1. Shabbos Parshas Vayeishev falls out this year between Yud-Tes Kislev (anniversary of liberation of Alter Rebbe from Czarist imprisonment) and Chanukah; and there is a connection between these two events. Chanukah is associated with the miracle of the oil (of the Menorah). The Talmud Shabbos (21b) states: “What is (the miracle of) Chanukah? When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary they defiled all its oil. When the kingdom of the Chashmoneans prevailed and defeated the Greeks, they searched (for pure undefiled oil) but could only find one container of oil with the Kohen Gadol’s (High Priest) seal intact (a sign of its purity). The amount of oil in this container was only enough to light for one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the Menorah from it for eight days.”

In other words: There was oil in the Sanctuary, but it had been defiled by the Greeks. Chanukah represents the finding of pure oil, and the miracle which occurred with it. In short, the concept of Chanukah is the miracle of the oil.

All things have their root in Torah — “G‑d looked into the Torah and (from it) created the world.” The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything is constantly being created, and its existence derives from its name in the Holy tongue — “the heavens were made by the word of G‑d, and their hosts by the breath of His mouth.” Hence, the existence of oil in this world is derived from its existence in Torah.

We find Torah called by different names: ‘water’ — “there is no water except Torah”; ‘honey and milk’ — “honey and milk is under your tongue.” Likewise, our Sages have referred to Torah as ‘wine’ and ‘oil.’

‘Water’ refers to the exoteric, the revealed part of Torah. The nature of water is to flow downwards, to descend and be revealed below. This is the exoteric part of Torah, which descends below and is revealed. ‘Wine’ and ‘oil’ refer to the esoteric, the hidden part of Torah, its secrets. Wine is the idea of revelation of secrets — “When wine enters (a person, his) secrets come forth.” Indeed, the very process of making wine and oil is in the method of “secrets come forth.” Wine is produced by pressing the grapes, and bringing forth the wine which is concealed within. Oil is produced by crushing olives and bringing forth its oil. Hence wine and oil refer to the secrets of Torah, the esoteric.

In the esoteric itself there are varying degrees, with wine corresponding to the ‘secrets’ in Torah, and oil to the ‘secrets of secrets’ in Torah (i.e. a loftier, more profound level). Oil floats on top of wine, indicating that it is loftier and more spiritual (lighter) than wine.

Since Torah is also termed ‘water,’ the differing levels of the exoteric and the esoteric are to be found within water (corresponding to the exoteric in general) itself. Water is found in a river, and also within wells and springs. To bring forth water that is within a well or spring, effort is needed (to dig the well, to uncover the spring etc.). It is water, but hidden and concealed. Water in a river, however, is open and accessible. Moreover, even after the water in a spring or well is revealed, it is not as abundant as that in a river. Hence, while the level of Torah symbolized by water includes the esoteric, it is the level of a ‘spring’ (and not the abundance and accessibility of a river — which symbolizes the exoteric).

The above explains the connection between Chanukah and Yud-Tes Kislev. Yud-Tes Kislev is the concept of “Your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside: the dissemination of the esoteric in Torah. And, as explained above, Chanukah is associated with the miracle of the oil, which also represents the esoteric. The pure oil was used to light the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdosh, and its light spread forth to the entire world. The Talmud (Shabbos 22b) explains that the windows in the Bais Hamikdosh were narrow on the inside and broader on the outside, witness to all that the Divine Presence rests on Israel (and from there shines forth to the entire world) — similar to the idea that “Your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside.”

In other words, the Divine Presence rests mainly on the Jews, and their task is to ensure that it extends everywhere — to make a dwelling place for G‑d in this physical world. The beginning of this is the making of the Bais Hamikdosh: to take physical things, gold, silver, etc., and to use them to make a Sanctuary for the Divine Presence, from which it extends to the entire world.

