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Living with the times: The month of Adar
A gut voch. We are now in the midst of 60 days of the month of Adar, which are 60 days of simchah (joy). These 60 days have the power to be mevatel (nullify) anything that is the opposite of simchah. Everything should become freilich (joyful). The true essence of freilichkeit (joy) is to be found in the Mashiach. The letters of Mashiach in Hebrew permute to spell the word ישמח , which means both “he is happy” (יִשְׂמַח ) and “he makes others happy” (יְשָׂמַח ). Mashiach is both happy and he makes everyone else happy. That is the definition of Mashiach, the happiest soul that makes everyone else happy. So this is the ideal time to express this, because we are now in two months of simchah, which we may understand to correspond to the two readings of ישמח , and everything else is batel besheesheem (nullified one part in sixty).
Today (Shabbat), we read parshat Ve’atah Tetzaveh. Today is also the 10th of First Adar—a very important date. Exactly on this very day, 27 years ago, the Rebbe delivered the discourse that he would personally hand out 11 years later on Purim Katan (the 14th day of Adar Rishon) of 5752.1 This would be the last editedma’amar (Chassidic discourse) because only a few days later the unfortunate event of the 27th (זך ) day of First Adar occurred.
This ma’amar is known for its first two words “Ve’atah tetzaveh.” Since, this is for now the last ma’amar we received from the Rebbe, it must contain a very special message to us, a message that covers the span of time from the distribution of thatma’amar until the revelation of the Mashiach techef umiyad mamash (immediately!). So, today is the best possible time to contemplate (lehitbonein) in this ma’amar and its contents in order to hear the message that the Rebbe is giving to our generation.
We have already seen two instances of the number 27. It is both the number of years since the ma’amar was originally delivered and the date of the Rebbe’s first stroke.2In addition, 27 is the gematria of the word “pure,” זך , in Hebrew, one of the first words of today’s parshah, parshat Tetzaveh.3 So there is a special connection between the number of years that have passed since the ma’amar was originally said and the description of the olive oil that is to be brought to Moshe Rabbeinu in the very first verse of our parshah: “pure olive oil!” As we shall see, the Rebbe’s lastma’amar revolves around the theme of pure olive oil. In fact, 27 was the Rebbe’s favorite number, because as he explained, 27 is 3 to 3rd power. Since a chazakah (a presumed judicial state) is established after three times, this implies a chazakah of achazakah of a chazakah!
But, not only is this year (5768-2008) the 27th year since the ma’amar itself was said by the Rebbe. The Rebbe's discourse is based on a discourse with the same title given by the Friedeger Rebbe in 5687, which was 81 years ago. But, 81 is simply the next power of 3: 81 = 3 to the 4th power. So there cannot be a more ideal day to try to delve into the content of this ma’amar. 81 is also the value of the word אנכי(Anochi), which means “I,” as in the first word of the Ten Commandments. Anochiis also used in the description of God’s essence (atzmut): “I am that I am” (אנכי מי שאנכי ). As we will see, this word is one of the essential points made in this ma’amarand appears in a verse that the Rebbe quotes: “Six hundred thousand feet are the nation that I [Anochi] am in its midst.”
All of this was just to get some sense of the auspicious opportunity that we have this year to delve into the content of this ma’amar.
Using the sefirot as a study tool
To deepen our understanding of the discourse Ve’atah Tetzaveh in order to hear the Rebbe’s message to us, we are going to take the 10 essential points made in thema’amar and see how they correspond to the ten sefirot.
One of the benefits of using this method is that first of all it will assist us in memorizing the essential points of the ma’amar. Whenever you give a number of points or ideas an order it is easier to remember them. The memorization technique par excellence in the study of Torah is drawing parallels and correspondences with various Kabbalistic and Chassidic models like the ten sefirot, or as we see many times in the Torah, with the four letters of Hashem’s essential Name, Havayah, etc. Doing so drops an anchor in your mind that can hold down what are seemingly unrelated points.
Moreover, whenever we analyze a new topic based on an already established model in Kabbalah and Chassidut, the structure inherent in the Kabbalistic model when applied to our new topic will reveal new relationships between the points, thereby embellishing and deepening our original understanding of each essential point. Correct analysis according to a Kabbalistic model reveals structure, and structure adds to comprehension.
