1. Exile Heralds Redemption

This1 week’s reading, Parshas Vaeira, is a continuation of last week’s reading, Parshas Shmos, which ends with Moshe Rabbeinu’s query to G‑d:2 “Why have You mistreated Your people? Why did You send me?”

G‑d’s answer comes at the beginning of our parshah:3 “And G‑d (Elokim) spoke to Moshe and said to him, ‘I am Havayah.4 I revealed Myself to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov as G‑d A-lmighty (E-l Sha-dai), but did not allow them to know Me by My Name Havayah. Therefore say to the Children of Israel [in My name]: I am Havayah, and I shall bring you out from your forced labor in Egypt…, and I shall take You to Myself as a nation…, and you shall know that I am Havayah.’”

Torah Or5 explains the point of G‑d’s answer: The exile in Egypt (“You mistreated Your people”) was a necessary preparation for G‑d’s initial self-revelation by the Name Havayah at the Giving of the Torah. Furthermore,6 this is also the reason for the length of this last exile: it is a preparation for the revelations of the Time to Come, when the pnimiyus of the Torah, the innermost reasons of the Torah, will be revealed.

2. “Why Have You Mistreated Your People?”

Since this query is written in the Torah, and every subject in the Torah is true and eternal, it follows that even after the above response (“I revealed Myself…”) there is still room for the plaint, “Why have You mistreated Your people?”

(In passing: The question is asked in the writings of Chassidus,7 Why was Simchas Torah (“the Rejoicing of the Torah”) not made to fall on Shavuos (“the Time of the Giving of our Torah”)? On this my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once commented8 that since this query is written in the Torah (in the teachings of Chassidus9), then even after it has been answered there is still room to argue the case that Simchas Torah should have been made to fall on Shavuos.)

To revert to our case: Why, even after the answer that the Egyptian exile was a necessary preparation for the Giving of the Torah, is there still room for the plaint, “Why have You mistreated Your people?”

Torah Or10 describes how every detail of the Egyptians’ enslavement of our forefathers11 - “They embittered their lives with harsh labor, with mortar and bricks, and with every kind of work in the field…, in order to break them” - has its counterpart in ruchniyus, in the spiritual realm:12

וימררו את חייהם (lit., “They embittered their lives”): This alludes to the Torah, for it is our life.

בעבודה קשה (lit., “with harsh labor”): This alludes to a scholar’s intellectual labor when posing a kushia (קושיא - “logical objection”; cf. קשה) in the course of a Talmudic debate.

בחומר (lit., “with mortar”): In the same context, this alludes to a kal vachomer (קל וחומר), an a fortiori inference.

ובכל עבודה בשדה (lit., “and with every kind of [outdoor] work in the field”): This alludes to the study of the Beraisa (ברייתא ; cf. Aram. בר - lit., “outside”), the body of laws that were left outside the canon of the Mishnah.

ובלבנים (lit., “and with bricks”): This alludes to the clarification of the law (Heb./Aram.: libun hilchesa).

Hence, even though the Giving of the Torah had to be prepared for by a bondage in exile, the query (“Why have You mistreated Your people?”) remains intact, because this bondage can be exchanged for a spiritual bondage - the ongoing obligation to study Torah. The same applies with regard to the length and harshness of this last exile: even though it is a necessary preparation for the revelations of the Time to Come, it can nevertheless be exchanged for the spiritual bondage of Torah study.

3. Coping with a Geyser-Brain

This exchange, with regard to the exile at large, is also possible with regard to individual components of the exile. For example, the toil and trouble of earning a livelihood (the major component of exile13) can be exchanged for toil and trouble expended in the study of the Torah.

Our Sages teach:14 “Whoever takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah - the yoke of governmental obligations and the yoke of worldly cares are removed from him.” A yoke there has to be, since15 “man was born for toil,” but every individual is given a choice. He can accept either (a) עול מלכות ועול דרך ארץ - “the yoke of governmental obligations and the yoke of worldly cares” (within the guidelines of the Torah), or (b) עול תורה - “the yoke of the Torah.” If he chooses the latter, “the yoke of governmental obligations and the yoke of worldly cares are removed from him.”

