20 Menachem Av: How to Add the “Alef”

The Rebbe mentions numerous times in these talks that everything that is necessary for the Geulah is already here, we simply need to add the letter “alef” to the word gola (which means exile), thereby transforming it to Geulah.  But what exactly does it mean to add an “alef” to the exile that we are in?

There are many levels to answering this question, the most basic of which is that it means revealing Hashem (the ruler of the world, “alufo shel olam“) in the world through Torah and Mitzvos.  Additionally, it means recognizing Hashem’s Divine Providence that is behind everything, even those things which appear to us as the opposite of good.

We find an even deeper and more comprehensive explanation in the Chassidic Discourse that was edited by the Rebbe and published in 1991 in honor of the Hillula (anniversary of the passing) of the Rebbe’s father, Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn.

The discourse discusses the source for the statement of our sages that a Jew must make 100 blessings every day.  The sages find scriptural support for this in a verse from parshas Ekev: “Now, Yisroel, what does Hashem your G-d want from you” (Devarim 10:12).  The sages say “don’t read mah (“what”) rather me’ah (“one hundred’)”.  This familiar technique of the sages doesn’t change the original meaning, of course, but adds another level.  In this case, they are adding the letter “alef” to the “mah” (which means “what”) and the result is the one hundred blessings (“me’ah”) that a Jew must say.

In chapter 3 of the discourse, the Rebbe explains the deeper significance of inserting an “alef”, which is surely applicable as well to the Rebbe’s instruction to add an “alef” to exile to transform gola into Geulah.  To briefly summarize the Rebbe’s words:

“Mah symbolized Malchus, which is the level where G-dly revelation can be internalized (in Chassidic terminology, the level of memaleh kol almin and the soul levels of Nefesh, Ruach, Neshoma).  In the  avodah of a Yid, this is the avodah of “you shall love Hashem your G-d with all of your heart” (b’chol levovecha) which derives from the external dimension of the soul’s intellect (chitzoniyus ha’seichel).  As implied by the term “all of your heart” it generates a feeling of love in the emotional attributes of the heart’s emotional attributes, but only there.

“Me’ah” is the level of Arich, a level that transcends us and can only be revealed in a transcendent, encompassing manner (sovev kol almin and the transcendent soul level of Chaya).  In our avodah this is the love “with all of your soul” (b’chol nafshecha) which derives from the internal dimension of the soul’s intellect (pnimiyus ha’seichel).  This love is felt in the intellect, and then automatically spreads out to affect all the soul’s powers and limbs.

How do we go from one level to the next, from “with all of your heart” (limited to the heart) to “with all of your soul” (which spreads to all the powers of the soul)?  It is through the avoda of “all of your might” (b’chol me’odecha), which reaches the “alef“, the supernal level of Atik which completely transcends the world (higher than both memaleh kol almin and sovev kol almin, the soul level of Yechida).  In avodah this is mesirus nefesh, to give one’s soul (either literally, or, in the way applicable in our generation: giving away one’s personal desires, mesirus haratzon, in order to fulfill the will of Hashem).  Because it transcends the other two levels, it is able to unite them and to draw down (the meaning of brocha, a blessing) the level of “me’ah” into the level of “mah“, that they should both be revealed in the person.

Clearly, this is understandable as regards the “alef” which we must insert into gola in order to make Geulah: to awaken the level of Yechida, through serving Hashem “with all of your might”, having true mesirus nefesh to fulfill Hashem’s will, especially as it is revealed through “your servants, the prophets” and most especially the Novi of our generation.  This puts in the Alef and results in Geulah!  Let’s not be lazy about this, because we have to bring Moshiach now!

Video Shiur: Eikev, 5751

Moshiach: What Do We Have to Do?

Chabadinfo.com Exclusive: In the Sicha of Parshas Eikev, the Rebbe explains that the cheshbon tzedek of Elul is that Moshiach must come already ● Learn this week’s Sicha with ChabadInfo.com’s Weekly Shiur of the “Dvar Malchus” Sicha in English, presented by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lipskier, Mashpia of Mesivta of Melbourne, Australia ● Watch Video

 

Ekev 5751: To Awaken Hashem to Bring the Geulah

This Shabbos blesses the upcoming month of Elul.  Elul is an acronym (rashei teivos) for “Ani leDodi v’Dodi Li“, which means “I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me”.  First comes “I am for my beloved”, the effort that comes from below (from us towards Hashem), using our own powers (avodah b’koach atzmo).

