1. This Shabbos has a connection with Yud-Tes Kislev. Coming as it does just after Yud-Tes Kislev it is the Shabbos which completes the week of Yud-Tes Kislev, raising and perfecting all aspects of the preceding six days. Yud-Tes Kislev and the 20th of Kislev occurred on Thursday and Friday, leading into Shabbos, which also reiterates the association between Shabbos and Yud-Tes Kislev. Coming as a third day to the two days of redemption it becomes a closing day to the days of liberation and in a sense it concludes and seals the period.

Aside from its connection to the theme of Yud Tes Kislev, this Shabbos also is the 21st of the month and we read the Torah portion of Vayeishev. These aspects of the Shabbos, while being independent, will also have some relationship with Yud Tes Kislev.

What was the essential point of the liberation of Yud-Tes Kislev?

He redeemed my soul in peace...for there were many that strove with me. (Tehillim 55:19)

The emphasis was on the peace that came from the many.

True peace is attained when there are many who unite and become one, by finding unity with G‑d.

This goal is the ultimate purpose of the Jewish people: “to make peace in the world.” (Rambam, Laws of Chanukah, end) We are called: “The nation which made peace between Me and My world,” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 7:1) which is brought about by bringing peace and unanimity to the many dissonant and discordant forces in the world. This is man’s role in creation, and when he fulfills his role then,

..he becomes a partner to the Holy One Blessed be He, in the creation. (Shabbos 10a)

A Jew’s accomplishment reaches back to the period of the creation of the world, and since he unites the diverse parts into one, he becomes a partner to G‑d who is the “Unique One of the world.”

The unity must first be effected among the Jews themselves and then expand to encompass the whole world, when the ultimate goal of creation will be attained and the true and complete redemption will come.

The liberation of Yud-Tes Kislev had the aspect of the “many that strove with me” for the ministers and officers realized the righteousness of the Alter Rebbe and he was therefore freed from incarceration and given honor and respect.

The total purification of the world, however, was not completed with the liberation of Yud-Tes Kislev and it was necessary years later for a second day of liberation to be set, the 10th of Kislev (when the Mitteler Rebbe was freed from incarceration). Nowadays, our work in spreading the fountains of Chassidus must continue, so that we complete the refinement of the world in all spheres and bring the true redemption.

This Shabbos, which follows Yud-Tes Kislev also focuses on the theme of the “many that strove with me,” as borne out by the aspect of “Vayechulu,” and by being the third day from the redemption of Yud-Tes Kislev.

Shabbos completes and perfects the work of the six days of the week. When a Jew becomes G‑d’s partner in creation (see above) it is because he has attained a level of perfection in his activity.

Since the purpose of man’s Divine service is to bring “peace” and unity in the world, when Shabbos comes and the work is completed we must assume that this peace has been attained. It will be expressed by the fact that on Shabbos even unlearned Jews are trusted if they say that their produce has been tithed; and so we may eat together with them. On Shabbos even the physical world shows that it is at peace.

The wicked Tinneus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva: “Why does this day of Shabbos differ from the other days?” “Why does one man differ from other men?” he retorted. “What did I ask you and what did you answer me?” inquired he. “You asked me,” he replied, “why does the Shabbos differ from other days,” and I answered you, “why does Rufus differ from other men.” “Because the emperor desired to honor him” said he. “Then this day, too, the Holy One wished to honor.” “How can you prove it to me [that this is indeed the seventh day]?” “Let the river Sambatyon prove it, which carries stones the whole week, but allows them to rest on the Shabbos.” (Bereishis Rabbah 11:5)

This gives us a clear indication that the peace of Shabbos pervades the physical world, so that even the non-Jew perceives it. Consequently, besides the fact that Shabbos brings the perfection of “Vayechulu,” it also includes the unity and peace of “the many who strove,” the unity of the many.

