1. Are the Kosher Signs Factors or Indicators?

In1 most years, like this year, Parshas Re’eh is read on this Shabbos, the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh Elul. (When Rosh Chodesh Elul falls on Shabbos, Parshas Re’eh is read on that day.) What, then, is the relevance of Parshas Re’eh to the avodah of Elul?

One of the many laws in this parshah is the law2 regarding the signs that distinguish the kosher3 species of mammals and other animals:4 “These are the mammals that you may eat….” (The verse goes on to enumerate other animals as well, from which the Sages learn5 that animals of the kind that are called chayah [here translated “other animals”] are included in the category of behemah [“mammals”, but also, more loosely, “animals”].) The signs are then given:6 “Any animal that has cloven hooves which are completely split (‘i.e., divided into two nails’7 and ‘separated from above and below into two nails’8) and which brings up its cud….” (The passage then lists those animals which have only one of the requisite signs and which may not be eaten.)

Concerning these signs, the question has been debated9 as to whether animals are kosher because they have cloven hooves and bring up their cud - the signs being the reason for their ritual cleanliness - or whether their ritual cleanliness is determined by other causes, but G‑d gave them certain distinguishing signs to enable us to identify them.

There is a certain amount of evidence that the signs are the reason for the ritual cleanliness. This is also implied by the wording of the verses that speak of the animals which have only one of the requisite signs and which may not be eaten,10 “because they bring up their cud but do not have a cloven hoof [and therefore] they are unclean for you…,” or, in the opposite case, “because it has a cloven hoof but does not bring up its cud [and therefore] it is unclean for you.” This would appear to indicate that the presence or absence of a sign is the reason for the ritual cleanliness or uncleanliness.

Significantly, [R. Menachem] Tziyoni opens his commentary on the beginning of Parshas Shemini by saying that “the presence [of the signs enumerated in the Torah] is not the reason for the permission nor is their absence the reason for the prohibition; they are signs by which one may distinguish the proper species from the unworthy.” However, his subsequent explanation of the passage in the light of the Kabbalah implies that the signs are the reason for cleanliness or uncleanliness, as is implied by the wording of the verse.

(In fact, even if it is argued that the signs are merely indicators, one must assume that they are not arbitrary characteristics but are connected with the state of ritual cleanliness and derive from it. The Sages teach that11 “in all that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His universe, there is not one thing that He created in vain.” If so, why create special signs that are unconnected with ritual cleanliness only in order to identify it, when this cleanliness can be indicated by signs that are relevant to it - either as its cause or a result of it?)

At any rate, let us see how the above throws light on a man’s labors with his own animal - his animal soul - that needs to be refined and transformed to kedushah so that it becomes a ritually clean animal. This process is especially related to one’s avodah in the month of Elul, as will soon be explained.

2. Don’t Just Count Deeds: It’s the Deed that Counts

To consider first the function of the month of Elul: My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], explains12 how this is the month of spiritual stocktaking.13 Just as from time to time a businessman has to make a comprehensive account of the state of his affairs so that they will be administered properly and successfully, so, too, in the realm of avodah, there is a special time in the year, the month of Elul, during which one ought to make a comprehensive account of one’s situation as regards one’s service of G‑d, in the fulfillment of the Torah and its mitzvos and in the realm of proper conduct.

The time for this spiritual stocktaking is the month of Elul. Throughout the year a person should be busy with Torah and avodah without thinking about his status in general - just as a businessman makes his comprehensive account only periodically, while most of the time he is engaged in the business itself: he calculates only the profitability and feasibility of the particular transaction at hand. If he were to do a complete stocktaking every day he would never get a chance to do business. In the same way, throughout the year one should engage in Torah and avodah, which includes (as one recites the prayer before retiring) each night’s limited accounting of the preceding day’s avodah (and likewise the account of the past week’s avodah that one makes [on Thursday night] before Shabbos, and the account that one makes of the past month’s avodah before each Rosh Chodesh). A comprehensive stocktaking, however, is undertaken only in Elul. Otherwise, a man would be occupied most of the day (i.e., three-quarters of the day14) in bookkeeping, and would not be left with enough time to engage in Torah and avodah.