This is related to the fundamental concept of creation: Hashem wants to give us the opportunity to earn our reward, to avoid the embarrassment of receiving “free bread” (nahma d’kisufa).  This requires not only that we do what we are supposed to do, but that we do it in a way of yegia, exertion, using our own powers.  And more than that, to go beyond what we are accustomed to do and serve Hashem with exceptional effort.  Through this (the effort of “Ani leDodi“) we cause the response: “v’Dodi li“, an awakening from Above and a drawing down from Above to below.

Not only is this a fundamental aspect of our task in life, it also applies even when a Yid has arrived at the end of his avodah (represented by Elul, the last of the months of the year).  Because in Elul we have both the “below to Above” and the resulting “Above to below”, and it is specifically when the Jew does the avodah from his own powers that it draws down from Above in a way that it is internalized (b’pnimiyus).  This is also hinted at in the final letter of the alef-beis, the letter Tav, which has a numerical value of 400 which alludes to the “400 shekel kesef” with which Avraham Avinu purchased the cave of Machpela to bury his wife Sara.  These 400 shekel represent, according to Chassidus, a powerful longing (“kesef”, silver, related to “kisufim”, longing) for Divine revelation.

Although the emphasis here is on our avodah from below, which is the avodah of the body, we really must have as well the avodah from Above which is the avodah of the neshoma.  The difference between them is that the avodah from below takes place in a measured way, an orderly progression from level to level.  In fact, even the revelation of the neshoma from Above must be according to the limitations of the body.  We cannot “overload the circuit” in our intense desire to reveal the neshoma, but rather the revelation of the neshoma occurs in accordance with the body’s ability to contain it.

Having said all that, the Rebbe proceeds to state that all which we have needed to do has been done.

The only thing which remains is – that the Holy One, blessed be He, will take out Bnei Yisroel from the golus and bring them to the Holy Land… and therefore Yidden request and shout again and again – and now even more powerfully than before – “Ad Mosai”?!  How much longer?!

The ultimate goal being the true and complete Geulah (from Above to below) which will arrive at a unification of both aspects, that the lowest thing – golus – will become Geulah – “gola” with the addition of an “alef”.  Even though the ultimate level comes from Above, and is dependent on Hashem, nonetheless the Geulah is in our hands:

A Yid has the power to awaken himself, and to awaken other Yidden, and mainly to awaken, so to speak, the Holy One, blessed be He….  A Yid receives (in this place [770] and in this time [the Rebbe’s farbrengen]) the greatest potential, and thus he has both the greatest merit and obligation to request and to shout to the Almighty: Ad Mosai”?!  How much longer?!…Since we have already finished all the matters of “our deeds and our work”, and consequently we are shouting and demanding  “Ad Mosai”.  Immediately the question is asked: since all the matters have already been accomplished – how could it be that Moshiach still didn’t come?!…

The Rebbe proceeds to answer his own question by saying that since Moshiach still hasn’t come, then there might be one more thing that needs to be done, possibly in the area of spreading Chassidus, since Moshiach told the Baal Shem Tov that he will come when the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov spread forth.  Perhaps there is one more thing left to do, to reach those who are blind.  And this has been accomplished by the publication of the Tanya in Braille.  So since we did the last thing, Moshiach must come immediately.

Here we see clearly the Rebbe’s approach: everything has been done.  But if Moshiach still hasn’t been revealed, we have to try one more thing because maybe this will arouse Hashem to bring the Geulah.  And surely this final thing will bring Moshiach, for if not– Ad Mosai”?!  How much longer?!

 

Eikev 5751: Three Dimensions of Elul

The month of Elul is blessed on Shabbos parshas Eikev, and Chassidus expounds upon the name of this month as corresponding to the rashei teivos (initial letters) of the verse “Ani leDodi, v’Dodi Li” (“I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me”, from Shir Hashirim 6:3).

This verse expresses two directions or dimensions in Divine service: “I am for my beloved”–the service initiated from below to Above; and the continuation and outcome of that: “and my beloved is for me”–the awakening from Above.  The Rebbe adds that since they are both hinted at in one word–Elul–this indicates a third dimension, the unification of these two types of Divine service.

