1. Shabbos Mevorchim, on which we bless the new month, is associated with Rosh Chodesh; which in turn is associated with the “birth” of the moon. The Jewish calendar is constructed according to the lunar year, since Jews are compared to the moon: Ya’akov is termed the “the small,” and the moon is termed “the small luminary.” Thus Rosh Chodesh is peculiarly associated with the G‑dly service of Jews, “who will be renewed as the moon.”

Simultaneously, each Shabbos Mevorchim is unique, corresponding to the special distinction of its month. Each month has its own name, which expresses its special quality; for a name in the Holy tongue is the reflection of its vitalizing force, and hence its quintessence.

Everything is to be used in a Jew’s G‑dly service. The unique vitalizing force and quintessence of the new month must therefore be used in one’s service, a service which will be unique to that particular month. Since the function of Shabbos Mevorchim is to bless and draw down Divine assistance for the service of that month, it too must correspond to that unique service.

On this Shabbos we bless the coming month of Kislev. The central theme of its service is expressed in its name, which, besides “Kislev,” is also known as the “third month.” The order of the months may be counted in two ways: starting from Nissan, which is the beginning of the months; or from Tishrei, which is the beginning of the year. When starting from Nissan the third month is Sivan; from Tishrei, the third month is Kislev.

The quintessence of the “third month” in general (both Sivan and Kislev) is that the Torah was then given to the Jews. The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) states the connection between the third month and Torah: “Blessed be the Merciful One who gave the threefold Torah (Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographa) to the threefold people (Priests, Levi’im and Yisroelim) through a third-born (Moshe) on the third day of the month.” Sivan is the third month in which the revealed (exoteric) Torah was given; on Kislev was the giving of the “inner” (esoteric) Torah — on Yud-Tes (19th of) Kislev.

Torah was studied even prior to Mattan Torah (the Giving of the Torah). Our forefathers learned Torah, and even Adam fulfilled mitzvos. But our forefathers studied Torah only because they themselves were on a lofty level. Even when Avraham taught other peoples to desist from idolatry and serve the true G‑d, it was specifically Avraham who revealed this truth. Torah in and of itself was not yet revealed in the world.

This was the innovation of Mattan Torah. At Mattan Torah the Torah was revealed and given to the whole world. Formerly, the spiritual and the physical were two distinct entities. Now they could become one. Or in different words: “The decree that the lower world not ascend to the higher, and the higher not descend to the lower, was annulled.” At Mattan Torah, G‑d Himself, the “Highest of the high;’ came down to Mt. Sinai.

Likewise in the Mattan Torah of the esoteric, in the month of Kislev. In Sivan the entire Torah was given, both the exoteric and the esoteric. However, the main revelation then was of the exoteric. Comprehension and understanding of the esoteric, its revelation uniting it with the essence of a person, was accomplished on Yud-Tes Kislev.

Chanukah preceded the revelation of the esoteric as a festival in the month of Kislev. It too is associated with the third month. The Midrash relates (Yalkut Shimoni, Melachim 184): “The work of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was finished on the 25th of Kislev, but it was not erected until the first of Nissan, as stated (Shemos 40:2) ‘On the first day of the first month you shall erect the Mishkan.’ Kislev, in which the work was finished, missed out (on being the month in which it was erected). The Holy One blessed be He said: I will repay (Kislev for missing out). How did the Holy One blessed be He repay it? With Chanukah of the Chashmoneans (when the Bais Hamikdosh was re-dedicated).”

Chanukah was the re-dedication of the second Bais Hamikdosh. Nevertheless, when the Mishkan built by Moshe in the desert is counted, it is the third (Mishkan, 1st Bais Hamikdosh, 2nd Bais Hamikdosh). This then is Chanukah’s association with the third month.

To clarify this point: The Mishkan involved two components: The work of the Jews building it; and G‑d’s presence dwelling therein. The Mishkan was finished on the 25th of Kislev, but G‑d’s presence did not dwell in it until Nissan (when it was erected). G‑d’s compensation to the month of Kislev for missing out this revelation of G‑d’s presence was on Chanukah, in the second Bais Hamikdosh. After having defeated the Greeks, the revelation of G‑d’s presence was all the stronger, in contrast to the previous defilement of the Bais Hamikdosh. This is the reason why the Chanukah lights “will never be extinguished,” similar to the Mishkan, which, being the work of Moshe, is also eternal. Thus the central point in Kislev is that it became perfect (“repaid”) specifically after the previous impurity and ‘darkness’ caused by the Greeks.

