1. There are two components in Shabbos. While being one of the seven days of the week, more importantly it is simultaneously above the concept of time, removed from the weekday cycle. Through this element of Shabbos, its timelessness, the days of the week (including the seventh day) are elevated on Shabbos.

Every Sunday we say in our prayers “Today is the first day.” This means not only the first day of the week, but also “literally the first day, similar to the first of the six days of creation.” Since Shabbos is above time, after Shabbos the concept of time begins anew;1 and thus every Sunday is literally the first day.

This concept is also hinted at in the revealed part of the Torah. The songs which the Levi’im sang each day in the Bais Hamikdosh correspond to the seven days of creation. On Sunday they sang the Psalm “the earth and all therein is the L‑rd’s,” for on the first day G‑d created the world to be His forever. Something said in the Bais Hamikdosh, especially that associated with the sacrifices, [the songs were chanted at the time of the sacrifices], can contain only the absolute truth. Hence each of the seven days of the week truly correspond to each of the first days of creation. Just as time was created on the very first day, so too every Sunday time is created anew, conferring upon it the title “first day.”

In order for time to be created anew every Sunday, the existence of time must cease prior to then, on Shabbos. Since one “ascends in holy matters,” the nullification of the existence of time is replaced by the Shabbos which is “above time.”

The source for the above comes from the following: There are two levels in holiness corresponding to the two components of Shabbos. One level refers to that which is separated from the mundane, less holy matters.2 The higher level refers to those matters which are holy in and of themselves, and do not derive their holiness from being separated from other things. The former level of holiness is that component of Shabbos which, although separate, is nevertheless part of the rest of the week. The latter level is that element of Shabbos as it stands above time, unrelated to the rest of the week — including the seventh day. These two levels of holiness within Shabbos clarify the two ways in which Shabbos is sanctified. Unlike Yom Tov which “Yisroel sanctifies according to its seasons” — “Shabbos stands eternally sanctified [of itself].” Yet at the same time, the Torah commands us “Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it” and “the children of Israel shall observe the Shabbos to establish the Shabbos.” The reason for these two seemingly contradictory sources of sanctification is contingent upon the two levels of holiness within Shabbos. That level which is rooted in Shabbos as the “seventh day,” and is associated with other things [i.e. it remains part of the week], is actuated through a Jew. The higher level of holiness, which is entirely removed from anything else, cannot be actuated through a Jew, and must therefore be sanctified of itself.

Parshas Lech Lecha stresses the above higher level of Shabbos (which is the main component). The contents of the Parshah are summed up in its name, Lech Lecha, which means to go, to journey; especially in such a year as this one, when the Parshah follows directly after the seventh of Cheshvan, the beginning of the service of “Ya’akov journeyed on his way.” Chassidus explains that a truly authentic journey occurs only when one ascends to a completely new matter (or level) which is infinitely higher than the previous matter (or level). An ascent which is less than this is not completely authentic, for even after ascending, one has not truly broken away (journeyed) from the previous lower level. That level of holiness of Shabbos which remains connected with the rest of the week (and is merely separate from the other days), cannot be considered a true ascent from the previous weekdays, since it is still connected with them. True ascent, as stressed in Parshas Lech Lecha, is only found in that level of holiness of Shabbos which is completely removed from the other days.

Not only does a true ascent remove one entirely from the level from which he is ascending, but in order that the lower level not interfere with the higher level, one must first eradicate the lower level. So too with Shabbos. Not only does the higher level of Shabbos have no connection whatsoever with anything else, but it eradicates the lower level; on Shabbos the concept of time is abolished.

The Talmud recounts a similar episode. In order to learn Talmud Yerushalmi, R. Zeira fasted one hundred times to forget Talmud Bavli. Although a previous knowledge usually assists a person in learning further, R. Zeira did the exact opposite, fasting in order to forget his previous knowledge of Talmud Bavli. Because Talmud Yerushalmi is of an infinitely higher level than Talmud Bavli, he fasted in order to forget it, lest his previous learning of Talmud Bavli interfere with his new, higher learning.

Stories in Torah are also instructive to every Jew,3 for the entire Torah was given to all Jews. So too with the story of R. Zeira. The study of Talmud Bavli is replete with questions, refutations, and reconciliation of contradictions. The study of Talmud Yerushalmi is, on the other hand, relatively direct with a minimum of debate. This difference is the same as that between two modes of learning: dialectics and erudition.4 It is extremely difficult for a person to exchange his established mode of learning for the other, and this is the lesson to be taken from R. Zeira. When one must change his mode of learning to an infinitely different method, one must first erase his previous pattern, thus enabling him to approach the higher level.