Let us consider this more closely. The most bothersome part of making a living is the torrent of16 “thoughts in the heart of man” that confuse a person to the point that he does not know whether to do this or that.17 As was stated above, this can be bartered for toil and trouble in Torah study. A person can choose to be preoccupied by the torrent of scholarly arguments that fall into his mind. (This torrent derives from the faculty of Binah, for18 Binah draws images,” sketching varied constructs within a concept being initiated.19) With one argument pulling him in this direction and one argument pulling in the opposite direction, deciding between them (through the faculty of Daas, which is the determining factor20) requires extremely intense exertion. (So, too, the Zohar speaks of “those who vigorously debate a word of wisdom.”21) And only thus, as is explained in Chassidus,22 can one arrive at a true conclusion.

The Rogatchover Gaon once said that for him Shabbos was the hardest day of all. On weekdays, whenever the turbulent crosscurrents of his geyser-brain threatened to overwhelm him, he was able to dam its prolific power by writing. This made it easier for him to decide between conflicting arguments. On Shabbos, being unable to write, he had to toil earnestly until he was able to make such a decision.

Similarly, it is recorded23 that in the course of delivering a maamar of Chassidus, the Mitteler Rebbe would sometimes quietly say, “Sha…, sha…!”

(It goes without saying that there was no need to silence his audience. Indeed, whenever he delivered a maamar the silence was so complete that no cough or whatever was heard even from people who might normally have coughed. No sound was heard but the words of the maamar. They permeated every listener, both those who understood the maamar and those who did not.

Once, at such a time, a government inspector by the name of Heibenthal passed by the courtyard of the Mitteler Rebbe during a visit to Lubavitch. Observing such a multitude listening in silence, motionless, he expressed his amazement that so many people could be transfixed by one speaker.)

To whom, then, did the Mitteler Rebbe say, “Sha…, sha…”?

The Rebbe Rashab once explained that it was intended to still the restless creativity of his own brain. As soon as the Mitteler Rebbe had understood a subject from a certain angle, a deeper insight would immediately generate a contrary approach. This is reflected in a phrase that recurs in his maamarim: דלא כנל - “…contrary to what was explained above.”

4. Stretching the Mindset of an Accustomed Quota

As was stated above, it was by means of the Egyptian bondage that our forefathers earned the Giving of the Torah, just as the revelations of the Time to Come will be earned by the bondage of this last exile. And one of the main aspects of the Egyptian bondage was avodas perech - “hard labor.”

Among other interpretations of this phrase, the Gemara says:24 “They used to exchange… women’s work for the men.” Rashi comments: “This was harsh, for the men were not used to such work.” Though women’s work may be objectively easier than men’s (for25 “it is the way of a man to conquer and not the way of a woman to conquer”), it is called hard labor because the men were not accustomed to it.

The same principle applies with regard to hard labor in the spiritual realm, which a person undertakes as an alternative to hard labor in the material realm, as explained above.26 What is crucial is that one’s avodah in the Torah and the commandments exceed his accustomed quota. Even if the avodah in question is a mere trifle, yet if it forces one to break his habits it is considered hard labor.

Tanya27 explains the statement of the Gemara28 that29 “the man who serves G‑d” refers to one who reviews his studies 101 times, while “the man who does not serve G‑d” refers to one who reviews his studies only 100 times: “For in those days it was customary to review each lesson 100 times…. Therefore, this 101st revision, which is beyond the normal practice to which the student has been accustomed since his childhood, is equivalent to all the previous 100 revisions combined. In fact, its quality surpasses them in its greater strength and power, entitling that student to be called oved Elokim, ‘one who serves G‑d.’”

It could be suggested that “100 times” alludes to consummate avodah, divine service performed by all ten faculties of a man’s soul30 which each incorporate all of the other faculties. But with the endeavors of the 101st time one connects with a transcendent level within one’s soul - the yechidah, whose Divine counterpart is called Keser.31

5. Bodily Materiality: Transformed or Subjugated?

Not only is habit modification (even in a seeming trifle) called “hard labor,” entitling one to be called “one who serves G‑d,” but this remains true even when a minor habit is changed under duress, while the inner man remains faithful to his earlier habit.

