1. There are four significant factors that come together this Shabbos:

a) the concept of Shabbos itself;

b) the particular Shabbos — parshas Va’eira;

c) the fact that today is also Rosh Chodesh;

d) the particular month, Shevat, which this Rosh Chodesh begins.

Surely a lesson can be learned from the coincidence of the above factors, for as the Baal Shem Tov teaches, everything which a Jew sees or hears must serve as a lesson in the service of G‑d.

This same principle is expressed by the Rambam. He writes: “There is nothing that happens by chance, rather everything that occurs is ‘of the paths of teshuvah.’“ “Teshuvah” is a fundamental element in the service of G‑d. Indeed, our sages taught that one should spend “all of one’s days in teshuvah,” i.e., their intention was not that each day, a Jew should set aside a moment for teshuvah, but rather that a Jew should spend every moment of the day in teshuvah. Just as creation is a continuous process, at every moment G‑d is “renewing in His kindness ... the work of creation,”1 so too, a Jew must spend every moment of his day in the service of his Creator, the service of teshuvah.

The latter concept can be derived from our sages’ statement: “I was created to serve my Creator.” As long as a person exists as a creation, his goal. and his mission must be the purpose of his creation, the service of his Creator.

The importance of the constancy of the service of G‑d must be understood by every Jew, be he a simple person or one of the leaders of the people. Indeed, quite often a simple person will grasp this concept before than a “leader.” A simple person understands that he did not bring himself into existence. Any normal person understands that nothing creates itself. Even if his existence is in fact dependent on his parents, and their’s on their parents, etc., ultimately, there must be a Creator. Any normal person, Jew or gentile, can understand such a concept. Furthermore, a simple Jew does not approach the concept intellectually, he accepts it on faith without questioning or seeking a rational explanation. In contrast, a leader realizes that G‑d has endowed man with unique powers. “G‑d decrees and a tzaddik annuls”; “G‑d smiles and declares: ‘You have vanquished Me, My son, you have vanquished Me.’” Thus, to a certain extent, it is possible for him to have an exaggerated conception of his own importance, and hence, more effort might be required to teach him that he must serve G‑d at every moment.

The principle that the service of G‑d must be constant, for at each moment G‑d is renewing man’s existence in order that he serve Him, helps us understand why everything that happens is not a coincidence, but rather “of the paths of teshuvah.” G‑d did not create the world, and does not renew the world’s creation, without a purpose. Thus, it follows that each moment of creation is a willed act of G‑d, intended, as Rashi explains in the beginning of his commentary of the Torah: “for Israel and for the Torah,” i.e. G‑d’s intention in creating a particular event is that from that event, a Jew should learn a lesson in the service of G‑d.

The above concept can be understood through a simple example. When a craftsman fashions a vessel, for example a bottle, its purpose (to contain liquids) is clearly noticeable.2 If this is true in regard to a craftsman on this plane, surely it applies to G‑d, the Master Craftsman. His purpose in creation, the service of the Jewish people in Torah and mitzvos, should be clearly recognized.

On the basis of the above, the question might be asked: If the purpose for a Jew’s creation and the world’s creation should be obvious, why is it necessary for the Torah to teach us these points? Why must the Mishnah tell us that we were created to serve our Creator? Why must we be taught that the world was created for the Torah and for Israel? These principles should be self-evident.

The answer to the above questions is as follows: If a concept is a fundamental principle of Torah, the Torah is not going to omit its mention because the concept can be appreciated from observing the world. The world is not a master of Torah, on the contrary, Torah is the master of the world. Indeed, from a deeper perspective, it can be explained that the reason this phenomenon exists in the world, is because it exists in Torah and from the Torah, it is drawn down within the world.

The principle can be understood through the explanation of another concept. Quite often we see the Midrash explaining the behavior of G‑d through parables: e.g. a parable of a king, a parable of a father and son. On the surface, that approach is difficult to comprehend. Just because an earthly king or father has these tendencies, what makes one say that G‑d has them? However, the concept can be explained as follows: The tendency which an earthly king has to act in a certain way has a source. It is not an accidental phenomenon, but rather a quality endowed to him by G‑d and is itself representative of qualities possessed by G‑d Himself. A similar concept is expressed in our sages interpretation of the verse: “He tells His words to Ya’akov, His judgments and statutes to Israel” — “What G‑d tells the Jewish people to do, he does Himself.” G‑d does not fulfill the mitzvos because he told the Jewish people to do so, but rather because “such arose in His will.” However, how do we know that these actions arose in G‑d’s will? Because He commanded us to fulfill them.3

Thus, to return to the circumstance described above: the coincidence of the four factors mentioned previously. This is no accident. Rather, G‑d willed this act for a purpose, that we learn a lesson in His service.