We can take a directive from all the above. When Parshas Lech Lecha approaches, we must “ascend in holiness” in a completely new, infinitely higher fashion, no matter how lofty our previous service. To enable us to completely break away from the obstructing lower level, the Torah instructs us to “Get yourself out from your country, and from your kindred, and from your fathers house, to the land that I will show you.” One must leave all those things that, since they are yours, are limited, and instead go to the land that G‑d shows — beyond all limitations. Then a Jew’s true essence, higher than all qualities, is revealed.5

Just as after Shabbos one must descend once more into weekday, so too, after reaching his true essence of infinity, a Jew must retain an orderly, graded service. Were one’s service to be solely without bounds, one’s soul would expire. But the purpose of the descent of the soul into a body is to refine and elevate the body, the animal soul, and the person’s portion of the world. To carry out this task, one’s service must also be with limits, compatible with the limits of the body, animal soul and world. Simultaneously however, one’s orderly graded service must be rooted in and illuminated by the unlimited, just as weekdays are illuminated by the holiness of the previous Shabbos.

This concept is expounded upon in regard to fulfilling Mitzvos. The Rambam states that “the great basic principle is that all that we do today is because G‑d commanded us [to do] so through Moshe Rabbeinu, and not because He instructed preceding prophets to do so.” An example is circumcision which “we do not circumcise ourselves because Avraham did so..., but because G‑d commanded us so through Moshe Rabbeinu.” Yet at the same time we have the principle that “the deeds of the fathers are a sign for the sons,” and so much so, that the blessing on circumcision is “to enter him into the covenant of Avraham our father.”

There is no contradiction between the two. The “great basic principle” of the Rambam stresses the fact that the giving of the Torah (Mattan Torah) wrought a completely new change in Mitzvos, making them infinitely greater than before. The change was not just in the quantity of Mitzvos, but primarily in the quality. There previously existed an edict that “the higher shall not descend to the lower, and the lower shall not ascend to the higher;” the lower, lacking the power that comes from the upper, could not elevate (and divest themselves of) their existence. Hence Mitzvos performed prior to Mattan Torah, as in the case of “the deeds of the fathers,” were of a limited, circumscribed nature.

This then is the “great basic principle” of the Rambam. Mitzvos nowadays should be performed in obedience to G‑d’s command through Moshe at Mt. Sinai, beyond all limitations. “The lower should ascend to the higher,” elevating and divesting itself of the constraints of the “lower.” Yet, after receiving the Mitzvos at Mt. Sinai, our service must also resemble “the deeds of the fathers” — an orderly graded service.

But this itself we do only because the Torah, given at Mt. Sinai so instructs us (that “the deeds of the fathers should be a sign for the sons”). For such a graded service must also be illuminated by the unlimited — Mattan Torah.

The same applies to the world. There are two ways in which the world functions: naturally (finite, within limits); and miraculously (infinite, above limits). While the latter way is generally superior to the former, there are nevertheless lofty elements in the former which are not found in the latter. Therefore one must conduct oneself in a natural fashion and “not rely on miracles.” But, as with one’s orderly, graded service (“deeds of the fathers”), one conducts himself thus in this manner, solely because Torah instructs him so.

The same applies to learning Torah. Before learning we make the blessing “Who has given us His Torah” — stressing that the Torah is from G‑d, who is beyond all comprehension; but while actually engaged in learning Torah, one must understand what he is studying. This once again represents the two diametrically opposite points: Infinity, above all limits (Torah is from G‑d, who is beyond all understanding) and finity, bound by limits (one must understand the Torah). And again, as a result of first making the blessing, our actual learning must be permeated with the knowledge that it is G‑d’s Torah we” are studying. Even while understanding Torah we sense that this is G‑d’s Torah which is above comprehension; that even those things which are comprehensible are rooted in the incomprehensible. This is the finite and the infinite which are in Torah itself.


2. Shabbos Parshas Lech Lecha falls this year on the day after the seventh of Cheshvan, the day when the last of the people who came on the pilgrimage to the Bais Hamikdosh for the festival of Sukkos returned to their homes. So as not to cause the last wayfarer any discomfort, the prayer for rain was not recited until then, providing a remarkable lesson in love of a fellow Jew. So that just one individual Jew should not feel even a moment of discomfort, all Jewry refrained from praying for rain!