This statement allows us to understand why the Alter Rebbe, in the above discussion in Tanya, quotes the Gemara’s “analogy of the market of the donkey drivers, who would charge one zuz for ten parsi (Persian miles), but demanded two zuz for driving eleven parsi, for driving an eleventh mile exceeded their customary practice.” Why add this analogy? Would it not have sufficed to cite the Gemara’s praise of the superior worth of the 101st revision? Clearly, this analogy must have something to add to our understanding of habit modification as discussed in Tanya. While considering it, we will of course need to keep in mind that since every analogy ultimately derives from its analog, an analogy in the Torah must match its analog in every detail.

The function in Tanya of the above analogy of the donkey drivers may be explained with reference to a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov32 on the verse:33 “If you see the donkey of your enemy lying under its burden…, you must make every effort to help it.” The donkey (chamor) is an allusion to the body’s materiality (chomer). A Jew is thus commanded, תעזוב עמו עזוב - “You must make every effort to help it” (עמו - lit., “with it”). Avodah involving the soul alone will not suffice: one is obliged to refine and purify his body as well.

This may be done in either of two ways:

(a) One can work on the body so that it stops being a donkey;34 one can bring it up to the human level.35 This mode of avodah is called is’hapcha (“transformation”).36

The37 Alter Rebbe was once about to leave Mezritch for home. As the Maggid’s son R. Avraham the Malach (“the Angel”) was seeing him off, he turned to the wagon-driver and said: “The horses have to be whipped until they stop being horses.” (Or, according to another version, “…until they know that they are horses.”)

Hearing this the Alter Rebbe reacted by saying that he had now learned a new path in divine service. He therefore deferred his departure and stayed on for some time in Mezritch.

(b) Even when the body retains its donkey-nature, the individual imposes his will on it and changes its habits. This mode of avodah is called iskafya (“self-subjugation”).

Yet even when habits are changed only by iskafya, the individual is still called “one who serves G‑d.” This is hinted at in the wording of the “analogy of the market of the donkey drivers, who would charge one zuz for ten parsi, but demanded two zuz for driving eleven parsi, for driving an eleventh mile exceeded their customary practice.”

The donkey does not belong to the client: it is only hired, and remains the property of its owners.38 In the analog: The donkeylike body remains in its accustomed material state (since in this case the individual’s avodah with his body was not in the mode of is’hapcha: its materiality was not transformed to become the property of the Divine soul).

In the analogy, even though the donkey does not become the client’s property he ignores its habits, and instead of restricting himself to ten parsi he works with it more than it is accustomed to work. Similarly in the analog: even though the body remains in its former material state, the individual imposes his will on its materiality by force, at least, through the avodah of iskafya, and thereby earns the title of oved Elokim, “one who serves G‑d.”

Why is this true even when habits are changed by force? - Because the innermost desire of every single Jew is good, except that his Evil Inclination overwhelms him. Hence, since the compulsion simply uncovered his own basic desire,39 he earns the title of “one who serves G‑d.”

6. Finishing Our Final Tasks

As explained above, spiritual “hard labor” (through which the revelations of the Time to Come are earned) can be done by changing one’s habits even with light work, with modest tasks. This fact is highlighted in the present age of ikvesa diMeshicha,40 the generation that can hear the approaching footsteps of Mashiach.

Massive things are not demanded of us. The massive tasks, the refinement and elevation of the major sparks of Divinity exiled in the material world,41 have already been accomplished by the avodah of our loftier forebears.

(A hint of this may be found in a seemingly superfluous word in a phrase from this week’s Rashi:42 שדברתי לאבות ohbuatrv - “which I spoke to the first Patriarchs.” This word would appear to indicate their primacy not only chronologically but also in the spiritual stature that enabled them to elevate the major sparks.)

By contrast, ours is a generation of the very heel of the heel of Mashiach43 (for even the heel within itself reflects the whole spectrum of levels that together comprise the total spiritual stature of the entire man44). Our lesser generation has been left with no more than the little things, the lesser sparks of Divinity that still need to be refined and elevated. The tasks demanded of our generation are intrinsically easy. It is only that the era in which they were given to us is difficult, because of the intense self-screening and self-concealment of Divinity, the double and redoubled darkness45 of this generation of the footsteps of Mashiach. (In times like these, who knows if we would be able to cope with tasks that are intrinsically difficult; that is why we were left with basically easy tasks, albeit in difficult times.)

