This week's Torah reading begins, "I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov as A-l Sha-dai, 'G-d Almighty,' but My Name Y-H-V-H, I did not make known to them." Among the questions which this verse raises are:
- The Torah continues, "Therefore, tell the children of Israel..." On the surface, with the previous verse, the Torah is implying that the revelation being granted to the Jews is greater than that to which the Patriarchs were privileged. Hence, it is difficult to understand why "I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov..." is a reason why Moshe should "tell the children of Israel..."
- Since the Torah reading emphasizes that the revelation being granted to the Jews is greater than that to which the Patriarchs were privileged, why is the name of the Torah reading Va'eira which refers to the revelation to the Patriarchs?
As a preface to the resolution of these difficulties, it is worthy to cite Rashi's commentary. On that word Va'eira, "And I appeared," Rashi adds "to the forefathers," implying that the revelations appreciated by Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov were granted to them because they were "forefathers." They represented the source of the spiritual legacy given to the Jewish people. Indeed, the revelation to the Patriarchs is the source and the cause of the higher revelation granted to the Jewish people afterwards.
To explain: Chassidus explains that the revelation of the Name Y-H-V-H, the level of G-dliness which transcends the world, was granted to the Jews at the giving of the Torah. Thus the Patriarchs were not exposed to this level. Nevertheless, the Patriarchs "observed the entire Torah before it was given," and the Zohar explains that the service of the Patriarchs anticipated the giving of the Torah.
This is reflected in Avraham's command to Eliezar, "Place your hand below my thigh." Although the fusion of spirituality and material reality did not begin until the giving of the Torah, Abraham experienced a foretaste of this level. His circumcision became transformed into an object of holiness on which an oath could be taken.
There is, however, a distinction. Through the giving of the Torah, unlimited G-dliness was drawn into the world. Thus every Jew, through the performance of a mitzvah, draws G-dliness into the material environment in which the mitzvah was performed. In contrast, Avraham was able to draw G-dliness down merely into his own body and not into the world at large.
Nevertheless, since Avraham's body was also a material entity, the fact that G-dliness was able to permeate it, also reflects the revelation of an infinite potential. It was not, however, until the giving of the Torah, that it became possible for this potential to affect the world at large.
From a different perspective, it can be explained that it was the service of the Patriarchs which tapped the essence of the Jewish soul. Thus Avraham is described as "the first of the believers," and it was he who opened the channel of faith and self-sacrifice for the Jewish people of all subsequent generations.
The giving of the Torah granted the potential for this essential quality possessed by the Jewish people to be revealed in the world at large. Through Torah study, this revelation is drawn down into the conscious powers of a Jew's soul and through the observance of the mitzvos, it is drawn down in his body and in the world at large.
There is an advantage to the revelation of the essence of the soul at the giving of the Torah to the service of the Patriarchs. For the fact that G-dliness is revealed throughout the world at large reveals its true unbounded and unlimited quality, that it has no limitations.
Although the Patriarch's service also tapped the essence, since their service was not revealed in the world at large, its unlimited quality was not revealed. Conversely, however, the service of the Jewish people after the giving of the Torah involves primarily the worldly sphere as it exists within its own context. In regard to the Patriarchs, the opposite was true. The fundamental thrust of their service was spiritual.
The concept can be amplified by use of the following analogy: The giving of the Torah is referred to as the wedding -- i.e., the essential bond -- between G-d and the Jewish people. It is explained that at every wedding, the souls of three generations of the ancestors of the bride and groom attend. Similarly, the wedding of the giving of the Torah involved the presence of the three generations of Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
This implies that:
- The service of the Jewish people in subsequent generations comes as a result of that of the Patriarchs.
- It is the service of the Jewish people in subsequent generations that reveals the essential potential possessed by the Patriarchs.
There is relevance to the above concepts at present although several millennia have passed since the giving of the Torah. The ultimate revelation of the Name Y-H-V-H will come with the revelation of "the new [dimensions of the] Torah that will emerge from Me" in the Era of the Redemption. Therefore, in a more particular sense, our Sages refer to the giving of the Torah as the betrothal of the Jews to G-d, while the wedding will not be until the Era of the Redemption.
Thus there are parallels between the concepts referring to the service of the Patriarchs as anticipating and preparing for the giving of the Torah and our service at present which prepares for and anticipates the Era of the Redemption. Our service of Torah and mitzvos draws down G-dliness into the material realm. The revelation of this service will not come, however, until the Era of the Redemption. Then "glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh will see...." Since the essence need not remain hidden, the fact that there is no revelation implies that the essence has not been tapped in its entirety (as the fact that the world at large had not been effected indicated that the Patriarch's service had not fully touched the essence).
Conversely, however, just as it is the Patriarch's service which led to the revelation of the giving of the Torah, similarly, it is our service which will lead to the revelations of the Era of the Redemption. Indeed, our service in the era of exile taps the essential power of the soul, and this is the quality that will be revealed in the Era of the Redemption.