To understand what these expressions mean:

“I am for my beloved” is the effort to serve Hashem that comes from the awakening of the G-dly soul as it is enclothed in an animal soul and physical body which conceal G-dliness, the effort “from below” to reach out to and come closer to G-d through overcoming obstacles to fulfilling Hashem’s will.

“My beloved is for me” is the response that comes from Above in recognition of the effort made from below, a bestowal from Above which enables the G-dly soul to serve Hashem in a way that transcends the limitations of this world.

These also indicate the Divine service of a Jew fueled by his G-dly soul as it is Above the world and transcends the limitations of the world, drawing down from Above to influence the body and animal soul; and the effort of the soul as it is “in the lower realms”, enclothed in the limitations of the body and animal soul, meeting the challenges head-on without the benefit of “revelations from Above”.

These proceed from one to the other.  First comes “I am for my beloved”, the effort from below to Above struggling with the limitations of this world.  This is the primary thing, for through this we create a dwelling place for Hashem in this lowly world (“dira lo yisborech b’tachtonim“), which is the original desire for which the world was created.

The power of Atzmus (“essence”) from the Yesh HoAmiti (“the true existence”) becomes revealed specifically in the Yesh Hanivra (“the created existence”)…

In other words, only in the darkest “tachtonim” can we reveal the power of Atzmus within our souls by clinging to and manifesting our belief in Hashem’s oneness and control over the world.  When this effort is successful, it elicits “my beloved is for me”, the bestowal from Above which endows the ability to transcend the darkness of the world and its limitations.

The ultimate level is the unification of both dimensions in the service of “Elul” which is to serve Hashem within the natural boundaries and dimensions of the world, but in a way that is empowered from Above to transcend and overcome them even as one is within them.  The created existence (“yesh hanivra”) becomes a “yesh hoAmiti”, a true and eternal existence.

And the main thing in all of this is the true and complete Geulah…And since everything that we needed to accomplish [in “tachtonim“] has already been accomplished, even “polishing the buttons”, then the only thing that remains is for the Almighty to take the Yidden out of golus and to bring them to the Holy Land…and therefore Yidden ask and cry out again again — and now more strongly than before — “Ad Mosai”?!

Ekev 5751: To Awaken Hashem to Bring the Geulah

This Shabbos blesses the upcoming month of Elul.  Elul is an acronym (rashei teivos) for “Ani leDodi v’Dodi Li“, which means “I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me”.  First comes “I am for my beloved”, the effort that comes from below (from us towards Hashem), using our own powers (avodah b’koach atzmo).

This is related to the fundamental concept of creation: Hashem wants to give us the opportunity to earn our reward, to avoid the embarrassment of receiving “free bread” (nahma d’kisufa).  This requires not only that we do what we are supposed to do, but that we do it in a way of yegia, exertion, using our own powers.  And more than that, to go beyond what we are accustomed to do and serve Hashem with exceptional effort.  Through this (the effort of “Ani leDodi“) we cause the response: “v’Dodi li“, an awakening from Above and a drawing down from Above to below.

Not only is this a fundamental aspect of our task in life, it also applies even when a Yid has arrived at the end of his avodah (represented by Elul, the last of the months of the year).  Because in Elul we have both the “below to Above” and the resulting “Above to below”, and it is specifically when the Jew does the avodah from his own powers that it draws down from Above in a way that it is internalized (b’pnimiyus).  This is also hinted at in the final letter of the alef-beis, the letter Tav, which has a numerical value of 400 which alludes to the “400 shekel kesef” with which Avraham Avinu purchased the cave of Machpela to bury his wife Sara.  These 400 shekel represent, according to Chassidus, a powerful longing (“kesef”, silver, related to “kisufim”, longing) for Divine revelation.

Although the emphasis here is on our avodah from below, which is the avodah of the body, we really must have as well the avodah from Above which is the avodah of the neshoma.  The difference between them is that the avodah from below takes place in a measured way, an orderly progression from level to level.  In fact, even the revelation of the neshoma from Above must be according to the limitations of the body.  We cannot “overload the circuit” in our intense desire to reveal the neshoma, but rather the revelation of the neshoma occurs in accordance with the body’s ability to contain it.

Having said all that, the Rebbe proceeds to state that all which we have needed to do has been done.

The only thing which remains is – that the Holy One, blessed be He, will take out Bnei Yisroel from the golus and bring them to the Holy Land… and therefore Yidden request and shout again and again – and now even more powerfully than before – “Ad Mosai”?!  How much longer?!