The same applies to the revelation of the esoteric in this month. It was only after the ‘darkness’ of the exile became extremely intense that the esoteric was revealed to the world. And Chassidus specifically was spread mainly after the Alter Rebbe’s liberation from imprisonment on Yud-Tes Kislev. But the increasing intensity of the exile then called for even further revelation of Chassidus. This was the work of the Mitteler Rebbe, the successor to the Alter Rebbe, who greatly expanded and elucidated the concepts of Chassidus. His birthday, Yahrzeit, and liberation from prison were all in the month of Kislev.

This then is the central theme of Kislev. To banish darkness through the Chanukah lights and through Chassidus, both of which must permeate to the outside. The Chanukah lights are lit “at the entrance of the house on the outside;” and Chassidus is “the spreading of your wellsprings to the outside.” The strength to carry out this theme of Kislev comes from Shabbos Mevorchim, when the month is blessed and receives vitality for its service.

In practical terms: Despite the victory of Chanukah, we still live under non-Jewish rule. Jews are still in exile and the final redemption has not yet come. But a Jew must not despair. G‑d has shown us that the idea of Kislev is to overcome darkness, and what is more, to convert the darkness itself into light. The increasing intensity of exile is combated with the revelation of Chassidus; and through spreading Chassidus to the outside, the darkness can be eliminated and become light. Indeed, the purpose of the exile is the greater and stronger light (G‑dliness) that results specifically from prior darkness.

The above is also found in the concept of Shabbos Mevorchim. In the times of the Bais Hamikdosh, the idea of blessing the new month on the preceding Shabbos did not exist. The day of Rosh Chodesh was then fixed according to visual testimony, and it was sanctified on the day itself. It was only in exile that the custom of Shabbos Mevorchim was initiated. On Shabbos all Jews are in synagogue and it is the ideal time to announce which day Rosh Chodesh would be. In other words, it is the exile which prompted the institution of Shabbos Mevorchim, and its associated blessings and strength for the coming month’s service. This teaches us that a Jew, even in exile, has the strength to gather Jews and influence them in the concept of blessing the month. That is, that their service should be “renewed as the moon.”

The above lesson can be expressed in plainer terms. Jews are not only in exile from their land, but they are in a personal exile. When a Jew prays, he must face in the direction of the Bais Hamikdosh. In prayer, a Jew must divest himself of his surroundings and actually be in the Holy of Holies. The Baal Shem Tov said that a person is in the place where his thoughts are. During prayer, a person must direct his thoughts towards the Holy of Holies, and thus be there.

However, Jews are so sunk into their personal exile that it is impossible for them to direct their thoughts so as to divest themselves of their surroundings and ‘be’ in the Holy of Holies. Instead of the great joy of knowing that a person is in the Holy of Holies, one’s failure can bring a person to depression and sadness.

This is the lesson of Kislev. A Jew does not have to wait till the time he attains the level of ‘being’ in the Bais Hamikdosh. Even while in the exile, the concept of Kislev gives a Jew strength to convert the darkness of exile into light. Even in exile a Jew can properly perform his service of spreading Chassidus and illuminating the entire world.

Furthermore, one’s service must be consonant with the ideal of Chanukah. In the days of the Talmud, not everyone lit the Chanukah lights as we do. We add an extra light each successive night. Then, this was a custom only of the most devout. For in Talmudic times, the darkness of the exile was not so intense, and there was no need for so much light. Today however, with the increasing intensity of the exile, we need more and more light; and hence we kindle an extra light each night of Chanukah. Likewise, we kindle the Chanukah light “at the entrance to one’s house on the outside,” corresponding to spreading of the light of Chassidus to the outside.

Through this service we abolish the last vestiges of exile, and immediately we merit to have the true and complete redemption through our righteous redeemer. Then G‑dliness will be revealed to the entire world, when “the L‑rd shall be One and His Name One.”


