1. Shabbos Bereishis and Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan are always the same Shabbos, for parshas Bereishis is always read on the first Shabbos after Simchas Torah, which is the last Shabbos of the month of Tishrei — on which the month of MarCheshvan is blessed. Which of these two aspects of this Shabbos — Shabbos Bereishis or Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan — is loftier?

There are arguments for both sides. Shabbos Bereishis is a part of Torah, whereas Shabbos Mevorchim is associated with a mitzvah, sanctifying the month. And Torah precedes mitzvos. On the other hand, it is a rule that “Something which occurs regularly precedes that which occurs irregularly.” The Rambam writes that “it is an unquestioned, simple custom in all Israel that the Torah is completed during the course of one year, beginning from the Shabbos after the festival of Sukkos ... and some complete the Torah during the course of three years (or 3 1/2 years).” Since Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan occurs every year, it is more “regular” than Shabbos Bereishis. And therefore, to a certain degree, the “regularity” of Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan is also greater than the “regularity” of Shabbos Bereishis even according to the “unquestioned custom” to complete the Torah within one year.

Yet, Shabbos Bereishis is more precious, for its influence extends to the whole year — as the Rebbeim have said concerning it: “As one sets oneself on Shabbos Bereishis, so goes [the rest of the year].” The service of Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan, however, applies only to that month.

Thus the question is: Should this farbrengen be started with talking of Shabbos Bereishis or Shabbos Mevorchim? The answer: To follow the order indicated in the prayers of this Shabbos. First parshas Bereishis is read; and then the month of MarCheshvan is blessed.

The first aspect of Shabbos Bereishis, as noted above, is that “As one sets oneself on Shabbos Bereishis so goes [the rest of the year].” The service of this Shabbos is a general one, associated with and influencing the whole year.

This applies not only to service in Torah and mitzvos, but also to the service of “all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven” and “in all your ways you shall know Him.” As emphasized in the beginning of parshas Bereishis: “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth” — referring to everything in the world, including mundane things.

Moreover, through his service, a Jew can influence the entire world — the heavens and all therein and the earth and all within it. How is it possible to influence the heaven? A person has a flesh and blood body, and must eat physical foods, and engage in physical work. Thus, connected as he is with the earth, he can exert influence on it. But how can he affect the heavens?

Although it seems the heavens are greater than the earth, as alluded to in the order of the verse “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth” — “first heavens were created and after that the earth” (Bais Shammai’s opinion), a later verse indicates the opposite (Bereishis 2:4): “On the day that the L‑rd G‑d made the earth and heaven” — “the earth was created first and then heaven” (Bais Hillel’s opinion). Thus in reality, heaven and earth are equal, as our Sages ruled “This one and this one were created as one.”

Indeed, Chassidus explains, according to the opinion that “the earth was created first,” the ultimate goal of all creation was the earth, for “G‑d desired to have a dwelling place for Himself in the lower worlds.” Thus, “the purpose of the descent of the worlds ... was not for the sake of the upper worlds ... but the goal is the lowest of all worlds.” It follows, then, that when a Jew exerts influence on the earth, the heavens, including all the upper worlds — which were created for the sake of the earth — are automatically affected.

The importance of the earth is emphasized by the first Rashi in the Torah, which explains that G‑d “declared to His people the power of His works” — thus laying the stress on deed. This, Rashi continues to say, was so “to give to them the heritage of the nations,” referring to the “land of Israel” — again the emphasis on the earth.

In man’s spiritual service, “earth” corresponds to deed, whereas “heaven” corresponds to speech and thought. Thus the stress on “earth” indicates the primacy of deed. In deed itself, special emphasis is laid on the service of “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven,” service in one’s mundane pursuits — for such service compared to service in Torah and mitzvos is as “earth” compared to “heaven.”

2. The above also lends insight into the meaning of Shabbos Mevorchim, which is the same Shabbos as Shabbos Bereishis. The transition between the month of Tishrei and the month of MarCheshvan is a radical one. In Tishrei, a Jew is primarily engaged in mitzvos — sukkah, lulav and esrog, Simchas Bais Hashoeva, Shemini Atzeres, Simchas Torah, and Isru Chag (the day after Yom Tov), on which it is a custom to eat and drink more. In MarCheshvan, a Jew is mainly occupied with worldly matters, making a living.

This difference between Tishrei and MarCheshvan is expressed in their names. “Mar” means a “drop” (of water), for MarCheshvan marks the start of the rainy season. Rain’s function is to make things grow, from which man derives his food. Thus it emphasizes the idea of service with worldly matters. “Tishrei,” on the other hand, indicates pleasure and delight.

Moreover, during the majority of the month of Tishrei (from erev Yom Kippur until the end of the month), tachnun is not said. As soon as MarCheshvan comes, tachnun is said. This indicates that going from Tishrei into MarCheshvan is a spiritual descent.