Even a Chassidic discourse stands to gain a Chassidic soul structure when analyzed according to Kabbalistic models. Ultimately, this new insight helps us relate these points to our tasks and avodah (service of Hashem) in our own life. Since “hamaiseh hu ha’ikar” (the final end is action), we should always be searching for how every point in Chassidus relates to our own efforts to bring and reveal the Mashiach immediately. In what follows, we include the Rebbe’s original language in translation in a distinctive font, in order to focus the reader on contemplating the Rebbe’s words more deeply.4 In addition, we have added in an endnote, the parallel passage as it was translated in Nurturing Faith (see note 1).
Crown: the existential disease called exile
We begin with the sefirah of crown (keter). Let us say a few words about the crown that will help aid us in understanding the essential point of the discourse that corresponds to it. The crown is where the super-conscious powers of the soul reside. The sefirah of crown is also where atzmut (essence) resides. Chassidut explains that the essence of the Aibeshter (God) is present (and although initially concealed may be revealed) in only one place, in the highest part of the crown called “the unknowable head” (reisha delo ityada). In his Kabbalistic terminology, the Arizal describes this part of the crown using a phrase from Habbakuk.5 He calls it, “the place where the might of atzmut is concealed” (חביון עז העצמות ).
The first verse of parshat Ve’atah Tetzaveh reads: “And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually.”6 God tells Moshe to command the Jewish people to bring him the purest olive oil for lighting the Menorah. Yet, as noted by many commentaries, God does not address Moshe Rabbeinu by his name.
[This is the only parshah from the beginning of the Book of Shemot (Exodus) until the end of the Book of Bamidbar (Numbers) in which Moshe’s name is not mentioned explicitly. In the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), there are a few otherparshahs in which Moshe’s name does not appear, but Devarim is different from the other books of the Pentateuch. The entire book of Devarim documents what Moshe said to the Jewish people, with the Divine Presence, the Shechinah, speaking out of his throat. Therefore, it is less noteworthy that Moshe does not refer to himself by name in parts of Devarim.7]
Many different reasons are offered by the various commentaries to explain the absence of Moshe’s name. But, the deepest explanation given is that this is the one time that Moshe Rabbeinu himself reaches his most essential soul root. In ourma’amar the Rebbe does not explicitly address the absence of Moshe Rabbeinu’s name (though he does so in many other discourses on this parshah). But, the notion that Moshe here reaches his essential soul root serves as a backdrop for much of thema’amar.
The soul root itself has three parts to it. This is one of the few ma’marim (in Chassidut in general and in the Rebbe’s teachings specifically) that describes all three parts of the soul root. Most often, the soul is described as comprising two levels:
- The level that is manifest in the body and whose powers are conscious in one’s physical experience, and
- The root of the soul which is super-conscious and cannot be experienced directly by our physical being.
In this discourse, the Rebbe describes three separate levels that make up the super-conscious soul root. In the Arizal’s writings these are identified with the three heads of the crown, the highest of which we have already mentioned—the unknowable head (radla) where atzmut resides.
Let us return to the first verse in our parshah. God speaks to Moshe, without mentioning his name, and says: “And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting,” The phrase ends with the two words katit lama’or (כתית למאור ), meaning “crushed for lighting.” The interpretation that the Rebbe gives for these two words is the highest point made in the ma’amar and from it all the other topics discussed derive.
First let us explain the literal meaning of these words. There are many grades of olive oil. The highest grade is called alpha lashemen (אלפא לשמן ). How is the highest grade of oil produced? By crushing the olives! The word katit, means “crushed.” The olive oil produced by crushing the olives (according to the sages, when the olives are still on the tree) is then to be used for lighting the menorah in the Temple.
Now, the Rebbe focuses on the second word lama’or, which literally means “for ama’or,” but which is translated as “for lighting.” He notes that ma’or actually means a luminary—a source of light—like the sun and the moon, which were described as luminaries in the account of creation (שני המאורות ).8 What this implies is that the highest grade of olive oil is actually a source of light in itself. As the Rebbe explains, this is higher than if the oil would only have been used in order to produce light.
Now, when interpreting the special use of the word “lama’or” here according to Chassidut, the Rebbe explains that oil that serves as a source of light is a reference to the atzmut (the essence) of Hashem. The crushing of the olives in order to produce the highest grade of oil, not only produces light, but it reveals the source of light in the olives—in other words, it reveals atzmut. As we added earlier, the only place that the atzmut of Hashem resides in the soul is in the highest part of the crown. Thus, the crushing reveals the radla (the unknowable head, experienced as pure faith) in the Jewish soul. The Rebbe explains that in order to reveal the radla in our souls, in order for us to become luminaries of the essence of God, we have to be crushed. It is impossible to reveal this highest source of light in us without being broken, without having a broken heart.
