1. Shabbos Mevarchim Tammuz blesses the entire month of Tammuz, particularly its “auspicious days” — the festival of liberation of the 12th-13th of Tammuz, preceded by the third of Tammuz which was the beginning of the redemption.

Every month has “auspicious days,” which possess a unique distinction compared to the rest of the month. Beginning from the year 5687, the auspicious days of Tammuz are the twelfth and thirteenth, when the Previous Rebbe was freed from imprisonment. Before 5687, the 12th of Tammuz was also special, for it is the Rebbe’s birthday. And, as the Alter Rebbe explains concerning Rosh Hashanah, that every year sees a new, loftier light than ever before, so, too, the 12th and 13th of Tammuz every year see added distinction. So it was all the years of the Previous Rebbe, and, after he passed on, it was in even loftier fashion — as the Alter Rebbe writes, (Iggeres HaTeshuvah 27) “a tzaddik that has passed on is in all the worlds more than in his lifetime.”

Thus, because the 12th-13th of Tammuz are auspicious days, it follows that on Shabbos Mevarchim Tammuz, a special blessing is given for these days. Man’s service on Shabbos Mevarchim Tammuz, then, must be accordingly special.

Although Shabbos is “sanctified of itself,” Shabbos Mevarchim is associated with man’s service, for the moon is sanctified by Jews, not by heaven. And although in our days the moon is sanctified of itself, fixed by the calendar, nevertheless, so that it will not be “bread of shame” — unearned — the service of Jews in the special aspects of the month (which we blessed by Shabbos Mevarchim) is needed.

The special service of the 12th-13th of Tammuz is explained in the Previous Rebbe’s letter given out for the celebration of the 12th of Tammuz. He writes: “G‑d did not redeem me alone on the 12th of Tammuz, but also all those who hold dear our holy Torah, perform mitzvos, and also all those called by the name ‘Jew.’“ In other words, the redemption applies to all Jews, even those who are Jews only in name.

He continues to say that the 12th of Tammuz is “the festival of those who are engaged in the dissemination of Torah,” and therefore it is necessary “to increase efforts in the dissemination of Torah and the strengthening of Judaism.” This point is emphasized in the Maamar that was given out with the letter, which begins with the words “Ten who sit and are engaged in Torah.” The Maamar says there are ten general categories of Jews, ranging from the “heads of your tribes” to “the hewers of your wood and the carriers of your water” — all of whom must study Torah.

In addition to this service which applies to Jewry in general, each Jew must perform his individual service consonant to his personal standing. There are two categories of service: a general one, appropriate to Jewry in general, and the individual service of each Jew. Each of these services possesses aspects not found in the other.

For example: There are two general types of sacrifices. There are the congregational sacrifices, belonging to all Jewry, brought with the half-shekel given by every Jew. And there are individual sacrifices which belong only to the individual who brings them, bought with his money.

So, too, in service to G‑d: Besides the general service associated with all Jewry, each individual also has his own particular service. Of course, because each person is unique, his individual service will be different from his fellow’s.

Because special blessing is given on Shabbos Mevarchim Tammuz for all things associated with the 12th-13th of Tammuz, it must be properly utilized through the appropriate service.

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2. In addition to the above, which applies to Shabbos Mevarchim Tammuz of every year, there are lessons to be derived from today’s date — the 23rd of Sivan, and from today’s parshah — Shelach.

“Shelach” means “send,” meaning one is sent out of his personal domain to transform the outside into Eretz Yisrael (as related in our parshah). This is associated with Shabbos Mevarchim Tammuz, for the 12th-13th of Tammuz is the idea of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside. As long as a Jew remains in his own domain, the idea of shlichus (being sent) and dissemination of Torah is not possible. Likewise, even after a person has left his domain and transformed the place he was sent to — that place now becomes his domain, and he is then sent to a further place, etc.

