1. The verse upon which the Ma’amar in Likkutei Torah Parshas Devorim is based is “Zion will be redeemed with justice and those who return to her through charity.” Unlike other Ma’amarim, this verse is not from the Parshah, but is the last verse of the Haftorah. Nevertheless, it still expresses the contents of the Par-shah, since the end verse is the summation and message of the entire Haftorah and Parshah.1

The reason for the difference between Devorim and other Parshahs is that in other Parshiyos, it is not necessary to stress the message they convey. Parshas Devorim, however, is always Shabbos Chazon, the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av. In consonance with the statement that “all the (following) weekdays are blessed by (and contained within) the Shabbos,” a person is obligated on Shabbos to meditate on the coming week. On Shabbos Chazon, one naturally thinks about Tisha B’Av, which leads to sad unjoyful thoughts. The counter to this is the stress placed on the words, “Zion will be redeemed with justice and those who return to her through charity” — indicating that the entire purpose and goal of Tisha B’Av is “a descent for the purpose of ascent.”

In amplification of this concept, the Yalkut Shimoni, at the very beginning of Sefer Yirmiya, states:

— “the lion (Ari) rose [meaning Nevuchadnezar, as it is stated, “The lion is come up from his thicket”]

— in the Mazal of the Lion (Ari) [the fifth month]

— and destroyed Ariel [the city where David encamped (Yerushalayim)]

— and this was “so that the Lion [the Holy One of Whom it is said, ‘The Lion roars, who is not frightened?’] should come”

— during the Mazal of Ari [“I will turn their mourning to joy”] and

— reconstruct Ariel [The L‑rd is the rebuilder of Yerushalayim: “He will gather the dispersed of Yisroel].”

Yirmiya, in contrast to the prophet Yeshaya, is intrinsically associated with the destruction and the exile.2 The Yalkut stresses, at the very start of Yirmiya, that the entire purpose of the destruction (the lion arose in the Mazal of the lion and destroyed Ariel) was so that afterwards there should be an ascent (the Lion will come during the Mazal of Ari and reconstruct Ariel). Yirmiya, the very symbol of bitterness and exile, in reality conveys the message of reconstruction. This, then, is the message of the Haftorah’s ending, “Zion will be redeemed with justice and those who return to her with charity” — the be-all and end-all of Shabbos Parshas Devorim, and Tisha B’Av which follows it, is reconstruction of Zion.

The verse brought as proof that “the Lion” who will redeem Israel refers to G‑d, is “The Lion roars, who is not frightened.” G‑d will not just simply reveal Himself; it will be as (when) a lion roars. People will not remain unaffected,3 for “who is not frightened” when the lion roars?

The lion will come “in the Mazal of Ari” — the same month in which “the lion came and destroyed Ariel” — the month of Menachem Av. The redemption will come precisely in the month of the destruction, fulfilling the promise, “I will turn their mourning to joy.” This once again underscores the fact that the whole goal of the destruction, including the descent, is the future redemption and ascent.

The level reached in that ascent will be higher than before the descent, for if not, the descent will have achieved no purpose. They could have simply stayed at the same level and simultaneously avoided the Golus. This parallels the redemption from the first exile, that of Egypt. Prior to their enslavement, the Jewish people comprised seventy souls. Not only did they encompass the entire order of descent of the worlds, but together with them was Ya’akov, whose soul encompassed all other Jewish souls.4 Yet, despite already possessing such (spiritual) wealth, when they left Egypt, they came out with even greater wealth. Though the Jews in Egypt were willing to forego this anticipated greater wealth if they could only escape sooner, G‑d decreed otherwise. The whole purpose of “they (Israel) shall serve them (Egypt), and they shall afflict them for four hundred years” was that “afterward they shall come out with great wealth” — greater than before the descent into Egypt. It was worth a delay to reach this higher level.

Our present-day exile has continued for a long time. But to leave it before we have attained a higher level than the rung on which we stood before the onset of the exile would be to negate the entire raison d’être of the golus. When the requisite higher level has been finally reached, then, and only then, shall we go out.