3. Everything In Its Due Season

Surely, someone might argue, an account is a positive thing; why not draw up a comprehensive account every day? Besides, he might argue, how can one engage in Torah and avodah before making one’s accounts? After all, there is an explicit verse that says,15 “And G‑d says to the wicked man: ‘What are you doing, speaking of My statutes?’” Moreover, the Tanya states clearly that16 “It is impossible for the wicked to begin to serve G‑d without first repenting for their past.” Therefore, so the argument runs, the accounting must come first so that a man will know what he has to rectify; and, moreover, even after repenting he has to live in the spirit of the verse,17וחטאתי נגדי תמיד - “And my sin is before me constantly,”18 as is explained in Tanya.19

In response: Let it be clear that this argument is the counsel of the Evil Inclination - that a person should be occupied with bookkeeping instead of with Torah and avodah. One should engage in Torah and avodah throughout the year, and when the month of Elul arrives, that will be the time for bookkeeping.

It is recorded among the sichos of the Rebbe Rashab20 that one Simchas Torah he said to a young man who was weeping tears of penitence, that because he had not wept during the confession of Al chet on Yom Kippur he was compensating for this now - but this was not the right time for it.

“G‑d made man straight,”21 designating an appropriate season for every activity. And the time for stocktaking is the month of Elul.

4. King in His Palace, King in the Fields

One of the reasons that Elul is the time for stocktaking is the fact that at this time the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy radiate.22

An honest stocktaking in one’s soul can sometimes be harmful. When a person recognizes his actual situation, and perhaps even23 “heaven is not virtuous in his eyes,” he is likely to fall into despair, thinking that since the situation is anyway beyond repair, what point is there in exerting himself?

Stocktaking is therefore deferred to Elul, which is irradiated by the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy24 that characterize G‑d, Who is “slow to anger…, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin - and He cleanses.”

As is discussed elsewhere, this is a particularly auspicious time. Later, on Rosh HaShanah and throughout the Ten Days of Penitence, the Thirteen Attributes are revealed by G‑d in a way that resembles the status of a king who is enthroned in the awesome privacy of his royal palace. In the preceding month of Elul, however, the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy are revealed just as a king’s majesty is revealed when he graciously allows his subjects to approach him as he walks out in the fields, beyond their place of habitation. In the analog, this means that even if a person is at the level of a field, having been involved throughout the year in the kinds of undesirable activities that people refrain from doing in inhabited places, the month of Elul brings with it a revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of G‑d’s Mercy.

In this way a man can take stock candidly without fear of despair: he knows that regardless of his spiritual state in the year that has passed, he can once again come near to G‑d and engage in Torah and avodah - and without a doubt G‑d will receive him when he returns to His service.

5. None Shall Be Utterly Thrust Away

It was stated above that the most fitting time for spiritual stocktaking is Elul, whereas throughout the year one should be occupied in Torah and avodah and not in bookkeeping. This approach harmonizes with what was said at the last farbrengen25 about studying Torah even if one’s spiritual state leaves much to be desired (indeed, even if one’s faith is disturbed by doubts, G‑d forbid) - because26 “the luminary within it will return [him] to the good path.”

Now, does this promise not appear to contradict the teaching of our Sages27 (which is quoted in the maamar of Yud-Beis Tammuz28), that “if a man is not found worthy, [the Torah] becomes for him a fatal poison”?

An answer may be found in the light of a distinction drawn by the Alter Rebbe in his Hilchos Talmud Torah. (From the content and style of this work, it would appear to be a kind of intermediary between his Shulchan Aruch, which is written in the spirit of the revealed and legalistic dimension of the Torah known as nigleh, and his Siddur, which is written in the spirit of the Kabbalah.)

There the Alter Rebbe writes:29 “The Sages taught that ‘in any event a person should engage in Torah and the commandments even if not for their own sake’30 only when he observes the commandments which he has learned in the Torah - except that his study and observance are not directed for the sake of heaven31 but are motivated by a fear of retribution… or by a love of the reward that he will receive…. If, however, he does not observe what he studies he is called wicked, and concerning him it is written, ‘And G‑d says to the wicked man: What are you doing, speaking of My statutes?’… Concerning such a person our Sages taught that ‘if a man is not found worthy, [the Torah] becomes for him a fatal poison.’”

At this point the Alter Rebbe cites another view: “There are those32 who hold that despite this, a person should still engage in Torah study, for through studying not for its own sake he may come to do so for its own sake, studying for the sake of observing and doing, for the luminary within it will bring him back to the proper path. Thus, on the verse,33 ‘They have forsaken Me and have not observed My Torah,’ our Sages comment: ‘[It is as if G‑d said,] If only they would forsake Me, but would observe My Torah, for if they were to be involved in it, the luminary within it would return them to the good path.’”