The lesson from this: A Jew knows there are two types of service — with himself, within his own domain; and the service of disseminating Judaism, being sent to a far-off place. Such a Jew can be confused as to his order of priorities, which type of service takes precedence. But this question can apply only to other times of the year. In the week in which parshas Shelach is read, particularly on Shabbos parshas Shelach, the parshah gives a clear direction that now the service must be in disseminating Judaism in a far-off place.

Furthermore, even service with oneself is a form of “shelach” — being sent to a far-off place. G‑d wanted that this world be a dwelling place for Him, a world which of itself is far from revelations of G‑dliness. This is achieved by the soul being sent down from its lofty source to this lowest of all worlds to make it a dwelling place for G‑d.

This is a Jew’s service in general. Within this itself there are two categories: to work primarily with oneself, or disseminate Judaism to the outside. And, as explained above, parshas Shelach teaches that now the principal emphasis is on the dissemination of Judaism.

Dissemination of Torah can, however, be in two ways: Little by little, or in a great leap (“lechat’chilah ariber”). This year, the 100th anniversary of the Rebbe Maharash’s passing, whose famous dictum was that one should go “lechat’chilah ariber,” teaches that service should be in the latter manner.

We certainly have the strength to carry out this type of service, as the Previous Rebbe writes: “Stand prepared all of you... to receive the blessings of G‑d.” Because it is in a manner of “all of you,” the blessing is in the manner of “Bless us our Father all of us together in the light of Your countenance” — the idea of “lechat’chilah ariber.” Thus, the only thing that is necessary is our service, and when that service is in the manner of “lechat’chilah ariber,” the blessings received are in the same manner.

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3. One of the subjects discussed in parshas Behar is the law of one who commits the sin of idolatry. Different laws apply if he did it by error or willfully. Ch. 15, verses 27-29 discuss the atonement a person must make if he committed the sin of idolatry by error. Verse 30 then states: “But the soul which does it with a high hand... he blasphemes (“megadef”) G‑d; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.” Rashi explains that “with a high hand” means “willfully.” He further explains that the word “megadef” means “mechoref (blasphemes), as in [the verse, Yechezkel 5:15] ‘So it shall be reviled (“cherpoh”) and blasphemed (“gedufoh”),’ [and as in the verse, Yeshayahu 37:6] ‘wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed (“gidfu”).’ And furthermore, our Sages have derived from here that one who curses G‑d is [punishable] with kores [excision of soul].”

There are several perplexing points in this Rashi:

1) Rashi explains that “with a high hand” means “willfully.” How does Rashi know this? The Hebrew word for willfully, “mazid,” is explicitly used by Scripture on more than one occasion. That our verse chooses to say “with a high hand” and not “willfully” seems to imply that it does not mean willfully (for otherwise, it would say so explicitly — “mazid”). What, then, forces Rashi to say it means willfully?

2) Rashi explains that “megadef” means “mechoref,” blasphemy and reviling. He brings two texts to prove this: 1) “So shall it be reviled (cherpoh) and blasphemed (gedufah)”; 2) “Wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed (“gidfu”).” As a rule, Rashi brings proofs from two verses only when each verse contributes something to the plain understanding which we would not know from the other verse. In our case, what does each verse contribute to our understanding that we would not know from just one of them?

3) Rashi brings the verse, “So shall it be reviled and blasphemed,” before the verse, “wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed.” The latter verse is from Yeshayahu and the former from Yechezkel. Since Yeshayahu precedes Yechezkel in the order of the prophets, Rashi should have quoted these verses in reverse order.

4) Rashi concludes his comment with the words, “Furthermore, our Sages have derived from here that he who curses G‑d is [punished] with kores.” Rashi only quotes our Sages when the plain interpretation is deficient. In our case, what is the problem in the plain interpretation?

Some commentaries explain that Rashi says this as an additional proof that “megadef” means “mechoref.” That our Sages derived from here that one who curses is punishable by death proves that “megadef” must mean to curse or blaspheme — for if not, how could our Sages learn this law from here? Thus, the “furthermore” with which Rashi begins this statement means a further proof that “megadef” means “blasphemes.”