2. The Talmud in Sanhedrin (97b) states that “all the reckoned days (of the coming of Moshiach) have passed.” Inferred from this is that different authorities in the time of the Talmud, followed by Torah greats in all generations, reckoned out different dates for the redemption. The Alter Rebbe had one, and in 5703 the Previous Rebbe said, “Forthwith to Teshuvah, forthwith to redemption.”

A reckoned date implies that the end of the golus will come then, and in no other time. More than one date is therefore seemingly a contradiction in terms.5 But based on our previous explanation of the length of the exile, we can understand this seeming contradiction.

The entire raison d’être of the golus, as stated before, is to gain “great wealth” — attain a higher level than before the exile. The criteria for redemption, then, is a level higher than before. But once that criterion has been reached, just how much more wealth must be garnered, Dust how high a level should be reached, before the exile is deemed ended?

It is precisely to this question that the different authorities address themselves. Commensurate with his personal level and understanding, each one understood differently the amount of spiritual wealth that should be garnered during the exile. The greater the assessment, the greater the amount of work needed to reach that level, and hence the greater the length of the exile. In slightly different words: Jews through their service in golus can and must reach great heights. An authority, based on his knowledge of Torah, is of the opinion that they can reach a certain level. He then determines the amount of service required in accordance with that potential level, thereby fixing the length of time needed for that service, and thus arriving at a date for the cessation of the exile. A later authority, due to his deeper knowledge of Torah, concludes that Jews can attain yet a higher level. This necessitates yet more time for the appropriate service, and so he arrives at a later date for the end of the golus.6

If Jews would have merited it, then at the time of each reckoned date the redemption would have come. The passing of a date without redemption is post facto evidence that there is yet a higher level which Jews can reach, necessitating a further stay in golus.7

3. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Berditchiver said that Shabbos Chazon derives its name etymologically from the word “Machazeh,” meaning vision; for on this Shabbos everyone is shown a vision of the future Temple. The Temple shown is not that which will be built by Moshiach, but that which will descend ready-built from G‑d — ”The sanctuary, G‑d, which Your hands have established.” That this vision is shown on Shabbos Chazon, the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av, stresses once again that the entire purpose of the exile is the future Temple.

Although the future Temple will descend from heaven, Moshiach will also participate in its building. The reason for the vision is to motivate and inspire everyone to do his part in helping to rebuild the Bais Hamikdosh. Thus we have both advantages: the Bais Hamikdosh built by G‑d above, and also man’s service (towards it) below.8

One might question the usefulness of such a vision when we don’t actually see it physically! But, as the phrase goes, “Just because horses are horses, does this mean that angels are not angels?” Just because one’s animal soul and physical eyes do not see the vision of the future Temple, does this mean that the loftiest part of one’s soul (Yechidah) does not see it?! And one’s belief that his Yechidah does see it affects his knowledge such that it is as if he actually saw it physically.

Action being the most important thing, the vision should cause him to realize that the entire reason for the golus is the future redemption, and thus induce him to do more work to bring this realization to reality.

4. The Yalkut brings proof that “He will reconstruct Ariel” from the verse “The L‑rd is the rebuilder of Yerushalayim.” Not only will G‑d rebuild the Holy of Holies and the Bais Hamikdosh; He will also rebuild Yerushalayim. For since the holiness of Yerushalayim is a necessity for the holiness of the Bais Hamikdosh, it is necessary that Yerushalayim be rebuilt to have perfection in the Bais Hamikdosh.

Yerushalayim is the “acme of awe.” The essence of that awe was in the Bais Hamikdosh, in the Holy of Holies, in the Ark, in the Two Tablets of the Covenant. The perfection in awe of the Bais Hamikdosh came from the Holy of Holies, and the perfection in awe of Yerushalayim came from the Bais Hamikdosh.9 And thus the proof for “He will reconstruct Ariel” is from the verse “The L‑rd is the rebuilder of Yerushalayim.”

In bringing that proof, the Yalkut includes the latter part of the verse — “He gathers the dispersed of Yisroel.” This shows that the completion of the ingathering of Yisroel will be only when Yerushalayim and Ariel will be rebuilt. The reason for this is stated in Talmud Yerushalmi (Chagigah 3:6) that Yerushalayim is “a city that is joined together” — a city that joins all Jews together. Thus the perfection of “The L‑rd is the rebuilder of Yerushalayim” and “He gathers together the dispersed of Yisroel” are dependent on each other.