During their pilgrimage to the Bais Hamikdosh, Jews reached lofty heights. Any visit to the Bais Hamikdosh caused a spiritual uplift; more so during one of the three holiday pilgrimages; especially so during Sukkos, the festival of our rejoicing; and even greater during the year of Hakhel. It is easy to imagine then the difference in their spiritual condition between being in the Bais Hamikdosh during Hakhel, and home after their return. Yet, despite this vast decline, Jews “went to their dwelling places full of joy and good cheer.” Shouldn’t the opposite be true?

G‑d however, does riot dwell only in the Bais Hamikdosh. “I shall dwell within them” says G‑d, within every Jew and Jewish house. Within all physical, mundane matters which have been used so that “all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven” and “in all your ways you shall know him,” — there too G‑d resides. When Jews departed from the Bais Hamikdosh for their homes, their task was to make a dwelling place for G‑d within their everyday dealings and matters. Such work reveals the greater light that comes only from previous darkness, causing the “joy and good cheer” when they “went to their dwelling places.”

Today we fulfill the service of the Bais Hamikdosh spiritually. Thus the day after the seventh of Cheshvan,6 when the pilgrimage to the Bais Hamikdosh had completely ended, signals a new mode of service, that of “Ya’akov journeyed on his way,” the service that deals with the corporeal world. For what is the service of “Ya’akov journeyed on his way”? “Ya’akov”: this refers to all Jews, and not just to those of the higher level of Yisroel; “journeyed”: even those of the lower level of Ya’akov must journey, move — and true movement is the ascension onto a new level, infinitely higher than the previous one;7 “on his way”: one must not be concerned only with lofty spiritual matters, but even “his” way, a person’s mundane concerns and actions, must be permeated with the proper service — “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” and “in all your ways know Him.”

During the month of Tishrei we are removed from the world, our service dealing primarily with the many festivals of Tishrei. Service that deals with the world begins after Tishrei, in the month of Cheshvan. However, because people were still returning home from the Bais Hamikdosh until the seventh of Cheshvan, and could not begin their service in their home place, that period of time is still considered a continuation of the original pilgrimage. Hence the day after the seventh of Cheshvan, when all Jewry had returned home, signals the true beginning of the service of “Ya’akov journeyed on his way.” So too today, on this Shabbos, the first day after the seventh of Cheshvan, we must begin the service of dealing with the world permeated with the effects of Tishrei.

This tremendous descent into the corporeal world is, as all descents, for the purpose of a later ascent to a higher level. It is only through the transformation of the mundane into a fit place for G‑d’s presence that truly effects the fulfillment of “G‑d desired to have a dwelling place in this world,” the lowest (i.e. most corporeal) of all worlds. Hence, upon leaving Tishrei with its abundance of festivals, we not only take with us the joy of the festivals, but our joy increases, because of the opportunity we have to acquire the great merit of fulfilling G‑d’s desire for a dwelling place in this world. Joy breaks all limitations, commensurate with the ideal of “Ya’akov journeyed on his way” — a service higher than limitations.

Today “darkness covers the earth.” Jews however, have the promise that “the L‑rd will shine on you” and “the L‑rd is your guardian; the L‑rd is your protective shade at your right hand. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.” Indeed, the very fact that nations are warring against each other in such senseless fashion is a sign that Moshiach is very near. Joy reinforces trust in G‑d, that “the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps;” and this very belief in Moshiach’s imminent coming — “Every day I wait for him to come” — causes our joy to become greater and greater.

The story is told of a Tzaddik in Poland, who, as a child, wanted to eat an apple, but was denied permission. He therefore said the appropriate blessing for fruit, and in order that his blessing should not be in vain, his father was forced to give him the apple. So too with us. Our joy in the redemption, stemming from our faith in Moshiach’s imminent coming, itself causes G‑d to quickly fulfill the desires of His children and hasten the redemption.

This most certainly does not mean forcing the end of the exile through such means as Kabbalistic formulae. We refer only to joyously increasing Torah study and Tzedakah giving. This includes sincere contemplation of the meaning of the prayers “May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy” and “Speedily” cause the scion of David Your servant to flourish.” This causes a person to ask himself “what have I done today regarding this?”