This year, when Yud-Tes Kislev is Thursday and the third day of the redemption is Shabbos, we accentuate the idea of the many — three days — joining together. And it is enhanced by having this farbrengen in this shul which has been enlarged several times, which shows the idea of constant growth; and at this time when we see the three days functioning as one; and when many Jews gather together. All those points reiterate the aspect of the many uniting for one goal.

In the portion of Vayeishev which we read this week we will also find allusion to this unity.

On the verse “And Ya’akov lived,” (Bereishis 37:2) Rashi comments: “Ya’akov wished to live at ease.” (loc. cit.)

Now, Ya’akov’s desire for peaceful existence was not only to be spared the trouble of Lavan or Esav, but also, his ultimate desire for the complete peace and tranquility which will come with Moshiach — then we reach the true, “redeemed in peace.” Chassidus explains that Ya’akov was ready for the final redemption but circumstances did not allow it. We, too, must emulate Ya’akov in hoping for the true redemption. And we must do whatever we can to bring the peace and the redemption — with the Divine service of using the many aspects of the world and resources of the Jews.

Hence, the theme of Vayeishev — Ya’akov’s dream to dwell in tranquility — and the theme of Yud-Tes Kislev are congruous. In both, the redemption is effected by the unification and purifications of the “many.” In Ya’akov’s case it was Esav and in the case of Yud-Tes Kislev we speak of the purification of the world.

This enhances the accomplishments of Yud-Tes Kislev, for it has the additional powers of Vayeishev as it longs for the ultimate redemption which will be brought by “the many who strove with me.”

One may wonder why in the past we have not seen the previous Nessi’im emphasizing the importance of the third day after Yud-Tes Kislev, while so much was said, written and expounded about the loftiness of Yud-Tes Kislev, itself. This should be seen in a relative sense. Yud-Tes Kislev, of course, is the great and glorious day, the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus and in that sense it serves as the gateway for all the other days of the year. Relative to Yud-Tes Kislev, the third day often does not carry such important credentials. However, this year when we are gathered on Shabbos, the 21st of Kislev, we can find the special qualities and powers of the day, even as it brings more power to Yud-Tes Kislev, and we must elaborate and expostulate about it.

Our lesson from today must therefore be to increase the work of “redeeming in peace,” for “many strove with me,” through the path of Torah, which is the path of peace, for the Torah was given to make peace in the world. (see above)

The path of Torah will lead us first of all to deal with the yetzer hora — the evil impulse — the foreign power that is within us all. (cf. Shabbos 105b)

As the Gemara states:

If this repulsive wretch (the evil inclination) meets you, drag him to the Bais Hamidrash (overcome it by your application to study). If he is of stone, he will dissolve....

This means that the yetzer hora is not destroyed and completely eliminated, rather its nature is reformed; in the place of being a hard, destructive mass, it is now soft and pliable. Which alludes to the real fact that the yetzer hora only enters the person so that it should be rejected, in order to reveal the true quality of the Jew.

When we study Torah with the underlying feeling that it is the Torah of the Holy One, Blessed be He, then we rectify the yetzer hora.

Torah also leads us to purify the nations of the world. There, too, our interest is not to eliminate them, but to refine them.

Chassidus explains that the ultimate purpose of the dispersion in the time of the golus is to refine and redeem the lost sparks of holiness in the world and to raise them back to their lofty supernal source. But this cannot be the only end. They do not cease to exist after the process of gathering the sparks is concluded.

For even in the future time the nations will continue to exist: to serve and help the Jewish people. This ultimate state will also come about through Torah. As the Rambam rules:

Moreover, by Divine ordinance Moshe, our teacher, commanded us to compel all human beings to accept the commandments enjoined upon the descendants of Noach...provided that he accepts them and performs them because the Holy One, Blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and made them known through Moshe, our teacher. (Laws of Kings 8:10-11)

This then is our lesson to increase our activities in the areas where the many will be influenced; Jews, the world, and the nations.