From the verse, “The L‑rd is the rebuilder of Yerushalayim; He gathers the dispersed of Yisroel” we see that the ingathering of the dispersed will be through the L‑rd. The Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya that love of a fellow Jew arises from the fact that “all (souls) are of a kind and all have one Father” and “who can know their greatness and excellence in their root and source in the living G‑d.”10 This is the meaning of the verse, “The L‑rd is the rebuilder of Yerushalayim; He gathers the dispersed of Yisroel.” The ingathering of the dispersed (love of fellow Jews) will be specifically through the L‑rd (because all have one father).

From this we have instruction for our service in golus. We must work for the campaign of Ahavas Yisroel, and on the other nine campaigns. We must also strive to abolish the troubles arising from the “Who is a Jew” question, and the troubles arising from trying to give away land belonging to Eretz Yisroel. And in the immediate future there shall be the fulfillment of the promise of “He gathers together the dispersed of Yisroel” and “You shall be gathered up one by one, 0 children of Yisroel.”

* * *

5. Chapter 1, verse 6, of Parshas Devorim states: “The L‑rd our G‑d spoke to us in Chorev saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough in this mountain.’“ On the words, “You have dwelt long enough,” Rashi comments: “This is to be understood according to its plain meaning. And there is an Aggadic interpretation: You have had much greatness and reward for your dwelling in this mountain. You have made a Tabernacle, a menorah and vessels; you have received the Torah; you have appointed for yourselves a Sanhedrin, officers of thousands and officers of hundreds.”

There are many perplexing questions on this Rashi. Among them are:

1. Rashi only offers two explanations when one does not suffice. Rashi says that this verse is to be understood according to its plain meaning. Why, then, does he bring a second Aggadic interpretation?

2. Chronologically, the receiving of the Torah preceded the making of the Tabernacle and its vessels. Why does Rashi reverse the order?

3. Officers were appointed for thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Why does Rashi only say officers of thousands and hundreds, and omit fifties and tens?

4. Rashi reckons out the wonderful things the Jews received while dwelling in the mountain. There were, however, other great things which occurred then, such as the institution of tribal standards,11 and the awesome experience of hearing “the voice of G‑d speaking out of the midst of the fire.”12 ). Why does Rashi choose to omit them?

The explanation: G‑d is desirous of informing the Jewish people that the time is right to enter Eretz Yisroel. He tells them: “You have dwelt long enough in this mountain. Turn and journey...” It would have sufficed to start with “Turn and journey etc.,” omitting any comment about their stay in the mountain. The phrase, “You have dwelt long enough” implies a criticism of their length of stay, and a reason for now leaving. But at Mt. Sinai the Jews spent their time in receiving the Torah, instituting their tribal flags, building the Tabernacle etc. How, then, could their stay there be faulted?

Rashi therefore brings an Aggadic explanation to supplement the plain meaning. Now the phrase is to be interpreted as meaning, “You have had much greatness and reward.” And once this has been received, there is no more reason for staying at the mountain, and it is now time to “turn and journey.”

Leaving the mountain is contingent on receiving “much greatness and reward.” Immediately after receiving the Torah, which certainly constitutes greatness, G‑d should have directed them to leave. Yet they stayed there for yet another year! It is precisely to this problem that Rashi addresses himself by mentioning the making of the Tabernacle first, even before receiving the Torah. The erection and dedication of the Tabernacle was the last thing to be done prior to their leaving, signifying the conclusion of all greatness and reward reaped at Mt. Sinai.

Building the Tabernacle would not in itself be sufficient to warrant a description of “much” greatness. Therefore Rashi informs us that there were indeed many other things — receiving the Torah, appointing the Sanhedrin, etc. He cannot however, include all wonderful things that happened then, such as the institution of tribal flags. The verse says (in its Aggadic interpretation), “You have had much greatness and reward on this mountain.” Only those things associated with the mountain can be included in Rashi’s listing of greatness and reward. Receiving the Torah: the verse states “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai.” Building the Tabernacle: the verse states, “You shall erect the Tabernacle according to its fashion which has been shown to you on the mountain.” Appointing a Sanhedrin: This was done through the strength that Moshe garnered on the mountain —“You stand here [on the mountain] by Me.” But the institution of tribal standards had nothing to do with Mt. Sinai and is therefore not mentioned by Rashi.