This descent is already alluded to in Simchas Torah, when we finish reading parshas V’Zos HaBerachah, which concludes with the words “all the signs and the wonders ... and all the mighty hand ... which Moshe wrought before the eyes of all Israel” — the revelation of G‑dliness. We then immediately begin reading from the beginning of the Torah, “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth” — worldly matters. Thus there is a descent from the revelation of G‑dliness to worldly matters. And when we approach MarCheshvan, when we actually engage in worldly matters, this descent is reinforced. Thus a Jew is liable to become despondent.

Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan provides the answer to such despondency. The strength for service in MarCheshvan comes from the blessings bestowed upon it on Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan — which is in the month of Tishrei. Because a Jew thus possesses the strength of Tishrei, he wends his way surely and serenely in the service of MarCheshvan.

Moreover, in Tishrei itself, Shabbos Mevorchim follows Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, in which all the concepts of these festivals are completed and elevated — to the extent that Simchas Torah serves as the preparation to Shabbos, for “He who toils on erev Shabbos, eats on Shabbos.” This year, when Shabbos Mevorchim follows Simchas Torah without any intervening weekdays, it is emphasized that Simchas Torah is “erev Shabbos” — literally.

Furthermore, the Alter Rebbe, quoting the Maggid in the name of the Baal Shem Toy, taught that “the seventh month ... G‑d Himself blesses it on Shabbos Mevorchim, which is the last Shabbos of the month of Elul — and with this strength, Jews bless the months eleven times a year.” Thus Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan is the first month in which Jews have the opportunity to utilize the G‑d-given strength to bless the months — and therefore the blessings made on Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan are highly emphasized and apparent. A Jew therefore need not fear the descent into worldly matters.

Thus, although the transition from Tishrei to MarCheshvan seems like a spiritual descent, in reality his dealings with the world are performed with the strength derived from the service of Tishrei. Thus, in dealing with worldly matters, a Jew takes with him all the concepts of Tishrei. This is similar to the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that “a person is where his thoughts are.” Although a person is engaged in worldly matters — in speech and deed — his thoughts are in the concepts of Tishrei, and therefore he also is there.

Moreover, not only need a Jew not fear engaging in worldly matters, but it is the ultimate purpose in the creation of the world — for G‑d desired to have a dwelling place in this corporeal, lowest of all worlds.

With the blessings and strength from Shabbos Mevorchim MarCheshvan, a Jew can, with confidence, engage in worldly matters, the “heavens” and the “earth” and all therein. He is able to deal with “heaven” matters, for he has just left the service of Tishrei, which is on the level of “heaven” compared to the service of MarCheshvan. Indeed, a Jew, from the perspective of his essence — his soul, a “part of G‑d Above” — has more to do with “heaven” matters. Indeed, it is obvious to a Jew that G‑d is revealed more in heaven than on earth — and it needs faith to believe that G‑d dwells specifically among Jews on this earth.

A Jew is also able to engage in “earth” matters, for it is G‑d’s will that He have a dwelling place specifically in this corporeal world — through a Jew’s service with worldly matters. It is knowledge of this (that G‑d rejoices in a Jew’s service in “earth” matters) that produces great joy in a Jew — greater even than the joy of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.

May it be G‑d’s will that all Jews utilize the powers granted on this Shabbos, with which strength they go confidently on their way in their service in worldly matters.


3. This year, Shabbos Bereishis is the 24th of Tishrei, of which date Scripture relates the following (Nechemiah 9:1-2): “On the twenty-fourth of this month (Tishrei), the children of Israel were assembled with fasting and with sackcloth, and with earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the transgressions of their fathers.” In other words, the 24th of Tishrei was set as a fast day for their sin in taking non-Jewish wives.

This is associated with the present day tragedy of “Mihu Yehudi” — “Who is a Jew,” a problem that is associated with intermarriage and all the evil which results from it.

But there is a cardinal difference between today and the situation then. In those days, there was absolutely no doubt as to whether the situation should be corrected, and if so, when — immediately, or to defer its resolution to another time. Everyone knew the situation had to be corrected immediately, and, moreover, “the children of Israel were assembled with fasting and with sackcloth” in order to confess their sin. In other words, in addition to correcting the situation, they also fasted that they allowed such a situation to develop. Today, however, the tragedy of “Mihu Yehudi” has been present for thirteen years — and no one cares or protests!