2. The Zohar (I, 121a) on Parshas Chaye Sarah states the following: “R. Yose discussed on the verse (Yonah 1:15): ‘And they took up Yonah and cast him forth into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging.’ The question may here be asked, he said, ‘why it was the sea and not the earth that raged against him, seeing that he fled to prevent the Shechinah (Divine Presence) from resting upon him.’“ In other words, since Yonah fled because he did not wish to fulfill his mission of prophesying to the inhabitants of Ninveh about their impending doom, why was it specifically the sea that raged against him, and not the earth? Especially since people, to whom his prophecy was to be addressed, live on the earth and not in the sea? The Zohar proceeds to give the answer that “it was appropriate that it should be so, for our teachers say that the sea resembles the sky and the sky resembles the throne of Glory; hence the sea seized him and held him fast.”

The Zohar’s question is slightly puzzling. It asks “why it was the sea and not the earth that raged against Yonah?” Yet there seems to be a perfectly good explanation for this (besides the Zohar’s answer). Our Sages have taught that Satan intrigues against and denounces a person (in the Heavenly court) at a time when a person is in danger. People at the sea are considered to be in danger, as witnessed by the Blessing of Thanksgiving on Deliverance from Danger that is recited after completing a sea voyage. If so, it is perfectly logical that since Yonah was on a ship on the sea, it was specifically then that a denouncement was made against him (for having fled G‑d’s mission). Thus it was specifically the “sea that raged against Yonah,” and not the earth, since he was then in a situation of danger. Why then does the Zohar ask “why it was the sea and not the earth that raged against Yonah”?

This will be understood through reference to Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer which explains the story of Yonah at length. It states there (Ch. 10): “On the fifth day Yonah fled from before G‑d. Why did he flee?... The second time he was sent to Yerushalayim to destroy it. When its inhabitants repented, G‑d had mercy and did not destroy it. The Jews then called him a false prophet. The third time he was sent to Ninveh (to warn the inhabitants to repent or face destruction). Yonah then made the following reckoning to himself, saying: ‘I know that this gentile nation (Ninveh) is ready to repent; and (if I will warn them of their impending doom) they will now repent. G‑d will then be angry at Yisroel. And not enough that Yisroel called me a false prophet, but also the gentile nations will. Behold I will flee...”

Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer then continues: “Yonah went down to Yaffa (a port city), and could not find a ship to board. The ship that Yonah (eventually) boarded had been two days’ journey distance from Yaffa. To test Yonah, what did G‑d do? He sent a raging wind upon the sea which drove the ship back to Yaffa. Yonah saw this and rejoiced in his heart saying: ‘Now I know that my way is straight before me.’“ And our Sages explain that he thought it was a sign that he had done good before G‑d — since he had fled only so that G‑d’s anger would not be aroused against the Jews and so that G‑d’s name would not be profaned (by calling him a false prophet).

It further explains there the reason for the great fear of the sailors when the sea started raging once Yonah was aboard. Sailors are used to storms. What was special about this storm that induced them in this case to say “Let us cast lots that we may know who is the cause of this evil that has come upon us”? The Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer answers that “on the right and left of them all the other ships were sailing peacefully on a calm sea, and only the ship on which they sailed was in great trouble, as it states: ‘the ship seemed likely to be wrecked.’“ In other words, the sailors, when they saw that other ships in the same vicinity were sailing peacefully, and “the mighty tempest in the sea” affected only their ship, realized that it was no natural occurrence; and therefore they cast lots to determine who was the cause of it.

Now we can understand why it is impossible to say that the reason it was the sea which raged against Yonah and not the earth, was because the sea is a natural position of danger, and therefore Satan denounces a person there. In our case it was not a natural ‘position of danger,’ for all other ships were sailing peacefully, and only Yonah’s ship ‘seemed likely to be wrecked.’ It was nota natural storm, and hence we cannot say that Yonah was in a natural ‘position of danger’ and therefore was then denounced.

Furthermore, the Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer says: “On the right and left of them all the other ships were sailing peacefully.” The language is exact. It does not say “The ships on either side,” but on the right and left. This refers to ‘right’ and ‘left’ in spiritual terms, ‘right’ denoting those on a lofty spiritual level, and ‘left’ those on an inferior spiritual level. The fact that even the ships on their left, those on an inferior level, were sailing peacefully, shows how unnatural the whole situation was. It was not a ‘natural position of danger’ by any means; and therefore we cannot say that it was specifically the sea that raged against Yonah because the Satan denounces in a time of danger. Thus the Zohar’s question is perfectly legitimate, and must give the answer it does.