[Trans. Note: The following was said by the Rebbe on Shabbos Parshas Eikev, as a continuation of this Rashi Sicha.] When G‑d instructed the Jews to leave Mt. Sinai, they were ready to enter Eretz Yisroel. Rashi thus includes in his listing of things received at the mountain only those which the Jews took with them as being relevant to Eretz Yisroel. The receiving of the Torah was necessary to teach the proper mode of conduct in Eretz Yisroel. The appointment of the Sanhedrin was necessary for proper leadership in the land. But the experience of hearing “the voice of G‑d speaking out of the midst of the fire,” awesome though it was, was not relevant to entering the land. It is therefore not included by Rashi with the others.

Similarly, Rashi does not include officers appointed for fifties and hundreds. In the desert, where they engaged in warfare, the Jews needed more officers. In Eretz Yisroel, where the Jews intended to settle permanently, fewer officers were needed. The normal minimum population of a village is a hundred. Thus they needed officers (leaders) of hundreds, and certainly thousands. Fewer than that were unnecessary, and so Rashi omits them from his catalogue of things (relevant to entering Eretz Yisroel) gained in the mountain.

* * *

6. The third Mishnah, Chapter 3, of Pirkei Avos states: “Rabbi Shimon said: Three who ate at one table and did not speak words of Torah there, it is as if they had eaten of sacrifices to the dead [idols], for it is said: ‘Indeed, all tables are full of filthy vomit [when] there is no [mention of] G‑d.’ But three who ate at one table and did speak words of Torah there, it is as if they had eaten from the table of G‑d, for it is stated: ‘And he said to me, this is the table which is before the L‑rd.’”

There is always a link between a statement and its author. The Rabbi Shimon in this Mishnah refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (in accordance with the dictum that in the absence of any other identification, Rabbi Shimon throughout the Mishnah refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). Accordingly, the teachings of this Mishnah are linked specifically with him.

The quintessence of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is that “Torah is his profession” — complete devotion and absorption in Torah study. Rashbi hid together with his son Rabbi Elazar in a cave for many years. Their Torah learning in the cave was of the highest calibre, both of them being the spiritual giants of their generation. Yet, no matter what lofty heights they reached, they could not and did not have the advantage that comes only when three people learn Torah together.

When Rashbi was finally able to leave the cave and meet other Jews, only then could he realize the advantage accruing to three who learn together. And so we find Rashbi instructing us for all time that “three who ate at one table and spoke words of Torah there, it is as if they had eaten from the table of G‑d.”

The food eaten by a person becomes one with him. When one talks Torah, the essence of that person is Torah. Consequently, when one talks Torah while eating, the food also becomes one with the Torah. This is the reason for the emphasis placed on “three who eat at one table.”13 When three eat together and speak Torah, then also the food (the “table”) becomes “one” with the Torah.

The Mishnah brings proof to the above from the verse, “And he said to me, this is the table which is before the L‑rd.” The proof is as follows. In Hebrew, the name “L‑rd” has four letters, corresponding to the four categories in the world: mineral, vegetable, animal, and man. Man, although the highest, is still dependent upon the lower three orders. On the verse, “That not by bread only does man live, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the L‑rd does man live,” the AriZal comments: the G‑dly spark in bread (that which “proceeds out of the mouth of the L‑rd”), is of a higher order than that in man. To acquire that spark, man is dependent upon the bread. Man is even more dependent when it comes to acquiring the spark in animals, a higher order than vegetables.

When man complements his imperfection through his dependency on the lower three orders, then the name of the L‑rd, corresponding to the four orders, is whole. When “three eat at one table and speak words of Torah” then, as stated previously, man, the food, and Torah become one entity. The name of the L‑rd is then whole, providing for “this is the table before the L‑rd.”

