1. The twentieth of Cheshvan is the birthday of the Rebbe Rashab. This year it falls out on Shabbos, thereby elevating the matters of the 20th of Cheshvan. Moreover, this year is the 100th anniversary of the passing on of the Rebbe Maharash (the Rebbe Rashab’s father), which also marks the beginning of the Rebbe Rashab’s leadership. Thus this year is the 100th year of his leadership — and the number 100 indicates the peak of perfection.

When the number 100 is associated with a birthday, its perfection is yet greater. The greatness of the number 100 sterns from the distinction of the number 10, for 100 is 10 times 10. And the number 10 is associated with the greatness of a soul as it comes down to be enclothed in a body at birth (as will be explained shortly).

Kabbalah explains that the number 10 is the perfect, full number. Its distinction in Torah passes on into the world, where perfection is also found in the number 10 — “the world was created with 10 utterances.” And the 10 utterances are associated with the 10 Sefiros.

At first sight, this means that the main distinction of 10 is in the Sefiros, from which came the ten utterances which created the world. But the Alter Rebbe explains (Iggeret Hakodesh 20) that the world was created ex nihilo only “by the Essence of G‑d, whose Being is of His essence, and He is not, G‑d forbid, caused by some other cause preceding Him. He alone, therefore, has it in His power and ability to create something out of an absolute naught and nothingness without this ‘something’ having any other cause preceding it.” Thus we see that the ten utterances which created the world are in one aspect greater than the ten Sefiros of the world of Atzilus, since the world was created (through the 10 utterances) by “the Essence of G‑d (which is loftier than the 10 Sefiros of Atzilus).

The perfection of the number ten is present also in the service of Jews, which, in general, is to praise G‑d — the “ten praises David said in the Book of Tehillim (Psalm 15): “Praise the L‑rd. Praise G‑d ...”). And the Talmud explains that these “ten praises” correspond to the “ten commandments” and “the ten utterances with which the world was created.”

Just as the ten utterances are in one respect loftier than the ten Sefiros (as explained above), so too there is a greater distinction in the “ten praises” — Jews’ service to G‑d — compared to the 10 commandments and the 10 utterances.

This is explicitly mentioned by our Sages: “With whom did G‑d take counsel (regarding the creation of the world)? With the souls of the righteous.” That is, G‑d took counsel with the souls of Jews (“all your people are righteous”) — who preceded the world — about the creation of the world. And the purpose of creation was “for the sake of Israel.” Hence there is a distinction in Jews’ service (“ten praises”) compared to the 10 utterances with which the world was created.

Similarly, our Sages say that G‑d thought of creating Israel before even the Torah, indicating that in one respect the service of Jews is superior even to the 10 commandments. Thus the ultimate perfection of the number ten is in relation to Jews, greater even than the 10 Sefiros, utterances, and commandments.

Now the ultimate perfection of Jews’ souls and service is when the soul descends into a physical body, for then its loftiest abilities and powers are revealed. This begins at birth, when it becomes an independent existence (whereas in the mother’s womb, the embryo is part of its mother) and starts its individual service. Although the perfection of service is when a person is older and his faculties are developed, the beginning of his life’s service is at the moment of birth.

Thus in addition to the perfection of the number ten (and likewise 100 = 10x10), extra distinction accrues when it is associated with a birthday -for, as explained above, the ultimate in the number 10 is in relation to the service of Jews which begins at birth. This certainly is true of the Rebbe Rashab’s birthday, for the unique distinction of a leader in Jewry starts from birth. As we find in the case of Moshe Rabbeinu, that “Moshe was a shepherd — he was prepared for it” (Shemos Rabbah 2:4), meaning that from birth he was prepared and ready to be the “shepherd of Israel.”

The greatness of the Rebbe Rashab’s birthday this year then, is that it is the 100th year of his leadership. Since the number 100 is associated with the distinction of birth, special elevation is effected when his birthday is simultaneously associated with the number 100.

“Deed is paramount,” and therefore we must derive a lesson from the idea of a birthday. A birthday in general is connected not just with the individual’s service, but with the redemption of all Jewry. Our Sages said “The son of David (Moshiach) will not come until all the souls in the ‘guf’ are ended,” which Rashi interprets to mean “all the souls in that treasure store called ‘guf.’“ In other words, Moshiach will come when all the souls that are destined to be born are born — and therefore the birth of a Jew hastens the coming of Moshiach. The lesson then is the great importance of the birth of another Jewish child.