We have been left to deal only with petty matters. These we should surely attend to, since even Yaakov Avinu “stayed back for the sake of petty vessels” which he had forgotten, and returned to his previous encampment for their sake.46

(In another area, too, we find that47 “the Torah is sparing with Israel’s property,” even with regard to petty earthenware vessels. Thus, in connection with the leprous defilement of houses, the Torah writes:48 “The Kohen shall give orders that the house be emptied out before any Kohen comes to see the defiling discoloration, so that everything in the house will not become unclean.” Now,49 “What property is the Torah careful not to waste? If we are speaking of vessels that may be purified by immersion,50 let the householder immerse them in a mikveh and they will be purified. If we are speaking of food and drink, let him consume them during the days of his impurity. We see, then, that the Torah is being careful not to waste merely earthenware vessels, that cannot be purified by immersion in a mikveh.” One might add that even such vessels may be used by him during the days of his impurity, and it is only because he cannot use them when he is pure as well, the Torah sees to it that his house should be emptied out before the Kohen arrives.)

As is expounded elsewhere,51 Yaakov for his part was prepared for the coming of Mashiach, except that this was delayed because of “petty vessels.” How much more, then, has the time for this arrived, in this generation of the footsteps of Mashiach - after52 “all the appointed times have passed,” including particularly auspicious times that were held to apply to various years in the most recent generations.

(In one of the chassidic discourses in a manuscript compilation53 that recently reached me from Eretz Yisrael, such a ketz is applied to the year 5638.54 The same is true of the year 5666.55 As my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once related,56 on Rosh HaShanah of that year his father, the Rebbe Rashab, said that he was apprehensive about the coming year because it included a ketz. Besides, it was the year following a leap year.57)

Moreover, in addition to all the potentially auspicious times that have passed, all the harsh decrees of annihilation (G‑d forbid) have also passed. How much more certainly, then, has the time arrived for the coming of Mashiach. It is only that we still have to complete our work on the “petty vessels” - labor that is intrinsically easy, except that it demands a change of habit.

7. Teshuvah Means Reorientation

The need to change one’s habits is underlined by the fact that it is teshuvah that prepares the way for the coming of Mashiach. As Rambam writes:58 “The Torah has promised that the Jewish people will ultimately repent at the end of their exile, and will then immediately be redeemed.” Likewise:59 “Mashiach will come in order to bring back the tzaddikim in teshuvah.”

Teshuvah does not consist of fasts and self-mortification (nor distributing charity instead of fasting), nor does it consist of the recitation of Vidui, the list of confessions. It means, rather,60 “that the sinner should forsake his sin… and firmly resolve in his heart never to do it again.” As the Alter Rebbe writes likewise in Iggeres HaTeshuvah:61 “The mitzvah of repentance as required by the Torah is simply the abandonment of sin… - that one must resolve in perfect sincerity never again to revert to folly….” This is something that can be done even on Shabbos, when one may neither fast nor recite the confession.

It is thus clear that teshuvah is basically changing one’s habits. As Rambam expresses it,62 “he changes his actions” to the point that63 “It is utterly sinful to tell a penitent, ‘Recall your former deeds,’” because he has changed his habits and now keeps his distance from those deeds.

The avodah of teshuvah therefore does not take much time. One can do teshuvah in less time than it takes to say Al chet or some other confession. (When a bill of divorce is being written, for example, the witnesses to the get are given only a short time for meditation on teshuvah.64) For teshuvah basically requires that one “firmly resolve in his heart…,” and this can be done very briefly,65 “in one hour and in one moment.”

(Once, at the end of a visit by the Rebbe Rashab to Germany, a group of local Jews accompanied him to the railway station. While he was waiting for the train to leave, one of them commented that there was one minute left to departure. The Rebbe Rashab responded: “In one minute one can still do teshuvah.”66)

In this brief moment, however, there has to be a change in one’s habits. (As was stated earlier, even an easy endeavor can suffice - provided it entails such a change.)

As quoted above, the Zohar states that teshuvah can be done בשעתא חדא וברגעא חדא. Since the root שעה also means “turning”,67 a message is hinted at in these words: ברגעא חדא (“in a mere moment”) there can be - and should be - שעתא
חדא (“a single turn,” a reorientation in a new direction).68 And this is the basic meaning of changing one’s habits, even in a small matter.

8. Ascending Together with the Rebbe

Habit modification also affects one’s bond of hiskashrus with the Rebbe.