On the verse (Yechezkel 41:22) “The altar of wood three cubits high... this is the table before the L‑rd,” the Talmud (Berachos 55a) explains: As long as the Temple stood, the altar atoned for Israel, but now a man’s table atones for him. Rashi explains this to mean hospitality (to poor people). The Tzemach Tzedek notes the seeming contradiction between this and our Mishnah, which indicates that it is words of Torah spoken at the table that atone for a man, and not hospitality. He reconciles the two by explaining that they are two separate things, comparable to the sacrifices of the altar. The fire on the altar was lit in two ways: a person lit a fire below, and also a fire descended from above. Similarly, the table of a man atones in two ways. Hospitality is comparable to lighting of the altar by man; saying Torah at the table is comparable to the fire that descended from above. Each of these two are independent of each other.

The Mishnah says, “Three who ate at one table and did not speak words of Torah there, it is as if they had eaten of sacrifices to the dead” — as if they had worshiped idols. But if hospitality is important even without words of Torah (they are, as explained before, independent of each other), then how can the Mishnah equate a table without Torah with idolatry, G‑d forbid? Perhaps there were guests at that table!

The answer lies in the context in which the author stated the Mishnah. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, as previously explained, spent many years in a cave alone with Rabbi Elazar. Upon emerging, they immediately started talking Torah with the first Jew they met, thus realizing the advantage of learning with three people. He did not wait until they sat down to eat, but immediately started talking Torah. And so the Mishnah, stated in a context in which there were no guests, states that when three who sit at a table without Torah, it is as if they had eaten of sacrifices to the dead. But in a situation where there are guests, the Gemara tells us that this (also) provides atonement for the person.

* * *

7. [Trans. Note: In a Sicha on the 4th of Menachem Av, the Rebbe Shlita spoke about the Bais Hamikdosh. He continued in this farbrengen to elaborate.]

There are two differing opinions about the choice of the site of the Bais Hamikdosh:

1. The site of the Bais Hamikdosh possessed exceptional qualities, and therefore G‑d decided to build the Bais Hamikdosh there.

2. G‑d’s decision was not predicated upon any qualities of the place itself. The place became special only after, and because, it was chosen by G‑d (for no reason other than pure choice) to be the site of the Bais Hamikdosh.

The Rambam terms the beginning laws dealing with the Bais Hamikdosh “Laws of the Chosen House” (in contrast to the term used to describe the later laws — “Laws of the Vessels of the Sanctuary”). We may deduce from this that the Rambam is a proponent of the second view, that the decision for the site of the Bais Hamikdosh was through pure choice.

This seemingly conflicts with that which the Rambam himself writes, that the site of the Bais Hamikdosh (and the altar) possessed qualities even prior to its choice by G‑d as the place for the Temple. He states: “It is a tradition held by all that the place where Dovid and Shlomo built the altar in the threshing shed of Aronoh is the place where Avraham built an altar and offered up Yitzchok on it; it is the place where Noach built (an altar) when he left the ark; it is the altar upon which Cain and Hevel sacrificed; and there Adom Harishon offered up a sacrifice when he was created.” It seems from this that G‑d chose the site for the Bais Hamikdosh because it possessed the above mentioned qualities.

The contradiction is resolved when we examine the reason why the above mentioned people (Adom, Noach etc.) chose that place to sacrifice. They were prophets and knew that in the future G‑d would choose that place as the site for the Bais Hamikdosh and the altar. Therefore they decided that was the place where they would build their altars, and not because the place itself had any intrinsic qualities. And so G‑d’s choice for the site of the Bais Hamikdosh was not determined by the fact that Avraham etc. sacrificed there. The exact reverse is true. They chose to sacrifice there because (they foresaw) it was G‑d’s choice for the site of the Bais Hamikdosh.

There is a further difficulty, however. After the Rambam makes the above statement, “It is the place where Avraham... and where Adom Harishon offered up a sacrifice when he was created” he adds “And from there he (Adom) was created.” Seemingly, G‑d had already indicated, before His later choice as the site for the Temple, that this place was special (since he decided to create Adom on that spot).