There is a lesson for one’s G‑dly service to be derived from the story of Yonah. Yonah’s full name is Yonah ben Amitai. A person’s soul is called ‘Yonah,’ deriving from the word ‘Onoah.’ ‘Onoah’ means trickery, for a soul is tricked and deceived by the body. The body deceives the soul into following the desires of the animal soul and body (rather than G‑dly pursuits), by painting a glamorous picture of worldly matters, and depicting them as necessities (rather than extraneous to the true reason for a soul’s descent into the body).

A person’s service must be in the form of ‘Yonah ben Amitai.’ Amitai derives from the word Emes, truth. The light of truth, the level of “the L‑rd is the eternal truth,’ must illuminate a person. ‘Ben Amitai,’ the son of Amitai, means that a person must be a ‘son’ of truth — to always be on the level of ‘Amitai,’ truth.

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3. Rashi, the commentator par excellence on Scripture, always explains the plain meaning of the verse in his commentary. If there is something incomprehensible in the verse, Rashi will always explain it; or else state that he does not know the meaning of it. In our parshah, there seems to be something that needs explanation, but Rashi makes no comment.

A large section of parshas Chaye Sarah is devoted to the narration of Yitzchok’s marriage to Rivkah. It tells of Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, who, entrusted with the mission of finding the right girl for Yitzchok, is instructed to travel to Avraham’s birthplace and find there a girl from among Avraham’s kindred.

Eliezer reaches Aram Naharaim, Avraham’s birthplace, and there, through various miraculous signs, is convinced that he has found the right girl — Rivkah. Upon meeting Rivkah’s parents and brother, he relates the whole story to them. When telling them of the mission entrusted to him by Avraham, he relates the various objections and difficulties he foresaw, and then repeats Avraham’s reassurance to him (Bereishis 24:40): “And he (Avraham) said to me: ‘The L‑rd before whom I walk will send His angel with you and make your mission successful.’“

There is a problem here to which Rashi makes no reference. Avraham’s actual words to Eliezer were slightly different. He said (24:7): “The L‑rd, G‑d of heaven... will send His angel before you.” Eliezer, in repeating Avraham’s words, says “He will send His angel with you.” Why did Eliezer make this change?

Sometimes, if a change in wording does not change the meaning, it is not a problem, for we find such occurrences in Scripture more than once. But in this case, as Rashi himself has explained elsewhere, there is a difference in meaning between “before you” and “with you.” On the words (Bereishis 6:9): “Noach walked with G‑d,” Rashi comments: “In the case of Avraham, Scripture says (24:20) — our verse) ‘The L‑rd before whom I walk.’ [The difference lies in the fact that] Noach needed [G‑d’s] support to uphold him, but Avraham was strong in himself and walked in his righteousness by himself [by his own efforts].”

We see then that Rashi deems it necessary to explain the difference between ‘with’ and ‘before’ even when it is used in connection between two different people. Obviously he considers these two expressions as not merely different expressions of the same meaning, but different in content. Certainly then, when these two different expressions are used in connection with the same man, and the same case — a repetition of Avraham’s words — there must be a reason for it. Yet Rashi makes no comment on Eliezer’s choice of a different expression. That he does not is evidence that the explanation can be found in Rashi’s commentary on Scripture preceding this verse.

Indeed, it can be understood from the above quoted commentary on Bereishis 6:9. From there we can understand the difference between ‘with you’ and ‘before you.’ “He will send His angel before you” implies that the angel precedes Eliezer, and ensures success before Eliezer reaches his destination. “He will send His angel with you” means that the angel accompanies Eliezer and helps Eliezer carry out his mission successfully. This helps us understand why Eliezer deemed it necessary to change Avraham’s words when repeating them to Rivkah’s father Besuel, and her brother Lavan.