The lesson that can be derived from parshas Va’eira should be taken from the name of the parshah, for the name includes the entire parshah, and as Chassidus explains, the name represents an object’s life-force. The name Va’eira is related to the root “reiah” meaning “sight.” Va’eira teaches us that we must carry out our service to G‑d based on actual perception (sight) of G‑dliness.

The body and the soul can be compared to darkness and light. The body’s darkness can be illuminated by “the candle of G‑d, the soul of man,” through the performance of Torah and mitzvos. Besides the darkness of the body, there is the darkness of exile and the additional darkness of the diaspora.4 Because of this darkness, there is room to echo the complaint of Moshe Rabbeinu, mentioned in the conclusion of the par-shah that precedes Va’eira. There, Moshe complains to G‑d: “Why did You harm this people?” Though a Jew knows that the ultimate purpose of the descent into exile is an ascent to a higher level,5 nevertheless, when confronted with the darkness of the exile, a Jew may ask, “Why did You harm this people?”

G‑d answers this complaint with the word Va’eira, explaining that a Jew’s service of G‑d should be carried out with direct perception, an awareness of G‑dliness so strong that it compares to sight. When a Jew has such a perception of G‑dliness, there will be no room for the complaint, “Why did You harm...?”

Sight implies an awareness that is deeper than intellectual understanding. When a person sees an event transpire, the concept is so strongly imprinted upon his mind that no matter how hard he finds the concept to conceive, its impression remains fixed in his memory. This principle finds its parallel in Torah law. The Talmud explains that a witness may not serve as a judge. One of a judge’s functions is to protect the rights of the defendant. Therefore, a person who witnesses the act in question take place is not allowed to serve in that capacity; we fear that he will not protect the rights of a defendant after watching him commit such an act.6

Furthermore, the impact which sight makes is immediate. Generally, concepts can only be grasped if they are developed step by step, making sure that two points are not made at the same time. Nevertheless, none of these preparations need be taken when a concept is presented through the medium of sight.

Thus, we can see a pattern. A Jew must cry out as Moshe Rabbeinu did because of the darkness of exile.7 Moshe knew that the forefathers did not question G‑d’s promises; he, also, had perfect faith in G‑d. Nevertheless, from the perspective of intellect, he did not understand, and therefore, felt it necessary to cry out and ask: “Why did you harm ...?” Furthermore, even though G‑d answered him by explaining that He regretted the passing of the forefathers for they never questioned His promises, nevertheless, G‑d includes Moshe’s question in the Torah as an external lesson.8 From the perspective of faith, a Jew must believe. However, a Jew must also use his mind and try to understand9 and when necessary, he must cry out to G‑d and ask Him to end the exile. When that cry is heard, G‑d answers him with Va’eira, telling him that even in the time of exile through a perception of G‑dliness equivalent to sight, the darkness of exile can be overcome.

At this point the question arises: From where can a Jew derive the strength to carry out his service with such a perception of G‑d despite the darkness of exile? On the surface, the darkness of the exile is so strong and furthermore, it is apparently willed by G‑d — for surely it is not the gentiles who have power over the Jewish people and can send them into exile. If so, in such a situation, how can one expect a Jew to have a direct perception of G‑dliness?

The Torah answers that question by stating: “I revealed (Myself) to the forefathers.” The forefathers bequeathed to their descendants, the Jewish people, their spiritual possessions, i.e. their direct perception of G‑dliness. We find that an inheritance is not at all dependent on the status of the heir. Even if he is a minor, he fills the place of the bequestor and takes possession of his entire estate. Thus, every Jew10 has the potential to serve G‑d with direct perception as explained above, for that service is his spiritual inheritance.

The above should serve as a directive for action. We must realize that we each have been granted the potential for a direct perception of G‑dliness, to see G‑d, as it were. This is particularly relevant at present in the days before Yud Shevat, the Yartzeit of the previous Rebbe. We must seek to apply the above principles in deed and action.

The application of a concept in deed and action is also related to the word Va’eira — “I revealed Myself.” That expression implies that the revelation is perceived by others. Thus, it implies that the effect which the above has on one’s service must be perceived by others.11 This, in turn, will cause one to carry out one’s service to a fuller degree, for whenever one knows he is being watched by others, he carries out his service on a higher level. This concept was expressed by R. Yochanan ben Zakkai who blessed his students: “May your fear of G‑d be as the fear of flesh and blood.”

Furthermore, when one’s service is observed by another person, it will naturally have an effect on him and influence him to emulate the example he is shown. This, in turn, will allow the work to be accomplished faster.

One need not fear that one will appear proud by showing one’s service to others. The previous Rebbe explained that in the present age, one need not worry about such fears. Moshiach is coming now and every effort must be made to complete the task of refinement as fast as possible.12

May the service with a direct perception of G‑d lead to one spending “all one’s days in teshuvah” and thus, bring about the ultimate and true redemption led by Moshiach speedily in our days.