We are in the month of Adar—the month of consummate joy. As mentioned, with 60 days of joy, we can nullify anything and everything that is the opposite of joy. So, how does this tremendous joy go together with the knowledge that the only way to reveal atzmut is by being broken and crushed?
The answer is that whenever we discuss the sefirah of crown, we should expect to find examples of states that are paradoxical. Let us take for example the Tanya’sdescription of the ideal state of a Jew while we are still in exile, a description that the Alter Rebbe quotes in the language of the Zohar: “Bechiyah [meaning “crying” or “sorrow”] is wedged in the heart from this side [the left side of the heart] andChedvah [meaning “joy”] is wedged in the heart from this side [the right side of the heart].” Indeed, the ideal state, the state expressed in our soul root, expresses the paradox of crying and being jovial at the same time. When the Mashiach comes, he will reveal the totality of joy and we will no longer need to remain in this paradoxical state because the Mashiach as we explained is spelled with the same letters that mean: “he will bring joy” (יְשַׂמַח ).
Now, the two words bechiyah, “crying” (בכיה ), whose gematria is 37, and chedvah, “joy” (חדוה ), whose gematria is 23, form a numerical pair in Kabbalah (called amichlol). The other most important pair of words whose values are 37 and 23 arechayah (חיה = 23) and yechidah (יחידה = 37), the two highest levels of the soul. They are also called the two makeefeem (surrounding aspects) of the soul. The twomakeefeem are situated in the super-conscious arena of the soul and are also referred to as the inner and outer aspects of the crown.9 We mentioned that in this ma’amarthe Rebbe describes all three levels of the soul root. So there is a progression here in the understanding of the complexity of the super-conscious:
- First, like the Arizal who in certain places only speaks of the soul root, you understand that the soul comprises conscious and super-conscious elements and that the super-conscious, the soul-root is a simple unity.
- Then you can come to the understanding that the super-conscious can be divided into two aspects, chayah and yechidah (which the Rebbe mentions explicitly in this ma’amar).
- Finally, you become aware of the tripartite complexity of the crown, because in the yechidah itself there are two levels (which in Kabbalah are the three supernal sefirot of atik—the radla—and the seven lower sefirot of atik— sometimes referred to as the “head of nothingness,“ reisha d’ayin), to which, as we will see the Rebbe dedicates quite a bit of the ma’amar.
So what we have seen is that crying and being joyful are the two states that should ideally coexist simultaneously in each of our hearts. Indeed, attaining such an ideal state of paradox is the objective of the entire Tanya. How so? The Tanya begins with a question in the first chapter: How can a person possibly be both joyful in his service of Hashem and not joyful about his own state of being at the same time? Only after 34 chapters, does the Alter Rebbe give an answer to this question in the form of the quote from the Zohar we have been discussing: “Crying is wedged in the heart from this side and joy is wedged into the heart from this side.” The heart of a Jew is ideally in a paradoxical state of being.
Now, given the numerical relationship we have just seen, it is clear that joy (chedvah) corresponds to the lower part of the super-consciousness, the chayah, whereas it is crying (bechiyah) that corresponds to the higher part of the super-consciousness, theyechidah. So it turns out that crying is higher than being joyful. This is exactly the essential point that the Rebbe is explaining in the ma’amar. You always have joy and broken-heartedness residing together in the heart, but it is specifically the higher state of being crushed, of the crying of the yechidah that leads to the revelation of theatzmut of Hashem in our soul root. It is only when the Mashiach will come that everything will be transformed into pure joy. But in the meantime, crying and being crushed by the weight of the exile takes you higher than joy. Still, in this ma’amar the Rebbe does not mention the other side of joy being wedged in the right side of the heart, which is of course the essence of the month of Adar, so this is not yet the full explanation of how this point relates to the sefirah of crown.
So let us recap. The first point, which is the peak of the Rebbe’s ma’amar is a very simple vort. It is a Chassidic translation and interpretation of the two words “katit lama’or”: a person’s soul has to be crushed in order to become a source of infinite light, in order to reveal the atzmut of Hashem.
Let us look at these two words from a numerical perspective. The words כתית למאור(katit lama’or) have nine letters. Their combined numerical value is 1107, which divides by 9, meaning that the nine letters have an average value, which is 123. The number 123 today is well known as the gematria of יחי המלך (yechi hamelech, "may the king live"). In Kabbalah, the word most commonly associated with 123 is ענג , which literally means “serenity” (or “pleasure“). But, changing the order of the letters gives us the word נגע , which means “affliction.” Indeed, in Sefer Yetzirah we find that: “There is no good higher than serenity [ענג ] and no evil worse than affliction [נגע ].”10 Pleasure is life, while disease (affliction) is the threat of the opposite of life. But, נגע also means to touch.