2. A further distinction of this year is that the Rebbe Rashab’s birthday (the twentieth of Cheshvan) falls out on Shabbos. Although the 20th of Cheshvan is a date in the month, and Shabbos is a day in the week, they nevertheless influence each other: Shabbos elevates the 20th of Cheshvan, and the 20th of Cheshvan elevates the matters of Shabbos.

The idea of Shabbos is that then “all your work is done,” and “You shall call Shabbos ‘delight’“: service on Shabbos is in the manner of delight. This extends to and permeates even physical things such as eating and drinking. Thus, when the 20th of Cheshvan is on Shabbos, all the matters associated with the Rebbe Rashab receive special distinction — similar to the distinction of Shabbos (delight) compared to weekday.

There is a further lesson to be learned from the chapter of Tehillim which corresponds to the age of the Rebbe Rashab — Ch. 123. The “title” of this psalm states: “The singer (of this psalm) laments the long time spent in exile.” This is the general content of the psalm, which concludes with “Be gracious to us, for we have been surfeited with humiliation. Our soul has been overfilled with the derision of the complacent, with the scorn of the arrogant.” That is, we have been too long filled with derision and humiliation in the exile.

This prayer (“Be gracious to us ...”) is made in the manner of “To You who are enthroned in heaven I lifted my eyes” (as stated in the beginning of the psalm) — a Jew lifts his eyes to his Father in heaven and begs for the end of exile. G‑d is found on the earth as He is in heaven, as stated “I fill the heavens and the earth.” Indeed, G‑d’s presence is revealed and rests specifically in this world (in the Bais Hamikdosh). Likewise, Torah “is not in heaven,” but was given specifically on earth. A Jew may therefore think that his eyes should be cast downwards. Psalm 123 teaches otherwise: “To You who are enthroned in heaven I lift my eyes.” That is, the beginning of service must be to lift up one’s eyes and connect oneself to his Father in heaven. Of course, this does not contradict that Torah was given to this world specifically. It means that first one must bind oneself to Above. In other words, service on this world is proper only when one simultaneously is connected with G‑d in heaven.

This idea of synthesis of heaven and earth is also present in the redemption. The future redemption can be in two ways. Moshiach will either come as “a poor man riding on a donkey” or “with the clouds of heaven.” The ultimate perfection is “with the clouds of heaven.” This is the synthesis of heaven and earth: on the one hand, the redemption must actually happen, in this physical world; on the other hand, the redemption is perfect when it is “with clouds of heaven.”

The synthesis of heaven and earth — “To You who are enthroned in heaven I raise my eyes” simultaneously with “One who prays must cast his eyes down” — has special association with the Rebbe Rashab. The beginning of everything is in Torah. “To cast his eyes down” is principally applicable to the exoteric aspect of Torah, where there is the most emphasis on “Torah is not in heaven.” The idea of raising one’s eyes to heaven is principally associated with the esoteric aspect of Torah, Chassidus, where one engages in knowledge of one’s Creator — “To You who are enthroned in heaven.” And the principal innovation of the Rebbe Rashab was the synthesis of the exoteric and esoteric.

The Rebbe Rashab founded Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim, whose purpose was that in it should be learned “G‑d’s Torah, the exoteric and the esoteric, as a whole.” That is why the Yeshivah was called “Tomchei Tmimim,” and its students called Tmimim (Tmimim — plural of “tomim” meaning whole) — for there the synthesis of the exoteric and esoteric was manifest. Although the exoteric and esoteric were learned before the founding of Tomchei Tmimim, they were not learned together in the same building and day; nor was the esoteric given the same importance as the study of the exoteric. Thus the contribution of the Rebbe Rashab was the synthesis of the exoteric (earth) with the esoteric (heaven).

Today, the birthday of the Rebbe Rashab gives strength for all students (past and present) of Tomchei Tmimim to increase in all things associated with the spirit of Tomchei Tmimim, and to act accordingly. Study in Tomchei Tmimim is not something in the past; even one moment’s study in it is an eternal matter, and such a person is always a Tomim. The only choice in this matter is whether to reveal this eternal bond by acting in the spirit of Tomchei Tmimim, or the reverse G‑d forbid.

In practical terms, we are given the strength to increase in all things associated with the Rebbe Rashab, particularly the study of Chassidus and the spreading of the wellsprings (of Chassidus) outside. In particular this translates into the mitzvah campaigns: Ahavas Yisroel and unity of Jews; education, Torah, tefillin, mezuzah, tzedakah, house full of Jewish books, Shabbos lights, kashrus, and family purity. Likewise, the campaign to unite all Jews through the general Sefer Torahs. All these hasten and bring near the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach.