2. As mentioned above, the lesson from Va’eira is related to Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh. In the prophecy of Yechezkel, Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh are connected, as it is written: “The gate of the inner courtyard pointing east... shall be opened on Shabbos and on Rosh Chodesh.” Thus, Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh are also connected with the concept of sight for, by opening the gates, it is possible to see what is within.

As mentioned above, the power of sight has a powerful effect on a person. Therefore, the Tanach stresses: “Lift your eyes upward and see Who created these”; “When I see Your Heaven, the work of Your Finger”; “From my flesh, I will see G‑d,” stressing that sight, a direct perception of G‑dliness, is important to our service of G‑d. The prophecy quoted above emphasizes that there are certain occasions, Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, when it is easier to “see” G‑dliness, for then “the inner gates” are opened. Furthermore, the level of G‑dliness that is perceived is higher.

This spiritual revelation has an effect on our behavior. The Talmud Yerushalmi declares: A common person does not lie on Shabbos.” Though such a person would otherwise lie, the Shabbos itself affects him and prevents him from making such statements. Furthermore, his word is accepted even in a question of Torah law.13

Similarly, Rosh Chodesh is a unique day, as implied by its name which literally means “the head of the month.” Just as the head contains the life energy of the entire body14 and directs and controls the entire body, similarly, Rosh Chodesh contains the potential for the entire month that follows.

The fourth aspect mentioned above, the month of Shevat, is also connected to the quality of sight. The Torah mentions that on Rosh Chodesh Shevat, Moshe began “to explain this Torah.” That narrative begins: “These words....” The word “these” can only be used to refer to something that is openly revealed, that one can point to and say, “these.” Thus, all four distinguishing aspects of the present day emphasize service of G‑d with direct perception, sight.

There is a further lesson conveyed by Rosh Chodesh, emphasized by the fact that the Hebrew word for month, “chodesh,” is related to the word “chadash,” meaning “new.” As mentioned above, sight leaves a lasting imprint upon one’s perception and thus, it expresses the quality of constancy. However, there is also an advantage to the service of renewal, as our sages declared: “Each day (Torah) should be in your eyes as new.” A new thing arouses greater excitement and energy. Furthermore, to break down boundaries, one needs new energy. Thus, both qualities, constancy and renewal, have advantages the other lacks15 and hence, we can understand the uniqueness of this Shabbos when both qualities — constancy, as expressed by the aspect of sight, and renewal, as expressed by Rosh Chodesh, are joined together.

3. The quality of constancy mentioned above has its roots in G‑d’s Essence. There are various revealed levels of G‑dliness, each one expressing a particular Divine quality, as our sages declared: “According to my deeds am I (G‑d) called.” Thus, it follows that these levels (and names of G‑d) are subject to change, for at times a different attribute or another function is stressed. In contrast, only a level above all particular qualities, “the truth of His being,” to quote the Rambam, G‑d’s Essence, is not limited to any particular quality , transcends both the holy and mundane, and hence is constant, above change.16

On this basis, we can understand a concept in Torah law. Our sages declared: “One who recites Hallel (the songs of praise recited on the festivals) each day is a blasphemer.” Hallel is recited only to commemorate a miracle and hence, reciting it each day would diminish its importance. The question may be asked: The renewal of creation each day ex nihilo (as explained in Shaar HaYichud V’HaEmunah of Tanya) is the greatest miracle possible. Why isn’t Hallel recited in connection with it?

However, since Hallel was instituted to commemorate particular miracles, revelations of G‑dliness that transcend the normal order, it is an inappropriate medium to praise the miracle of creation. It relates to the revealed aspects of G‑dliness while the creation of the world has its source in G‑d’s Essence which as mentioned before, stands above all qualities of holy and mundane.

Though, G‑d’s Essence is found in all the worlds equally, the revelation of G‑d’s Essence is expressed in the creation of this physical world. The Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya (Iggeres Hakodesh, chapter 20) that the creation of the physical world has its source in “the Nature and Essence of the Blessed Emanator whose Being is of His Essence, and He is not, Heaven forbid, caused by any cause preceding Himself. He alone, therefore, has it in His power to create something out of an absolute naught and nothingness, without this “something” having any other cause preceding it.”

The above should not remain as mere theoretical concepts, but should effect our service of G‑d. In the verse: “I the L‑rd have not changed; you, the children of Ya’akov, have not been destroyed,” Chassidus brings two interpretations. Both basing themselves on other meanings of the word “kelisem” translated above as “destroyed.” The same word can also mean, “expire in yearning” as in the expression — “kalos hanefesh.” The first interpretation questions: How is it possible that the Jewish people (the children of Ya’akov) have not expired in yearning after meditating on the fact that: “I the L‑rd have not changed....” The second interpretation explains that because “I the L‑rd have not changed,” i.e. there is an aspect of G‑d that transcends all difference, therefore, that quality is reflected in the service of the children of Ya’akov and hence, they have not expired in yearning. Rather, they carry out their service in this world, on the physical plane. Indeed, G‑d’s intention in creation was for that service to be carried out.