The Alter Rebbe concludes: “The Sages of the Kabbalah declared that though a person temporarily strengthens the kelipos by all the Torah and mitzvos that he practices while still a rasha, nevertheless, when he returns in penitence during this incarnation34 or another (for35 ‘none shall be utterly thrust away from Him’), he extracts from the kelipos all the Torah and mitzvos. At that time, as he returns, they too return to kedushah. Accordingly, at no time should such a person refrain from studying Torah.”

This means that even when the Torah “becomes for him a fatal poison” and temporarily augments the power of the kelipos, he should nevertheless engage in the study of the Torah - and the luminary within it will bring him back to the right path.

6. Whatever the Situation, Now is the Time

Furthermore, this luminary (that brings a man back to the right path) signifies the Torah’s innermost, mystical dimension - its pnimiyus. As was discussed above, the Torah’s revealed, legalistic dimension (the nigleh) is the light (or) of the Torah, while its pnimiyus is the luminary (maor) of the Torah.

As it relates to us, this theme is connected to the Nasi of the luminary (or pnimiyus) of the Torah - namely, the Rebbe.

It is thus obvious that at any time and in whatever spiritual situation one is, one should study the Chassidus expounded by the Rebbe. There is no need to begin evaluating one’s current spiritual status every time in order to calculate whether or not one has attained an appropriate level, for even if one were to be at the lowest level imaginable, the luminary within his studies would bring him back. Eventually, after all, either in this incarnation or in another, he will return in teshuvah, for “none shall be utterly thrust away from Him.” And at that time, not only will such an individual be cleansed of all his sins, iniquities and transgressions, but in addition, the Torah that he dragged to the depths through his study at that time36 will become elevated and will return to kedushah.

7. How to Have a Rough Time in Both Worlds

The above concept illuminates the difference (in addition to the difference between chassidim and non-chassidim) which is pointed out at length by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], between Polish chassidim and Chabad chassidim. Polish chassidim, writes the Rebbe [Rayatz], enjoy both this world and the next; Chabad chassidim are given a rough time in both.

A Polish chassid makes the journey to visit his Rebbe. The Torah teachings are brief; at all the meals (especially on Yom-Tov) the shirayim are plentiful; after that everyone joins in a dance; and in this way his whole visit passes in the joyful service of G‑d. Before he goes home he takes leave of his Rebbe and requests his blessing in whatever he needs in the realm of children, health and ample sustenance - his daughter who should have been married off by now, his income, and so on - and the Rebbe promises him what he needs. When he arrives home and tells his good lady of all his requests and of the Rebbe’s promises, she, too, is happy that he went. Indeed, the next time he wants to make the journey she helps him along by packing a bundle of dry biscuits and herring so that he’ll have what to eat on the road, as well as a few coins for the wagondriver. Bliss in this world, then, he certainly has.

After 120 years he arrives in the World to Come and the Heavenly Court asks him: “What’s with you?”

Following a brief and dismal moment he delivers his ready answer: “I was a chassid of my Rebbe. There’s a verse that says,37 וצדיק באמונתו יחי-ה - ‘And a tzaddik lives by his faith’; don’t read yichyeh; read yechayeh: by his faith, the tzaddik gives life.”

The next question: “And did you do everything your Rebbe told you to do?”

He replies: “My Rebbe gave me blessings, and told me that I should observe the Torah and the mitzvos, and told me that I should set aside a fixed time to study Torah, and so on - and this I did.”

Then they ask him, “And what about38 ‘knowing the G‑d of your father,’ and contemplating the Heavenly Chariot?”

“I was taught that a Jew needs faith,” he replies; “as it is written, ‘And a tzaddik lives by his faith’; don’t read yichyeh, read yechayeh: by his faith, the tzaddik gives life. And faith I have. I was also taught that one shouldn’t delve into the Heavenly Chariot and the work of Creation.39 This, too, I fulfilled. Wherever I ran into the word Atzilus (and, it goes without saying, wherever I ran into the words tzimtzum or kav), I fled from it like a flying arrow…. After all, who am I and what am I? Besides, it is written that40 ‘you should not explore those things that are beyond you!’”