Besuel and Lavan, as all inhabitants of Aram Naharaim, were thoroughly untrustworthy scoundrels. They not only wished to thwart the marriage between Rivkah and Yitzchok, but went to the lengths of attempting to poison Eliezer. Eliezer, knowing the type of people with whom he was dealing, had to be extremely careful and circumspect in his words. Had he repeated Avraham’s words verbatim “The L‑rd... will send His angel before you,” meaning, the angel will precede Eliezer and ensure success before Eliezer even reached there, Besuel and Lavan would have seized on these words as one more tactic to mock and ridicule Eliezer, and further confuse the issue. They would have retorted to Eliezer: “If, according to you, G‑d’s angel has already successfully carried out the mission, why are you even talking to us?!” Hence Eliezer, when repeating Avraham’s words, changed it to “The L‑rd will send His angel with you;” meaning the angel will accompany Eliezer and help him in his mission. Thus Rashi need not make any comment to explain the change from ‘before’ to ‘with,’ for it is self-understood from his previous explanation on Bereishis 6:9.

But all is not clear. True, Eliezer could not repeat Avraham’s words verbatim. Nevertheless, how could he say that Avraham said “The L‑rd will send His angel with you,” when he knew that Avraham had really said “before you?”

However, there was really no falsehood involved. When Avraham said the angel will go before you, it does not exclude the fact that the angel remains with Eliezer until the very end of the mission, helping him in any difficulties that may crop up. Eliezer, in saying “with you,” repeated only part of Avraham’s meaning, and simply omitted the further fact that not only would the angel be with him, but would also precede him.

But a major question remains unsolved. Avraham promised Eliezer that the angel would precede Eliezer and ensure success of the mission before Eliezer arrived. Yet we do not see any indication of this. Eliezer still had to do all the work of choosing the girl, and convincing her relatives. Even more puzzling, after all Eliezer’s efforts, Besuel and Lavan still opposed the marriage! What then did the angel who preceded Eliezer do to ensure success of the mission even before Eliezer’s arrival?!

However, while the angel’s help had nothing to do with Rivkah’s parents and brothers, it did ensure success with Rivkah herself. One of the major problems was to find the right girl (and only after that to gain her parent’s consent). Which, of all the girls in the city, was the right one for Yitzchok? It was here that the angel who preceded Eliezer gave his help. Scripture tells us that when Eliezer came to the city (24:15): “Before he finished to speak (praying to G‑d to give him a sign as to the right girl), and behold Rivkah came out.”

Besides determining the right girl, the angel also was successful in gaining Rivkah’s consent to go with Eliezer, without any effort on Eliezer’s part. Eliezer, before speaking to Lavan and Besuel about the match, had not mentioned anything about it to Rivkah. Evidence of this is her relatives’ reply to Elizer that (24:57) “Let us call the girl and we will ask her personally” — indicating that she had no prior knowledge of the matter. Yet, when they asked Rivkah “Will you go with this man?”, she answered “I will go,” and as Rashi explains, she said “By myself, even if you do not consent.” Rivkah’s agreement to going, even against her parents’ will, was the work of the angel who preceded Eliezer.

There is a lesson in the story of Eliezer for all of us. When a Jew goes in the mission of G‑d to make the world a fit dwelling place for Him, he has the assurance and promise of Avraham that “the L‑rd will send his angel before you” and “with you” to ensure success for his mission. This assurance eradicates any worries about obstacles to one’s mission, for has he not been promised success? This applies to all Jews, for of Avraham Scripture states: “In order that he shall command his sons and his house after him that they shall keep the way of the L‑rd.” Every action of a Jew that keeps “the way of the L‑rd” is done in the agency of Avraham (“that he shall command his sons”); and hence Avraham assures him that “the L‑rd will send His angel with you to ensure success.”

All that a Jew need do is be a “servant of the fathers” — to know that he is on the mission of the leader of our generation. Then, just as Eliezer (the ‘servant of Avraham’), was successful in his mission in all aspects, so too with us. Even when a Jew is sent to a place full of obstacles and opposition (similar to Aram Naharaim), there is no need to fear, for he is on G‑d’s mission, and He sends His angel before and with him. He can be sure that he will be successful in taking Rivkah out of Aram Naharaim — in taking all the ‘sparks of holiness’ from the place to which he has been sent. Success is assured, for the L‑rd is “G‑d of the heavens and G‑d of the earth,” master of the entire universe, and “none shall be lost from Him.”