3. We mentioned previously that this year, 5743, marks the 100th year of the Rebbe Rashab’s leadership. His father, the Rebbe Maharash, passed away in 5643, and therefore the Rebbe Rashab’s leadership started from that year — “the sun set and the sun rose.”

However, all is not clear. The previous Rebbe writes that: “Beginning from Ma’ariv on the night of Rosh Hashanah 5654, he (the Rebbe Rashab) made his permanent place of prayer in the synagogue in the place where his father, the Rebbe Maharash, used to pray. Until then, (i.e. from 5643 to 5654) he prayed in his own place, where he used to pray during his father’s lifetime.” The assumption of his father’s place of prayer indicates that only then he took over his father’s leadership — which was in the year 5654, and not 5643.

We can answer this contradiction by referring to a halachah in Rambam, in the Laws of a King (for a “leader” is similar to a king). He states: “When a king is appointed, he is anointed with the anointing oil.” But, the Rambam continues, “We do not anoint a king who is the son of a king, unless there was a dispute or war (over who should be king): then we anoint him in order to get rid of the controversy. Therefore Shlomo (although the son of King David) was anointed because of Adoniah (who claimed the kingship): and Yoash because of Italia, and they anointed Yehoachaz because of Yehoyokim his brother.”

That a “king the son of a king” is not anointed does not mean something is lacking in his kingship, something that is effected only through anointing. Since he is a “king son of a king,” he does not need anointing, for the anointing of his father works for him too. As the Rambam states: “Since the king is anointed, it is good for him and his sons for ever.” The anointing of the first king helps for his sons as if they were anointed, for the “kingship is a heritage.” This, however, applies only when there is no dispute over the throne. If there is, the anointing of the father is not enough, and the son himself must be anointed.

We could posit that the anointing in the case of a dispute can be for two reasons: To make the person king now; or just to clarify that he is and always was king from the time his father passed on, since he was the heir of his father the king (and the anointing just shows that it is he, and not the disputant, who is, and always was, king).

The difference is a practical one. A king who sins must bring a special sacrifice, different from an ordinary person. This depends on when the sin was committed: If he was king when he sinned, he brings the special king’s sacrifice; if he sinned before he became king, then, even if in the interim he became king, he brings a regular sacrifice. What happens if he sinned after his father the king passed on, but before he was anointed? If we say the anointing actually makes him the king, then he must bring a regular sacrifice (for the sin was before he was anointed). If we say the anointing only clarifies and reveals that he is and always was king, then he must bring the special king’s sacrifice — for the anointing now reveals that in reality he was king from the moment his father passed on -and he sinned after that time.

In our case, when the Rebbe Rashab accepted the leadership, he had an older brother. In such a circumstance, although the Rebbe Rashab was the “son of a king,” he needed “anointing.” Now, if we say the anointing makes the king, then we would indeed say the beginning of his leadership was in 5654, when he took over the place for prayer previously occupied by his father the Rebbe Maharash. This is similar to the idea of anointing, for “one may not sit on the king’s throne” — and therefore the Rebbe Rashab’s sitting on his father’s place “anointed” him as the leader. But if we say the anointing is just to clarify the previously existing fact that he is king, the beginning of his leadership actually began from 5643, immediately upon the passing on of his father the Rebbe Maharash.

We could perhaps prove that the anointing makes him king from the Rambam’s ruling in regard to the anointing of the kohen gadol (High Priest). He writes: “A kohen gadol is appointed, head of all the priests; and he is anointed with the anointing oil, and clothed in the garments of the kohen gadol ... If there is no anointing oil, he [is anointed] by wearing extra clothes [more than a regular kohen]. How is this done? He wears the eight garments (special to the kohen gadol; a regular kohen wears only four garments) and takes them off; he wears them again the next day, (and so on) for seven days, day after day ... Just as the increase in clothes is for seven days, so the anointing with oil is for seven days, day after day. If he performed service before he wore the extra clothes the entire seven days, or before he was anointed for the entire seven days, his service is kosher, for since he was increased (in clothes) or anointed once, he becomes the kohen gadol in all aspects.”

We see then that a kohen gadol’s service is considered kosher (and therefore shows he is indeed the kohen gadol) only when he has been anointed at least once — “he becomes the kohen gadol in all aspects.” But before he has been anointed once, his service is not kosher for he is not yet kohen gadol. This indicates that the anointing makes him the kohen gadol.

So too in the case of a king: The anointing makes him the king, and therefore he is king only from that time on, and not before.