We are now close to the yahrzeit, a day on which a sublime ascent awaits the Rebbe, and consequently, it also awaits those who are bound to him. For, as the Rebbe promised,69 the Nesi’im of Israel will not be separated from their flock.

This, however, requires that one prepare a vessel - the labor of teshuvah, i.e., changing one’s habits. This is what allows one to ascend together with the Rebbe in all his ascents. Above all, this is a preparation for the greatest ascent of all - the coming of Mashiach.

9. People Who Want Blessings Should Prepare Buckets

The same preparation - rejuvenating one’s accustomed life-patterns - also prepares a vessel for the fulfillment of the Rebbe’s blessings and promises.

The Rebbe [Rayatz] once remarked that he had always been in debt, but had never bankrupted.70 Now, if he never bankrupted, then surely he paid all his debts; if so, how was he always in debt? The answer is simple. Before paying up his old debts, the Rebbe used to take bigger loans from other individuals; besides, those whom he was presently repaying would offer to lend him anew. Both statements are thus true: he never bankrupted, G‑d forbid, but because of his new obligations he was always in debt.

Since the Rebbe never bankrupted, G‑d forbid, it should be clear in everyone’s mind that all the blessings and promises that he made - the “debts” and “obligations” that he undertook - will certainly be fulfilled in actual fact. All those to whom the Rebbe gave his blessings for children, health and an ample livelihood, and likewise all those to whom the Rebbe gave his blessing that G‑d should bring them in contact with an appropriate marriage match, will certainly see those blessings realized in full.

However, one first has to make vessels. The good things drawn down by the Rebbe’s blessings exist, but they need vessels to receive them. The vessel that is needed - a change of habit - makes one worthy of receiving the Rebbe’s blessings in whatever one needs, with regard to children, health and an ample livelihood.

10. Exactly Who is Not Ready to Receive his Blessings?

In the downflow of blessings that reached this world in the course of this past year,71 the Rebbe [Rayatz] showed many instances of miraculous intervention. There were people who wanted to see this, and they saw it, while those who did not want to see it did not. The miracles were there, except that they did not see them; as the Sages teach,72 “Even the person to whom the miracle happens does not recognize his miracle.”

For example:73 A young man walks in [to my study] and asks about [a blessing that he succeed in] securing a particular position. He is told in reply - and this is [in effect] the reply of the Rebbe [Rayatz] - that when he receives this job he should donate for tzedakah a large sum which appears to him to be too big. (Or, to express this in the language which we have just been using: a sum which is higher than what he has been accustomed to giving. This means that what matters is not so much the actual sum, but the requirement that it be greater than what his habit dictates.) I could see at the time that he wasn’t prepared to do this. A few weeks ago, when I met him and asked what was doing with that job, he answered that the employer was not yet ready.

In truth, however, if that young man was already supposed to receive that position, then it is impossible that it should be held back on account of the employer - for even if the employer is a Jew and a man of free choice, his free choice does not govern someone else's livelihood.74 We must therefore conclude that the young man himself isn’t ready to receive this position, because he did not undertake to filfill the directive of the Rebbe [Rayatz]!

However, the Rebbe [Rayatz] is the ultimate in goodness and kindness - for, as everyone knows,75 when he undertook the leadership of the chassidim from his father the Rebbe Rashab, he asked that his nesius, his tenure as Rebbe, be accompanied by [Divine] lovingkindness and mercy. For a start, therefore, even though the young man is not yet ready to carry out the directive, the Rebbe [Rayatz] is not angry with him.

This is not only because anger is a severer offense than others. (As is well known, anger causes a blemish in the soul itself. In the words of the Sages,76 “If someone grows angry, his soul takes leave of him.” Its absence explains why anger can cause one to forget halachos of the Torah,77 which are utter truth.78) The severity of the offense is not the only reason; the reason the Rebbe is not angry with him is that since he is the ultimate in goodness and kindness, for him anger is unthinkable.

And not only is the Rebbe not angry with him, but he is waiting watchfully just in case the young man will eventually be ready to fulfill the directive. Moreover, he is helping the young man arrive at that realization by pointing with his finger at the cause, that “the boss is not yet ready” - so that the young man will understand that he himself, who ought to become boss over the materiality of his body, is the one who is not ready!