* * *

The responsibility of a Jew to influence a non-Jew to observe the Seven Noachide Laws applies at all times. When a Jew comes in contact with non-Jews in the context of his business or profession, the opportunity for fruitful discussion of the Seven Noachide Laws becomes more obvious, and the Jew who is in such a situation should utilize his contacts for the proper goals.

Ostensibly, one might assume that his dealings with gentiles in business provides him with a chance to make a living. Of course all sustenance comes from the Omnipotent, but the Holy One, Blessed be He, wants us to make the proper vessel in a natural manner for His blessings to reach us. For this reason a person carries on his business affairs in the areas where he finds success:

And G‑d your L‑rd will bless you in all you do. (Devorim 15:18)

Therefore a Jewish businessman or professional conducts himself according to the customs and rules of the marketplace. Are his meetings with gentiles in this context for the purpose of teaching the Seven Noachide Laws?!

Oddly enough, the answer to this is a direct and simple, Yes!

Every faithful Jew recites in the Grace after Meals:

..Who, in His goodness, provides sustenance for the entire world with grace, with kindness and with mercy. (Siddur)

Clearly, sustenance comes from the L‑rd. No one is fool enough to think that G‑d who sustains four billion people can only give him a living through a particular non-Jew! G‑d could find many conduits for his parnasah (livelihood).

Therefore, the true purpose in this Divine Providence which brings him to have dealings with non-Jews is not because he needs to make a living, rather for him to fulfill the mitzvah of influencing the people of the world to accept the Seven Noachide Laws! He must explain these concepts to the non-Jew in a pleasant and friendly way. In fact, he will discover that in this context it will be easier to convince the gentile of his obligations.

Chassidus explains that the Al-mighty created the world in a manner that everything functions in a dual role — giver and receiver. Nothing in the world only receives and does not give.

The Jew has the ability to influence the non-Jew to accept the Seven Noachide Laws. In that role he is the giver — but he must also receive. So the Holy One, Blessed be He, ordained that the gentile will be the benefactor in the area of receiving parnasah. In this context it will be easier for the Jew to be successful in his role. If the Jew comes to a non-Jew and informs him of his G‑d-given responsibility to observe the Seven Noachide Laws, the non-Jew might say, “Who appointed you to preach to me? If G‑d wants me to do something He could tell me directly!”

However, when the gentile feels that the Jew receives his sustenance through him he will be more receptive to listen to the Jew in spiritual matters.

Actually, the Jew who influences the gentile in spiritual matters is also his benefactor in material matters. By helping him attain his spiritual goals, he will also assist him in finding success in his physical goals, for then his life will be based on the principle that: “He formed it to be inhabited,” (Yeshayah 45:18) social conduct based on righteousness and uprightness (by observing the Seven Noachide Laws).

On the other hand, the material benevolence which the Jew receives through the gentile is only channeled through the material “vessels” of the business, for G‑d’s benevolence could have reached the Jew in many other ways. The non-Jew, however, feels that the Jew needs him for his livelihood; he is therefore more willing to accept guidance from the Jew in the area of the Seven Noachide Laws.

Simply put: When they conclude their business talk the Jew should turn to his business associate and ask him to set aside a few moments to discuss matters which will enrich his life and bring him additional personal blessings; to fulfill his role in life by observing the Seven Noachide Laws. When the Jew speaks in this manner, with friendliness and genuine good will, and with words that come from the heart — he will certainly accomplish his goal.

Being that this sounds so logical and elementary why do people still think that the only reason for their association with non-Jews is purely for the sake of parnasah?

But the answer is that no thought is given to this subject at all! Had he contemplated on why G‑d had caused him to find his sustenance through this individual he would have realized the truth. The problem is that he never thought about it; which is a tragic fact. In business he is a weathered and experienced “wheeler and dealer” and when it comes to important spiritual matters he gives it no thought! Why waste the powers of intellect only on material mundane bodily enterprises — which are really less significant than matters of the soul.