Since he is thus way over his head in faith (a veritable makkif…), for all Jews are41 “believers, the sons of believers,” and when it comes to members of the chassidic brotherhood there aren’t enough words to extol such faith…; and since this chassid obeyed the directives of his Rebbe both by active observance and by refraining as indicated…; - why, the whole of the Garden of Eden and the entire World to Come aren’t big enough to grant him his due reward…!

Things are very different when a Chabad chassid visits his Rebbe. He, too, has to jostle his way among his fellow chassidim - not in order to be given a morsel of shirayim (no such thing!), but to listen to a maamar, and sometimes there is so much jostling that it’s hard to hear it and understand it.

By the way: A certain non-chassid once recounted to me his only surviving recollection of his visit to Lubavitch. He recalls that he was pushed around so much as the maamar was being delivered that he only caught the question that was raised about the opening verse. The subsequent learned discussion he didn’t follow, and by the time the solution was explained at the end he was all squeezed and squashed. (It could even be that his identity caused him to be jostled conscientiously….) Finding a snack after the maamar to keep body and soul together was out of the question, because it was then time for chazarah, when a group of attentive listeners patiently reconstructed the maamar word for word from memory. Then it was time to daven. After the maamar and the chazarah and the davenen accompanied by (at least a little) measured meditation, it was already time for Minchah. And so it was that after that entire Shabbos this individual was left languished, squashed and famished, and without even a maamar in his head….

At any rate, as we were saying, when a Chabad chassid visits his Rebbe and enters his study for yechidus, he is ashamed to speak of his material needs - his livelihood, his daughter who should have been married off by now, and so on. For just now he heard a maamar from the Rebbe’s mouth that speaks of the World of Atzilus and even higher. How can he possibly take the Rebbe’s time in order to tell him that his wife gives him no rest because there’s no meat for Shabbos nor black bread for weekdays, and the storekeeper refuses to give them any more credit, and their creditors are badgering them, and so on? So he asks the Rebbe for a blessing that will help him attain… a love and awe of G‑d; an unhesitating acceptance of the yoke of the mitzvos; the ability to pray without being distracted by extraneous thoughts; a heightened responsiveness to a chassidic teaching; and so on. And the Rebbe gives him his blessing for success in these aspirations.

It’s time to go home. His wife knows that the Rebbe’s blessings bear fruit, so she asks: “What did the Rebbe promise about our livelihood, and about a dowry for our older daughter, and all that?” And he answers that he didn’t even mention those subjects to the Rebbe. Instead, he asked for blessings concerning the love of G‑d and the awe of G‑d, and asked the Rebbe how to pray without being distracted by thoughts about money matters….

Nu, it goes without saying that she reacts with unambiguous eloquence. And when he wants to go and visit the Rebbe the following year, his wife insists that it would be far better if he were to hire himself out as a chazzan or a shammes and earn a few rubles; she won’t let him go; she won’t give him a thing; and so on. Bliss in this world, then, he certainly has not.

After 120 years he arrives in the World to Come and the Heavenly Court asks him: “What kind of a chassid are you?”

“A Lubavitcher chassid, a Chabadnik,” he answers staunchly.

“If so,” they ask, “do you know what the three letters חב״ד stand for?”

“Of course,” he says. “They stand for Chochmah, Binah and Daas.”

“And what does that signify?”

So he explains it all: “It means that it’s not enough to have faith alone, because that’s only transcendent (makkif). In addition, one has to internalize it intellectually (bipnimiyus); as it is written, ‘Know the G‑d of your father.’”

“If so,” they say, “please tell us what you’ve actually studied about all this.”

After a long and dismal silence they ask again: “Perhaps your Rebbe didn’t teach you, or make any demands of you?”

“No, no,” he answers. “Sure the Rebbe taught me and made demands of me. I heard one maamar, and then another, and then another. Even when I didn’t have any money to pay for a wagon ride and couldn’t go that far by foot, the Rebbe sent me the latest maamar in writing.”

“If so,” the cross-examination continues, “how is it that…” - and so on and on.

It goes without saying how he ends up….

8. So Why Be a Lubavitcher?

It is no doubt worth undergoing pain for the sake of gaining understanding. (There is a verse that says,42 “The greater the understanding, the greater the pain.”) The question however arises: What is the point of undergoing pain when there is no understanding? In our context, if a person isn’t seriously studying Chassidus anyway, then is the whole thing worthwhile?

The answer is: Let a person endeavor to the extent of his capacity, and then he is helped from above to ultimately arrive at the truth.