Another example, more obvious:79 A young man walks in [to my study], complains about stones (not of the precious kind…) that have found their way into his kidneys, and reports that the doctor says he should do so and so. When he is then told that he should not be overawed by what the doctor said, he goes off and consults another doctor, who says the same, and goes ahead and decides to act on this advice. Now, however, he can’t get hold of the first doctor because he’s out of town. And in the meantime the stones left the kidneys spontaneously. An overt miracle!

[At this point the Rebbe remarked that the two young men would certainly not take offense at his rebuke. He added that Chonye80 used to say that when he wanted to rebuke someone, he would do so over a drop of mashke; then people couldn’t complain, because he could always argue that the mashke was at fault….]

11. Why Make the World a Weekday?

We said above that seeing miracles depends on the individual himself (“Those who wanted to see the miracles, saw them”). This may be explained in light of a similar subject which is discussed in a maamar of the Rebbe Maharash, Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadsho, 5626 [1866].81

By way of introduction: This maamar was one of the first to be delivered by the Rebbe Maharash in the lifetime of his father, the Tzemach Tzedek. His public delivery of maamarim at this [unconventionally early] time is well known.82 In a letter of appointment as a rav,83 his father wrote to him:84 “I saw your discourses on Chassidus and found them very much to my liking.” In this connection: It was the desire of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], to publish the maamarim of his grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, chronologically - that is, starting from the time that he began to deliver maamarim, including the earliest ones that he delivered during his father’s lifetime.

At any rate, the above-mentioned maamar quotes the verse,85 “And he placed him (Adam) in the Garden of Eden to work it and to safeguard it,” together with a comment on the verse by the Sages:86 “To work it alludes to the verse,87 ‘Six days shall you work’; and to safeguard it alludes to the verse,88 ‘Safeguard the Sabbath day.’”

The Rebbe Maharash points out that this parallelism is problematic. After all, to work it in the context of the Garden of Eden is a commandment - as in another teaching,89 “to work it alludes to the 248 positive commandments,” since laboring in their observance draws down increased illumination in Gan Eden. In contrast, Six days shall you work is not a commandment at all!

This query may be somewhat rephrased: Since to work it appears in the context of the Garden of Eden, it must surely refer to work in holy matters, particularly in light of the above-quoted teaching of the Sages, that “to work it alludes to [the work entailed by] the 248 positive commandments.” In contrast, the teaching that “to work it alludes to the verse, ‘Six days shall you work’” refers to weekday work in mundane matters!90

To resolve this, the Rebbe Maharash explains that from the initial perspective of Creation the universe would have been exclusively holy. “If not for the sin of Adam nothing mundane and non-holy would have existed, as it is written, ‘And He placed him in the Garden of Eden….’ It was only Adam’s sin that changed this. Moreover - as is implied by the verse,91 ‘And the world, too, He placed in their hearts’ - when Adam came to resemble a mundane weekday, the Six Days of Creation also became mundane weekdays.[…] Man’s Divinely-appointed task is therefore to rehabilitate the weekdays.”

The same kind of thinking applies to the Divine service of every individual Jew, who is called a microcosm.92 Every Jew should know that everything in his life is innately holy; everything depends only on his conduct. If his conduct is as it should be, then all aspects of his life are holy matters, and so they are attended to easily, without obscurity and obstacles, because obscurity and obstacles vanish in the presence of kedushah. (As is explained in Tanya,93 “all the kelipos become nullified, and in the presence of G‑d they vanish as though they had never been, as it is written,…” - and at this point the Alter Rebbe cites four verses, which allude to the three utterly impure kelipos and kelipas nogah.94) If, on the other hand, his conduct is not as it should be, then the various areas of his life become mundane and weekday activities.

To revert to our subject: The same principles apply with regard to miracles, as we compare a man’s conduct in the spirit of kedushah with a man’s conduct in the worldly spirit of the natural universe. Even when there are miracles one can relate to them at will. If one so desires, he can see the miracles; if not, he can regard them as events that take place according to the mundane laws of nature - like any man who does not recognize the miracle that is happening to him himself.

12. The Seemingly Natural is the Highest

Indeed, miracles of this kind, which are not immediately manifest, and which are therefore readily mistaken for natural phenomena, derive from a loftier source.

