1. On Shabbos, “the heaven and the earth and all their hosts were completed.” “Completed” in Hebrew is “Vayechulu,” “Vayechulu,” which has two interpretations.
1) Elevation, meaning that the creation during the six previous days was elevated on Shabbos;
2) Delight, meaning that the creation during the six previous days was elevated to the level of “delight,” the most lofty of all levels. On this Shabbos, therefore, all matters of the preceding week, including Thursday, the fifteenth of Shevat, are elevated, and to the level of “delight.”
Shabbos is the completion of the previous week (and therefore elevates it) because the days of the week serve as the preparation to Shabbos, as our Sages have said, “He who toils on erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos.” And because the eating on Shabbos is associated with delight as the Shulchan Aruch (Admur HaZoken, Orach Chayim 242:1) rules, that “It is a mitzvah to take delight in eating and drinking” — the preparations during the previous week to obtain the food for Shabbos are elevated to the level of delight.
Although eating on Shabbos is possible only through previously working and toiling, it is nevertheless in the manner of delight, for on Shabbos, “all your work is done.” Moreover, there are two aspects to the delight on Shabbos:
1) That which is associated with the serenity and rest that follows the previous toil — i.e., the above idea of “all your work is done”;
2) a higher level, delight of itself, unassociated with rest from work. Unlike the delight following work, which is present as soon as Shabbos is ushered in, this second, higher level is reached only at the festive Shabbos repast.
Indeed, this delight which is unassociated with rest from work, is present not only at the repast on the day of Shabbos, but also at the repast on Friday night (although this repast is much closer in time to the cessation of work) for there is still a considerable time lapse between the cessation of work and the Friday night repast. And, as noted before, this is achieved by the preparation during the preceding week.
In addition to Shabbos elevating the preceding week, i.e. through Shabbos “receiving” its food from the previous week’s work, it elevates it Shabbos also blesses the days of the coming week. It therefore follows that the elevation bestowed by Shabbos on the days of the previous week affects also Shabbos. For since Shabbos blesses the following six days of the week, then, when these six days are elevated on the following Shabbos, the blessing which they have from the preceding Shabbos, i.e., the element of Shabbos within them, is also elevated. Further, the blessing bestowed by Shabbos on the following week is not just for the six week days, but also for the following Shabbos. The elevation of the preceding week effected by Shabbos is thus not just in regard to the blessing bestowed by Shabbos, but also in regard to Shabbos itself. Since its blessing extends to the following Shabbos, the previous Shabbos acts somewhat as a preparation to it, and therefore, similar to the six weekdays which prepare for Shabbos, it is elevated on the following Shabbos.
In slightly different words: That one Shabbos can bless the following Shabbos indicates that there is a level within Shabbos even higher than the idea of Shabbos itself (since to give a blessing, the one who blesses must be on a higher level than the one who is blessed). Shabbos itself can thus be elevated on the following Shabbos to a higher level, the level within Shabbos that is higher than Shabbos itself.
In our case, then, this Shabbos elevates the previous Shabbos, which was Yud Shevat, the yartzeit of the previous Rebbe.
Not all is clear, however, in regard to the idea that Shabbos blesses not only the six weekdays of the following week, but also the following Shabbos. We explained at a previous farbrengen (Shabbos parshas Bo) that it is only logical to adopt this position, for it would be extremely strange if Shabbos blesses the six weekdays and not Shabbos itself. But at last week’s farbrengen we quoted a passage from Zohar and from my father’s writings that seemed to contradict this. It states that Shabbos is similar to the sefirah of binah, “from which flows emanation to the six sefiros of ‘zah’ ... for from it (Shabbos), the six days are blessed.”
This apparent contradiction to the simple logic that Shabbos should be no worse than the six days of the week, and that it is also blessed by the previous Shabbos, is resolved by understanding the nature of a blessing. A Jew blesses his fellow according to
1) his fellow’s needs, and
2) according to his fellow’s capacity.
A simple example of this is the custom that some Jews have to bless their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on erev Shabbos or erev Yom Kippur. The blessings given to each one is different than to another, each one according to his respective station in life. One does not bless one’s married children that they should find a suitable marriage partner; to a son who is at marriageable age, one does not give the blessing that he should be successful in learning the “aleph-bais”; and to a young child, one does not bestow a blessing for success in studying the esoteric part of Torah.