The lesson from Yud-Tes Kislev is to spread the ‘wellsprings’ of Torah ‘outside,’ to any and every place which has not yet (at all, or fully) encountered Chassidus. Although one may face sundry opposition and obstacles, one must not be affected or influenced by them. For just as in the imprisonment of the Alter Rebbe, when he could not engage in the dissemination of Chassidus, that very imprisonment (similar to any opposition we may encounter) caused even greater dissemination of Chassidus when he was liberated — the idea of the superiority of light which comes specifically from prior darkness. The darkness and descent of the imprisonment caused the later greater ascent, eventuating in the liberation of Yud-Tes Kislev, called the ‘festival of festivals.’ Through proper involvement in the spreading of Chassidus (disregarding all opposition), we will enjoy success in a measure beyond all natural limits, similar to the miracle of Chanukah which follows Yud-Tes Kislev.

2. Although success in the propagation of Chassidus is in miraculous fashion, similar to Chanukah, we cannot be content to rely on this but must invest all possible efforts in this work. Only then will we see the fruits of our success in a miraculous fashion. This approach is emphasized in the story of Chanukah. The war of the Chashmoneans against the Greeks was not conducted in miraculous fashion, but with regular weapons and regular battles. (Unlike, for example, the victory of Chizkiyahu over the Assyrians, when the enemy forces were smitten by an “angel of G‑d” — without any natural efforts on the part of the Jews.) Through this warfare by natural means, the success of the war was miraculous, beyond nature — “You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, and the many into the hands of the few.” This is slightly paradoxical: If the Jews had to war by natural means, how could the weak even think of defeating the mighty; and if they relied on a miracle, why was it necessary to even engage in warfare? However, man must strive, by natural means, to do all he can. Then this ensures success in a miraculous fashion.

Work in a normal manner, followed by miraculous success, was also present in the liberation of the Alter Rebbe on Yud-Tes Kislev. Great efforts were put into securing both the Alter Rebbe’s release, and his welfare while in prison (efforts directed by his sons according to the instructions of the Alter Rebbe himself). Simultaneously, the Alter Rebbe writes in his letter about the liberation that “G‑d did wonders... in the land, and made wondrous and magnified His great and holy Name... in public, and especially in the eyes of all the princes and peoples in all the lands of the Czar.” In other words, the liberation was in miraculous fashion (“wondrous”), beyond natural means. Efforts by natural means is the ‘vessel’ by which G‑d’s miraculous blessings are received.

When the miracle follows natural effort, it is loftier than a miracle without any preceding effort whatsoever; for then nature itself becomes a ‘vessel’ for the miracle. Moreover, the miracle then comes from a source higher than if it were without any effort. We find, regarding the miracle of Chizkiyahu over the Assyrian forces (which was completely miraculous without any effort on his part), that Chizkiyahu was questioned why he did not say a Shirah (song) about the miracle. In other words, that miracle was associated with song, and our Sages have said that “Shirah is sung only over wine.” We see then, that this miracle (which was completely above nature) is associated with the level of wine.

The miracle of Chanukah, (preceded by effort) on the other hand, is associated with the level of oil. And, as explained previously, oil is on a loftier level than wine. Hence, a miracle that comes because of human effort stems from a level loftier than that when the miracle is without any preceding effort.

This explains why G‑d’s love to the Jewish people is expressed specifically in the miracle of Chanukah. According to Halachah, Jewish Law, “impurity is permitted when the entire congregation is involved.” In other words, there was no real necessity for the miracle of the finding of pure oil, for the Menorah could, in this case, have been lit even with impure oil. But since G‑d wished to show His great love for the Jews, He performed a miracle of providing pure oil for the Menorah. For since the Jews made an effort (not lust relying on a miracle), the miracle that did come was far loftier than had they not made any effort. Not only were they victorious in war, but G‑d’s love was expressed in the miracle of the oil: they not only (miraculously) found pure oil, but it miraculously lasted for eight days.

The lesson in this for us is that first and foremost we must invest all possible effort in the dissemination of Chassidus. Then, ”the L‑rd your G‑d will bless you in all that you do” — G‑d blesses our efforts with success above and beyond that which could normally be expected.