However, this answer is insufficient for 1) If Rashi meant this, he should have said, “Furthermore, from the fact that our Sages derived...,” and not, “Our Sages derived.” 2) Such an interpretation is inconsistent with the plain meaning of Scripture, for once Rashi has already brought two verses as proof that “megadef” means blasphemy, there is certainly no need to bring additional proof from our Sages in the Talmud.

We must therefore conclude there is some difficulty in the plain interpretation which is resolved by the Sages’ interpretations.

The Explanation:

The expression, “with a high hand,” has been used in Scripture previously, in parshas Beshalach: (Shemos 14:8) “The children of Israel went out [from Egypt] with a high hand.” Rashi explains there that, “with a high hand,” means with “an eminent and manifest might.” That is, “hand” indicates “might” and “high” indicates that it was manifest, revealed to all.

Accordingly, “with a high hand,” in our verse means the same thing. The only difference between the two instances, is that in the exodus from Egypt, the “high hand” is a laudatory thing, whereas in our case, concerning idolatry, it is an evil thing, directed against G‑d.

However, we cannot say that our verse refers to someone who commits idolatry openly (in a “manifest” manner), for our verse tells us the punishment for this sin is kores (“that soul shall be cut off from among his people”). Kores applies only when the sin is committed without witnesses and prior warning — which obviously would not apply if it was committed publicly. Thus our verse cannot be referring to a public act of idolatry.

Rashi therefore interprets, “with a high hand,” to mean “willfully.” In other words, the implied meaning of “eminent and manifest might” (in an evil way) in the phrase, “with a high hand,” refers to the fact that the sin was done willfully, not in error (the case of which the previous verses talk).

It is termed, “with a high hand,” although it is not done publicly, for here it concerns a sin directed against G‑d, as the next verse states: “For he has despised the word of G‑d,” on which Rashi comments, “The admonition against idolatry was from the mouth of G‑d.” In regard to G‑d, a sin committed willfully is called “with a high hand.”

Rashi then brings two proof-texts that “megadef” means “mechoref,” blasphemes. He needs two proof-texts, for there are two general ways in which a person can be reviled or shamed — which even a young child knows.

1) When one is reviled by a very important personage. For example, when the teacher rebukes a student, the student, knowing the exalted nature of the teacher, is very shamed.

2) When one is reviled by an inferior person. The shame is also great in this case, for it means even an inferior person doesn’t respect him.

The two proof-texts Rashi brings include both these categories. The first verse, “So it shall be reviled and blasphemed,” refers to the shame of Yerushalayim at G‑d’s hands — a shame from the most exalted being possible. The second verse, “wherewith the servants of the King of Assyria have blasphemed,” is a shame which comes from the lowliest of people — the servants of the King of Assyria.

Rashi first quotes the verse, “So it shall be reviled and blasphemed,” which comes from Yechezkel, before the verse from Yeshayahu, because the verse in Yechezkel refers to the greater shame — from G‑d.

Rashi then continues to say that, “Furthermore, our Sages have derived from here that one who curses G‑d is [punishable] with kores.” He brings this to answer a simple question: Why need Scripture include the words, “he blasphemes G‑d,” in the first place? They seem to be superfluous. Even without them, the verse would still be understood, and would read smoothly — “The soul which does it with a high hand ... shall be cut off from among his people.”

Although we find in other instances that Scripture uses extra expressions to indicate the severity of a certain act, nevertheless, it is still slightly troubling. Rashi therefore brings our Sages’ interpretation that these words teach us that “one who curses G‑d is [punishable] with kores.”

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4. There is a Pegishah (encounter) for young Jews taking place this Shabbos. Since everything happens with Divine Providence, it follows there are lessons to be derived from today’s parshah in respect to this encounter.