To put into concrete action all of the above, we reiterate a previous suggestion that all Jews, everyday, increase their study of Torah and giving of Tzedakah. Both of these are associated with joy, Torah being “the precepts of the L‑rd (which) are right, rejoicing the heart,” and Tzedakah needs to be given joyously and good-heartedly. Being the year of Hakhel, a year that stresses all Jews as one congregation, the extra Torah learning should be something that binds all Jews together — the weekly Parshah. The extra Tzedakah should be in amounts of ten, the number of categories of Jews that comprise the Jewish nation.

All of the above is especially relevant in this year of Hakhel. In such a year all Jews, “men, women, infants and the stranger in your gates” made the pilgrimage to Yerushalayim to hear the king read the Torah. The Rambam states that during the reading, everyone had to concentrate and “picture himself as if he were now being commanded [the Torah], and hearing it from G‑d, since the king is [G‑d’s] agent for this purpose.” This affected all Jews, even infants and the newly born. Even those adults who, for any reason whatsoever8 were unable to understand what was being read to them, were “obligated to prepare their hearts, and to concentrate on hearing with awe and fear and trembling joy, as on the day [the Torah] was given at Sinai.” Such was the effect of the reading; even those who could not comprehend were obligated to “prepare their hearts,” and thus be influenced to “fear the L‑rd your G‑d and observe to do all, the words of this Torah.”9

G‑d gives a Jew the ability to carry out the service of “Ya’akov went on his way,” fortified by the strength that comes from Hakhel. At the same time G‑d has given Jews free choice, to choose “life and good” or the opposite. One may wonder how it is possible that a Jew would choose the opposite of life. Chassidus explains however, that the Yetzer Horah (evil inclination) is wily and experienced, with an approach that is indeed subtle. “Today he says to him (the Jew) to do such a thing, and tomorrow to do another, until eventually he tells him to engage in strange worship [idolatry], and the Jew obeys” (Shabbos 105b). Knowing that a Jew would never succumb to blatant urgings to sin, the Yetzer Horah at first even agrees with the Yetzer Tov (good inclination) that a Jew should perform Mitzvos! After establishing himself as a partner in the Jew’s deeds, and thus obtaining the right to voice an opinion, he gradually urges him to sin. Eventually he urges him to “strange worship” — meaning encouraging the Jew to do things which are strange to his nature. A Jew’s service should always be dedicated to G‑d, and if not, then it is a “strange” worship, not belonging to G‑d. And eventually this leads him to actual idolatry.

Since the original cause of all this was the Yetzer Horah’s agreement to performing Mitzvos, a Jew must be extremely wary. The criterion of whether the instigator to perform a Mitzvah is the Yetzer Tov or the Yetzer Horah is the result. If the Mitzvah results in a feeling ‘of joy and satisfaction and a further increase in Torah and Mitzvos, then one can be sure the Mitzvah came from the Yetzer Tov. But if afterwards one feels remorse because he spent time performing a Mitzvah that could have been done later, thereby forfeiting the chance to do a Mitzvah that cannot be performed later — this indicates that the original Mitzvah was done at the urging of the Yetzer Horah. The Yetzer Horah has succeeded in causing him to forfeit a Mitzvah!

An obvious lesson from this is that we must be active in current matters, notwithstanding that thereby we may have to delay other things. Thus did R. Shimon bar Yochai conduct himself; notwithstanding that Torah was his whole life, and he penetrated to the loftiest heights, he nevertheless interrupted his studies to involve himself in the current Mitzvos of Sukkah and Lulav.


3. R. Levi Yitzchok Schneerson, in his annotations on the Zohar, quotes the following story from the Zohar. A young (unmarried) man, by the name of Yossi, approached R. Abba and told him that he wished to learn Torah so that he could become wealthy. R. Abba assented and Yossi applied himself assiduously to learning Torah. After some time, he asked R. Abba where is the wealth (h3 was promised will come from learning Torah)? Upon hearing this R. Abba commented that (the young man’s request) “showed that he did not learn for Torah’s sake alone,” and wished to punish him. However, he refrained from doing so when “he heard a voice instructing him not to punish the young man, for he is destined to become a great man.” R. Abba then promised him wealth.