Besides disseminating Chassidus, efforts must be made to influence non-Jews to keep the Seven Noachide Laws. This is emphasized in the letter written by the Alter Rebbe about his liberation, that “G‑d made wondrous and magnified His great and holy Name... in public, and especially in the eyes of all the princes and peoples in all the lands of the Czar,” and “all the peoples of the earth saw the salvation of our G‑d.” Similarly, the Chanukah lights must be kindled “at the entrance to the house on the outside” — to illuminate the darkness of the world, and ensure that non-Jews conduct themselves in a productive, decent manner.

May it be G‑d’s will that each and every Jew involve himself ever more in the dissemination of Chassidus. Even in exile, when the darkness is growing ever more intense, we must ignore all obstacles and opposition, and do our work properly and completely. Through our efforts, we merit success beyond nature, miraculously. Then, through our work, we merit to have the lighting of the Menorah in the third Bais Hamikdosh, in the true and complete redemption, speedily in our times.

3. The above connection between Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah is every year. There is a special lesson to be derived from this year, when Shabbos is between Chanukah and Yud-Tes Kislev. [When the 1st day of Chanukah is on Shabbos or Friday, there is no Shabbos between Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah. (Yud-Tes Kislev is the 19th of Kislev, and Chanukah starts on the 25th of Kislev.)]

On Shabbos “the heaven and the earth and all their hosts were completed.” Chassidus explains that all things of the preceding six weekdays are ‘completed’ — they are elevated on Shabbos to the level of ‘ta’anug’ [literally translated as ‘delight,’ but (also) meaning an extremely lofty level] . This Shabbos, which follows Yud-Tes Kislev, elevates the concepts of Yud-Tes Kislev. Notwithstanding the great joy of Yud-Tes Kislev itself, the “festival of festivals,” Shabbos elevates it further. For although Yud-Tes Kislev is itself associated with the concept of “ta’anug,” there are many levels in this; and Shabbos elevates it yet further, to the highest level of ta’anug.

Besides Shabbos effecting elevation in the matters of the preceding week, it is also the day “that all the (following) weekdays are blessed.” In our case, this Shabbos blesses all the days of Chanukah which follows it. The first day of Chanukah encompasses all the other days (since the miracle of Chanukah is a result from the finding of the pure oil on the first day), and since it is within the week following this Shabbos, all the days of Chanukah are blessed from this Shabbos.

This is the unique distinction of this particular Shabbos this year. Every year the days of Chanukah are blessed by the preceding Shabbos. This year, when the blessings from Chanukah come from the Shabbos which also elevates the matters of Yud-Tes Kislev to perfection, the blessings are of the loftiest fashion. Moreover, the concept of Yud-Tes Kislev lends strength to the concept of Chanukah. This year, this strength is infinitely loftier, for it has first received the elevation from the preceding Shabbos.

One lesson to be derived from this is as follows. The idea of Shabbos is that on it “all your work is done” — there is no toil or work on Shabbos, but only ta’anug — delight in the Shabbos. All work, even the preparation for Shabbos, is done beforehand; Shabbos is only for delight — in eating, drinking etc. Thus the lesson from this year is that the work of disseminating Chassidus (the concept of both Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah), is done in the manner of Shabbos — not with toil, but in the manner of ‘delight.’

This is not a contradiction to that said earlier, that the dissemination of Chassidus must be with work and effort. There is ‘work’ on Shabbos, but in an entirely different manner than on weekday. While there is no work in preparing the Shabbos meals (done before Shabbos), there is ‘work’ in eating then. Besides the spiritual aspects of Shabbos (e.g. prayer, Torah study, etc.), Shabbos is also observed in physical matters, in fulfilling the mitzvah of having delight on Shabbos (“a lit candle, a prepared table, and a spread bed”). Simultaneously, this ‘work’ is obviously infinitely loftier than on weekday.

In general, the difference between work on Shabbos and weekday is the difference between the ‘toil in Torah (study)’ and the ‘toil of work.’ One must ‘toil’ also on Shabbos, but in things that are intrinsically lofty — the ‘toil in Torah study.’ Even in Torah study itself, difference exists between Shabbos and weekday. On weekday, the main area of Torah study is the exoteric, the revealed part of Torah — dialectics, questions and answers (‘toil’). On Shabbos, Torah study is mainly in the esoteric, where there are no questions and no arguments.