There is a connection between the above concepts and the Torah portion which we begin reading in the afternoon service, Parshas Bo. That portion begins, "Come to Pharaoh." The Zohar explains that there is also a counterpart to Pharaoh in the realm of holiness, i.e., "the source for the revelation of all lights." In this context, the phrase "the fifth part to Pharaoh," can be understood as pointing to the essential revelations associated with the number five that will become manifest in the Era of the Redemption.
There is a connection between the above concepts and the present Shabbos, the Shabbos in which the month of Shvat is blessed. The name Shvat relates to the Hebrew word shevet meaning "staff" that is associated with the concept of authority and kingship as it is written, "The shevet will not depart from Yehudah." The most perfect expression of this concept will be in the Era of the Redemption, with the assumption of sovereignty by Mashiach. And thus on the verse, "And a shevet will arise in Israel," the Rambam comments, "This refers to the King Mashiach."
The word shevet also means "branch" or "shoot." In this context, there is also a connection to Mashiach, for on the verse "A shoot will emerge from the stem of Yishai" which begins a renown prophecy concerning Mashiach's coming, the Metzudas David comments "a shevet will emerge... the King Mashiach."
The connection between Shvat and the essential revelations of the Era of the Redemption is also apparent from the fact that it is the eleventh month. All existence is structured in a pattern of ten and eleven alludes to a revelation that transcends this structure.
Shvat is also the month of the Previous Rebbe's yahrzeit. In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe describes a tzaddik's yahrzeit as the day on which "all of his deeds, Torah, and service which he carried out throughout his entire life are revealed... and 'bring about salvation in the depths of the earth.' "
Thus this is an appropriate time to consider the Previous Rebbe's service. In particular, the Previous Rebbe served as Nasi for 30 years, 5680-5710. Each of these three decades represented a different and unique mode of service. The first ten years were spent confronting the challenges to Yiddishkeit in Russia with outright mesirus nefesh. The second ten years were spent in Poland, teaching Chassidus according to the rationale approach of Chabad, a revolutionary step in that country. The third ten years were spent in America, spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus and Yiddishkeit outward and directing his efforts to hastening the coming of the Redemption, declaring "Immediately to teshuvah, immediately to Redemption."
In a larger sense, the Previous Rebbe's life can be seen as paralleling the three stages in the history of the world mentioned previously. The first forty years of his life was spent assisting his father, particularly by serving as the director of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim. This can be compared to the period of the Patriarchs which served as a preparation for the giving of the Torah.
The thirty years of his Nesius can be compared to the period of service which began with the giving of the Torah. The third period refers to the years after his passing, even then he continued to serve as the Nasi of the generation. This period is associated with the Era of the Redemption, for it is in this period that all the preparations for the Redemption have been completed.
It is proper to commemorate the Previous Rebbe's yahrzeit with farbrengens on that day and similarly, on the previous and subsequent Shabbasos. Since all the service necessary to bring the Redemption (and with it the Resurrection of the Dead) has been completed, at any moment, the Previous Rebbe can enter and see what his Chassidim and his students are involved with. The knowledge of the imminence of this event itself should motivate a greater increase in our service and our efforts to compensate for anything that is lacking.
And these efforts will bring about the ultimate Redemption, when the Jews will emerge from the exile and proceed to the Third Beis HaMikdash, "the Sanctuary of G-d established by Your hands."
- (Back to text) The uniqueness of the Patriarchs' spiritual level is also reflected in the Aggadah which Rashi quotes in which G-d compares Moshe to the Patriarchs, chiding Moshe for questioning G-d's attributes although the Patriarchs did not.
- (Back to text) The connection between this oath and the transformation of material reality into holiness is further reflected by the fact that:
a) The oath led to the shidduch between Yitzchak and Rivkah. Their bond reflects the union of Mah and Ban which is indicative of the ultimate union of spirituality and material reality. See Sichos Shabbos Parshas Toldos 5752. b) The oath was taken by Eliezer. Although Eliezer was a slave, "cursed," this oath was able to transform him into the medium which allowed the above mentioned union to be realized. The fact that he served such a purpose represents a process of transformation of darkness into light.
- (Back to text) There is also a connection between the Patriarchs and the Era of the Redemption as reflected in our Sages' expression, "G-d gave three individuals a foretaste of the World to Come." Significantly, our Sages associate this concept with the three verses connected with the expression bakol mikol kol.
- (Back to text) Similarly, such gatherings should be held on Rosh Chodesh Shvat. That day is distinguished as the day on which Moshe "began to explain the Torah thoroughly." Rashi interprets the latter phrase as referring to the translation of the Torah into seventy languages. This also relates to the Previous Rebbe who dedicated much effort to the translation of Torah texts.