What is the relationship between affliction and touching? If you are touched by something negative, like bacteria, it is clear that that can lead to disease. But, what if you are touched by a good thing? Something touches your heart. The reason we are bringing this up is because נגע is also a description of the Mashiach. The Mashiach is described as נגוע , “a leper,“ which means that he is afflicted. What is the source of the Mashiach’s affliction? It is his super sensitivity to whatever touches him! Both good and bad things that happen have a profound impact on him. The Mashiach is the person most touched by exile, to the extent that exile afflicts him as an existential malady. He is the person most sensitive to the exile of the Jewish people and it makes him even physically sick. Nonetheless, 123 is also equal to serenity and to yechi hamelech (“may the king live”), meaning that the person who experiences the affliction is also the person who has the most potential for experiencing the highest pleasure and serenity. It is the person who experiences both who has the most potential for being the Mashiach.
The gematria of the first word, katit (כתית ), which is 830, is well known. It is brought by the commentaries11 that 830 is the number of combined years that the two Temples stood in Jerusalem. The first Beit Hamikdash stood for 410 years—the value of the last two letters of katit: ית . The second Beit Hamikdash stood for 420 years—the value of the first two letters of katit: כת . So this word represents the years that the Beit Hamikdash stood in Jerusalem. Why would this word, which means “crushed” allude to the years that the Temple stood? You would think that it should be the opposite. You would think that katit should allude to the years that the Temple was destroyed (or crushed).
The answer to this question also becomes clear in the Rebbe’s ma’amar.
[Chapter 9] …Through the experience of being crushed [katit] during the time of the exile, we attain the status of being a luminary. But, there are two concepts included in this [notion of being crushed]:
First, there is a state of being crushed because the Jewish people are faced with various harsh decrees that prevent our observance of the Torah and the commandments….In this state, we become luminaries through self-sacrifice.
A second state related to being crushed to a luminary occurs when the Jewish people are enjoying an affluent state, both physically and spiritually, but they are [still] in exile….they continue to be crushed [katit] because they are still in exile. And through this experience of the Jewish people being crushed, they attain the level of being luminaries.
The reason for this [second] experience of being crushed because of the exile (even though there is an abundance of plenty, both physically and spiritually) is that the true desire of every Jew is that God be revealed, and this desire is an existential one. And because in the state of exile, God is not revealed as He was in the time of the Holy Temple,… this itself shakes him up completely, makes him feel crushed [katit].12
The Rebbe explains that the ultimate state of being crushed is not when the exile is difficult and hard, but rather when it becomes good and enjoyable. With this distinction the Rebbe is alluding to our generation, the generation after the holocaust as opposed to the generation of the previous Rebbe, the generation of the holocaust. There is an exile that is physically bad and destructive to the Jewish people and the exemplary leader of such a generation is Mordechai, says the Rebbe. But, we see that after the danger has passed and the suffering is over, Mordechai continues to lead the Jewish people into a time that is described as good.
A second state related to being crushed to a luminary occurs when the Jewish people are enjoying an affluent state, both physically and spiritually, but they are [still] in exile –
This is similar to the state [of the Jewish people] after the miracle of Purim. [The megilah relates that] “the Jews enjoyed light and joy and happiness and honor,” both literally [i.e., in a physical sense] and spiritually. Not only that, but the house of Haman was handed over to Esther, so there was also the propitious state of ithapcha[full transformation]. And yet, [as the sages say]: “We are still subservient to Achashveirosh.”13
Even though there was a degree of ithapcha (transformation) after the miracle of Purim and the house of Haman was given to Esther and Mordechai, as the Rebbe explains, the state of exile of the Jewish people continued. The Mashiach did not yet come and the Beit Hamikdash was not yet built. In the language of the sages: “Akatei avdei deAchasverosh anan,” meaning: “We are still subservient to Achashverosh.”14Says the Rebbe that when things are good but you are still in exile, that results in a deeper existential angst than when things are bad.