In this connection, Torah Or43 discusses the obligation to study Torah day and night, which has been understood at two opposite extremes:

(a) On the one hand the Gemara declares:44 “Even if a man studied only one chapter in the morning and one chapter in the evening, he has fulfilled the commandment,45 לא ימוש ספר התורה הזה מפיך והגית בו יומם ולילה - ‘This book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth, and you shall meditate upon it day and night.’” Indeed, R. Shimon bar Yochai holds that “even if a man read only Kerias Shema morning and evening, he has fulfilled the commandment, ‘This book of the Torah shall not depart [from your mouth…].’”

(b) On the other hand, the same R. Shimon bar Yochai states:46 “If a man plows in the plowing season [and reaps in the reaping season and so on], what will become of the Torah?” Rather, he holds, one should study Torah day and night, as it is written, “This book of the Torah shall not depart [from your mouth, and you shall meditate upon it day and night]” - quite literally.47

Hence, whoever is able to do so is obliged to study Torah day and night. If he is able to do so but does not, he is the kind of person to whom the Sages48 apply the verse,49 “For he has despised the word of G‑d…; he shall surely be cut off…,” both in this world and the next. If one is unable to study Torah day and night (i.e., the opportunity was not given to him by heaven for reasons that are independent of his free choice) because he has to do business in order to support his family, he fulfills his obligation by studying one chapter in the morning and one chapter in the evening - for “since he can do no more and studies as much as he possibly can, G‑d will supply the lack… of what he should have attained” if he had engaged in Torah study day and night.

A similar principle applies in our discussion. It could well be that at this moment some chassidim have not yet come to fully observe the commandment to “know the G‑d of your father”; some have not attained a grasp of the Higher-Level Unity of G‑d (yichuda ilaah) and some do not even have a perception of the Lower-Level Unity of G‑d (yichuda tataah). Nevertheless, since they exert themselves to the best of their ability, G‑d will no doubt fully supply the lack according to need.50

This is also the basic meaning of the above-quoted assurance that “the luminary within [the Torah] will return him to the proper path”: whatever one’s spiritual state, one should study the Chassidus of the Rebbe, the luminary within the Torah, and through this one will ultimately arrive at the completeness that is desired.

9. Technically Kosher vs. Actually Holy

It was stated above that one should engage in Torah and avodah without constantly calculating one’s current spiritual state, because ultimately “the luminary within [the Torah] will return him to the right path.” This, however, relates only to the Divine soul: as it is written, “none shall be utterly thrust away from Him”: the individual will ultimately repent, and the Torah that he has studied in the past will return with him.51 But apart from this, the animal soul has to be refined and transformed to kedushah.

For this we have a directive in this week’s reading of Shabbos Mevarchim Elul, the season of spiritual stocktaking - a directive relating to the signs which distinguish the clean animals (“These are the mammals that you may eat…”), and which allude to the cleansing and refining of the animal soul.

First of all, the Torah speaks of two kinds of animals, both clean and unclean, for even when one conducts himself according to the Torah he can be an unclean animal. In the words of Ramban,52 one can be “a scoundrel within the permission of the Torah” (i.e., one can imagine that he is operating within the parameters of the Torah, whereas in fact he is transgressing the fundamental command,53 קדושים תהיו - “You shall be holy”). It is therefore necessary to tell whether a particular animal is clean or unclean,54 and for this the Torah has given two distinguishing signs: (a) having cloven hooves and (b) bringing up the cud - signs which are related to cleanliness and even bring about cleanliness.

10. Kosher Signs in Humans

Even in animals there is a basic difference between head and foot (which is also evident in the laws of treifos and the like). The foot is close to the ground - just as in a man’s animal soul only the faculty of action (the “foot”) is involved in material and earthly things, according to need, while the higher faculties (the “head”) of even the animal soul do not have to be entrenched in earthly things.

Thus it was that the Rebbe Rashab once remarked to a certain chassid of spiritual and intellectual stature who had become deeply involved in his footwear business: “I’ve seen feet in rubbers - but a head in rubbers…?!”

Moreover, even the foot, which is close to the ground, has to have a hoof (פרסה) - a partition (פרסא), so that even the practical faculty of action (the “foot”) will be kept apart from earthly matters. At the same time, this hoof has to be cloven through and through, enabling the Divine light to shine through it all the way down, even upon earthly things, so that in them, too, G‑dliness will be visible.55 As the Alter Rebbe expresses this in today’s reading of Tanya:56 “Even in mundane matters [the Jewish people] will not be separated from G‑d’s true Unity.”