We cannot answer as before that G‑d created Adom from there because He knew that later He would choose it as the site for the Temple. A person’s actions, based on prophetic insight, do not conflict with G‑d’s choice at a later date. When, however, G‑d performs an action based on His knowledge of the future — this is a contradiction to G‑d’s choice, unrelated to any reason, which comes later.14 How, then, can the Rambam be of the opinion that G‑d’s decision as to the site of the Temple was made through pure choice?

The answer lies in the next few words of the Rambam. He continues after saying, “And from there he was created” that “the sages said Adom was created from the place of his atonement.” The reason why G‑d chose that place for Adom’s creation was because He knew that later Adom would choose that place to offer up a sacrifice as atonement.15 G‑d’s choice of that exact place from which to create Adom was not because He knew that later He would choose that site for the Temple. It was because “Adom was created from the place of his atonement.” Had Adom chosen a different place to sacrifice (i.e. atone) G‑d would have created him on the site of that different place.

One point remains to be cleared up. Why does the Rambam choose to hold the view that G‑d determined the site for the Bais Hamikdosh through pure choice? As we have seen, this leads to many difficulties. Surely it would have been far simpler to hold the view that G‑d chose that place because it was already distinguished — through the sacrifices of Avraham, Adom etc. We have an adage in the Talmud that “good things come to pass on an auspicious day” — i.e. a day which is auspicious in itself attracts other positive events to occur on that day. Similarly, in our case, why doesn’t the Rambam hold that the auspiciousness of the site itself (it being a place where Avraham, Adom etc. sacrificed) attracted other good things to happen there — the building of the Bais Hamikdosh?

The explanation: the positive value of an auspicious place is only as great as the place itself and the people who through their service made the place auspicious. Places and people, no matter how great, are inherently limited. The Bais Hamikdosh is a “House to the L‑rd” and a “House for all generations.” Such a House cannot be associated with limits, no matter how great they may be. Therefore the Rambam holds that the site was chosen through the pure choice of G‑d. G‑d’s choice is unlimited and infinite, and thus the site for the “House to the L‑rd,” determined by G‑d’s choice, is not associated with any limits.16

This explanation brings out another factor. According to the other view, Adom, Noach, Avraham etc. chose that site on which to sacrifice because it was an auspicious place itself. Since, as explained, such a site is limited in nature, their service and sacrifices are associated with the limits of that site. But, according to the Rambam’s view, they chose that site because they knew by prophetic insight that G‑d would eventually choose that place for the Bais Hamikdosh. Since G‑d’s choice is without limits, their service and sacrifices on that place was likewise without limits.

8. (Trans. Note: The Rebbe said he would give the cake from the Farbrengen to the organizers of programs carrying out those things spoken of at the Farbrengen. It being the nine days, he said he would give out liquor instead of wine. He then made the following comments.)

All previous limits of drinking liquor still apply — that people under 40 years of age should limit their drinking. This applies especially to “bochurim” (youths) for they are at a “fiery” age. They should content themselves with observing an older Chosid’s approach to a glass of liquor, but they alone must not drink. It is precisely his non-drinking that makes him a good bochur and a good Tomim.

If we haven’t talked about this subject at every farbrengen, it is not because the limits have been relaxed. If anything, the opposite is true. Any change would be to substitute a limit of three drinks for the previous limit of four drinks! No tricks are to be played, such as taking three large or even medium size drinks. When we say three, we mean three small ones! Those who cannot restrain themselves do not do so because of holy and Chassidic reasons — but because they are not masters of their own selves, and cannot control their animal soul.

Those over forty may drink. But let them not think that they can rest content with being appointed spiritual counselors. When someone comes knocking on the door to ask a question, such counselors are sleeping soundly, unwilling to bother themselves with opening the door and answering the question. When the questioner bangs so hard on the door as to break it, only then does the counselor open the door to admit him. And even then he answers the question with such subtle and abstruse words that he himself doesn’t understand what they mean! The higher levels of the soul may understand, but not the ordinary common sense level. The answer may indeed be of a high and lofty nature, but it gives no direction as to how the questioner can use the answer in his practical service. The test as to whether a person understands something is if it leads to a practical conclusion. Therefore, the answer to a question should be in non-esoteric words, followed by words suitable to service of G‑d. Thus must rabbis, spiritual counselors, and shochtim (ritual slaughterers) conduct themselves.