This is perhaps the deepest point that the Rebbe makes in this ma’amar that he is now handing out, the last ma’amar for now that we have been privileged to receive. He says explicitly that the pain of our generation is greater than the pain of the generation that was in the camps. This is an astounding thing to say. The Rebbe continues and says:
Even if a particular individual is at a very high [spiritual] level and that individual does experience God’s revelation in a manner similar to the way that God could be experienced in the Holy Temple, nonetheless, because the revelation is not universal, it proves that even the revelation that he is experiencing is a limited one. Because, when the boundless light of the Almighty is revealed, it is revealed everywhere. If there remains but a single place (even a remote corner of reality) where this revelation is not evident, it is because the revelation (even in those places where it is experienced) are [actually] limited….
And because of this, that he too cannot experience the full revelation of the atzmut(essence) of the infinite light of the Almighty, he too is broken and downtrodden—he is crushed [katit].15
The individual who feels the lack of universal revelation of God the most is the Mashiach. And if you want to be connected to Mashiach, you too have to be sensitive to this.
What does being in exile mean? It means that Hashem is not revealing Himself to everyone. There is no consummate revelation of Divinity in the world. This is existentially worse than experiencing the hardship and pain of the exile. However, even though this explains why katit would be a good time for us yet still result in our feeling crushed because we are still in exile, it does not fully answer the question in relation to the 830 years that the Temple stood. During those years, there was no exile. It was a state of constant Divine revelation. So how do we explain that this word means to be crushed in relation to the years that the Temple stood, years in which there was no exile?
Based on what the Rebbe quoted many times in the name of the Rogochover (who gave him his smichah [Rabbinic ordination]), from the moment that the Beit Hamikdash was built, it was known that it would be destroyed. The Rogochover says that because the temporality of the two Temples, the mitzvah to build God a place to dwell was never performed. [He also says the same thing about the mitzvahto appoint a king, even though we had king David and other kings. These two commandments relate to the creation of the public of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael.] Since the Temple was destined to be destroyed, this was not the full manifestation of Divine revelation that Hashem had intended that the Temple serve. Thus, even though the Temple stood, the revelation of Divinity was not complete, Mashiach had not come. If projected into that time when the Temple was standing, the Rebbe would continue to cry and to feel the existential angst that is a result of the state of exile.
There is another example of this concept in regard to Moshe Rabbeinu. It is known that Moshe is both the first redeemer [from Egypt] and the final redeemer [from our current exile]. When God entrusted him with the mission of taking the Jewish people out of Egypt, Moshe refused because he knew that this was not going to be the final redemption. This was not yet to be his role as Mashiach. That is why he said to theAibeshter: “Send he who is Your messenger,” meaning send the Mashiach. Do not send me on a mission of only partial redemption.
So what the Rogochover’s teaching gives us is an understanding that even during the 830 years that there was a Beit Hamikdash the world was not yet perfected. The point of what the Rebbe is teaching us is that as good as it gets, if the revelation of God is not complete and universal, not only does the goodness not make up for it, it just makes it all the more difficult to bear the good. Living in times of plenty and seeing that we are still in exile from the Aibeshter, just makes us feel even more crushed.
There is a beautiful gematria that the Rebbe quotes that reflects this idea.
The gematria of the word חולה [someone who is ill] is 49, [implying] that even when he succeeds in attaining 49 gates of understanding, but he lacks the 50th gate, he is still ill.16
The numerical value of the word חולה , meaning a person who is ill, is 49, just one short of 50, which is the number associated with the 50 gates of understanding. This means that even if you possess 49 gates of understanding, the highest level that any person can attain in this world, if you are still lacking just one, you feel sick.
We would expect that the person who has attained no gates, or one gate, that person should feel sick. But, the truth is that the more revelation of God you have experienced through the gates of understanding, the more existentially ill you become if something is still missing. The closer you are to the objective but are still prevented from taking the final step to attain it, the more painful it is. Nachmanides, the Ramban, writes that in reference to the Land of Israel, the holier something is, the more overbearing is its state of destruction. In other words, as you walk closer to the site of the destroyed Temple, the more you feel the lack of God’s universal revelation.
Now, why do the 420 years of the second Beit Hamikdash appear before the 410 years of the first Beit Hamikdash? We can answer this question too by applying the same principle. Even though the second Temple stood for 10 more years than the first, there were 5 key objects that were missing from the second Temple. As a result, the level of Divine revelation that was experienced in the time of the First Temple was not repeated in the second. So, even though the second Temple was bigger and more beautiful than the first, it was lacking in Godliness (and universality) relative to the first.