A kosher creature needs another sign as well: it has to chew its cud. Before doing anything involving materiality, one has to think and chew and think over and over again - whether it should be done, how it should be done, and so forth.

When these two signs are present, one can transform one’s animal into a kosher animal, so that the materiality (the “animal”) that the body requires will be clean and kosher.57

11. A Rebbe who is Familiar with Them and Their Names

An additional lesson may be learned from the kosher signs in birds.

In the case of birds one may not rely on signs alone: no bird may be eaten unless there is an oral tradition that this particular species is permissible. As the Gemara says,58 “A hunter may be trusted if he says, ‘The master hunter who taught me, and who is familiar with the unclean species enumerated in the Torah and their names, told me that this species is permissible….’”

In the field of man’s avodah , this teaches that a man should not rely on his own understanding, for it is possible that he conduct himself [technically] according to the Shulchan Aruch, and even (as he understands it) beyond the letter of the law,59 and yet be sunk at the same time in the lowliest depths. A man needs a tradition - and masores (“tradition”) also shares a root with mesirah (“devotion”). This signifies a bond (hiskashrus) with the Rebbe - with rabi tzayad (“my master hunter”), with a Rebbe who engages in saving Jewish souls from the wiles of the Evil Inclination, with a Rebbe who is familiar with them and their names.

12. Too Good to be Visible

This thought recalls the beginning of our parshah:60 ראה אנכי נותן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה - “Behold, I am placing before you this day a blessing and a curse….”

This verse was spoken by Moshe, including61 “the extension of Moshe in each and every generation.” This extension of Moshe, the Nasi of each generation, is called Anochi in the sense that G‑d is called Anochi (as in the phrase,62 Anochi mi sheAnochi - “I am Who I am”), a name that signifies [the transcendent level of Divinity called] Keser.63 In the same way, with regard to every Jew, the name Anochi signifies [the transcendent, superrational level of his soul called] Yechidah. And this innermost level of every Jew’s soul is related to the Nasi of his generation.

We can now better understand the above verse: “Behold, I am placing before you this day a blessing and a curse.” It is possible that if a particular chassid is given a blessing by the Rebbe and it is fulfilled, only then does he see that the Rebbe is a Rebbe and he becomes bonded with him - whereas in the reverse situation (heaven forfend) doubts might creep in. For this reason the verse states clearly, “Behold, I am placing before you this day a blessing and a curse”: in the reverse situation, too, אנכי נותן - “It is I who am giving.”

But how is it possible, one might ask, that from the level of Anochi there should come down to the world something which is the very opposite of blessing?

One might explain this by saying that the intent of heaven is that by his present distress the individual concerned will be freed [of greater suffering].64

Alternatively, the Divine intent could simply be that he make a solemn undertaking, and by this alone be spared [greater suffering].65 (This undertaking might take one of several forms: the individual might undertake to approach the Rebbe - by visiting the Ohel, by giving a pidyon, or in another way - and to say (to G‑d, through the Rebbe) that he is making a solemn undertaking.) Being spared [greater suffering] solely on the strength of an undertaking recalls Rashi’s comment on the phrase, את הברכה אשר תשמעו - “[I am placing before you…] a blessing, that you obey….” There Rashi writes: “I.e., on condition that you obey”; i.e., the blessing is secured solely by listening obediently and resolving.

Another approach: In truth,66 “no evil descends from above,” and67 “everything is good, though it is not apprehended [as such] because of its immense and abundant goodness” [at a level that is inconceivable to man]. As is similarly explained in Likkutei Torah,68 even the curses in the Torah69 are really blessings. In the words of the Sages,70 “They are all blessings.” Moreover, they are blessings so lofty that they can find expression only in the very opposite of blessings (so that they should be affected by no Evil Eye, nor by any condemnatory accusations leveled by the attribute of strict justice71).

By virtue of a man’s hiskashrus with the Rebbe - realizing that all blessings are drawn downward by the Rebbe, and that everything is good - all curses will be transformed into actual and visible blessings, and he will see palpably that72 “[the departed tzaddik] is to be found in all the worlds [even] more than during his lifetime.”

Indeed, he will see the ultimate consummation of this process - when the complete Redemption will soon take place, and the Rebbe will lead us to greet our Righteous Mashiach, Amen.