Besides the intermarriages which result from “Mihu Yehudi,” there is another grave matter involved. The Law of Return states that a Jew is one who is born of a Jewish mother or is converted. At the time this law was adopted, debate was held whether to add that the conversion must be “according to halachah (Jewish Law).” In the end, these words were deliberately omitted. Thus, the “Law of Return,” which is directly and intentionally opposed to the halachah, is an extremely grave instance of Chilul Hashem (desecration of G‑d’s Name)! It is the only law (among other anti-religious laws), which directly opposes the halachah. Other matters undoubtedly need correction — e.g. autopsies, Jewish education — but “Mihu Yehudi” is associated with Chilul Hashem, a matter of the highest magnitude as the Talmud notes (Yoma 86a).

Because it is a matter of Chilul Hashem, its amendment cannot be postponed even for a moment. Even if an honest resolution is made to amend it later — a Chilul Hashem exists every moment the law exists.

Some people claim that it isn’t so terrible if the amendment of the law is postponed for a while, for in the interim, much monies are gained to support Yeshivos. A clear lesson in answer to this may be derived from the story of Chanah and her seven sons. Antiochus, evil monarch of Greek Syria, killed six of Chanah’s sons because they refused to bow down to an idol. He suggested to the seventh son that he need not really bow down to the idol, but instead, bend down to pick up a ring which the monarch dropped in front of the idol — and it would only appear that he was bowing to the idol. He threatened death if the son did not acquiesce.

It would seem there is sound logic to follow the king’s directive. The king was quite ready and able to carry out his threat; he had already killed the other six sons. Why should another Jew be killed? Picking up the ring, although giving the appearance of idol worship, was not really idolatry, for the son did not intend to bow to the idol. The son would thereby remain alive, and his mother could then bring him up to be a great sage.

Moreover, at that time, Mattisyahu was warring against the Greeks and it was possible that he would be victorious in a few months time. Chanah could have tried to postpone the decision for a time, and perhaps by then, Mattisyahu would have been victorious, and the whole dilemma resolved. At the very least, Chanah, the mother, should not have preferred her opinion. She should have remained silent and let her son decide. Yet, not only did she not instruct her son to bend down and pick up the ring, and not only did she postpone the decision — she spoke earnestly to him, and inspired him to sacrifice his life for the sake of sanctifying G‑d’s Name (Kiddush Hashem)!

Thus does a Jewish mother act: When it comes to a matter of Kiddush Hashem and Chilul Hashem, the course is obvious. No need to ask Torah sages; no need to make calculations. One must sanctify G‑d’s Name, even if it means self-sacrifice!

In our case, the tragedy of “Mihu Yehudi,” the only thing that is important is Kiddush Hashem; any calculations are redundant. It makes no difference if an individual, whoever he may be, touts a different way of resolving the problem (e.g. a different text than “according to halachah) — even if he personally thinks he is correct. What is important here is how the public sees the case, if it perceives a Chilul Hashem.

The Talmud (Nedarim 25a) relates that a certain person owed money to another. He took an oath that he had returned the money. What did he do? He bored a hole in his stick, and secretly placed the money there. Before he took an oath, he asked his creditor to hold the stick for him — and then swore that he had given him the money! Our Sages then enacted that all oaths should be made according to the court’s intention, and not according to the individual’s (for in the above case, the debtor had, according to his knowledge and intention, given back the money (in the stick) at the time of the oath).

Our case, however, is different, and one may not rely on his personal opinion. It is different for in the above story in the Talmud, the public did not know if he really had returned the money, and therefore no Chilul Hashem evolved because of the oath. In our case, however, even if an individual should come up with a text that for him is sufficient, the Chilul Hashem in the eyes of the public remains the same.

The Torah teaches us clearly what to do in matters of Kiddush and Chilul Hashem; a Jew must sacrifice his life for Kiddush Hashem! There is no need to be a “lamden” (learned person) to know this; a perusal of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Abridged Shulchan Aruch) will suffice. The Torah’s directives cannot be changed, for “the word of G‑d is the halachah” — and “the word of our G‑d endures forever.”

Even if it would be true that the Law of Return cannot be amended (although it is patently not true), nothing can justify the absence of a daily protest against this law. Before any discussions in the Knesset about any subject, they must rise and protest as strongly as possible against the Law, a Law which is a Chilul Hashem of the highest magnitude.

The claim that such a protest is not on the daily agenda of the Knesset is unavailing, for it is a legal parliamentary procedure for any Knesset member to deliver a personal resolution before any debate — even if the resolution is unrelated to the subjects in the agenda. Therefore, it is an obligation on every person who is permitted to speak in the Knesset to every day deliver a protest against the non-amendment of the Law which causes Chilul Hashem. If he doesn’t, he becomes a partner in this Chilul Hashem.

Nothing can affect this responsibility. Some people claim they are not responsible, for they were not Knesset members when the Law was enacted. But since the Law is a constant Chilul Hashem every moment it exists, they have a duty to protest it now, when they are in the Knesset and part of its activities. Refusal to protest will be seen as consent on their part to Chilul Hashem.