Hopefully from this point onwards more thought will be given to the truly important matters and the real reason for his contact with non-Jews will emerge and he will be motivated to influence his non-Jewish associates to fulfill their commandments. When all Jews will carry out this mission the world will truly be refined and “the many will be with me” to bring the redemption, and we will find the ultimate tranquility with the ultimate redemption.

The responsibility to influence the nations of the world to follow the Seven Noachide Laws rests also on Jews who do not do business with gentiles. Why are they lax in this mission? Here the answer is that they are lax in general observance of Torah and mitzvos! The proof? Moshiach has not yet come! So long as the salvation has not come it is clear that we are deficient in some mitzvos or good deeds of our own, and those that we must teach to others.

The deed is most essential. Everyone must increase Torah observance, starting with setting times for Torah study, and then spreading Torah to the outside, among Jews and also among non-Jews in the areas pertaining to them.

This will bring the redemption without any restrictions. We will merit the fulfillment of the promise:

And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the L‑rd’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains.... And many people shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the L‑rd, to the house of the G‑d of Ya’akov.’ (Yeshayah 2:2-3)

Through the true and complete redemption of our righteous Moshiach speedily and truly in our times.

2. Being the 21st of Kislev, we find another aspect relating to this day.

In Megillas Ta’anis there is an historical reference to the 21st of Kislev:

The twenty-first of this month [Kislev] is the day of Mount Gerizim, on which no mourning is permitted. It is the day on which the Cutheans demanded the House of our G‑d from Alexander the Macedonian so as to destroy it, they said to him, ‘Sell us five “kurs” (measurement of area) of land on Mount Moriah,’ and he had given them the permission. Whereupon, some people came and informed Shimon the Just. What did the latter do? He put on his Kohanic garments and robed himself in his Kohanic vestments. Some of the nobles of Yerushalayim went with him...the young Kohanim drummed on holy vessels, and fiery torches were carried before them, they walked all the night, some walking on one side and the others on the other side.

Alexander said to them: ‘Who are these?’ The slanderers answered: ‘The Jews who have rebelled against you.’

When they reached Antipatris, the sun shone forth and when they reached the first watch they met. They asked them: ‘Who are you?’ They answered ‘We are citizens of Yerushalayim and we have came to welcome the king.’ When Alexander saw Shimon the Just, he descended from his carriage and bowed down before him.

They said to him: ‘A great king like yourself should bow down before this Jew?’ He answered: “It is the image of this person that I see when I go down to battle and then I am victorious.’ He said to them: ‘What have you come for?’ They said: ‘Is it possible that the house wherein prayers are said for you and your kingdom that it never be destroyed, these gentiles should mislead you to destroy it and you will give it to them?!’ He said to them: ‘Who are these?’ They said to him, ‘These are the Cutheans who stand before you.’ He said: ‘They are delivered into your hands.’

What did they do to them? They perforated their heels, tied them to the tails of their horses and dragged them over thorns and thistles until they came to Mount Gerizim, which they ploughed and planted with vetch, even as they had planned to do with the House of G‑d. The day on which this occurred they made a festive day.

What do we learn from this dramatic episode in our history? When a Jew hears that there are gentiles who oppose and scheme against the Bais Hamikdosh, which includes also the “miniature Mikdosh” in the heart of every Jew, his first response must be not to lose himself and certainly not to give up.

He must continue to fulfill Torah and mitzvos and continue to demonstrate his Jewishness in an open and proud fashion, in front of the gentiles. Then, nothing will happen to him and the gentiles will recognize the greatness of the Jew and they will realize that their success comes in the merit of the Jew and therefore they will help the Jew as much as they can.


When in the natural course of events the need arises to intercede with the powers that be on behalf of Jewish matters, some think that success will come only if the Jewish representatives dress in the garments worn in the palaces of the princes and follow the conduct of the princes and kings. They theorize that maybe then they will find grace in the eyes of the king and he will answer their request. The approach of Shimon the Just gives the lie to this attitude. When he had to meet Alexander of Macedonia he did not don diplomatic garb, on the contrary, he put on his Kohanic vestments, the same garments he wore when administering in the Bais Hamikdosh and praying before the Holy One, Blessed be He. This was obvious also to Alexander! So that even before he opened his mouth, Alexander descended from his carriage and bowed before him!

