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Publisher’s Foreword

19th Day of Kislev, 5744
Yud-Tes Kislev

Prayers for Our Times

Shabbos Parshas Vayeishev
20th Day of Kislev, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Mikeitz
27th Day of Kislev, 5744

“Pride of Yaakov”

Tzivos Hashem
Eve of 7th of Chanukah, 5744

10th Day of Teves, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Va’eira
25th Day of Teves, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Bo
3rd Day of Shevat, 5744

The Printing of Tanya

Shabbos Parshas Beshallach
10th Day of Shevat, 5744

Yechidus
Eve of 13th of Shevat, 5744

Yechidus to Chassanim and Kallos
Eve of the 13th of Shevat, 5744

Yechidus to Bar Mitzvah Boys & Their Parents
Eve of 13th of Shevat, 5744

15th Day of Shevat, 5744
Rosh Hashanah for Trees

Shabbos Parshas Yisro
17th Day of Shevat, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Mishpotim
24th Day of Shevat, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Terumah
2nd Day of Rosh Chodesh Adar I, 5744

Tanya on Radio
Russian Jewry

Shabbos Parshas Ki Sissa
Shushan Purim Koton
15th Day of Adar I, 5744

Llkkuttei Torah
Printing of Tanya
Mashke

Shabbos Parshas Pikudei
Parshas Shekalim
29th Day of Adar I, 5744

Hatzolah
Pegishah
Tanya
Purim

Tzivos Hashem
10th Day of Adar II, 5744

Ta’anis Esther
14th Day of Adar II, 5744

Sichos In English
Excerpts of Sichos delivered by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Vol. 19 — Kislev-Adar II, 5744


Shabbos Parshas Mishpotim
24th Day of Shevat, 5744


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  Shabbos Parshas Yisro
17th Day of Shevat, 5744
Shabbos Parshas Terumah
2nd Day of Rosh Chodesh Adar I, 5744
 

1. Shabbos Mevorchim, which blesses the coming month, is always the last Shabbos of the preceding month. Today, for example, Shabbos Mevorchim Adar Rishon, is the last Shabbos of the month of Shevat, implying that the blessings for Adar stem from the month of Shevat.

This is puzzling. Each month possesses its own unique service, and indeed, the word for “month” in Hebrew, “chodesh,” derives from the term “chidush,” “new,” implying that each month possesses a new service not found in the preceding month. How, then, can the blessing for this new month, which provides the strength to undertake the new service of the month, stem from the preceding month which did not possess such a service?

We find parallels to this phenomenon in other instances, including Torah and mitzvos in general. Observance of mitzvos is considered a Jew’s service, a new thing which has come into being through a Jew’s work. The Torah that a Jew studies, too, is considered as his possession. Yet, the text of the blessing on observance of a mitzvah is “Blessed are You, L-rd ... who has sanctified us with His commandments,” indicating that mitzvos are G-d’s. Similarly, the blessing uttered on Torah study is, “Blessed are You, L-rd ... who has given us His Torah.”

We see, then, that although the Torah and mitzvos a Jew performs are considered new things brought about by the Jew’s service, simultaneously, the strength to perform these new acts comes from Above — from G-d. So too in our case. Although each month possesses a new service unique to it, nevertheless, the blessings and strength for this service derive from the preceding month.

The connection between the month which blesses and the month which receives the blessings is not just that the former precedes the latter (which would mean that it is irrelevant which month precedes the next). In our case, for example, it is not only that Adar is blessed by the preceding month, but also that Adar is blessed by the month of Shevat specifically. That is, there is an intrinsic bond between the two months that stems from more than their juxtaposition.

What forces us to this conclusion? If the arrangement of the months was the work of human hands, the mere fact that one month follows the other is not proof of any connection between them (and therefore no proof that the blessing for the month of Adar had to come from the month of Shevat specifically and not from any other month). For, when a person arranges things in a particular order for a particular reason, there is no real connection between the things other than the particular reason for which they were originally placed in that order. Thus, since the months happen to be arranged in the order they are (for whatever reason), Shevat, as the month which precedes Adar, automatically is the month which blesses Adar. But this would not mean that there is an intrinsic bond between Shevat and Adar that leads us to conclude that it is specifically Shevat which must bless Adar. If the months were to be arranged in another order, Adar would be blessed by a different month.

