1. A Fount of Blessings

The1 Zohar2 writes concerning Shabbos that “from it all the days are blessed”: all the days of the week derive their blessing and vitality from the preceding Shabbos.

Indeed, this is one of the reasons for the custom whereby before his wedding a chassan is called to the Torah not on the nearest preceding day on which the Torah is read,3 but specifically on the preceding Shabbos4 - for Shabbos encapsulates all the days of the week that are blessed through it.

Today is the Shabbos before Yud-Beis-Yud-Gimmel Tammuz.5 Through this Shabbos those days are blessed, and hence it is related to them. It is thus appropriate to open now by citing the words of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], last year on this festival marking his liberation; to explain its connection with the Shabbos preceding it, which is Shabbos Parshas Chukas; and to connect the above with the fact that a bridegroom is being called to the Reading of the Torah on this day.

2. Communicating Vitality

On Yud-Gimmel Tammuz6 last year, the Rebbe [Rayatz] spoke of life - long life, true life, uninterrupted life (eternal life) - and explained what this means in terms of avodah: Not only is one alive as an individual, but one animates others as well. He concluded by saying that “true life is holiness, and holiness is infinite.”

Everything that happens is governed by Divine Providence.7 As the Baal Shem Tov taught,8 the Al-mighty releases the wind from His treasure-houses in order to cause a leaf or a piece of straw to roll over for a particular purpose. Divine Providence thus governs even inanimate material and the plant and animal kingdoms; obviously, humanity as well; how much more certainly does it apply to the people of Israel, who are the crowning glory of Creation; and even more certainly to a Nasi of Israel, on whom all things depend. (As Rashi writes in his commentary on this week’s Reading of the Torah,9 הנשיא הוא הכל - “The Nasi is everything.”) If so, the fact that the Rebbe [Rayatz] spoke of eternal life on Yud-Beis-Yud-Gimmel Tammuz specifically in the year 5709 [1949] (and not in the preceding years, say 5708 [1948] or 5707 [1947]) - before his histalkus on Yud Shvat, 5710 [1950] - is certainly governed by Divine Providence.

The Rebbe [Rayatz] once related10 that as he was delivering the maamar on Rosh HaShanah, 5687 [1927], [some months] before his imprisonment, certain words were spontaneously uttered - concerning the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that Divine Providence affects even every particular object in the inanimate, plant and animal worlds - without his knowing why they were spoken (for this subject was not connected to the theme of the maamar). He added that had these words not been spoken, he did not know if he could have endured that imprisonment.

So, too, here: On the last time, during his life in this world, that the Rebbe [Rayatz] celebrated his Festival of Liberation, he had to make the point that matters of holiness are eternal. Moreover, in order that his meaning should be unmistakable, he went on to speak specifically of long life, true life that is uninterrupted - so that we should not think according to what is seen, G‑d forbid, by fleshly eyes (for such a situation does not at all apply in the realm of kedushah); rather, that we should know that even after the histalkus there is life without interruption, eternal life, in the case of the Nasi of the generation, and through him eternal life is forthcoming for the entire generation. Now, too, therefore, everyone is able and obliged not only to be alive as an individual, but also to animate others in matters of kedushah.11

3. The Red Heifer Today

In light of what was said above as to how Divine Providence extends to everything, an allusion to our subject may be found in this week’s Torah reading.12

This passage speaks of the Red Heifer,13 through which purification could be attained by someone who had been defiled by the most severe impurity by contact with the dead. Indeed,14Moshe’s face changed colors from distress, [since] he did not know by what means [a person so defiled] could be purified,” until G‑d told him:15 “This is the statute of the Torah…: They shall take unto you a red heifer….”

What does this mean in terms of one’s spiritual avodah?

Impurity relating to a corpse - i.e., the absence of vitality - signifies a situation in which one loses sight of one’s bond with G‑d,16 “the Source of Life.” (By contrast,17 “you who cleave to the L-rd your G‑d are all alive today.”) Becoming purified out of this state - i.e., making one’s vitality manifest by cleaving to G‑d - depends on [obedience to the kind of superrational law which is called] chukah (as in the above-quoted phrase, zos chukas haTorah). Moreover, this purification is carried out specifically by virtue of the power of Moshe. This verse goes on to say, “They shall take unto you a red heifer….” As Rashi comments there: “It will always be called by your name - the Heifer that Moshe prepared in the wilderness.” This means that Moshe is able to take a red heifer - a plainly physical cow, and moreover a red one, suggesting Gevuros and an ardent involvement in physicality - and not only to elevate it as a sacrifice, but also to prepare ashes which will make purification possible for people who have contracted the most severe kind of impurity.

