1. This Shabbos, which precedes Yud Shvat, can fall on various possible days of the month; and in accordance with the Baal Shem Tov’s dictum that everything provides a lesson in one’s service to G‑d, the date on which it falls this year must also be instructive.1 The Previous Rebbe instituted the custom of learning three portions of Torah daily — Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya (Chitas). The Tanya is apportioned into the days of the year, and Chumash into the days of the week. Thus the chapters of Tehillim, which divided as they are according to the days of the month, will provide the lesson stemming from the particular day of the month this Shabbos falls on.

The first two Psalms for today, the fifth of Shvat, are the twenty-ninth and the thirtieth. The twenty-ninth Psalm begins with the words “A Psalm by David: Render to the L‑rd, children of the Mighty,” representing the culmination of the preparations for the Shabbos on the sixth day of the week; and as such ushers in the Shabbos. This Psalm, together with five others, is recited in the prayer for welcoming the Shabbos. And here we find a dichotomy: The prayer for welcoming the Shabbos is said prior to Shabbos, while still on Friday, consonant with the Halachah that one must add from weekday to Shabbos. Yet, simultaneously, as its name indicates, this prayer is that which ushers in the Shabbos. Hence this prayer has a dual quality: It is the culmination of Friday’s preparations for Shabbos; and it also ushers in the Shabbos.

2. Among the five Psalms which constitute the prayer of welcoming the Shabbos, Psalm twenty-nine holds a pre-eminent position. This is expressed in several ways:

1) The other five Psalms are not said when Yom Tov or Chol HaMoed falls on Shabbos, whereas Psalm twenty-nine is said every time, stressing its unique quality of ushering in the Shabbos.

2) The Arizal, when explaining the “Kavannos,” the concentrated meanings of the prayers, only explained those of the twenty-ninth psalm and not the other five.

3) The six psalms correspond to the six days of the week, with Psalm 29 corresponding to the sixth day, Friday. Thus it is this Psalm which holds the pre-eminent position of welcoming in the Shabbos, corresponding as it does to the sixth day, Erev Shabbos.2

The above throws light on a perplexing matter. The Mishnah (Berachos 28b) states: “Every day a man should pray the eighteen benedictions.” The Talmud comments on this stating that the eighteen benedictions correspond to the eighteen times that David mentioned the Divine Name in the Psalm “Render to the L‑rd, children of the Mighty.” An obvious question: What is the connection between this particular Psalm and this prayer, that we should connect the number of benedictions with the number of times the Divine Name is mentioned in it? There are numerous other Psalms which contain the Divine Name, some mentioning it a greater number of times, and others less. Why choose this particular Psalm?

Our previous explanation that this Psalm is the culmination of the preparations for Shabbos clarifies this matter. For although all the days of the week are a preparation for Shabbos,3 the main preparation, the culmination, is made on Friday.4 This corresponds to man’s service in general, in that on Friday his service reaches its culmination — it becomes complete. Every day has its own unique service; and on Friday, the sixth day, all the previous service reaches its fulfillment and perfection. It was specifically on the sixth day that it states “G‑d saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good,”5 indicating that on the sixth day all the previous work reaches its culmination; and is thus the perfect preparation for the following elevation it receives on Shabbos itself.

This then is the concept of Psalm 29 “Render to the L‑rd, children of the Mighty.” Because it is the culmination of the preparations for Shabbos, a person, while still in the last few moments before Shabbos, checks to ensure that all his service of the previous week is in a state of perfection, ready for its following elevation on Shabbos. And thus it is precisely this Psalm that corresponds to the concept of prayer (and thereby the number of times the Divine Name is mentioned in it is used as the basis for the number of benedictions in the Shemoneh Esreh prayer). Prayer is the “ladder rooted in the earth and the top of it is reaching to the heavens” — prayer elevates the lowest matter (the earth) to the highest levels (the heavens). This concept is embodied in Psalm twenty-nine, articulating as it does the culmination and perfection of the preceding week’s service enabling it to be elevated on Shabbos.

3. The Psalm which follows Psalm twenty-nine is that which begins “A Psalm and Song of Dedication of the House of David,” and is a natural continuation of the previous one. For these two psalms parallel the order of the week; “Six days you shall work,”6 and on Shabbos this work receives its elevation. First comes Psalm twenty-nine which, as explained previously, is the culmination of the week’s preparation for Shabbos; followed by Psalm thirty which corresponds to the concept of Shabbos. For in this Psalm, the Bais Hamikdosh is referred to as the House of David, even though it was his son Shlomo who actually built it. For since it was King David who made all the necessary preparations for building the Bais Hamikdosh (gathering the gold and silver, preparing the blue-prints etc.), it is referred to as David’s House.