When G-d arranges things, however, the circumstances are totally different. Even though the months are arranged in a particular order — and therefore, seemingly, Shevat blesses Adar only because one automatically precedes the other nevertheless, since G-d can perform the impossible, the month which blesses Adar does not necessarily have to be Shevat (although, since it precedes Adar, it normally would automatically be the month which blesses Adar — if we were talking of human arrangements). But since Shevat is the month which blesses Adar, we must conclude there is a specific reason for it, besides the fact that it precedes Adar. What is the connection between the two?

Shevat and Adar seem to be opposites. The latter month is associated with miracles (Purim), as also indicated by its name “Adar,” deriving from the word “Adir” in the verse “Adir BaMorom Hashem” — “the L-rd is mighty on high.” Shevat, in contrast, is a regular month, with no miracles associated with it. Even the fifteenth of Shevat, “Rosh Hashanah for trees,” is not cited as a festival in Mishnah or Gemarah; and even the omission of the recital of Tachnun (confessional prayer) on this day must be derived from other places.

Further, even the special distinction of the month of Shevat, that in it “Moshe began to explain this Torah” (Devorim 1:5), is only an explanation of the Torah that had already been said whereas Adar is a totally new concept (“the L-rd is mighty on high”). What, then, is special about Shevat that specifically it blesses Adar?

It is precisely because Shevat is only a regular month without any special events (miracles) that it can bless Adar, — for this very spiritual “darkness” (in comparison to the “light” of Adar) indicates it is of a very lofty level.

“Light,” in spiritual terms, refers to emanations and manifestations of G-d, the “Luminary.” There are many degrees in “light,” ranging from full intensity to the faintest radiation. Although “light” and all the degrees therein resemble the “Luminary,” to the extent that creation ex nihilo is through “light,” nevertheless, “light” is only a revelation. There is, however, a level in G-dliness so lofty that it is infinitely higher than the highest degree in “light.” And because it transcends revelation and “light,” it is called “darkness.”

The same applies to the month of Shevat. Precisely because Shevat contains no special distinction, no special revelations (such as miracles, unlike Adar), it indicates that its level of holiness transcends revelation (“darkness” in holiness). That is why the blessing for Adar comes specifically from Shevat: From its lofty level Adar is blessed, enabling Adar to be on the level of “the L-rd is mighty on high” — revelation and light.

Our generation has seen particular emphasis on the idea that Shevat is the level of “darkness” in holiness, for the yartzeit of the previous Rebbe, leader of the generation, is on the tenth of Shevat. The passing of a tzaddik is a concealment of light of the highest magnitude, spiritual darkness. Our Sages say that “the death of tzaddikim is equal to the burning of the House of our L-rd”; and this is certainly so in the case of the passing of a leader, who is “the heart of the entire community of Israel.”

However, this “darkness” indicates that the passing of a tzaddik is really associated with a level so lofty that it completely transcends light and revelation. As the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya (chs. 27 & 28), the revelation effected on the day of passing and on a yartzeit, “effects salvations in the midst of the earth” — “salvations,” the highest of levels, affects even the lowest levels, “the midst of the earth.” Because “Shevat” contains such a lofty level, it blesses the month of Adar.

This year, a leap year, lends added distinction to all of the above. The function of a leap year is to reconcile the solar year with the lunar year. The solar year is several days longer than the lunar year, and to make up the deficiency, an extra month (a second Adar) is added every so often. A leap year thus emphasizes the idea of fullness.

A leap year can be of various length — 383, 384 or 385 days. This year is the longest possible, 385 days, and therefore it gives added emphasis to the idea of completeness, making this truly a “full year.” Hence, the idea of completeness is stressed in every aspect of the year, meaning that special strength is given for all aspects of service to be performed fully.

This applies to all year round. Special significance, however, applies on this Shabbos, Shabbos Mevorchim Adar Rishon (first Adar). In the preceding months, no special attention is paid to the fact that it is a leap year. But on Shabbos Mevorchim Adar Rishon, we announce publicly in synagogue that “Rosh Chodesh Adar Rishon is on such and such a day,” saying in effect, that there is a second Adar, thereby stressing that it is a leap year.