Many Jewish young people, especially in this country, ask the following question: The Torah was given overseas; there were great Yeshivahs there, in Eretz Yisrael and Bavel, etc. What relevance does it have to Jews born thousands of years later, in a different country. Who says they have to conduct themselves consonant to the Torah’s directive?

The answer to this is from the name of today’s parshah, Shelach (send). The Torah descended below, to this earth, in a manner of Shelach — it was “sent.” Torah is “a hidden treasure that was hidden by You,” (Shabbos 88b) from where “it traveled and descended ... from level to level in the chain of descent of the worlds until it was enclothed in physical words and worldly matters” (Tanya ch. 34) — to the extent that now Torah “is not in the heaven.” This great descent from the loftiest height to this corporeal world is the idea of “Shelach.”

So, too, with the Giving of the Torah. Although it was given in a specific place and at a specific time, the ultimate purpose was that it should spread out from there, in all times and to all places — “Shelach.”

This is why the Torah was given in a desert, the plainest of places (which has no special distinction) — to teach that it applies to all places. As our Sages have said, the Torah was given in an ownerless place (a desert) to teach that everyone can take possession of it. This does not mean one has to travel to a “desert” to obtain the Torah, but it means the Torah itself is obtainable in the manner of “Shelach” — it reaches every Jew in every place.

Likewise, Torah was not given in any specially auspicious time, but on an ordinary day — to teach that it applies in all eras and in all times.

The service of a Jew is also in the manner of “Shelach.” Wherever a Jew may be, he must know that he has been sent by G‑d to observe Torah and mitzvos there — to transform that place into “Eretz Yisrael,” the “land which ... the eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are upon it” — that G‑dliness should be revealed in that place through observing Torah and mitzvos. The fulfillment of this mission is a Jew’s life and vitality, and its non-fulfillment causes the opposite — as we learn in this week’s parshah, that because the spies sent by Moshe to Eretz Yisrael did not want to fulfill G‑d’s mission and enter Eretz Yisrael, they were punished with death.

This is the general lesson from parshas Shelach. A Jew must know that wherever and whenever he may be, he is on G‑d’s mission — and therefore must behave consonant with G‑d’s will by fulfilling Torah and mitzvos. This applies to all places and all times — not just when one comes to synagogue to say “Yizkor” on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

There are several additional lessons to be learned from the story of the men sent to spy out Eretz Yisrael. A Jew must know the purpose of his mission: what is included in the mission, and what is outside its scope.

We learn in our parshah, for example, that the purpose of the spies’ mission was to discover the lie of the land, the easiest way to conquer it, etc. The spies sin was that they added to their mission. Besides reporting on the nature of the land (“fortified cities,” etc.), they added their own conclusions: “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than us.” This was a deviation from their mission, which was not to find out if the land was conquerable, but only to find out the lie of the land.

Different were the spies sent by Yehoshua, of which we read in this Shabbos’ Haftorah. We read the story of both types of spies to learn a lesson from the difference between them.

Yehoshua sent spies to discover if the fear of the Jews had fallen on the land’s inhabitants after hearing of the great miracles vouchsafed to the Jews — or if further fear was necessary. This mission they carried out faithfully: “They said to Yehoshua, ‘G‑d has given the whole land into our hands, and also all the inhabitants of the land have melted before us.’“ The spies sent by Moshe, on the other hand, added their personal conclusions, thereby going beyond the scope of their mission.

The lesson from this: A Jew in G‑d’s mission should know that he can surely fulfill his mission. As stated in our parshah: “We shall surely go up and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it,” on which Rashi comments, “We shall surely go up — even to heaven. If he (Moshe) says, ‘make ladders and go up there,’ we shall succeed in all his words.” Even if the task seems impossible to fulfill, a Jew must know that if he has been given it, he has also been given all the necessary powers to fulfill it.