As discussed in the above-mentioned maamar, “There are two modes [in the downward flow of Divine energy: (a) that which proceeds according to the orderly gradated stages of] Seder Hishtalshelus and (b) that which transcends Seder Hishtalshelus.” [To be intelligible, the Kabbalistic terms in the explanation that follows must be studied in the original. In brief paraphrase: Expounding earlier sources,95 the maamar proceeds to distinguish between two seemingly identical terms for “the Prime Cause”: Ilas HaIlos and Sibas HaSibos.96 Divine influence in the mode of Seder Hishtalshelus derives from the former - this is the immanent mode of Memaleh Kol Almin; Divine influence in the mode which transcends Seder Hishtalshelus derives from the latter - this is Sovev Kol Almin.]

It is self-evident that when the Divine influence descends according to the orderly stages of Seder Hishtalshelus, it can immediately become manifest; when it transcends that orderly mode of transmission, it cannot immediately become manifest - as is the case with the above miracles which are not immediately recognizable as such.

There are advantages to the latter mode of Divine influence. For example: Since it is hidden, one need not be anxious about those who might seek to argue [in the Heavenly Court] that a particular individual is unworthy of receiving the current bestowal of Divine influence. Likewise, one need not be anxious about the Evil Eye (ayin hara). Accordingly, there is no need to resort to the spiritual preventive measures (segulos) mentioned in the words of the Sages.97

As far as we are concerned, whatever be the mode by which the Divine influence directed to us by the Rebbe reaches us, one needs to create appropriate vessels in which to receive it. And, as we have said, the way to do this is by modifying one’s habits: by this one becomes worthy of receiving this influence in whatever area one may need.

13. Well-Earned Blessings

A certain individual had the good fortune to sponsor the publication of a memorandum98 written by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], in honor of the approaching Chaf-Daled Teves.99 (For a number of reasons I didn’t want his name to be known.) And now I would like to ask all those present today to give him their blessing that this great merit stand him and his family in good stead for whatever they need.

[One of those present fervently responded Amen. To this the Rebbe said:]

Actually, I had intended that people should also say LeChaim!

14. What Brings a Spring to Tears?

Like all the episodes that my revered father-in-law brought to light in his writings, the episode recounted in this memorandum too teaches a lesson.

As handed down by the Alter Rebbe, the narrative tells of the mission with which the Baal Shem Tov entrusted one of his learned disciples, R. Chaim Rapaport.100 At the end of the story he adds101 that through this journey another significant mission was accomplished. At his destination there was a spring which constantly wept, because ever since G‑d first created it, no Jew had ever pronounced a blessing over its waters or used them for a pure and holy purpose. So too do all the waters of this nether world weep:102 “We want to stand before the Holy King!” And through this journey, since this scholar drank of its waters and washed his hands there in preparation for Minchah, that spring was redeemed.

My revered father-in-law [quoting the Baal Shem Tov] concludes: “From this you may observe the detailed workings of Divine Providence. Every thing that was ever created has a specific time at which it is to be uplifted and a specific individual through whom it is to be uplifted. And every single soul that comes down to this world has its own ordained purpose - what is to be its task, and what part of the world it is to rectify.”

Now, if this is true of a physical wellspring, it is even truer of a spiritual wellspring.

15. Dig Better, Dig Deeper

Deep103 inside the soul of every Jew there lies a wellspring. In some people, uncovering it requires deep digging through a heavy layer of dust and stones; in others, one only has to dig through a thin layer of dust; and in some people the wellspring’s waters are already gushing forth for all to see.

Now, when one encounters a fellow Jew whose wellspring has remained undisclosed for many years, one might mistakenly conclude that searching for it is a hopeless task. Indeed, one might even come to think that there’s no wellspring in there at all. After all, doesn’t Chassidus teach104 that everything that exists in potential form must ultimately become manifest?

The above story of the physical spring more than provides an answer.

If a physical wellspring, after over 5000 years, is ultimately uplifted and redeemed, then the waters of a spiritual wellspring, even though for years they have been covered over by dust and stones, will surely gush forth and become manifest - since “every thing that was ever created has a specific time at which it is to be uplifted.”

Moreover: It could well be that for many years a particular person’s wellspring has remained undiscovered through no fault of his own; indeed, as far as he is concerned, it could have been discovered long ago. Rather, the fault possibly lies with the individual who should have dug and uncovered it. (After all, apart from the fact that “every thing that was ever created has a specific time at which it is to be uplifted,” this also depends on the “specific individual through whom it is to be uplifted.”) It is thus because of his inactivity or unsatisfactory activity that the other fellow’s wellspring is not yet disclosed.