Shortly thereafter a man came to R. Abba and told him that in exchange for a share in the merit of learning Torah, he was willing to give a large amount of “Poz” (fine gold). R. Abba then told Yossi to “study diligently in Torah and this man will give you wealth.” The rich person then gave Yossi a cup of fine gold. Sometime after, R. Abba saw Yossi weeping, and upon inquiring the reason, was told that he now regretted exchanging his World to Come for mere gold. R. Abba then remarked: “now we see that he learned Torah for its own sake.” He then advised the rich man to take the money and distribute it to the needy. From then on Yossi was known as R. Yossi ben Pozi (Pozi from the word “Poz” — fine gold).

There are several points in this story that need elucidation. Among them: 1) We find other instances when one party, in return for financially supporting the second party, received a share in the merit and reward of the second party’s Torah studies (which were made possible by the first party’s financial support). Such was the case with Shimon and Azariah, and Yissachor and Zevulun. However, our sages tell us that this applies only when such a partnership is struck before the second party starts learning Torah. Should someone come and wish to buy a portion of the (reward due to learning) Torah that was already learned, no such transaction is valid. How then could the rich man in the story buy a portion of the Torah already learned by R. Yossi with a cup of gold?

2) There is a general adage that “one should always occupy himself in Torah and Mitzvos even if not for their own sake.” Why then did R. Abba wish to punish R. Yossi for learning Torah not for its own sake?

3) Why does the Zohar emphasize that R. Yossi was an unmarried man?

4) The Halachah states that one may not make mention to a convert of his ancestor’s actions. Similarly, no mention is to be made of a Baal Teshuvah’s (returnee to Judaism) previous deeds. How then could R. Yossi be named R. Yossi ben Pozi (thereby serving as a reminder that initially he learned Torah for the sake of poz (fine gold)?

The explanation: The reason why such a partnership was able to be struck, was that the partnership would apply only to the Torah learned by R. Yossi after the arrangement had been reached. Thus it would be similar to that of Yissachor and Zevulun, and perfectly valid.

We can give two reasons as to why R. Abba wished to punish R. Yossi for not learning for its own sake. Firstly, it is possible that the story happened before the adage of “one shall always occupy himself in Torah and Mitzvos even if not for their own sake” had been articulated. Indeed, it is possible that this story is the very basis of the adage. Secondly, the above adage is grounded in the proposition that “eventually one will come to learn Torah for its own sake.” R. Abba, noting the inordinately strong desire of R. Yossi for wealth, did not consider it possible that R. Yossi’s Torah learning would ever be for its own sake. Therefore he wished to punish him for it. But the Heavenly forces above, which penetrated more deeply into R. Yossi’s inner being, saw that he would become a “great man” whose Torah learning would indeed be for its own sake. Therefore R. Abba was instructed not to punish him.

The Zohar stresses that he was an unmarried man, for had he been married, it is possible that he desired money only to fulfill the Mitzvah of supporting his wife, and R. Abba should have given him the benefit of the doubt. But since he was unmarried, his Torah learning could only have been motivated by base greed, and so R. Abba had no doubts that he would never change.

Finally, the reason why he was called R. Yossi ben Pozi was to serve as a living example for us. The adage “one should always occupy himself in Torah and Mitzvos...” is stated in the Talmud and Shulchan Aruch. Yet the lesson is driven home much more forcibly when one sees the living embodiment of such an adage. Ben Pozi was a person who learned Torah for the sake of poz (fine gold), and yet eventually he became Rabbi Yossi ben Pozi — a Rabbi and teacher of students.

4. [During one of his Sichos, the Rebbe had cause to mention the Previous Rebbe. He then continued to say the following.]

Without a shadow of doubt the Previous Rebbe was the leader of his entire generation, notwithstanding that there were other truly saintly people who accomplished many great things. But it is universally conceded that their accomplishments were only in their particular fields, whereas the Previous Rebbe was concerned with each and every Jew in his generation. This is not meant to belittle anyone else, but it is a fact that “there is only one leader for a generation, and not two leaders for a generation.”

So vast was his dedication to Jewry, that even when the K.G.B. placed him under constant surveillance he did not desist from his efforts. His concern was so all encompassing that he even busied himself with children of whom he had no personal knowledge (even those in Brooklyn, N.Y.). In an effort to draw them closer to Torah, he sent letters and emissaries, time and time again if necessary. It so disturbed him that, contrary to his nature, he became extremely vexed and agitated over it.

In his thirty years of leadership he was the only one who worried about all Jews, men, women and children. His disciples carried on with his concern and work over the next thirty years, and will continue to do so for all time.