The ash of the Red Heifer which Moshe Rabbeinu prepared was divided into three parts: townsfolk and anyone else who needed purification would take ashes from the first part; the second part was used for the purification of Kohanim Gedolim who prepared Red Heifers in later generations; and the third part was stored away for safekeeping.18 This means that a person who had become defiled through contact with the dead was purified not only by means of the ash of the Red Heifer prepared by Moshe, but also by means of the ash of any of the nine Red Heifers prepared after his time. However, as we have seen, the preparation of the later Red Heifers required ash from the Red Heifer prepared by Moshe. Indeed, even the preparation of the tenth Red Heifer by Mashiach19 will require sanctification by means of the ash from the Red Heifer prepared by Moshe, which is everlasting.20

In terms of one’s spiritual avodah, this means that the activity of Moshe (and this includes21 “the extension of Moshe in each and every generation”) to disclose an animated cleaving to G‑d in every single Jew (even in one who is, so to speak, defiled by contact with the opposite of life) proceeds continuously in all the later generations. This continuity is possible because the Kohanim Gedolim who prepare Red Heifers in later generations are imbued with the power of Moshe; they sanctify themselves by means of the ash of the Red Heifer which Moshe prepared.

4. A Beacon in the Dark

This continuity recalls a teaching in Iggeres HaKodesh22 (citing Tikkunei Zohar23) “in reference to Moshe Rabbeinu, peace be unto him, that after his passing his radiation extends in every generation to the 600,000 souls, like the sun which radiates to the 600,000 stars from below the earth.”

During the night, too, the sun is present and diffuses light - upon the other hemisphere of the earth (“below the earth”). Moreover, as to the hemisphere which does not face the sun at night, the sun diffuses light there, too, by means of 600,000 stars. For the light of the stars, too, is the light of the sun which at this time is diffused by means of them. That is to say: Not only during the daylight hours did the stars receive sunlight and now (at night) they diffuse light of their own, but even the light which the stars diffuse at night is the light of the sun.

Let us revert to the analog, Moshe Rabbeinu - and there is “an extension of Moshe in each and every generation,” up to and including the Moshe in our generation, namely, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz]: Now, too, as before, he is present and diffuses light (like the sun, which at night, too, is present and diffuses light). If we were proceeding together with him we would see that he is now diffusing light with all the intensity of former times (and, indeed, in a loftier mode). However, since he has ascended, elevation beyond elevation, whereas we did not accompany him but have remained where we were, he is not visible to our fleshly eyes (just as we do not see the sun at night). Nevertheless, in this situation, too, his light extends to all the Children of Israel, who in general terms comprise 600,000 souls, and through them it illumines the whole world (just as the sun, from below the earth, shines upon the 600,000 stars, and by means of them diffuses its own light).

We, admittedly, do not perceive the diffusion of his light. However, as in the above-quoted maxim of the Rebbe Rashab,24 “If the horse is a horse and the wagondriver is a wagondriver, does that mean that the angels aren’t angels?!”

Like every theme in the pnimiyus - the innermost, mystical plane - of the Torah, the above discussion, too, is reflected in nigleh, the overt plane of the Torah. There, as we have seen, in the laws governing the purification of a person defiled by contact with the dead, those who prepare Red Heifers in later generations become sanctified by means of the ash of the Red Heifer which Moshe prepared. In other words: Even when it becomes impossible to sprinkle purifying waters that comprise ashes from the actual Red Heifer which Moshe Rabbeinu himself prepared, but only ashes from the Red Heifer of a later generation, it should be recalled that these later ashes were prepared after sanctification had been secured by means of the ashes prepared by Moshe, specifically by virtue of the power of Moshe.

5. Working in the Wilderness

We can now better appreciate the above-quoted teaching of the Rebbe [Rayatz]25 as to what it means to be alive - that “not only is one alive as an individual, but one animates others as well.”