Likewise, the claim that they are only emissaries also- does not stand up, for the Torah says “there is no emissary for a sin.” It is their responsibility.

I wish to emphasize that my words are not directed to anyone in particular, but to each and every Jewish Knesset member — whether they held their position at the time the Law was passed or not. Everyone of them must protest against the non-amendment of the Law — for as Jews, they must protest against Chilul Hashem.

This applies to all the Knesset members — except those who are non-Jewish. The only complaint that can be made against them is that they voted in the first place on the whole matter. Decent behavior would have mandated for them to abstain in a matter relating to the Jewish religion! Parenthetically, the very fact that a Christian or Moslem Knesset member was given the right to vote in the Mihu Yehudi matter, is a terrible blow to Jewish pride and prestige. No other nation has ever given a member of another faith the right to vote in a matter unconnected with that faith!

Again, the whole matter is irrelevant of political factions, even the communists. Torah makes no distinctions between Communist Jews and others when it comes to his essence — that he is a Jew.

May it be G‑d’s will that now, when we are at the conclusion of all the festivals, after the service of teshuvah and a good “sealing” for all Jews — the above words will do the job, and the matter of Mihu Yehudi be fixed.


4. The first Rashi on the Torah states: “Rabbi Yitzchok said: The Torah should have commenced from the verse ‘This month shall be unto you the first of the months,’ which is the first commandment given to Israel. Why then does it commence with Bereishis? Because [of the concept expressed in the text] ‘He declared to His people the power of His works in order to give them the heritage of the nations.’ For should the nations of the world say to Israel, ‘You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven nations,’ Israel will reply to them ‘the whole earth belongs to G‑d...” Afterwards, Rashi explains the particular meaning of the words of the verse.

Rashi’s function as a commentator is to explain the meaning of the verses according to their plain interpretation. Rashi should therefore have begun immediately with the explanation of the words “In the beginning G‑d created,” and not to first explain why the Torah started with “Bereishis.”

Rashi’s interpretation is addressed even to a five year old child who has just begun to learn Scripture. When learning with a young child, one does not first explain the generalities, but instead, one starts off with the particulars — verse after verse. From all the particulars together, the child will then grasp the generalities present.

The reason, then, that Rashi first explains why the Torah starts with Bereishis, before explaining the meaning of the words, is that it is the first question that a five year old asks when he learns the verse “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth.”

A child knows that he goes to school to learn G‑d’s Torah. When he learns the verse “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth,” he will naturally wonder: I came to learn about G‑d’s commands as they are written in the Torah. Why, then, are we learning of the creation of the world?

Rashi opens his commentary with just this question: “The Torah should have commenced from the verse ‘This month shall be unto you the first of the months,’ which is the first commandment given to Israel. Why then does it commence with Bereishis...?”

Because the five year old is eagerly waiting for the answer, Rashi cannot first explain the meaning of the individual words of the verse, but must give him the answer — that the account of creation is also a part of Torah, which a child must learn to know what to answer the nations of the world.

There is another perplexing matter in this parshah, at its conclusion, which states “And Noach found favor in the eyes of G‑d.” All commentaries on Scripture (Ibin Ezra, Ramban, Seforno) except Rashi endeavor to explain why and how Noach found favor, when G‑d had said “I will wipe out man whom I created ... for I repent that I have made them.” Why does Rashi not make any comment?

However, it is not Rashi’s custom to reiterate an explanation given previously. On the verse (5:28) “Lemech lived a hundred and twenty years and he bore a son,” Rashi comments on the words “And he bore a son” that “from him the world would be built.” The following verse states “And he called his name Noach, saying ‘This one shall comfort us ...” Rashi comments on the words “This one shall comfort us” that it means “He shall give us rest from the toil of our hands. Until Noach came, they had no implements for plowing, and he prepared [such instruments] for them. And the earth was bringing forth thorns and thistles when they sowed wheat due to the curse on the first man. But in the days of Noach it ceased — and this is the meaning of ‘This one shall comfort us.’“

Further on, it states (5:32): “Noach was five hundred years old and he bore Shem, Chom and Yafes.” Rashi comments that “Why did all the generations bear children at the age of a hundred years, and this one (Noach) at the age of five hundred? G‑d said, ‘If they (his children) are wicked, they will be lost in the flood, and it will be bad for this righteous man. And if they are righteous, I shall have to trouble him to make many arks. Therefore He withheld his (Noach’s) issue and he did not bear children until the age of five hundred years in order that there should not be Yafes, the oldest of his sons liable for punishment before the flood ...” In other words, G‑d changed the nature of the world for the good of Noach.

From all of the above we see the greatness of Noach. Therefore Rashi does not have to explain why “Noach found favor in the eyes of G‑d,” for Rashi has explained Noach’s greatness in the previous verses.