Parshas Parah1

הפטורה: וַיְהִי דְבַר ה' גו' - דִּבַּרְתִּי וְעָשִׂיתִי. אוֹמְרִים אָב הָרַחֲמִים.

[On Shabbos Parshas Parah,] the haftarah begins Vayehi dvar Ado-nai and ends dibarti ve’asisi (Yechezkel 36:16-36).

[After the Torah Reading,] the passage beginning Av HaRachamim is recited.2

רַבֵּנוּ הַזָּקֵן סִפֵּר: מֵהַתּוֹרוֹת שֶׁאָמַר מוֹרִי (הָרַב הַמַּגִּיד) לְפָנַי בִּיחִידוּת, הָיְתָה תּוֹרָה עַל הַפָּסוּק אֵשׁ תָּמִיד תּוּקַד עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא תִכְבֶּה, דַּהֲגַם שֶׁהָאֵשׁ יוֹרֵד מִלְמַעְלָה בְּאִתְעֲרוּתָא דִלְעֵילָּא, מִצְוָה לְהָבִיא מִן הַהֶדְיוֹט, כִּי בְּאִתְעַרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא אִתְעַרוּתָא דִלְעֵילָא, כִּי רוּחַ אַיְיתֵי רוּחַ וְאַמְשִׁיךְ רוּחַ, רוּחַ מִלְּמַטָּה אַיְיתֵי רוּחַ מִלְעֵילָּא, וְאַמְשִׁיךְ רוּחַ מִלְעֵילָּא וּלְעֵילָּא. וּמִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לְהַבְעִיר אֵשׁ עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, מִזְבֵּחַ הוּא אָדָם כִּי יַקְרִיב מִכֶּם, וְהַהַקְרָבָה עַצְמָהּ אֵינָהּ מַסְפֶּקֶת, וּצְרִיכִים לְהַבְעִיר אֵשׁ עַל הַקָּרְבָּן אֲשֶׁר מִכֶּם, וְאֵשׁ זֶה לֹא תִכְבֶּה, שֶׁהִיא מְכַבָּה אֶת הַ"לֹא".

אֶת הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת אָמַר מוֹרִי לְפָנַי עֶשֶׂר פְּעָמִים — כְּדֵי לְחָקְקָהּ בְּעֶשֶׂר כֹּחוֹת נַפְשִׁי — וַיֹּאמֶר לִי, אַתָּה תַּלְמִידִי הִנְּךָ נִצְרָךְ לְהָאֵשׁ תָּמִיד, לְפִי שֶׁעָלֶיךָ הוּטַל לְכַבּוֹת לֹא (שֶׁל הַמְנַגְּדִים) גָּדוֹל. אַתָּה תְכַבֶּה אֶת הַלֹּא וְהַשֵּׁם יִתְבָּרֵךְ יַהֲפוֹך אֶת הַלֹּא לְהֵן.

The Alter Rebbe once related: “One of the teachings that my master, the Maggid of Mezritch, imparted to me at yechidus was an exposition of the verse,3 ‘A constant fire shall burn on the Altar; it shall not be extinguished.’ Even though fire would descend from above through a Supernal Arousal,4 there is a mitzvah to bring ordinary [fire from below],5 for an arousal from below6 awakens a Supernal Arousal. For ‘a spirit brings a Spirit and draws to it a Spirit.’7 That is: a spirit from below calls forth a Spirit from Above, and draws down a spirit from the highest realms.”

[The Maggid continued his teaching:] “There is a positive commandment to burn fire on the Altar. [The sacrificial service on] the Altar [mirrors the Divine service of every individual, as is implied by the verse8 that literally means], ‘A man shall offer of you.’9 Yet merely bringing the offering is insufficient; one must also light the fire for the offering that is brought from oneself. This fire may not be extinguished. Indeed, it should extinguish the Not.”10

[The Alter Rebbe concluded:] “My master, [the Maggid of Mezritch,] delivered this teaching to me ten times in order to engrave it in the ten faculties of my soul. He told me: ‘You, my student, will need a continuous fire, for you will be required to extinguish a great Not (of the opponents of Chassidus). You will extinguish their Not, and G‑d will transform the Not into a Yes.’ “11

Probing Beneath the Surface

When the Rebbe assumed his position of leadership, religious Jewry was on the defensive. The emphasis was on protecting observant Jews from the inroads of secular culture and enabling them to retrench themselves in their positions. The Rebbe was not content with this Not. Instead, he sought the Yes, promoting continuous advance, and reaching out vigorously to the uncommitted. He explained that positive activity evokes a blessing from Above, which magnifies an individual’s efforts.