When one encounters a fellow Jew whose situation is that of a man impure with the impurity of the dead - i.e., a man in whom one sees (in terms of kedushah) no sign of life - one is obligated to purify him, to animate him with the vitality of kedushah. Everyone has the power and the ability (and hence the obligation) to fulfill this task, since [and at this point the Rebbe addressed each of his listeners in the second person singular:] Moshe Rabbeinu, Moshe in our generation, has given you and continues to give you ashes from his Red Heifer. Every such activity is therefore carried out by virtue of the power of Moshe. As in the above quotation from Rashi, “It will always be called by your name - the Heifer that Moshe prepared in the wilderness.”

Why “in the wilderness”? Why specify the seemingly obvious?

These words assure us that one can bring purification even to a fellow Jew who subsists in a spiritual wilderness, in a place of26 “snakes, serpents and scorpions, and thirst without water.” Indeed, the Red Heifer prepared by Moshe Rabbeinu himself, the very one which was used for the purification of the Kohanim Gedolim who prepared all the Red Heifers of the later generations, was prepared specifically in the wilderness. The wilderness is the place in which a need for purification is most urgently felt. (In Jerusalem, by contrast, no corpse could be left overnight.27 Likewise, a superior level of holiness distinguishes the Land of Israel at large - especially in light of the teaching of the Sages28 that “in future time Jerusalem will extend throughout all of Eretz Yisrael.”) Significantly, the Red Heifer offered by Moshe Rabbeinu himself was prepared outside the Land of Israel, which is a wilderness in comparison to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.

One step further: Not only should one use the ash from the Red Heifer prepared by Moshe to bring purification to a fellow Jew, but one should see to it that that same fellow Jew should in turn be able to burn a Red Heifer (so to speak) and to prepare its ashes for the purification of others. He in turn should be29 “moist enough to moisten others”: he himself should be able to inspire others and to animate them in matters of holiness.

This stage, too, is carried out by virtue of the power of Moshe. For, as we have seen, part of the ashes of the first Red Heifer which he himself prepared was set aside for the sanctification of later Kohanim Gedolim who were to prepare Red Heifers in their respective generations. To express this in terms of avodah: When the individual who himself has attained purification now proceeds to bring purification to others, this ongoing activity of his is also fueled by the power of Moshe.

At the same time, eager involvement in animating and purifying a fellow Jew to the point that he in turn becomes “moist enough to moisten others” can make a man forget about himself. A reminder may therefore be called for, that one’s own avodah should be kept vibrant, so that “one is alive as an individual.” As the Rebbe [Rayatz] once expressed this reminder,30 “One mustn’t forget oneself, either.”

This vigilance, too, is alluded to with regard to the ash prepared by Moshe. As mentioned above, part of it was stored away for safekeeping. This teaches us that in addition to the ash used in outreach work for purification, and in addition to the ash used for the preparation of later Red Heifers, one part of the ash was stored away for safekeeping - a reminder to recharge one’s own batteries through avodah.

6. A Chassidic Theft

In brief, then, one should make efforts to inspire and influence others: “Not only is one alive as an individual, but one animates others as well.” As the Rebbe [Rayatz] remarked in the above-mentioned sichah,31 every individual can influence two or three minyanim of fellow Jews.

[At this point the Rebbe turned to one of those present and said:]

If someone has the gift of influencing others, he should know that this gift was granted to him in order that he should be able to influence people in matters of kedushah. (Even when the listener has in mind something else that he thinks he can receive from the speaker, the fact that he is a potential recipient should be utilized for the purpose of inspiring him in matters of kedushah.)

I’m sure you won’t mind if I tell something about your first activity in communal work (before you came to your present renown). That activity was connected with Chassidus.

It happened during the time that my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], was living in Warsaw.32 Once, while he was out of town for a few weeks, a number of chassidim took the liberty of making themselves a copy of the key to the drawer in which he kept his unpublished manuscripts. They then found a young man who was willing to surreptitiously take the manuscripts on their behalf so that they could be copied by hand, and the same young man was duly entrusted with this task.

This was your very first activity for the public good…, and thanks to that initiative copies were preserved of many manuscripts which were later burnt.

(It once happened in the time of the Tzemach Tzedek that many manuscripts were burnt.33 When he discovered that his chassidim had not provided themselves with unauthorized copies, he exclaimed in distress: Gevald! Why didn’t you steal the manuscripts? Had you copied them, I too would have gained from it…!”)

Remember, then, that your first activity in communal work was connected with Chassidus. Accordingly, you should endeavor to channel your gift of influencing others for holy purposes.