Further, not only is the fact that it is a leap year not publicized before Shabbos Mevorchim Adar Rishon, but it could still turn out to be a regular year. After Moshiach comes, the calculations for the months will be different in some ways; therefore, when Moshiach will come before the second Adar, this year — which would have been a leap year according to the present calendar could well turn out to be a regular year.

Of course, Moshiach can come between Shabbos Mevorchim Adar Rishon and Rosh Chodesh Adar Rishon. But, since Jews have already announced publicly the words, “Rosh Chodesh Adar Rishon” — an announcement according to Torah that it is a leap year — it will remain a leap year even after Moshiach comes.

This has an effect on man’s service to G-d. The absolute knowledge that this year is a leap year, emphasizing completeness, spurs a Jew to utilize the special powers given to Jews on this year to ensure that their service is whole and complete.

2. There is also a lesson to be derived from the date on which Shabbos Mevorchim falls this year, the 24th of Shevat. We can easily ascertain what happened in Jewish history on this day from the book “D’var Yom BeYomo,” which is a compilation of all events in Jewish history, arranged according to the calendar.

Parenthetically, works such as these — encyclopedias on Jewish history, halachah, the saying of our Sages, etc. — are innovations of our generation. They enable a person to easily and quickly find what he is looking for, enabling him to devote the time that would otherwise be used to research the material at first hand to a deeper understanding of the subject itself.

These works are certainly helpful for those who would not otherwise even know how to search for the material they need. Some people do not even know in which section of Shulchan Aruch to look to find a particular topic. With the aid of encyclopedias arranged according to the aleph-bais, they will be able to find their subject if they but know what it is termed in halachic usage.

Some people are “ashamed” to use such works, for fear others will think they are not well-versed in the original sources. But, as explained before, these types of books enable one to devote to deeper study the time that would otherwise be engaged in research; and there is therefore no shame in using these works.

This is why I have elaborated at length on this subject — to emphasize there is no shame in using these works. I therefore explicitly said that I looked up the book “D’var Yom BeYomo,” to save the time that would otherwise be necessary to research the Tanach for what happened on the 24th of Shevat.

The story is told of the Rogatchover (R. Yosef Rosen — one of the most formidable Torah scholars of the last generation), that once, when asked for the source of a certain subject, replied that it is in the tractate Sanhedrin — although it was a verse in Tanach cited in the Talmud. The reason for this was that although the Rogatchover certainly knew Tanach very well, he was engaged principally in the study of Talmud — and therefore remembered the verse in Tanach from his study of the Talmud.

Of course, use of these encyclopedias does not mean one should not study the subject at its source. Learning something at its primary source helps for proper comprehension of the subject.

Returning to our subject, the events of the twenty fourth of Shevat, we find the following recorded in Zechariah (1:7-17). “On the twenty fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shevat, in the second year of Daryavesh, the word of the L-rd came to Zechariah, the son of Berechyahu, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, I saw in the night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle bushes that were in the glen; and behind him were there red horses, sorrel and white. Then I said, O my L-rd, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said to me, I will show you what these are. And the man that stood among the myrtle bushes answered and said, These are they whom the L-rd has sent to walk to and fro in the earth. And they answered the angel of the L-rd that stood among the myrtle bushes, and said, We have walked to and fro in the earth, and behold, all the earth sits still, and is at rest. Then the angel of the L-rd answered and said, O L-rd of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Yerushalayim and on the cities of Yehudah, against which You have been angry these seventy years? And the L-rd answered the angel that talked with me with good words, words of comfort. So the angel that spoke with me said to me, Proclaim, saying, Thus says the L-rd of hosts; I am zealous for Yerushalayim and for Tzion with a great zeal. And I am extremely displeased with the nations that are at ease: for I was a little angry, but they helped forward the evil. Therefore thus says the L-rd: I have returned to Yerushalayim with mercies: My house shall be rebuilt in it, says the L-rd of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth over Yerushalayim. Proclaim further, saying, Thus says the L-rd of hosts; My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; and the L-rd shall yet comfort Tzion and shall yet choose Yerushalayim.”

Our Sages say (Megillah 14a) that “A prophecy that is necessary for [later] generations was written down.” Thus, the above prophecy of Zechariah applies to our days.