In this context, we can understand a story related in the Talmud. The Talmud describes how four sages enter the Pardes (a level of mystic awareness of G‑d). One of them, Ben Azai, reached kalos hanefesh. His soul expired in clinging to G‑d. (Similarly, undesirable effects occurred to two of his colleagues.) Only Rabbi Akivah “entered in peace and departed in peace.” On the surface, it would seem that Rabbi Akivah should have also reached kalos hanefesh. He was on a higher spiritual level than Ben Azai. Since the soul is always yearning for G‑d as a spark surges to be included in a greater flame, how was it possible that after having been “included in the flame,” “entering the Pardes,” Rabbi Akivah could “depart in peace”?17

However, through the above interpretation, we can understand Rabbi Akivah’s behavior. As explained above, in relation to G‑d’s Essence, the heavens and earth, the spiritual and the physical, are equal. He is found on this plane equally as above. On the contrary, His intention in creation was for service in this physical world. Hence, when one connects with that level, there is no need for kalos hanefesh. One need not cling to the spiritual realms. On the contrary, one may “depart in peace” and return to service in this world.

Meditation on the Essence of G‑d — a level where everything is equal, should evoke a parallel service, “kabbolas ol,” acceptance of G‑d’s yoke, a commitment that is unbounded and includes all aspects of service. From the perspective of kabbolas ol, all aspects of service, be it the pleasure of Shabbos or the “privation” of Yom Kippur, are equal. They both share a common denominator — acceptance of G‑d’s yoke.

Through this service we will merit the revelation of G‑d’s Essence throughout the world: “The L‑rd will be King over the entire world. On that day, the L‑rd will be One and His Name One,” with the true and complete redemption, led by Moshiach.

4. Often the blessing: “May those who rest in the dust arise and rejoice,” is used to refer to the resurrection of the dead. At that time, Moshe Rabbeinu and the forefathers will all arise and they will all be taught Torah by Moshiach, as it is written (Shir Hashirim 1:2): “He will kiss me with the kisses of His mouth,” interpreted by Rashi to mean the revelation of the “secret reasons and hidden mysteries.” To prepare for that revelation, we must spread the wellsprings of Chassidus, a microcosm of the Messianic redemption, outward till they reach every Jew, for similarly, Moshiach will teach every Jew. Thus, every step taken to spread the wellsprings of Chassidus outward, hastens the revelation of the inner aspects of Torah as will be taught by Moshiach.

Though in general, the resurrection of the dead will take place after the coming of Moshiach, according to the Zohar, forty years after the ingathering of the exiles, certain tzaddikim among them, Moshe and Aharon, will be resurrected immediately (for it is explained, that Moshe and Aharon will teach the Jewish people certain elements of the Temple service). Thus, in order to hasten their resurrection it is proper to involve ourselves in activities that relate to the essence of their service.

The essence of Moshe Rabbeinu’s service centered on the transmission of the Written Law. Though Moshe Rabbeinu also transmitted the Oral Law, the latter is seen only as an explanation and an elaboration of the written. This concept is further emphasized by the fact that on the day of Moshe’s passing (which marks the culmination of his entire service), he was occupied with writing Sifrei Torah for each of the tribes of the Jewish people.

Therefore, by uniting with other Jews through a Sefer Torah, by purchasing a letter in the Torah, etc., we hasten Moshe Rabbeinu’s resurrection. Indeed, this can be explained as one of the reasons for the campaign to encourage every Jew to buy a letter in one of the general Sifrei Torah. Indeed, since these Sifrei Torah emphasized the unity and oneness of the Jewish people, it is proper that even someone who has fulfilled the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah himself or has hired someone to write one for him should purchase a letter in one of these Torah scrolls.

In this context, it is proper to announce the conclusion of the fourth general Sefer Torah written by the Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim and request that all participate in that celebration. To emphasize the festive aspects of the occasion, “l’chaim” should be made in connection with that announcement18 and the Hakofos Niggun sung now. May soon we march together with all the Sifrei Torah, particularly the general Sifrei Torah (those completed and those in the process of completion), to greet Moshiach, and may Moshe Rabbeinu arise and take part in the completion of the fourth general Sefer Torah and the beginning of the fifth Sefer Torah (which should take place at the same assembly), and then we will proceed to Eretz Yisroel, to Yerushalayim, and the construction of the Third Temple.