To summarize: the highest and most inclusive point of the ma’amar comes out of the words katit lama’or. The Rebbe explains that these words indicate that the existential pain and suffering experienced in our generation is greater even than the pain and suffering experienced by the previous generation of the holocaust. And it is this existential feeling of being crushed that brings out the ability to be a source of infinite light and reveal the atzmut of Hashem. As we shall see, most of the other essential points in the ma’amar come out of the recognition of this one. As in many models of the sefirot, the super-conscious idea that corresponds to the sefirah of crown continuously hovers over all other parts of the model and continually inspires them.
Wisdom: Moshe Rabbeinu’s ascent to his soul root
Now, let us move on to the second point of the ma’amar, which as we will see corresponds to the sefirah of wisdom (חכמה ). Wisdom is particularly connected to Moshe Rabbeinu, as wisdom is considered to be Moshe Rabbeinu’s origin. When Pharaoh’s daughter brought Moshe out of the Nile she named him Moshe, saying: “I drew him [Moshe] out of the waters.”17 It is explained that the waters she mentions in this verse allude to the waters of higher wisdom. So the essential point in the discourse corresponding to wisdom will be specifically about Moshe Rabbeinu and the descent of his soul from its root (in higher wisdom) into his body.
[Chapter 2] Moshe and the Jewish people are compared to a head and a foot, as the verse says: “Six hundred thousand footmen are the nation that I am in their midst.” All of Israel are like the feet of Moshe Rabbeinu and Moshe is their head. Just as in the human being, it is the feet that carry the head to places that the head by itself cannot reach, so it is in regard to Moshe and the Jewish people. Thanks to the people of Israel (Moshe Rabbeinu’s feet), Moshe is elevated further. Because, as the verse means to say with the words: “Six hundred thousand footmen that I am in their midst,” through the people being footmen, the revelation of Anochi [“I”] is drawn into Moshe Rabbeinu.18
The descent of the soul from its origin above to the body is a traumatic experience. It is one of the most ubiquitous themes, appearing in almost every one of the Alter Rebbe’s discourses in Torah Or and Likutei Torah. Obviously, if the descent is so traumatic for the soul, there must be a good reason for it in the first place. In Chassidut the reason is described as “descent for the sake of ascent.” There is some great benefit to the soul from descending into the body for a hundred and twenty years. Even Moshe Rabbeinu’s soul is meant to gain something from its descent into a physical body. He is meant to ascend to an even higher level. This is the reason that Moshe’s name is not mentioned in this parshah, because he has succeeded in ascending to his soul-root and revealing it in a manner in which it was not revealed even before his soul descended into his physical body.
What was the special act that resulted in such a tremendous ascent for Moshe and a consummate revelation of his soul root? Based upon the Friedeger Rebbe’s ma’amarthe Rebbe explains that this was not the result of an act performed by Moshe Rabbeinu, but rather by the children of Israel.
And this is what the words: “And you shall command the Children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil….” By Moshe commanding the people and thereby connecting them with the infinite light of the Almighty, the Children of Israel will bring him olive oil, which will increase the light shining in Moshe.19
The opening verse of the parshah says: “And they will take to you pure olive oil….” By bringing Moshe the pure olive oil, the Jewish people elevate Moshe himself to a level higher than the one he was at before. Even though Moshe is commanding them to bring the oil, by bringing it they are elevating him to a higher state than the one he was at when he commanded them to bring the oil in the first place. This highest level is described as the revelation of the aspect of אנכי (anochi), the atzmut that is within Moshe, as we explained earlier.
This elevation is alluded to in Moshe Rabbeinu’s words: “Six hundred thousand footmen are the nation that I (anochi) am in their midst.”20 The way that this verse is explained in Chassidut is that we the Jewish people are considered the feet (the footmen) attached to the head representing Moshe Rabbeinu. Though the head is obviously more important than the feet, it is the feet that carry the head to places that it cannot go by itself. Similarly, though of lower stature relative to Moshe Rabbeinu, it is the Children of Israel who are able to reveal Moshe’s highest soul root. This is a tremendous chidush: Moshe Rabbeinu needs the Children of Israel in order to contemplate and justify the descent of his great and holy soul to earth. In other words, it is the acts of the Jewish people that justify for Moshe his very existence in a physical body. By bringing to Moshe the atzmut revealed in them due to the crushing weight of the exile, the Jewish people are able to reveal in the Moshe theanochi, the atzmut of Hashem.
Of course, what is true of Moshe Rabbeinu is true of the nasi (the leader) of every generation because the nasi is the extension of Moshe Rabbeinu into each generation. The nasi of each generation is the head of the generation.