The ultimate goal being the true and complete Geulah (from Above to below) which will arrive at a unification of both aspects, that the lowest thing – golus – will become Geulah – “gola” with the addition of an “alef”.  Even though the ultimate level comes from Above, and is dependent on Hashem, nonetheless the Geulah is in our hands:

A Yid has the power to awaken himself, and to awaken other Yidden, and mainly to awaken, so to speak, the Holy One, blessed be He….  A Yid receives (in this place [770] and in this time [the Rebbe’s farbrengen]) the greatest potential, and thus he has both the greatest merit and obligation to request and to shout to the Almighty: Ad Mosai”?!  How much longer?!…Since we have already finished all the matters of “our deeds and our work”, and consequently we are shouting and demanding  “Ad Mosai”.  Immediately the question is asked: since all the matters have already been accomplished – how could it be that Moshiach still didn’t come?!…

The Rebbe proceeds to answer his own question by saying that since Moshiach still hasn’t come, then there might be one more thing that needs to be done, possibly in the area of spreading Chassidus, since Moshiach told the Baal Shem Tov that he will come when the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov spread forth.  Perhaps there is one more thing left to do, to reach those who are blind.  And this has been accomplished by the publication of the Tanya in Braille.  So since we did the last thing, Moshiach must come immediately.

Here we see clearly the Rebbe’s approach: everything has been done.  But if Moshiach still hasn’t been revealed, we have to try one more thing because maybe this will arouse Hashem to bring the Geulah.  And surely this final thing will bring Moshiach, for if not– Ad Mosai”?!  How much longer?!

 

Video Shiur: Ekev, 5751

Moshiach: What Do We Have to Do?

Chabadinfo.com Exclusive: In the Sicha of Parshas Ekev, the Rebbe explains that the cheshbon tzedek of Elul is that Moshiach must come already ● Learn this week’s Sicha with ChabadInfo.com’s Weekly Shiur of the “Dvar Malchus” Sicha in English, presented by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lipskier, Mashpia of Mesivta of Melbourne, Australia ● Watch Video

 

Sicha of 20 Menachem Av, 5751

1. Tonight is the night following the fourth day of Parshas Eikev. In accordance with the concept that each of the seven aliyos of the weekly Torah reading are associated with the seven days of the week, today is associated with the fourth aliyah.1 More particularly, since this is the conclusion of the fourth day of the week, the present time is associated with the conclusion of that reading.

Herein we see a connection to the present day, the yahrzeit of a tzaddik [Trans. Note: the Rebbe Shlita’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson] who sacrificed his life for the spreading of the Torah and its mitzvos who merited (for not all tzaddikim merit this) to be given the most extreme punishment in this world.

This Torah reading describes the uniqueness of the tribe of Levi. As theRambam writes, this uniqueness is not reserved only for those whose lineage is from that tribe but includes, “each and every person… who the openness of his heart dictates” to rise above the material concerns of this world and make “G‑dhis portion and his inheritance,”2 i.e., to dedicate himself to the study of the Torah and the performance of the mitzvos.

This approach was see through the life of my father. Although the Russian government at that time pressured other Rabbis to issue proclamations declaring their support for the government and their willingness to accept its authority, my father conducted himself as a Rav3 did in previous generations, “teaching Your law to Yaakov, and Your Torah to Yisrael.”4

Furthermore, he did this with mesirus nefesh, challenging the Russian government. In particular, this is reflected in his journey to the Russian capital to receive permission to bake matzos in a kosher manner.5 This journey was successful and they agreed to accept his rulings regarding the kashrus of these matzos. Although this caused financial loss to the government — and that was considered a very serious matter at that time — my father refused to authorize the use of any flour that was not supervised by his mashgichim, mashgichim who would not bend despite the pressure they were subjected to. The matzos which were baked under his supervision were then spread throughout Russia, the country in which most of the Jews of that generation resided.

The punishment which he suffered, exile, is considered equivalent to death and in some respects, more severe than death. Nevertheless, although he knew of the possibility of such punishment, he continued his efforts to spread Yiddishkeit, and furthermore, did so while in exile itself. Moreover, he was recognized for his wisdom by non-Jews, and when they asked him for advice, he also endeavored to influence them to fulfill their seven mitzvos. And to the extent possible at that time, he achieved this.