A Jew need only check out the details of the mission which he must perform in the place to which he has been sent, as our parshah states, “They spied out the land.” A Jew must search to discover what is the most urgent matter to be done in the place. If, for example, he sees that the observance of family purity, or kashrus, or kindling Shabbos lights is weak, he must begin with that area.

This is what Moshe instructed the spies, “See the land, what it is ... whether it is fat or lean.” In man’s service to G‑d, this means a Jew on G‑d’s mission must sound out the nature of the place and its inhabitants. If it is a “lean” place, the mitzvah of tzedakah becomes top priority. Spiritually, if the inhabitants are poor in knowledge of Judaism, he must start teaching them the “aleph-bais,” the rudiments, of Judaism. If they are rich in knowledge, he must initiate an even greater increase.

In general, the lesson is that a Jew must himself “spy out the land” to find out what is necessary, and not wait until he hears a “heavenly proclamation” or that a “prophet” will tell him what should be done in a certain place. And, as noted before, his mission does not include seeing if there is hope for success. He is on G‑d’s mission; he will certainly succeed.

Another lesson is that even when one hears from others that “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than us,” he should not be affected. He is given special strength not to be influenced, as we find that Yehoshua, one of the spies, who did not speak bad about the chances of success, had his name changed by Moshe from “Hoshea” to “Yehoshua,” meaning, “He prayed for him, ‘May G‑d deliver you from the counsel of the spies.’“

Moreover, even after the spies reported no chance for success of conquest, Calev, the other spy besides Yehoshua, who remained staunch in belief of success, succeeded in turning the people’s attention to his words — “Kolev stilled the people towards Moshe and said, ‘We shall surely go up and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it.’“ If the other spies had not interfered again, the Jewish people would have merited to enter Eretz Yisrael immediately, and not have to wander in the desert for forty years.

This is also the answer to those who claim one must reckon with the opinion of the majority who do not observe Torah and mitzvos. Their personal opinion is worthless compared to that of an individual who speaks G‑d’s words said to Moshe. Quality should be heeded, not quantity.

Furthermore, scientifically speaking, experience is the only sure test of an idea. History shows that the Jews are the only people to continue to exist throughout all the generations. Nations who trod the earth thousands of years ago, who in their time were mighty, world-ruling empires (e.g. Egypt, Rome), have completely disappeared without any trace left. [Those living in Egypt today are not descendants of the original Egyptians, and the same applies to other nations]. The only people in existence all this time is the Jewish people. This eternal existence is possible only through Torah and mitzvos, the secret of Jewry’s endurance.

So, too, with other “branches” of Judaism, such as Reform. Experience shows that of those who joined Reform, only 2 or 3 generations at most continued in Reform. In a Reform Temple today one does not find the descendants of the original founders. They have left Reform in one of two ways: Either they have completely left Judaism, or they returned to traditional Judaism, where they can now be found in a “shtibel” — he with a beard and peyos, and she with a covered head.

We thus see that to live as a Jew, we must conform to G‑d’s will by performing Torah and mitzvos.

Another lesson from the story of the spies: Chassidus explains that the spies did not want the Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael because there they would have to engage in worldly matters (farming etc). Better, they said, to remain in the desert, receive “bread from heaven,” water from Miriam’s well, and have no contact with worldly matters. This was wrong however, a sinful attitude, for G‑d’s will is that Jews deal with worldly matters — and still behave as Jews.

This teaches that a Jew’s task is not to be apart from the world, but to utilize it for holy purposes. Radio, for example, should be used to broadcast and hear lessons in Torah. Likewise, when G‑d has blessed a Jew with wealth, he should use it for giving tzedakah. When one’s conduct is in such a fashion, he knows his dealings with the world is “for the sake of heaven,” and therefore, besides what is absolutely necessary for himself and family, he gives everything to tzedakah.

To sum up: The principle lesson derived from today’s parshah is that every Jew must fulfill G‑d’s mission (“Shelach”) to transform his surroundings into “Eretz Yisrael,” a place where G‑dliness is evident.