The theme of this prophecy is that G-d is “zealous for Yerushalayim and for Tzion,” the answer given the query, “How long will You not have mercy on Yerushalayim and on the cities of Yehudah, against which ‘Lou have been angry ... ?

Then, in response to the fact that “all the earth sits still and is at rest,” G-d says, “I am extremely displeased with the nations that are at ease.” G-d’s anger burns at the non-Jewish nations for being at rest when Jews are in exile! Moreover, not only do the nations not share in the Jews’ sorrow, but they add to the pain of the exile, as stated: “For I was a little angry [at My people], but they helped forward the evil.”

There are, in other words, two claims and reasons for anger against the nations of the world:

    1) That they sit at ease while Jews suffer in exile;

    2) They contribute to the pain of the exile.

The second claim against non-Jews, that they contribute to the sorrow of exile, is clearly legitimate. Although the extra pain inflicted by the nations of the world is, at root, caused by the non-adherence of Jews to Torah and mitzvos (for if not, the nations would have no power to increase the pain of exile), nevertheless, they deserve castigation for doing so (not out of desire to be G-d’s messenger, but) because of their evil nature and desire.

The first claim against non-Jews, that they sit at ease while Jews suffer in exile, is not so easily understood. Why should the nations be forced not be at ease — to the extent that G-d is if extremely displeased” that they are at ease? Is there, then, in the Seven Noachide Laws an obligation to feel sorrow at a Jew’s sorrow? And if there is not, then, as the Rambam rules, “They are not permitted to originate a religion and to make for themselves mitzvos of their own devising.”

Further, non-Jews cannot change G-d’s decree of exile for the Jews. What difference does it make if they do or do not sorrow over the exile?

The answer, for one thing, is that the obligation to feel sorrow over the exile of Jews is included in the Seven Noachide Laws. One of the laws is the injunction against eating a limb from a live animal; and the rationale behind it is that one should not cause pain to animals. If non-Jews are commanded to be careful about the pain of animals, they most certainly should feel the anguish of fellow humans!

There is also a simple answer to the question of what difference does it make if the nations of the world share in the Jews’ sorrow or not. If non-Jews would feel and participate in the pain and anguish, not only would they not add to the troubles of the exile, but they would do everything in their power to lighten the burden Jews must carry. They would help Jews in all matters.

Such conduct would not go against G-d’s decree of exile, for just the fact that Jews are forced to live in foreign lands completely fulfills the idea of exile even without any troubles!

Proof for this is that although G-d told Avraham that the Jews would be “strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they would enslave them and oppress them for four hundred years,” Jews were in Egypt, in slavery, for only 210 years and the remaining years of the decree were fulfilled by Jews just being in a “land that is not theirs,” although that land was not Egypt.

Further, of the 210 years that Jews were in Egypt, the Jews lived in peace and plenty for some of those years. Yosef, for example, said in the name of Pharaoh (Bereishis 45: 18), “1 shall give to you of the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat of the fat of the land.”

Moreover, not only did Ya’akov and his family not lack anything, but Yosef was at that time the ruler of all Egypt — although the Egyptians knew that, as a dutiful son, Yosef would follow whatever his father instructed him. We thus see that although Jews lived in peace and plenty in Egypt, and Yosef was the ruler of the land, and actual slavery started only after Yosef and his generation had died, these years were nevertheless considered as part of the exile in Egypt.

This is G-d’s claim against the nations of the world, the reason He is “exceedingly displeased” with them. That Jews are in foreign lands is sufficient to fulfill the decree of exile. The gentile nations should have felt and participated in the sorrow of the Jews, and lightened their burden by helping Jews in all their needs.

The whole world, our Sages say, was created for the sake of Israel. It therefore follows that the state of affairs in the world parallels the state of affairs within Jewry. That “the earth sits still and is at ease,” and “the nations are at ease,” indicates that the same situation exists among Jews. Some Jews, claiming that they possess all their material and spiritual needs, are not upset that they are in exile. They sit at ease and in peace, unworried by their exiled state.