A certain chassid once complained that his attempts to influence others were not successful. My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], wrote in reply that the lack should be sought not in the listener, but in himself.

If he fails to discover the wellspring which that fellow obviously possesses, something must be lacking in his own words. Once he realizes this he will try to dig in the most appropriate manner; he will dig more deeply; he will sharpen the iron digging tool and cleanse it of rust…. And if he digs as he should, the wellspring will certainly come to light.

To revert to the above story of the Baal Shem Tov: the disciple was confronted on his mission by all kinds of trials - the reins broke loose, a wheel fell off, and so on. Nevertheless he withstood them all and carried out his shlichus. Not only did he make the wellspring’s latent spiritual potential manifest, but in addition he himself was thereby elevated considerably. Likewise, when one is trying to elevate and uncover another’s spiritual wellspring, though one may have to withstand trials, he will ultimately succeed and at the same time become elevated himself.

There is a verse that says,105 “G‑d illumines the eyes of them both.” This blessing the Sages apply106 [to the scholar who goes to the trouble of teaching a disciple]. And not only are the giver and the recipient blessed equally, but elsewhere the Sages teach,107 “More than the householder does for the pauper [to whom he gives alms], the pauper does for the householder.”

16. A Signed Expectation

About108 a year before his passing, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], began to sign the letter yud of his [first] name in “Assyrian script” (ksav Ashuri),109 which is holy.

After originally using this script, our forefathers began to use the cursive script, in order not to use the holy script for unsanctified purposes (as Rambam writes110 ). This was in fact the practice of the Rebbe [Rayatz], for even though all his activities were holy, there are nevertheless differences of degree. And in the last year he made the above change, which we may explain as follows.

The letter yud alludes to holiness, as in the verse,111 “The tenth (yud) shall be holy.” Moreover,112 “its substitute (temurah) shall be holy.” (Indeed, holiness is transferred [from the item which was sanctified by having been tithed] even to the incomplete kind of substitute called a temurah, as distinct from the more complete kind of substitute called a chiluf. This distinction is implied by the Alter Rebbe’s wording in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah.113) The holy connotation of the letter yud is further highlighted when that letter is written in the sanctified “Assyrian script.”

This distinctive signature was appended to every letter written by the Rebbe [Rayatz] to any and every Jew, great and small. This stresses his expectation that every matter should be sanctified, to the extent that “it and its substitute shall be holy.”

17. A Bond between Souls

In general, the letter yud as written in “Assyrian script” signifies [in the Kabbalah’s description of the Divine spark in every Jewish soul] a self-contained point which transcends diffusion (hispashtus). Moreover, the tiny “thorn” atop the yud, inasmuch as it is no more than a tenuous hairline, suggests a level [in the soul’s Divinity] so sublime “that it cannot be indicated by any [mere] letter or ‘thorn’ at all.”114 It thus suggests the yechidah,115 which is the highest and innermost level of the soul.

When observed more closely, however, the yud is seen to comprise a “thorn” above, a “thorn” below, and a point in between that joins them.

With this in mind, one might say that by signing his name with a yud of this kind, the Rebbe [Rayatz] connected the yechidah of his own soul (as suggested by the upper “thorn”) with the yechidah of each one of us (as suggested by the lower “thorn”).

Accordingly, we should surely connect our yechidah with his.

And how is this done? - By changing one’s habits. As was said above, this can involve even a minor activity (just as the upper “thorn” is the merest of lines). What matters is that this activity should be undertaken not out of habit but out of an approach that transcends habit - namely, kabbalas ol, a subservience to the Yoke of Heaven. It is [only] thus that one can become bonded with the “upper thorn,” with the Rebbe’s yechidah.

This condition is alluded to in the wording of one of the hymns of the Hoshanos.116 The order in which three poetic phrases appear there suggests that - parallel to the above stages of becoming bonded with the Rebbe - in order to “cleave and cling to You” one must first “bear Your Yoke,” and then one can “affirm Your Oneness.” In terms of one’s parallel bond with the Rebbe, only after kabbalas ol can one connect one’s yechidah with the Rebbe’s yechidah.