The lesson from this year then is, that while one must indeed work in the propagation of Chassidus, it is in the manner of work on Shabbos — in an infinitely higher fashion than normal. One’s work is not that he must struggle against the environment to spread Chassidus, but instead, all opposition is eliminated of itself. An example of this is the conquest of Yericho (Jericho). It was not similar to the victory against the Assyrians (by an ‘angel of G‑d’ with no human effort whatsoever), but was through efforts of the Jews. Simultaneously, their efforts not in actual warfare, but the carrying of the “ark (containing) the covenant of G‑d (the Two Tablets)” by the Kohanim, marching around the walls, blowing the Shofar — all things connected with Torah and mitzvos. Through these actions, the walls of Yericho fell down themselves — automatically.

So too in the spreading of the wellsprings of Chassidus. There is no need to engage in actual ‘warfare’ against any opposition, for it will be automatically eliminated of itself. Instead, a person’s service is only in holy matters, Torah and mitzvos — similar to the work of Shabbos.

Hence, when a Jew has risen to the level of Shabbos, and goes out to spread Chassidus; then, when meeting a fellow Jew, there is no need to engage in heated debate, for the other person sees that he is talking to a “Shabbos Jew.” Such a Jew is seen to be on a lofty level, and others will only want to know how they too can reach such a level!

In practical terms: Efforts in spreading Chassidus must be increased, ignoring all opposition. Effort in spreading Judaism must start first of all in those things appropriate to the current time — the Chanukah campaign, and the campaign to unite all Jews through participation in the writing of a Sefer Torah. Likewise with the other campaigns: Ahavas Yisroel, Jewish education, Torah study, tefillin, mezuzah, tzedakah, house full of Jewish books, Shabbos lights, kashrus, and family purity.


4. In this week’s parshah, Vayeishev, we learn about Yosef and his brothers. It relates their jealousy of him, and their capturing and subsequent sale of him to a caravan of Yishmaelim. Ch. 37 verse 23 states: “They stripped Yosef of his coat, the coat of fine wool1 that was on him.” Rashi comments on the words “his coat” that “this is an undergarment;” and on the words “the coat of fine wool” Rashi comments that “This is what his father gave him in addition, more than his brothers.” Obviously, Rashi learns that the brothers stripped Yosef of two garments — a undergarment, which his brothers also wore, and the coat of fine wool which Yosef alone possessed, the special gift from his father.

Rashi’s interpretation in Scripture is always according to the plain simple meaning. In this case, Rashi’s explanation seems to be contrary to the plain meaning of the verse. The words “They stripped Yosef of his coat, the coat of fine wool,” do not seem to indicate two garments. Rather, the second phrase ‘the coat of fine wool’ is merely a description or interpretation of the first phrase “his coat,” telling us exactly what coat it was — ”the coat of fine wool.” In other words, “the coat of fine wool” is the same thing as ‘his coat.’ We find many instances in Scripture where a second phrase is the interpretation of the first. Why then does Rashi say that this verse is talking of two different garments?

Especially puzzling is the following passage (37:31-32) which states: “They took Yosef’s coat, and killed a he-goat, and dipped the coat in the blood. And they sent the coat of fine wool... to their father...” Here there is no mention of any garment besides the coat of fine wool — indicating that ‘his coat’ and ‘the coat of fine wool’ in our verse is the same garment. Moreover, we see in the above passage that the ‘coat of fine wool’ is called just ‘coat’ (without a description): “They took Yosef’s coat... and dipped the coat in the blood” — despite the fact that it clearly refers to the special coat of fine wool. If so, then it is logical to say that ‘his coat’ in our verse also refers to the ‘coat of fine wool.’

In addition, there is no logical reason to say that the brothers stripped Yosef of his regular coat (‘undergarment’). They stripped him of the “coat of fine wool” only because it was the object of their jealousy (since it was a sign of Yosef’s special favor in the eyes of their father Ya’akov).