These Jews pray three times a day (on weekdays), “Speedily cause the scion of David Your servant to flourish ... for we hope for Your salvation all day.” But they forget about this immediately after prayer, and in their everyday life, “sit still” and are “at ease.” How can a Jew be self-complacent knowing that “the sons are exiled from their Father’s table”?

“We hope for Your salvation all day” means that a Jew thinks and hopes for Moshiach’s coming every moment of the day. And at the time he is hoping for the redemption, he certainly will not be sitting at ease.

3. Some people ask, why is it necessary to make such a fuss about ending exile and wanting Moshiach Now. But this is not a new innovation. There are many, many verses in Tanach with the common theme that Jews cannot continue to suffer the tribulations of exile. The verse in the above quoted passage from Zechariah is an example: “How long will You not have mercy on Yerushalayim and on the cities of Yehudah, against which You were angry? The cry of “How long!” means that Jews cannot continue suffering in exile. Similarly, there are many verses in Tehillim, Eichah, etc., with the same theme.

Further, every Jew has heard of “Tikkun Chatzos” (lit. Midnight Rectification), the idea of which is to mourn for and feel pain over the exile. Indeed, in some texts of “Tikkun Chatzos,” there is a passage comprising six sections, each section beginning with the words “How long.”

There is therefore no justification for querying why such a tumult is made about wanting the exile to end. It is specifically for this reason that “Tikkun Chatzos” came into being. The pain of the exile is so great that a Jew cannot bear it, and rises at midnight to wail over the length of the exile.

What can we learn from all of the above, and from Zechariah’s prophecy said on the twenty fourth of Shevat? Non-Jews, and certainly Jews, may not sit at ease while Jews are in exile. Jews must at all times cry out that they cannot suffer the exile any longer. “Enough exile!”

May it be G-d’s will that the above words work their effect, and every Jew feel the crucial necessity of Moshiach’s immediate coming. Our cries for the end of exile will force G-d, so to speak, to bring the redemption.

4. Ch. 23, verse 26 of parshas Mishpotim states: “There shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman] in your land; I will make full the number of your days.” Rashi, quoting the words, “There shall be no miscarrying [woman],” comments: “If you will do my will.”

Although Scripture promises “there shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman] in your land” without attaching any conditions, Rashi explains that this applies only “if you will do My will.” Commentators explain that Rashi views the verse as if it was written, “And there shall be no miscarrying or barren woman.” The “and” serves to connect this verse with the preceding one, which states: “You shall serve the L-rd your G-d, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from amongst you.” Then, as a continuation, Scripture says, “And there shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman].”

Rashi finds it necessary to interpret this verse as a continuation of the preceding one, because it is impossible to say that this promise applies without conditions — for, as we see, there are women who miscarry. We must conclude, therefore, that the promise holds true only “if you will do My will.”

There are several perplexing points in this Rashi:

1. Rashi wrote his interpretation principally for the citizens of his country, France, and for the five year old who is beginning to learn Scripture in particular. Had Rashi not interpreted this promise to apply only if Jews fulfill G-d’s will, the five year old would not find anything difficult in this verse. The verse says explicitly that the promise applies “in your land,” and a five year old would not know if there are any miscarriages in Eretz Yisroel or not, for he lives in France. On the other hand, now that Rashi explains that there is a condition attached, implying that this verse is a continuation of the preceding one which says “You shall serve the L-rd your G-d,” the five year old is left with a question: Why is there no “and” at the beginning of this verse, as there is in the preceding verse (“You shall serve the L-rd your G-d, and He will bless your bread ... and I will remove sickness from amongst you”)?

2. If Rashi learns that this verse is a continuation of the preceding words, “You shall serve the L-rd your G-d,” why does Rashi write “If you will do My will,” and not utilize the same terminology as the verse, “If you will serve Me?”

3. A simple question: All the previous blessings — “He will bless your bread, and your water; and I will remove sickness from amongst you” apply wherever Jews dwell (if they serve G-d). Likewise, all blessings for the observance of Torah and mitzvos apply wherever Jews are to be found. Why does the blessing “There shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman]” apply only “in your land?”

Further, the latter part of this verse itself states, “I will make full the number of your days” — and no mention is made that this blessing applies only “in your land.”

The explanation

In the plain interpretation of Scripture, we cannot say that the verse “There shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman]” applies only when “You shall serve the L-rd your G-d,” for it does not say “And there shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman]” to connect it to the preceding verse.