When his ministers and adjutants began to murmur and complain that he bowed to a Jew — he responded that his victory came because of the image of this Jew! Shimon the Just led him into battle! — no wonder that he bowed to him.

Naturally when Shimon the Just then asked for the king’s favor it was immediately granted.

In all places and at all times, when Jews must intercede on behalf of Jewry with the governments of whatever country, they must remember that “the hearts of kings and ministers are in G‑d’s hands.” (cf. Mishlei 21:1)

When the Jewish delegates will walk in the path of Torah and openly demonstrate this before the king, then the king will see that his power and greatness stems from the merit of the Jews, and he will bow to them and fulfill their request.

This also applies to any Jew. If for some reason a Jew needs a favor of a gentile in matters of parnasah, etc, the way of success is to don the “Kohanic garments” and openly demonstrate his Jewish conduct according to Torah, every step of the way.

The Jew should especially speak to the gentiles about the Seven Noachide Laws, for then the non-Jew will feel that the Jew cares about his spiritual well-being as well as the physical blessing which will come as a result.

The gentile must recognize that it is “this Jew” who is giving him this wonderful teaching based on the Torah which “this Jew” received. He will then owe him a favor and he will fulfill his request.

Here we have connected Yud-Tes Kislev with the succeeding Shabbos, the portion of Vayeishev and the 21st of Kislev. In all these areas we stress that “the many were with me” — the purification of the world and the nations of the world.

We may also deduce that one must be in a state of purity and taharah when he approaches such a mission for only then may we don the “garments of the Kohen.” And may this bring to the ultimate holiness: “Sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I, G‑d am holy, Who sanctifies you.”

* * *

3. In today’s portion the Torah tells us:

His master realized that G‑d was with him [Yosef], and that G‑d granted success to everything he did. (Bereishis 39:3)

To this Rashi adds:

That G‑d was with him [Yosef]; the name of G‑d was a familiar word in his mouth. (loc. cit.)

Several points bear clarification:

A) Why must Rashi explain the words “that G‑d was with him”; these words are plain and elementary to understand.

B) By commenting on the words of the text Rashi would seem to indicate that the five-year-old Chumash student will not understand the meaning per se. Yet Rashi’s commentary changes the simple meaning of the words. The plain meaning of the phrase is that G‑d stood by Yosef and helped him to be successful in everything he did. The verse speaks of G‑d’s action. Rashi however states: “The name of G‑d...in his mouth,” this indicates an action on the part of Yosef, that he always spoke G‑d’s name?!

C) A study of earlier and later verses will emphasize the problem. In the preceding verse (39:2) the Torah states: “G‑d was with Yosef.” (Ibid.) On that verse Rashi remains silent and we understand it to mean plainly that G‑d helped Yosef and gave him success. Why then does Rashi here (39:3) say that “G‑d was with him” means “the name of G‑d...in his mouth”?

Later in the same chapter the Torah relates:

The warden did not have to look after anything that was under [Yosef’s] care. G‑d was with him. (Ibid:23)

There Rashi adds: “Because G‑d was with him.” But he does not say anything about the “Name of G‑d”!?

Can we say that in verse two Rashi relies on his commentary of verse three?! This would still leave a broader question on this subject.

In the portion of Toldos we are told how Avimelech and his entourage came to Yitzchok and they said:

We have indeed seen that G‑d is with you. (Ibid 26:28)

Rashi adds:

We saw it in the case of your father and we see it in the case of yourself. (loc. cit.)

Clearly Rashi is speaking of the fact that G‑d helped them and made them successful.

But, if Rashi holds that “G‑d is with you” means “the Name of G‑d...in his mouth,” why not give us that commentary back in Toldos when the Torah first used the terminology in the case of Avraham and Yitzchok? Why wait for Vayeishev?!