In this context, we can understand the relevance of verse from the Torah passage connected with the present day, “G‑d designated the tribe of Levi to stand before Him and serve Him… until this present day.” For the relevance of this verse in our contemporary situation, can only be understood within the context of the extended identity of the tribe of Levi as mentioned earlier in the name of the Rambam. For in the Diaspora, the uniqueness of the tribe of Levi is not expressed on the present day. It is expressed on the festivals when theLevites wash the hands of the Priests before they recite the Priestly Blessing. In the Diaspora, however, where most of the Jews are found and where the grave of the Previous Rebbe, the leader of our generation is located, the Priestly Blessing is recited only on festivals. So that it is only through the expanded meaning, that we can see the service of the Levites on “this present day.”

And this is the lesson we should derive: To involve ourselves in the service of spreading Yiddishkeit and the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos withmesirus nefesh. For it was with mesirus nefesh that the Levites served in the Sanctuary and then in the Beis HaMikdash. And so will they serve in the ThirdBeis HaMikdash.6

This was my father’s desire: To spread Yiddishkeit in his own community and throughout the entire Jewish people and to do so with mesirus nefesh. Thus seeing that his yahrzeit and the description of his efforts will motivate others — men, women, and children — to make a similar commitment, will surely bring him satisfaction.

Herein we also see a connection to the tribe of Levi, for in the census of the tribe of Levi were also included infants. From the time that it was clear that they would survive, the children of the tribe of Levi were included in the census.

This relates to Jewish education. A parent must educate his children from their earliest ages. He must be conscious of “the part of G‑d from Above” present within his children’s souls, and therefore dedicate himself to their education withmesirus nefesh. This includes making his children aware that their mission in the world is to be a living example of how one lives in preparation for the construction of the Third Beis HaMikdash, by performing certain activities — e.g., giving tzedakah — which will hasten the construction of that Beis HaMikdash. And by being a living example and speaking to other children with heartfelt words, they will influence them to emulate their conduct.

This process of education must begin “from the time it is clear that the child will survive,” and even before then. This is particularly relevant in the present generation, for in the very near future, we will proceed to greet Mashiach. This will be hastened by the distribution of money to be given to tzedakah, fortzedakah brings the redemption near.

FOOTNOTES
1. The significance of this aliyah is reflected in that there are three aliyos which precede it and three aliyos which follow it. Thus, it is the middle aliyah and relates to the middle vector whichKabbalah explains to be the most important vector. For this reason, we see that when two parshiyos are combined, it is the fourth aliyah which combines them, containing portions of both parshiyos. Herein is also a connection to the Future Redemption which will be the fourth redemption.
2. This verse continues “G‑d is my portion and my cup; You support my lot.” The concept of lots is associated with the service of mesirus nefesh and thus reflects a further connection to my father who displayed great mesirus nefesh in the face of the Russian persecution.
3. In this context, it is said “Who are our kings? Our Rabbis.” This is surely true in regard to a tzaddik, who was held in awe like an actual king.

4. Significantly, this blessing was given to the tribe of Levi. However, since at the conclusion of the blessings which Moshe gave, he included all the tribes together, the potential was granted for the blessings given one tribe to be shared with another.

The blessings which Moshe gave are also connected with the blessings given by Yaakov to his children in Egypt. And it was in Egypt that Yaakov expressed his true qualities, as reflected in the verse, “And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt.” This was expressed in his self-sacrifice in ensuring that the Egyptians did not make a false deity of him. Although the nations of the world had accepted the belief in G‑d, the Egyptians were “more perverted than all the nations of the world” and would possibly commit such a transgression.For this reason, Yaakov took all the precautions necessary to make sure that the Egyptians did not make him a false deity, even if this meant troubling Pharaoh in regard to helping insure for his burial in Eretz Yisrael. Although Pharaoh was a king — and we are obligated to honor kings — Yaakov troubled him to help in this mission.

5. And the kashrus of the matzos influence a person to eat kosher food throughout the entire year.
6. This refers to the first period of the Era of the Redemption. In the second period of the Era of the Redemption, there are opinions that the service in the Beis HaMikdash will change and the firstborn will become Priests and the Priests will serve as Levites (as theAriZal comments on the phrase “the Priests, the Levites”). There is reason to support this opinion, for then all sins — including the sin of the Golden Calf, for which the service in the Sanctuary was taken from the firstborn — will have been rectified. At present, however, we are still a moment before the redemption, and thus well before this change takes place if in fact it does.
Translation: Sichos In English