The explanation lies in that stated further on in the passage. After they had thrown Yosef into a pit, they saw a caravan of Yishmaelim. Yehudah then said to his brothers (37:26) “What profit is there if we kill our brother?” On the words “What profit,” Rashi explains this means “what monetary gain.” We see then, that besides the wish to be rid of Yosef (either by killing or selling him), there was a monetary motive involved. Hence, when they stripped Yosef of his garments, they stripped him also of his undergarment — which, when sold, would provide further monetary gain. Therefore Rashi explains that “his coat” and the “coat of fine wool” are two separate things, for they stripped him of both.

In addition, the brothers threw Yosef into a pit, which, as Rashi explains (37:24), contained snakes and scorpions. It is prohibited in Jewish Law to destroy anything for no purpose (‘Baal Tashchis’). Hence, when they threw Yosef into the pit, they first stripped him also of his undergarment so that the snakes and scorpions would not destroy it.

5. There are lessons to be learned from Rashi’s commentary on the Scripture, in the deeper sense.

Although Rashi interprets “his coat” to mean the undergarment, and the “coat of fine wool” to mean that “which his father gave him in addition, more than his brothers” — i.e. two separate garments; nevertheless, it is possible to say (and as other commentaries do indeed hold) that they are the same thing.

Accordingly, even according to Rashi (in a deeper sense), there is a connection between ‘his coat’ (undergarment) and the ‘coat of fine wool.’ All the brothers possessed a regular ‘coat’ (i.e. undergarment). However, Yosef’s possession of the ‘coat of fine wool’ invested his ordinary undergarment with a distinction that his brothers’ undergarments did not possess. This is the deeper interpretation of the connection between ‘his coat’ and ‘the coat of fine wool’ — that even Yosef’s undergarment was special [similar to the interpretation that ‘his coat’ and the ‘coat of fine wool’ are the same garment].

This can be seen in Rashi’s comment itself — ”This is what his father gave him in addition, more than his brothers.” The fact that it was his father who gave him the ‘coat of fine wool’ invested all of Yosef’s other clothes with distinction. Simultaneously however, there is a difference between the garments. The ‘coat of fine wool’ received its distinction wholly from “his father.” The distinction bestowed upon the other garments (undergarments) was “his coat” — it became part of Yosef’s service (in the deeper, spiritual sense).

This provides a lesson in man’s service to G‑d. When a Jew realizes that he is the only son of the King of kings, the Holy One blessed be He, and G‑d’s love for him is as parents’ love to their only son born to them in their old age — this bestows great distinction upon him and must profoundly influence him; for “just as water reflects a person’s image, so too is the heart of one person to another” (i.e. G‑d’s love to a Jew elicits love from a Jew to G‑d).

A Jew must know that this distinction (compared to other peoples) must be expressed not just in things in which he differs from others (i.e. Torah and mitzvos) — similar to the special distinction of the ‘coat of fine wool’ which ‘his father gave him in addition, more than his brothers.’ But the distinction must express itself also in those things in which all men are equal (eating, drinking etc.). Even then a Jew must be separate, distinct — “I and Your people will be distinguished from all men which are on the earth.” As the Rambam writes “Just as a wise person is recognizable in his sagacity and knowledge and is separate from the rest of the people, so must (a Jew) be recognizable in his deeds, his eating, drinking etc.”

Likewise with those who have merited to learn Chassidus, not through their own efforts, but in the manner of “what his father gave him in addition.” They merited to be born to parents who were of Chassidic stock, and therefore received a Chassidic education. This distinction must express itself (not just in the study of Chassidus) but in every facet of their lives, even in those things in which others, who have not yet merited to learn Chassidus, are equal.

This directive in one’s conduct is learned from Yosef — that the ‘coat of fine wool’ received from ‘his father’ invested even his undergarment with distinction. Although an undergarment is worn close to the body, and is not made for beauty; nevertheless, the distinction derived from ‘the coat of fine wool’ must be expressed even in such a garment. Every action, every facet of life must be invested with this special distinction.