We must therefore conclude that our verse follows and is a continuation of the whole passage, starting with the words (23:20): “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way, and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Take heed of him, and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him ... But if you shall listen to his voice, and you will do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies

Our verse, the promise of no barren or miscarrying women, then naturally follows. Rashi therefore comments on our verse that the promise will hold true “if you will do My will,” consonant to the theme of the whole passage which is the injunction to listen to the angel, do not rebel against him and G-d will then give him blessings.

A further, more important reason we cannot say our verse refers to the verse, “You shall serve the L-rd your G-d,” is that this verse refers not to the observance of Torah and mitzvos in general, but specifically to the negation of idolatry. The preceding verse (23:24) states, “You shall not bow down to their gods, and you shall not serve them”; as a natural continuation, the next verse says “You shall serve the L-rd your G-d.”

We therefore cannot say that the promise, “There shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman]” is associated with the negation of idolatry in the previous verse (“You shall serve the L-rd your G-d”), for logic dictates that this promise is associated with the observance of all Torah and mitzvos, not just the negation of idolatry. Thus our verse is the continuation of the whole passage which speaks of fulfilling all of Torah and mitzvos — “Take heed of him, ... and you will do all that I say.” When Jews do so — when “you will do My will” — G-d promises there will be no barren of miscarrying woman.

It follows from this that the verses, “You shall not bow down to their gods ...” and “You shall serve the L-rd your G-d,” are parenthetical insertions in the main thrust of the passage, which begins with “Behold, I send an angel before you ... You shall listen to his voice,” and continues with “There shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman].”

The only question left unresolved is why the promise “There shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman]” applies only “in your land.”

A student has already learned in previous sections of the Torah about blessings that are promised as reward for observance of Torah and mitzvos. This verse adds a new dimension to the idea of blessings bestowed for adherence to G-d’s will. “There shall be no miscarrying or barren [woman] in your land” means that when a Jew fulfills G-d’s will, the reward that accrues is bestowed not just on that individual Jew, but on all of Eretz Yisroel!

Of course, if a Jew living outside Eretz Yisroel observes Torah and mitzvos properly, the blessing will be bestowed upon him as reward. However, the other citizens of his country will not receive the blessings as a result of his adherence to G-d’s will. What our verse teaches is that if an individual Jew fulfills G-d’s dictates in Eretz Yisroel , the whole land is then blessed as a result of him.

The reason for this difference between Eretz Yisroel and other lands is simply because Eretz Yisroel is special, with unique properties not possessed by other lands. Indeed, its special nature is stressed in the verses of this very passage: “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared.” It is therefore no wonder that adherence to G-d’s will effect blessings for all of Eretz Yisroel.

This is also why it does not state “in your land” concerning the latter part of our verse, “I will make full the number of your days.” This blessing is as all other blessings, applying only to the Jew who does G-d’s will and not to the whole land — and of course, applies wherever Jews live.

5. At last week’s farbrengen (on Shabbos parshas Yisro), we elaborated on the verse, “All the people saw the sounds and the flames,” and on Rashi’s comment on this verse. Rashi says, “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, ‘All the people answered.’ And from where [do we know] that there was no deaf person among them? Scripture states, ‘We will do and we will hear.”’

We noted that although Rashi’s source is the Mechilta, he does not quote the rest of the Mechilta, that “From where [do we know] that there were no lame people among them? For it says, ‘They stood at the base of the mountain.’ And from where [do we know] that there were no fools among them? For it says, ‘You have been shown to know.”’

We explained that Rashi does not include these two phenomena for they are not mandated by the plain interpretation of the verse. We said that “They stood at the base of the mountain” is no proof that there was no lame person, for a lame person, while he cannot walk properly, can stand. The verse, “You have been shown to know that the L-rd is G-d” is no proof that there were no fools, for the Jews knew “the L-rd is G-d” by seeing the heavens open — which has no bearing on a person’s mental faculties.

Some people have said that Rashi’s omission of these two phenomena can be answered in another, more simple way. The verses cited by the Mechilta do not state, “All the people” (as do the other three verses regarding blind, dumb and deaf people), and therefore we cannot derive from these verses that there were no lame people or fools.