So too in the blessing bestowed by Shabbos. The blessing given to the six weekdays is commensurate to their concept: they are work days, and the appropriate blessing is for success in “all your work which you will do.” It is therefore impossible to include the blessing for Shabbos together with the blessing for the six week-days, for on Shabbos, “all your work is done.” The blessings are in two entirely different categories: For the six week-days, the blessing is for success in work; for Shabbos, the blessing is for the concepts of Shabbos, the opposite of work.
When, therefore, the Zohar talks of the blessings from Shabbos (binah) to the six days of creation (six sefirahs of “zah”), it emphasizes that the blessing applies only to the six weekdays, for this blessing cannot possibly be applied to Shabbos. When talking in general of the idea that Shabbos blesses the following week, however, then Shabbos is certainly also blessed from the previous Shabbos. Indeed, it receives a infinitely more lofty blessing, commensurate to the distinction Shabbos enjoys over weekday.
We can now understand the greatness of this Shabbos, which follows Yud Shevat, the previous Rebbe’s yartzeit. A yartzeit is an extremely holy matter; and because all holy matters are infinite, everything pertaining to the yartzeit is elevated to yet a higher level on this Shabbos.
2. “Deed is paramount,” say our Sages. All the lofty matters of the yartzeit, including their elevation on Shabbos, must be expressed in actual deed. Study of Torah is not enough; it must be translated into action.
This is alluded to in today’s parshah, Yisro, the main theme of which is the giving of the Torah (Mattan Torah). Chassidus explains that the awesome display of sound flame, etc. at Mattan Torah was only in regard to the commandments such as “You shall not steal” and You shall not murder” the most basic, simple things. This parallels the above observation that the most lofty concepts of the yartzeit must be expressed in the simplest things — actual deed.
In practical terms: This Shabbos is an appropriate time to accept upon oneself good resolutions in regards to the previous Rebbe’s wishes to disseminate Torah, Judaism and Chassidus. And, consonant to the lesson derived from Shabbos, this service should be done with delight.
Special strength to fulfill this mission is granted on this Shabbos, which follows the previous Rebbe’s yartzeit. In his words: “Stand prepared all of you,” to receive the blessings from G-d.
This applies particularly to those who merited to learn in the Yeshivah of our Rebbeim, wherein they received the directive and strength to be “lamps to illuminate.” They must conduct themselves in the above noted fashion; they have no choice. A wise person will therefore do it immediately, and not be a fool and wait until he is forced.
But a person can claim that the Talmud (Niddah 16b) says that before a person is born, an angel announces if he will be a “wise person or a fool.” How, then, can one fault him for being a fool?
When, however, a Jew connects himself with Torah, he becomes master over the world, and can change his personality and become wise although the angel said he would be a fool.
The ability to challenge — and defeat — an angel is recorded explicitly in Torah. Torah relates that Ya’akov’s name was changed to Yisroel because, “You have struggled with an angel and with men and you have prevailed.”
Every Jew is called “Yisroel,” as our Sages say, “Although he has sinned, he is a Yisroel (Jew).” Every Jew always has an association with Torah, for the letters of the word “Yisroel” are the first letters of the words, “There are six hundred thousand letters to the Torah.” Thus every Jew can best an “angel,” and become a wise man instead of remaining a fool.
May it be G-d’s will that every Jew be a wise man, G-d-fearing and learned. May this happen immediately, for Jews cannot be kept in exile, but must run to welcome our righteous Moshiach in the true and complete redemption.
3. We explained above the elevation effected by this Shabbos on the tenth of Shevat, the yartzeit of the previous Rebbe. There is another aspect to the month of Shevat which is associated with the previous Rebbe and his work of spreading Judaism and Chassidus.
Rosh Chodesh Shevat is mentioned explicitly in Scripture (Devorim 1:3-5): “On the first day of the eleventh month in the fortieth year ... Moshe began to expound this Torah.” From Rosh Chodesh, Moshe began to explain the Torah every day until his passing on the seventh of Adar.
Rashi, on the verse, “Moshe began to expound this Torah,” comments that “He explained it to them in seventy languages.” The previous Rebbe, too, invested great efforts in ensuring that Torah concepts be translated into many languages so that Torah, Judaism, and Chassidus could be spread to all Jews, even those who do not know the holy tongue.
The translation of Torah into other languages serves as a preparation to the future redemption for then, “I will convert the peoples to a pure language ... to serve Him with a common consent.”