Now let us see the beautiful numerical relationships that are related to the point of wisdom in the ma’amar. The very word “Israel” (ישראל ) permutes to spell the words “li rosh” (לי ראש ), meaning “I have a head” and indicating that the essence of Israel is the leader. The Moshe Rabbeinu of the generation, the Rebbe, serves as our collective head and we act as his collective feet. One of the indications that two words or concepts complete one another and form a perfect whole is that their combined gematria equals a square number. The word for “footmen” in the verse quoted above, which indicates that we are Moshe Rabbeinu’s feet is רגלי . If we add this word to the permutation of “Israel” that means “I have a head,” we get רגלי ┴ לי ראש = 243 ┴ 541 = 784 = 282, or יחי · יחי , יחי squared. Notice also that both words have the word לי in them, which the sages tell us is a sign of eternity (“Every place that says לי , is immutable”21)—it is also a word that implies atzmut.
This relationship between the Moshe Rabbeinu of the generation and the Jewish people of the generation is expressed in the life that is given back and forth. This deep inter-dependence between Moshe Rabbeinu and the Jewish people is thus the second essential point of the Rebbe’s discourse.
A final point to make is that Moshe himself is not going to be using the pure olive oil because it is intended for Aharon who will light the menorah with it. But, the purpose of bringing it to him is to create this special bond between the people and between Moshe. Each of us has to take his own personal sense of being-in-exile in its crushed and broken state and bring it to the Moshe of the generation. This is what happens when a person enters yechidut with the Rebbe. Not only does doing so bring help to you, but will also reveal the atzmut of Hashem in the Rebbe.
The two words ויקחו אליך , “And they shall take to you” in the first verse of parshatTetzaveh thus reveal an essential spiritual construct: in every generation there is a soul who can not only help each of us with his existential angst and pain, but by doing so the atmzut of Hashem is revealed in that soul. Let us now analyze these two words numerically. The numerical value of ויקחו is 130, which is also the gematria of the word עין , meaning “eye” or “measure.” The numerical value of אליך is 61, which is the gematria of אין , meaning “nothingness.” Of course the only difference betweenעין and אין is the substitution of an א for an ע . As explained in Chassidut, in such a case, the word that has the alef reveals an inner aspect while the word that has anayin reveals an external aspect.22 Now, wisdom is specifically related to both the eyes—as in the sages’ adage: “Who is wise? He who sees what is coming to pass”23—and to nothingness—as in the Biblical verse: “And wisdom appears out of nothingness.”24
This is another reason that Moshe’s name does not appear in the parshah, because by bringing the olive oil to Moshe, the Children of Israel elevated him to his soul root back to its source in higher wisdom. But because wisdom is likened to nothingness, Moshe himself seems to have disappeared.25
The third essential point of the ma’amar is an amazing statement about teshuvah, one of the essential aspects of the sefirah of understanding (binah).
[Chapter 9] In a discourse by the Alter Rebbe, it is noted that according to the Tikunei Zohar, if there were one tzadik who would perform complete teshuvah, the Mashiach would arrive in his generation. Because, complete teshuvah draws the infinite, boundless light of the Almighty to revelation in a universal manner.26
The Rebbe says that if there were just one tzadik in the generation who would do complete teshuvah that would be sufficient for the Mashiach to come. It appears implicitly that that one tzadik is the Mashiach himself.
The closest source to this statement that can be found (and which is cited in a footnote on this statement in the original ma’amar) is in the Zohar Chadash, which says that if the heads of a congregation or a quorum of Jews (ten Jews, chada knishta, in the Zohar’s terminology) would do teshuvah and become consummatetzadikim, i.e., tzadikim gmureem, that would be enough for the Mashiach to come. But, the Rebbe here is clearly going another step further by saying that only one suchba’al teshuvah is needed.
Teshuvah is motivated by understanding (binah) as stated to in the verse: “And his heart will understand, he will return, and he will be healed.”27 When the heart understands, a person returns to God’s will and then he and the entire world are healed. Throughout the Zohar, whenever the word teshuvah appears it is referring to the sefirah of understanding.
What does the link between teshuvah and understanding reveal? First it teaches us that in order to do teshuvah, one has to understand the consequences of doing something against God’s will. The sages tell us that a Jew cannot do something wrong, unless a spirit of folly has entered his heart and has convinced him that it’s not really against God’s will,28 or as the Tanya explains, that everything will be ok in the sense that he can sin and yet still remain a good Jew with God in his heart and that is all that really matters. So the first requirement for teshuvah is that we understand the consequences of our actions. What we say and what we do has an effect on ourselves and on our surroundings. To use a modern idiom, understanding that our actions have consequences spiritually and physically is “an inconvenient truth.”