David’s preparation for the Bais Hamikdosh corresponds to Psalm twenty-nine, which concludes the preparations for Shabbos. The actual Bais Hamikdosh, made possible by his preparations, corresponds to Shabbos itself, which is made possible through the preceding week’s preparations. Thus Psalm thirty, “A song of Dedication of the House of David,” corresponds to the concept of Shabbos, and thus follows naturally after Psalm twenty-nine.

These two concepts are found not only in the beginning of the respective psalms, but are mirrored throughout their contents. In Psalm twenty-nine, we find the words “render to the L‑rd” three times, and the “voice of the L‑rd” seven times. The three times “Render to the L‑rd” correspond to the three components of a man’s intellect — wisdom, understanding and knowledge. The seven times “voice of the L‑rd” correspond to the seven types of Middos, emotional attributes. Together, they comprise the fulfillment and perfection in man’s service, the culmination of man’s service as the preparation for Shabbos.

The Psalm “A song of Dedication of the House of David” is Psalm thirty, which corresponds to the concept of Shabbos the Queen, since “royalty is acquired with thirty distinctions.”

Through the proper preparation of resolutions and actions undertaken on the tenth of Shvat, the anniversary of the passing away of the Previous Rebbe, (and “the tenth will be sanctified”), we will merit to have the “ten-stringed instrument” of the future redemption,7 when we will sing the tenth song.8

In practical terms, this Shabbos should begin preparations for Yud Shvat, doing all which the Previous Rebbe has instructed us. Working with all our abilities, and influencing other Jews as well, to perform Torah and Mitzvos, we will merit to the call of the Previous Rebbe — “immediately to Teshuvah, immediately to redemption.”

4. On the words (Bo 10:22) “and there was a thick darkness [in all the land of Egypt] for three days,” Rashi comments “A darkness of obscurity so that ‘they saw not one another’ those three days; and in addition three other days of darkness twice as thick as the former, so that “no man rose from his place,” — he who sat could not stand up, and he who stood could not sit down. And why did He bring darkness upon them?... because the Israelites searched and saw their vessels (of the Egyptians) and when they (the Israelites) went out (of Egypt) and they asked them (Egyptians) for the vessels, and (the Egyptians) said “There is nothing in our possession,” (each Israelite) said to him, ‘I saw it in your house, and it is in such a place.’“

That is, Rashi is explaining that since the Jews had been commanded that “Every woman shall ask her [Egyptian] neighbor and of her that lives in her house, vessels of silver and vessels of gold and raiment,” G‑d sent a plague of darkness on the Egyptians which enabled the Jews (who were not affected by the darkness) to enter their houses and ascertain the position of their valuables. Thus, when the Jews later asked the Egyptians for their precious vessels, they were able to rebuff any lies or denials.

However, in the very next verse, it states that “but for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.” This seems to indicate that the Jews only had light in their houses, and not in the Egyptian houses.9 How then can Rashi say that the Jews had light everywhere, even in an Egyptian house?

Rashi’s comments and explanations are addressed even to the five year old at the stage of learning Chumash, and as such are drawn from the plain understanding of the Chumash itself. Therefore, in our case, Rashi’s comments about the method the Jews had of ascertaining the places where the Egyptians valuables were kept, must also be drawn from the Chumash and simple logic.

The five year old has already learned that G‑d told Avraham “Know of a surety that a stranger shall your seed be in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years ... And afterward they shall come out with great wealth.” This wealth will be such that “you shall empty out Egypt” — taking all the wealth of Egypt with them.10 Therefore, when the five year old comes to the part where he learns that the Jews are nearly ready to leave Egypt, a natural question arises in his mind: The Jews themselves were very poor; where then were they going to get the “great wealth” promised them, sufficient for the millions of Israelites? True, he knows that the Jews were commanded to ask the Egyptians for their wealth, but still he remains perplexed. Are then the Egyptians such fools as to give away their valuables just because the Jews ask for them? And even if one were to postulate that the Egyptians would be frightened enough to do just that — it strains the bounds of the imagination to assume that they would hand over those valuables of which the Jews had no knowledge — i.e. those hidden away (as is common in the case of valuables).11

Thus there must have been some opportunity for the Jews to enter the Egyptians’ homes, and see for themselves where the valuables were hidden — and hence be able to refute any lies on the Egyptians’ part. When was this opportunity? Rashi explains it was during the plague of darkness, when the Egyptians were paralyzed, whereas the Jews had light.

This clarifies our previous question as to the contradiction between Rashi’s explanation and the verse which seems to imply that the Jews had light only in their homes. That the Jews had light and could see the Egyptians’ homes, is not a startling piece of information; they had to have it to enable them to see where the valuables were kept, and hence fulfill G‑d’s promise to Avraham “and afterwards they shall come out with great wealth.” But that they had light in their own homes — that is startling news, for there was no real need for it. And this is what the verse “and for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” is telling us. Not that it means to exclude the fact that the Jews had light in other places — but that even in their own dwelling places they (also) had light.12