4. [At the farbrengen of Shabbos parshas Beshallach, the Rebbe Shlita asked some questions on Rashi’s interpretation of a verse in the parshah. He answered the questions at today’s farbrengen (Shabbos parshas Yisro). We here present the questions and answers together.]
An important part of parshas Beshallach is the Song sung by Moshe and the children of Israel at the miracle of the splitting of the Sea. One of the verses in this Song states (Shemos 15:17): “You will bring them and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance, the place which You, O L-rd, have made for Your abode; the Sanctuary, O L-rd, which Your hands have established.” Rashi, quoting the word “Sanctuary,” comments: “The accent over it (the word ‘Sanctuary’) is a ‘zokef gadol,’ to separate it from G-d’s Name (‘O L-rd’) which follows it. [The verse therefore reads] ‘The Sanctuary which Your hands have established, O L-rd’ The Bais Hamikdosh is cherished for the world was created by one hand, as it is said (Yeshayah 48:13), ‘Yea, My hand has laid the foundation of the earth;’ but the Sanctuary [will be created] by two hands. And when will it be built by two hands? At the time when ‘The L-rd will reign forever and ever’ in the future, when all kingship will be His.”
Rashi interprets this verse differently than all other commentators on Scripture. These others interpret the word “Sanctuary” as a continuation of the preceding phrase, “the place which You, O L-rd, have made for Your abode.” The verse is therefore saying that “the place which You, O L-rd, have made for Your abode” is “the Sanctuary, O L-rd, which Your hands have established.” Both refer to the Bais Hamikdosh which will be built when the Jews enter Eretz Yisroel after the exodus from Egypt. The following verse, “The L-rd will reign forever and ever,” is an independent concept unrelated to this verse which refers to the Bais Hamikdosh.
Rashi, however, says that the “Sanctuary” is not identical to the “place which You, O L-rd, have made for Your abode,” but rather refers to another Sanctuary; and it is specifically this other Sanctuary which will be built with two hands. When will this happen? “At the time when ‘The L-rd will reign forever and ever.”’ In other words, Rashi differs from all other commentators in two main aspects:
1) That the “Sanctuary” does not refer to the Bais Hamikdosh alluded to in the preceding phrase, “the place which ... You have made for Your abode,” but to the Sanctuary in the future era;
2) The words, “The L-rd will reign forever and ever,” do not refer to an independent concept, but are describing the time when the “Sanctuary” will be built.
The position taken by the other commentators is more logical than that of Rashi. The Song in which this verse is found is associated with the Jews entering Eretz Yisroel, as we see from other verses: “The nations heard and trembled; pangs of fear gripped the inhabitants of Philistia” (verse 14); “Then the chieftains of Edom were terrified; the mighty men of Moav were panic-stricken” (verse 15); “May terror and dread fall upon them, by the great [strength] of Your arm let them be still as a stone until Your people pass over, O L-rd” (verse 16). Then, as a continuation, comes our verse, “You will bring them and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance, the place which You, O L-rd, have made for Your abode.” In other words, after the Jews enter Eretz Yisroel, the Bais Hamikdosh will be built.
Because all these verses talk of events which will happen soon after the entering of Jews into Eretz Yisroel, it is logical to conclude that the last part of our verse, “The Sanctuary, O L-rd, which Your hands have established” — refers to lithe place ... for Your abode,” and not another Sanctuary which will be built in the future era.
Further, we learn in parshas Shemos (3:14) that G-d said to Moshe, “I will be what I will be.” Rashi comments that this means, “I will be with them (Jews) in this trouble (their slavery in Egypt), what I will be with them in their slavery to other kingdoms.” Moshe then said to G-d, “Master of the Universe, why should I mention to them another trouble? This trouble is sufficient for them!” G-d said to Moshe, “You have spoken well
If we say that “the Sanctuary, O L-rd, which Your hands have established” refers to another Sanctuary in the future era; and that it is this Sanctuary which will be built with “two hands” whereas the “place ... for Your abode” is inferior somewhat for it is not built with two hands — the question will arise, why was it necessary to tell the Jews that the Bais Hamikdosh which would presently be built (“Your abode”) will be incomplete until the Sanctuary of the future which will be built with two hands? (Similar to Moshe’s question, “Why should I mention to them another trouble?”)