The Rashi annotators discuss this question. Ramban does not accept Rashi’s interpretation and the others attempt to explain it. Some say that because the verse goes on to say that G‑d made him successful, the earlier reference must refer to the fact that the Name of G‑d was in his mouth and therefore he was successful. But the other verses which we cited also have parallel structures with repeated references to G‑d’s help and Rashi did not change the meaning of those verses. Other commentators connect Rashi’s explanation with the Midrash which describes how he would mumble to himself and the warden thought he was saying magical incantations until he saw the Shechinah above him. So Rashi explains that the whispering he saw Yosef doing was actually G‑d’s Name.

We cannot accept this explanation because it does not fit into the simple meaning of the verse and we must first try to understand Rashi in the plain meaning of the text.

Another point causes some puzzlement here. It would appear that having G‑d’s Name in his mouth would be very praiseworthy and for this reason G‑d gave him success. In Toldos, however, we find a different view.

Come closer to me, let me touch you my son, are you really Esav or not. (27:21)

There Rashi notes:

Yitzchok said to himself: It is not Esav’s way to mention the Name of G‑d so readily, as this one says: ‘Because the L‑rd your G‑d caused it thus to happen to me!’ (loc. cit.)

We know that Esav tried to trick his father, yet Esav did not mention G‑d’s Name! If mentioning G‑d’s name is a good practice surely Esav would have used it in his trickery!?

Furthermore, Esav tried to copy his father in his father’s presence, and yet he did not say G‑d’s name — this must mean that Yitzchok also was not accustomed to mention G‑d’s name.

How can Rashi here in Vayeishev say that Yosef’s custom of mentioning the Name of G‑d was just and righteous when we see that Yitzchok did not think it so.

The explanation:

When we study the verse: “G‑d was with Yosef and He made him very successful” (Ibid 39:2) we have no problem. It is clear that the Holy One, Blessed be He, was with Yosef and therefore he was very successful. Rashi has nothing to add.

However, when in the following verse the Torah tells us: “His master realized that G‑d was with him,” (39:3) here the obvious question pops up: How did Potiphar know that Yosef was successful because G‑d was with him? Potiphar was certainly a pagan idolater, as were all the Egyptians, and as such he should have attributed Yosef’s success to one of the idol’s of Egypt.

In the case of Yitzchok and Avraham the circumstances were such that Avimelech did recognize G‑d’s power. Yitzchok reaped a rich harvest when that year all around him there was famine — certainly no help from the idols of the Plishtim! When Avimelech had abducted Sarah, G‑d’s angel punished him and G‑d reprimanded him — so he had seen the hand of G‑d and the blessings of G‑d, therefore he acknowledged that G‑d was with Yitzchok and Avraham.

But in our case how would Potiphar know that Yosef’s success came from G‑d and not from the deities of Egypt?!

Therefore Rashi is forced to analyze the true meaning of the words: “His master realized that G‑d was with him” — this means that Potiphar saw some action on Yosef’s part which made him understand Yosef’s success, so Rashi says:

G‑d’s name was a familiar word in his mouth.

The five-year-old Chumash student remembers that back in Toldos we had a reference to the Name of G‑d being in someone’s mouth, so he knows the saying that Yosef used to say:

..the L‑rd...caused it thus to happen to me.

Consequently Potiphar realized that Yosef’s success was based on G‑d’s help because he heard him mentioning the Name of G‑d all the time.

We can now understand the difference between the case of Potiphar who realized Yosef’s power and the warden who only recognized Yosef’s success. There Rashi explains the words “because G‑d was with Yosef” and he says nothing of the Name of G‑d. Rashi does this precisely to make the distinction in the case of Potiphar who recognized Yosef’s secret that G‑d was with him (it was because he saw Yosef saying the Name of G‑d), whereas the warden of the prison did not fathom that G‑d was with Yosef — he only knew that he could be trusted — so Rashi only tells us that Yosef’s success was becauseG‑d was with Yosef.