim to that of their arrival in the wilderness of Sinai. How was it in the case of their arrival in the wilderness of Sinai? They were in a state of penitence, thus too, their setting forth from Refidim was in a state of repentance.

The Torah goes on to say: “And there Israel encamped,” which Rashi explains:

As one man with one mind, but all their other encampments were made in a murmuring spirit and in a spirit of dissension.

Analyzing this commentary, we discover an important aspect of the occurrences during the days just prior to receiving the Torah.

Even before Moshe was summoned up onto the mountain, to be instructed by G‑d in the detailed preparations for Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah), the Jews had already begun their own preparations for the forthcoming event. Thus, we are told that upon their “... arrival in the wilderness of Sinai they were in a state of penitence.”

Now, this repentance cannot refer to remorse for a particular sin (they had not committed any sins), but rather to a general feeling of repentance, as a stage in the preparation for Matan Torah. Similarly, their encampment, “As one man with one mind,” was also accomplished out of their increased efforts to properly prepare themselves for Matan Torah.

What initiated this enthusiastic mood of preparation? Moshe of his own volition, even before being told by G‑d, started to advise the Jewish people and to suggest to them preparatory conduct conducive to Matan Torah.

Now, when Moshe gathered the Jews to teach and exhort them, who came first? We have already learned that Moshe always spoke first to the elders and sages, then to the men and afterwards he addressed the women.

We have now solved the problem of why the women were mentioned first when G‑d told Moshe to prepare the Jews for Matan Torah. Having already initiated the earlier self-generated stages of preparation on his own, which followed his normal sequence of: sages, men, then women, Moshe is now ready to hear G‑d’s directives for further preparations. At this point they arrived at the wilderness of Sinai and G‑d summoned Moshe to the mountain and instructed him to continue the preparation with certain specific details. Only, now he is commanded to address the women first. Why?

Because in the teaching of Torah there must be a progression from gentle, soft words, to harsh, strong words, and the gentle words must be told to the women while the harsh words are reserved for the men.

The five-year-old sees from his own experience that in Torah this progression exists, and is adhered to. When he was very small, he was promised sweets for learning aleph-bais. When he grew older, the offer of sweets would have been embarrassing, instead he was addressed a bit more harshly and was told — not to be satisfied with the aleph-bais he had learned, but that he must advance and learn more.

Life has already taught him that there is a need for soft words and harsh words and the sequence is definite — the gentle approach comes first.

Order, logic and experience now combine to illuminate the words of G‑d. The Torah was soon to be given to the Jewish people, they had to be a unified people, men and women included. In the transmission of Torah, there must additionally be two characteristics, the gentle and the harsh. These two approaches apply only in the more detailed preparatory stages, after the earlier general preparation stage. Since by nature it is more appropriate to speak to the women in a gentle voice and to men in a strong language, therefore the women must be addressed first.

Realizing the wisdom of this sequence does not however change the earlier, usual sequence, which was to first address the men. Therefore in the general preparation for Torah, Moshe spoke first to the sages, then to all the men and only then to the women. But when it came to the finer details, G‑d commanded Moshe to go first to the women and speak softly and then to the men with stronger words. The reason? because gentle words must precede harsh words!

Addressing our second perplexity, that it is absurd to say that Moshe spoke to G‑d in harsh terms, we might answer, that in truth there is no contradiction.

Contrary to popular belief, the different forms of speech: “vayomer,” “vayedaber” and “vayagid” — which appear many times in the Torah prior to this portion, actually all have the same translation and connotation — speech. The differences are only in variety of style and diversity of expression. This is borne out by the fact that when the Torah wants to inform us that certain words were actually spoken harshly, it clearly says so. There are many examples of this: “Vayedaber — and he spoke with them roughly” (Bereishis 42:7). “Diber — the man, the lord of the land, spoke with us roughly” (Ibid. 42:30). The word vayedaber simply does not mean harsh, unless you add the word “roughly.” If so why does the Torah sometimes use the word vayedaber and other times the word vayomer — to achieve a variety of style and color of language.

Vayomer is often used in places where the descriptive “softly” simply would not apply, e.g.: “Vayomer and G‑d said, ‘there shall be light.”‘ The word vayomer is used again and again in creation and certainly there is no relevance there to harsh and soft words

When however, in the same verse, and the same sequence of speech we find two different terms, as here “This is what you must say [“somar”] to the family of Yaakov, and tell [“sagid”] the children of Israel,” then it behooves us to say that the choice of terminology indicates some special significance

This forced Rashi to interpret that here the word somar connotes gentle words and sagid connotes “words as harsh as sinews.”

Clearly then, when only one form is used in a verse, as in the sentence: “And Moshe related ...” we have no reason to go beyond the simple meaning of the word — to speak — and it has no additional connotation. Do not burden yourself with inferring that which is not there — the word is chosen by the Torah to give us the beauty and diversity of the language.

On the 15th of Shvat, because of the lateness of the hour we did not sing, “Ki b’simchah setze’u — For you will R_ out with joy....”

Therefore today, after singing “Sheyiboneh Beis HaMikdash” we will conclude with the song “Ki B’simchah.

And may G‑d grant that “you will go out with joy,” from the prayer of Mussaf to the prayer of Minchah, at the time of the “greatest delight,” “... and be lead forth in peace,” to the true and complete redemption, which will come in a manner of: “In ease and rest you shall be saved.” Truly in our time.