Logically, then, the “Sanctuary” refers to lithe place which You, O L-rd, have made for Your abode,” and not to the Sanctuary in the future era. Why then does Rashi not interpret it this way?
We must conclude that Rashi consistently follows a line of thought in interpreting the Song of the Sea which forces him to interpret this particular verse the way he does.
Most commentators are of the opinion that in a “Song,” Scripture will repeat words or phrases solely for literary reasons, for purposes of rhythm, etc. Rashi, however, is of the opinion that Torah will not repeat something — even in a “Song” — unless something new will be added. On the words, “Ki go’oh go’oh” — “For He is most exalted” (in the first verse of the Song of the sea (15:1)), Rashi comments on the double “go’oh” and says, “Throughout the Song you will find doubled [expressions] ...” Yet, every time a double expression is used, Rashi explains the reason for it. We thus see that Rashi believes repetition in a Song is not just for literary purposes, but because it contains a new concept.
This is the reason for the difference between Rashi and all other commentators in the interpretation of our verse. Other commentators, who are of the opinion that doubling of expressions in the Song is for literary purpose, can maintain that the phrase, “the Sanctuary, O L-rd, which Your hands have established,” refers to the Bais Hamikdosh mentioned in the previous phrase “the place which You, O L-rd, have made for Your abode.” The repeated description is for literary purpose.
Rashi, who believes that double expressions are used only if the repetition introduces something new, must interpret the phrase, “the Sanctuary, O L-rd, which Your hands have established,” as referring to another Sanctuary, in addition to it the place ... for Your abode.” Therefore he says it refers to the Sanctuary which will be built in the future era, when “The L-rd will reign forever and ever.”
The only question left unresolved is why the Song mentions this future Sanctuary, when this only emphasizes that the Bais Hamikdosh that will be built when Jews enter Eretz Yisroel (“Your abode”) is not complete (not having been built with two hands)?
Our Sages, however, explain that had Jews merited it, the true and complete redemption would have occurred immediately upon their entry into the land. Thus, the Sanctuary which will be built with two hands would follow close after the entrance of the Jews into Eretz Yisroel, together with the fulfillment of the promise, “The L-rd will reign forever and ever.” And therefore it is included in the Song.
5. As customary, we will now learn a verse from this week’s parshah together with Rashi’s commentary on it. Parshas Yisro tells of the giving of the Torah to the Jews at Mt. Sinai, and describes the accompanying wonders. Chapter 20, verse 15, states: “All the people saw the sounds and the flames, the voice of the shofar and the mountain smoking.” Rashi, quoting the words, “All the people saw,” comments: “This teaches that there was not a single blind man among them. And from where [do we know] that there was no dumb person among them? Scripture states (Shemos 19:8), ‘All the people answered.’ And from where [do we know] that there was no deaf person among them? Scripture states (24:7), ‘We will do and we will hear.”’
The source for Rashi’s comment is the Mechilta. The Mechilta, however, writes about two phenomena that Rashi does not include: “From where [do we know] that there were no lame people among them? For it says (19:17), ‘They stood at the base of the mountain.’ And from where [do we know] that there were no fools among them? For it says (Devorim 4:35), ‘You have been shown to know.”’
Why does Rashi write only three of the phenomena recorded in the Mechilta, that there were no blind, dumb or deaf people amongst the Jews at Mattan Torah, and not the other two that there were no lame people or fools? We cannot answer that Rashi does not write about fools because the verse he brings as proof only appears afterwards (in Devorim), for Rashi does write about the deaf, the proof for which comes from a verse in parshas Mishpatim, the parshah after ours.
A further problem is that Rashi usually makes a comment at the first instance where a difficulty arises. The verse, “All the people answered,” appears in our parshah (19:8) before the verse, “All the people saw the sounds” (20:15) on which Rashi makes his comment. It would seem, therefore, that Rashi should make his comment (that no Jew was dumb) on the verse “All the people answered.”
The fact that the verse states “All the people answered,” does not force us to infer that “there was no dumb person amongst them” — for it is also possible that the “all” is necessary for another purpose. The previous verse (19:7) states, “Moshe came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the L-rd had commanded him.” If the verse would not say “All the people answered,” we might think that the answer given to Moshe came only from the “elders of the people,” and not from “all the people.” Thus there is no absolute proof that “All the people” teaches that “there was no dumb person amongst them.”