7. An Everlasting Edifice

One of the themes mentioned above - imparting everlasting life to holy matters - is related to the custom whereby a bridegroom is called to the Reading of the Torah on the Shabbos before his wedding.

Being called to the Reading of the Torah draws down an additional measure of the everlasting vitality of kedushah. (This occurs over and beyond the kedushah that is spontaneously elicited by the Shabbos day itself, which is34 “sanctified in and of itself.”) This additional measure of the everlasting vitality of kedushah is hinted at in the wording of the blessing recited at the conclusion of each aliyah: וחיי עולם נטע בתוכינו - “and planted eternal life within us.” This takes place by virtue of what is said in the preceding phrase: נתן לנו תורת אמת - “He has given us the Torah of truth.” For true, uninterrupted life (“eternal life”) is possible by virtue of kedushah (“the Torah of truth”), which is infinite.

Being called to the Torah on the Shabbos before a wedding thus lends power to the wedding, so that the home being built will indeed be a35 binyan adei ad - “an everlasting edifice,” with36 dor yesharim yevorach - “blessed with a generation of righteous offspring,” with children and children’s children occupied in Torah and mitzvos. For, as is well known,37 in this way the power of the Infinite One becomes manifest in finite created beings.

Even greater power is lent to one who is privileged to have been called to the Reading of the Torah in the room in which my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], prayed and studied; this is the room in which he formed a bond with the yechidah - the innermost nucleus of the soul - of every single Jew whom he received at yechidus. This privilege even further enhances the “eternal life that [G‑d] planted within us,” life that is true and uninterrupted, because it is imbued with holiness, which is infinite.

8. Light Out of Darkness

Concerning his liberation on Yud-Beis Tammuz, the Rebbe [Rayatz] writes in his well-known letter:38 “It was not myself alone that the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed on Yud-Beis Tammuz, but also those who love the Torah and observe its commands, and so too all those who merely bear the name ‘Jew’.”

There can be no redemption without a preceding imprisonment. Since the Rebbe [Rayatz] writes here that his redemption was a redemption for all Jews, it is clear that the preceding imprisonment was also related to all Jews.

The Divine intent underlying the imprisonment and the redemption was not simply that the negativity of the imprisonment be undone and the previous situation be reinstated (for if so, what is the point of the whole sequence), but that the previous situation be elevated and enhanced.

Similarly, Chassidus explains39 the tzimtzum that preceded revelation. The Divine intent was not that there be a diffusion of the same spiritual light that was diffused before the tzimtzum. If this were so, what would be the point of the tzimtzum? The Divine intent was that there be revealed a light more sublime, a light that could be drawn down to the created worlds only by means of the mortal avodah that became possible after the tzimtzum, a light that without the tzimtzum would never have been able to shine forth.

The same principle applies to Sheviras HaKeilim40 and the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge: Only through the subsequent spiritual labor of beirurim41 can a superior radiation of Divine light be secured.

At the level of avodah, this principle is found in the process of teshuvah: Not only are undesirable matters corrected to the point that no impression of them whatever remains, but in addition, the individual now finds himself in a situation which is so much higher than his previous situation, that42 “where penitents stand, perfect tzaddikim cannot stand.”

And it is this same principle that applies to the imprisonment and the redemption [insofar as they relate, as explained above, to all Jews].

It should first be noted that before the imprisonment, too, the prevalent situation in terms of avodah was no doubt elevated (even though there might still have been a need either to refine and upgrade certain activities which had been prompted by self-centered motives, or to complete unfinished tasks). Indeed, because the prevalent state of avodah was elevated, all of Israel were no doubt worthy of being showered with an abundance of blessings, and there should have been no justification for suffering (i.e., through imprisonment).

(In this spirit, in a discussion of suffering in this world, it is explained in Torah Or43 that “it is not as a punishment that a person is found unworthy of living a tranquil life in this world. For we find that because Nebuchadnezzar took three steps out of deference to G‑d,44 he and his descendants were granted sovereignty over the whole world for three generations. Now there is no Jew who has not honored G‑d to that extent at least; every Jew is thus deserving of all the good things of this world.”)

Nevertheless, now that the imprisonment and the redemption are behind us, all aspects of avodah (in addition to the refinement of matters unworthily motivated, or the completion of unfinished tasks) should certainly be carried out at an incomparably loftier level.