However, the above question of whether the anointing makes the kingship as in the case of a kohen gadol, or if it is only a clarification, has no place in the Rambam’s line of thought (as opposed to others, notably Rashi). The Rambam explicitly writes that the reason a king’s son needs anointing when “there is a dispute,” is “in order to get rid of the controversy.” This clearly indicates that the anointing is not needed to make him king, for if not for the dispute, there would not be any need for anointing. It is only for a side reason — “to get rid of the controversy.”

So too in the case of the Rebbe Rashab. Even if we say the idea of anointing (sitting in his father’s place) was in 5654, the beginning of his leadership was still in 5643, immediately after his father’s passing on. For the anointing of a king the son of a king is not to make him king, but for a side reason.

According to some opinions (e.g. Rashi), the anointing is (not for a side reason but) to make him king — for the very fact that there is a dispute shows his kingship is lacking — and therefore the anointing is needed to make him fully king. Nevertheless, even according to this opinion, in the case of the Rebbe Rashab, something similar to anointing took place already in 5643.

Although a king or kohen gadol had to be anointed with oil, in our times, in the case of a leader, anointing is not literally done with actual oil. In our times, the idea of anointing is the actual undertaking of leadership, and its acceptance by the people.

In our case (leadership of Chabad) , the anointing is the saying of Chassidus (i.e. not just repeating Chassidus, but saying original Chassidus) in public. Indeed, this is the main idea of leadership, as the Rambam writes: “to raise up the true faith ... to fight G‑d’s wars ... to do justice ...” The first ma’amar said by the Rebbe Rashab in public was in 5643, on the second day of Sukkos. This was within 7 days of the Rebbe Maharash’s passing (on the 13th of Tishrei).

Moreover, the beginning of the ma’amar was “They give you a crown” — and a “crown” is the principal component in kingship. In addition, this ma’amar was said on Sukkos, and the dedication of the first Bais Hamikdosh by King Shlomo was on Sukkos. Thus this shows that the Rebbe Rashab’s leadership began in 5643.

It is highly probably that the reason he did not occupy the place of his father until 5654 was because of his older brother’s honor. The principal part of leadership — saying Chassidus in public, the spreading of Chassidus — was in existence beforehand (from 5643). But after more than ten years had passed, not only had his brother moved to another city, but it was impossible to further push off the less important ingredients of leadership (the place for prayer).

4. In parshas Vayeira, after Avraham and Sarah had been promised that they would have a son, we learn of the destruction of Sodom and Amorrah, and Avraham’s subsequent journey to Avimelech’s country. There Avimelech and his people were punished by sickness for abducting Sarah, and were healed only after Avraham had prayed for them. Scripture then states (21:1): “And G‑d remembered Sarah as He had said, and G‑d did for Sarah as He had spoken.” Quoting the words “G‑d remembered Sarah etc” Rashi comments: “This section is placed adjacent (to the preceding one — concerning Avimelech being struck by sickness and Avraham praying for his healing) to teach you that anyone who seeks mercy for his fellow when he himself is in need of that thing, he is answered first. As it is stated (20:17), ‘And he (Avraham) prayed,’ and close to this (it is stated) ‘G‑d remembered Sarah’ — for He had already remembered her before He healed Avimelech.”

In other words, Rashi notes that the section of parshas Vayeira dealing with G‑d’s remembrance of Sarah is placed next to the section dealing with Avimelech, in which we learn that “Avraham prayed to G‑d” for Avimelech to be healed. Immediately after this, in the next section, we learn that “G‑d remembered Sarah.” This teaches us that G‑d remembered Sarah before He responded to Avraham’s prayer to heal Avimelech. For since Avraham prayed on behalf of Avimelech when he himself was in need, he was answered first — Sarah was remembered before Avimelech was healed.

But not all is clear:

1) Rashi says “This section is placed adjacent (to the preceding one).” This implies that this is not the true place for this section, and therefore it being placed here must come to teach us something. However, as all commentators ask, according to the order of events this is the place for this section. The order of events in parshas Vayeira is that the angels came to inform Sarah that she would have a child; then they went to destroy Sodom; after the destruction of Sodom and as a result of it, Avraham went to Geror (Avimelech’s country); there Avimelech was punished for abducting Sarah; then Yitzchok was born (“G‑d remembered Sarah”). All these events are recorded in Scripture in proper sequential order as they happened. Why then does Rashi say “This section is placed adjacent (to the preceding one)” implying it is not in its correct place?