The verse “All the people saw the voices,” however, is absolute proof that at Mattan Torah, “no blind person was amongst them” — for here, the “all” is not needed for anything else. Once we know from this that miracles happened at Mattan Torah, we can learn from the verse “All the people answered” that another miracle happened that “theret1there was no dumb person amongst them.” And it is therefore unnecessary to offer the rather strained interpretation that the word “all” is necessary to ensure that we don’t think only the elders gave the answer. For this would be apparent even if it would state only “The people answered,” since it does not say, “The elders of the people answered.”
Since we know that Mattan Torah produced such miracles, Rashi further adds that the verse, “We shall do and we shall hear,” teaches that “there was no deaf person amongst them.”
Rashi does not write the other two examples of miracles cited by the Mechilta — that there were no lame people or fools — for these are not mandated by the plain interpretation of the verse.
The proof brought by the Mechilta that there were no lame people is the verse, “They stood at the base of the mountain.” However, although a lame person is not able to walk properly, he can stand! And therefore Rashi, whose interpretation is based on the plain interpretation of Scripture, does not bring this interpretation.
Similarly, the verse, “You have been shown to know,” is not proof that there were no fools amongst them. The complete verse is, “You have shown to know that the L-rd is G-d, there is none other.” In other words, the knowledge referred to here is in regard to a specific matter — that “the L-rd is G-d, there is none other.” And Rashi comments on this verse that G-d achieved this through the fact that “He opened the seven heavens for them ... and they saw that He is One.” Even a “fool” can know that G-d is One after seeing it even though afterward he remains a fool! And therefore Rashi does not bring these examples.
6. [The following sichah was delivered in connection to a program arranged by the N’shei U’Bnos Chabad (women’s branch of Chabad-Lubavitch) for this Shabbos.]
On this Shabbos we read parshas Yisro, in which we learn of the giving of the Torah. At this event, women preceded the men, as stated (Shemos 19:3): “So shall you say to the house of Ya’akov and tell the sons of Israel” — and our Sages say that “the house of Ya’akov” means the women, and lithe sons of Israel” means the men.
The importance of a Jewish women is that, as the “mainstay of the house,” the household’s conduct depends on her; and she can influence her husband to do good. Thus, that women preceded men at Mattan Torah is also relevant to men, for women influence men in all things associated with Mattan Torah.
This Shabbos therefore provides special inspiration for the service of Jewish women, and particularly in those areas uniquely associated with them: Shabbos lights, kashrus, and family purity.
Women should give foremost priority to their principal function, which is to raise sons and daughters — “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” They should not allow any other considerations to interfere, but they should rely totally on G-d, that He will bestow His blessings at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner.
They certainly should not consider the extra financial burden more children bring, for G-d, who feeds the whole world, can certainly feed and provide sustenance for another child. Every Jew, in the Blessing after a Meal, says: “Blessed are You, L-rd ... who, in His goodness, provides sustenance for the entire world with grace, with kindness and with mercy.”
Moreover, the birth of another Jewish child, which brings in its train G-d’s blessings for the child’s sustenance, effects extra blessings for the entire world. For once G-d’s kindness is aroused and revealed in regard to one new-born child, He then showers kindness on everyone, transcending all limits.
The above concerning Jewish women applies also to Jewish girls. Each girl is preparing for the time when she will be the “mainstay of the house,” and a mother. This preparation is achieved through the proper education commensurate to this goal.
This preparation is considered the start of the entire matter, even more so than the resolutions and good thoughts about it. Our Sages say that even if a person cannot actually translate his good thought into deed, “G-d attaches the thought to deed.” The Rebbeim explained this to mean that G-d sends a person the opportunity to perform the deed that he was unable to perform when he had the good thought to do so. This certainly applies when a person has already actually started on his deed — in our case, the appropriate education to prepare to be the “mainstay of the house.”
We said previously that through having more children, extra blessings are bestowed upon the world. This is particularly important for our times, when the world is in a very precarious state. We certainly need to elicit extra blessings from G-d.
The world situation cannot harm Jews, it is true, for “the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” Nevertheless, it does affect Jewry in some measure, and therefore Jews must do everything in their power to improve the world situation. This is achieved by Jews increasing in their observance of everything that is good and holy, particularly the fulfillment of the mitzvah, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” It also includes efforts to convince the nations of the world to observe the Seven Noachide Laws, through which the affairs of the world will be conducted with justice and righteousness.