However, this answer does not suffice. It is quite obvious that at Mt. Sinai, when the Ten Commandments were said, all Jews were present; and it is therefore unnecessary to emphasize that “all the people” were there. Before Moshe Rabbeinu led the people from their camp to hear the Ten Commandments, however, if Scripture would not say “all the people,” it is possible that not all Jews were present at the events that happened prior to the actual giving of the Torah.

The verse “You have been shown to know” refers to the time of the saying of the Ten Commandments, and therefore, there is no need to say “all the people.” Similarly, the verse “They stood at the base of the mountain” refers to when the Jews stood at Mt. Sinai to hear the Ten Commandments, and thus obviously all the people were there.

The other verses, “All the people answered” and “We will do and we will hear,” refer to events that happened before the sixth of Sivan (when the Ten Commandments were said). Not all Jews were necessarily present at these events, and therefore Scripture must add “all the people.”

The same logic applies to our verse, “All the people saw the sounds and the flames.” This verse is a continuation of a former verse (19:16), “And it was on the third day, when it was morning, that there were voices and flames, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and the voice of the shofar was exceedingly loud, and all the people who were in the camp trembled.” The order of events on the third day (the third day of preparation — the day the Ten Commandments were said) was that first there were voices and flames, then Moshe brought the Jews to the mountain, then G-d spoke the Ten Commandments. Thus, the verse “All the people saw the sounds and the flames,” refers to the time before the Ten Commandments, when “all the people were in the camp.” It is possible that some people who were at the far reaches of the “camp” did not see lithe voices and the flames,” and therefore it is necessary also in this case to emphasize that “All the people saw.”

There is another difficulty in our interpretation. We have said that a lame person can stand. But in Hebrew, the word “stood” in the verse “they stood at the base of the mountain,” is “Vayisyatzvu,” (instead of the more usual “Vayamdu”) which connotes a firm, erect stance. Lame people cannot stand erect and firm, and therefore, since the verse says “They stood upright (“Vayisyatzvu”) at the base of the mountain,” it seems to prove that indeed there were no lame people.

However, Rashi, on the words “at the base of the mountain,” gives the interpretation that “The mountain was uprooted from its place, and it was suspended over them like a cask.” From this we infer that the Jews did not stand of their own accord, but rather, they were forced to stand because of the mountain suspended over them. Thus, the word “VaYisyatzvu” in this verse has a different meaning than usual (standing upright) — for when forced to stand, one does not do so “upright.” And hence this applies to the lame also.

The fact that the verse does not use the expression “Vayamdu, but rather “VaYisyatzvu” (which connotes firmness), means that G-d implanted in them strength and firmness (in contrast to strength arrogantly attributed to a person’s own prowess).

6. We have spoken on previous occasions of the idea of “Kings shall be your foster-fathers,” meaning that non-Jews give help to Jews in all their matters. The Talmud (Zevachim 19a) cites an actual instance of this, when a mighty monarch himself once hitched up a Jew’s belt to place it in the proper position befitting for a member of the “kingdom of priests.”

Something similar happened a few days ago. The President of the U.S.A. delivered a public speech, at the conclusion of which he announced that he would give tax rebates to those who wish to give their children a religious education. This support of religious education is the idea of “Kings shall be your foster-fathers.”

The President said this knowing that there are opponents who claim such help is against the Constitution. Yet, disregarding this, and disregarding the opinions of the courts, he publicly announced he would support those who wish to give the children a religious education.

Further, he also said that some people complain that he talks about the Creator of the World. Therefore, he said, he wishes to say that everyone should know that they must associate themselves with the Creator of the world! This is a preparation to the future, when all peoples will serve G-d “with a common consent.”

Unfortunately, although Jews should have utilized the President’s speech for good purposes, no one paid any attention and no one bothered to derive any lessons in service to G-d from it. Yet a non-Jew saw fit to count the number of times the President was applauded in his address — 42 times!

What do we learn from this? Such things as “Kings shall be your foster-fathers” do occur in our times, in exile; we have but to open our eyes and see them.


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17th Day of Shevat, 5744
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2nd Day of Rosh Chodesh Adar I, 5744
 
  
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