2) Rashi says that the placement of this section here teaches that “anyone who seeks mercy for his fellow when he himself is in need of that thing, he is answered first.” This comprises two aspects (i) “he is answered;” (ii) “first.” That is, the fact that a person is answered at all because he prays for his fellow is itself a new thing that Scripture teaches us (besides being answered first). But how can we say Avraham was answered only because he prayed for Avimelech, when G‑d had already promised Avraham that Sarah would give birth to a son? Even without Avraham praying for Avimelech, G‑d would need to keep His promise.

3) Rashi is meticulous in choice of the words he quotes on which to make his comment. He is likewise meticulous about use of the word “etc.” He will not write “etc” every time he quotes only a part of a verse, but only when it is relevant to understanding his commentary. In our case, Rashi writes “G‑d remembered Sarah etc.” Not only is this seemingly unnecessary for understanding Rashi’s comment, but the reverse. Writing “etc” means Rashi wishes to draw our attention to the rest of the verse not actually quoted. In our case, the rest of the verse poses a question on Rashi’s comment. Rashi’s comment is that Sarah was remembered by G‑d through Avraham praying for Avimelech. The rest of the verse is “as He said and ... as He had spoken,” referring to G‑d’s promise to Avraham that Sarah would have a child. This indicates that even without Avraham’s prayer for Avimelech, Sarah would bear a son. Why then does Rashi draw attention to the rest of the verse by writing “etc?”

The explanation:

We find in the Torah happenings which the Torah relates twice: Once in a general manner, and the second time the details of the occurrence. For example: In parshas Bereishis, on the creation of man on the sixth day, Rashi writes (1:27): “Here it informs you that both (man and woman) were created on the 6th day, and it does not explain to you how they were created. It explains that to you in another place.” That is, the Torah first tells about the general creation of man; it then repeats the story of creation of man once again, this time explaining all the details involved.

The reason for this is that since the creation of man is part of the creation in general in the first six days, Torah therefore must tell us, when relating the creation on the sixth day, also about man’s creation — in a general way (similar to the rest of creation). When it has finished telling us the general story of creation, it can then relate the details involved in man’s creation.

So too in our case: Rashi writes “This section is placed adjacent (to the preceding one)” although in the order of the events the birth of Yitzchok (“G‑d remembered Sarah”) followed the indecent with Avimelech — for the birth of Yitzchok rightly belongs at the beginning of parshas Vayeira, immediately after Sarah was told by the angels that she would have a son. In the preceding parshah, Lech Lecha, G‑d promised Avraham that Sarah would give birth. As a continuation of this Avraham was commanded about the mitzvah of circumcision (which would be G‑d’s covenant to the seed of Yitzchok). On the third day of Avraham’s circumcision the angels came to Avraham and told about the coming birth of Yitzchok. Thus it is proper, and a natural continuation of this chain of events, to immediately write after this that G‑d’s promise was fulfilled -”And G‑d remembered Sarah ...”

If the Torah wishes to first tell about the events that happened between the angels’ message and the actual birth of Yitzchok (i.e. the destruction of Sodom and the incident with Avimelech) it should have at least first written the general idea of Yitzchok’s birth (at the beginning of the parshah), and then, after relating the order of events as they occurred, relate again in detail about Yitzchok’s birth (as it does in the case of man’s creation in parshas Bereishis).

Since “G‑d remembered Sarah” was written only after the story of Avimelech, we must say that these two sections are placed together to “teach that anyone who seeks mercy for his fellow when he himself is in need of that thing, he is answered first...”

Although G‑d promised Avraham that Sarah would have a son, and therefore even without Avraham praying for Avimelech G‑d need keep his promise -nevertheless, Rashi emphasizes that Sarah was remembered through Avraham’s prayer. G‑d’s promise to Avraham was at the covenant between the pieces, as Rashi continues to say on our verse: “Where was the speaking (mentioned in our verse — “as He had spoken”)? ... at the covenant between the pieces.” Quite a few years had passed since then, and the promise had not yet been fulfilled. In contrast to this, when Avraham prayed for Avimelech, Sarah was immediately remembered, “before He healed Avimelech.”

This is why Rashi writes “etc” — to emphasize the greatness of “Anyone who seeks mercy for his fellow.” The words of the verse to which “etc” alludes are about G‑d’s promise to give Sarah a son. This promise was not fulfilled until Avraham prayed for Avimelech — and then Sarah was immediately remembered — even “before Avimelech was healed.” Avimelech was healed right after Avraham prayed -yet Sarah was remembered even before that, showing the great power of “Anyone who seeks mercy for his fellow.”

Rashi must emphasize this greatness, for a section is only changed from its proper place for an important reason. In our case — to teach the greatness of praying for one’s fellow.