But there is another, deeper level of understanding that goes beyond the taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions. If all you understand are the consequences of your actions, that is still only misnagdishe teshuvah. Chassidisheteshuvah requires a whole different level of understanding, which involves understanding who Hashem is. Chassidishe teshuvah requires that you understand before Whom exactly you committed a sin.
The Ba’al Shem Tov taught this idea of understanding and teshuvah in the form of a story from Rav Sa’adyah Ga’on.29 This was the greatest teaching that that Ba’al Shem Tov taught in the name of Rav Sa’adyah Ga’on. The point of the story was that every day I have to strive to increase my understanding and appreciation of how great Hashem really is. Every day I need to spend time increasing my awareness of the Infinite nature of the Almighty, and how He and His will are far removed from everything that I can fathom. Every time that my understanding in this respect increases and I achieve a new level, I have to do teshuvah over everything, including all the mitzvot that I performed yesterday, because yesterday I did not yet understand at whose command I was performing the mitzvot! This is called teshuvah ila’ah, higher teshuvah, and requires me to come everyday to a new understanding of God. Higher teshuvah is a state of “all his days in teshuvah,” described in the Tanya; constant and continual teshuvah for all my actions whether good or bad.
Let us see how this point of understanding is illuminated by the existential pain of exile discussed in relation to the sefirah of crown. The point there was that when things seem to be going good, but we are still in exile, that is when the existential pain that the redemption is not here increases and become crushing. The same reasoning applies to doing higher teshuvah for good actions vs. bad actions. In regard to the imperfect state of my consciousness yesterday relative to today, the mitzvot that I did yesterday without properly appreciating Hashem requires much deeper teshuvah than that required in order to atone for the sins. The sins are relatively easier to fix: if I did something bad, I need to stop it and do good instead. But, if I need to fix the way in which I put tefilin on, the way in which I gave tzedakah, that requires a change in my entire understanding. It requires a Messianic understanding, which is what theZohar means when it says that the Mashiach comes in order to bring the tzadikim to do teshuvah. Tzadikim are doing mitzvot all day long, and Mashiach has to teach them how to do teshuvah for these mitzvot—that requires that the Mashiach offer a really deep understanding of God.
Obviously, the Rebbe’s statement that it is enough that one tzadik do completeteshuvah implies the performance of Chassidishe teshuvah, higher teshuvah. It also implies that to date there has not been a single tzadik who has done this; not even Moshe Rabbeinu and not any of the extensions of Moshe into each generation. For, if there had been such a person, Mashiach would have already come. By corollary, in order to perform higher teshuvah, this tzadik has to feel the existential pain of the entire world over the absence of the revelation of the atzmut of Hashem. Indeed, because the tzadik is sensitive to this absence, it causes him affliction and sickness. By seeking a deeper understanding of God, this tzadik of the generation is able to perform higher teshuvah. And then, as the verse says, “…His heart will understand, he will return and be healed.” This is all an amazing chidush that appears only in thisma’amar.
Knowledge: experiencing the crown
In our analysis so far we have actually already addressed an essential point of thema’amar that corresponds to the sefirah of knowledge. When we described the essential point corresponding to the crown, we already implicitly included knowledge. The existential crush experienced as a result of the exile is a conscious experience associated with knowledge. So in this case, the sefirot of crown and knowledge appear as one, as they do many times in Kabbalah.
1. The ma’amar can be found in its Hebrew original in Sefer Hama’amarim Melukat, vol. 6, pp. 129ff. It has also been published with a linear English translation with annotations as part of the Chassidic Heritage Series under the title Nurturing Faith(New York: Kehot, 2005).
2. In fact, the Rebbe’s second stroke was also on the 27th day of Adar two years later (5754).
3. The Hebrew word for “pure” (זך ) is cognate with the word meaning “merit” (זכות). We should merit immediately the revelation of the Mashiach.
4. The original Hebrew discourse contains text in both rounded parentheses and square brackets. Because of stylistic constraints, in our translations of the original Hebrew ma’amar (as it appears in Sefer Hama’amarim Melukat; see note 1), we have substituted all square brackets for rounded parentheses. Our translation includes a few additional insertions added for clarity and these appear in square brackets.
5. Habbakuk 3:4.
6. Exodus 27:20.
7. In the first four books of the Torah, the narrator is called “shleeshee hamedaber” (meaning third-person narration), which is the atzmut speaking. How do we know this? Because the shleeshee hamedaber says “And Hashem spoke to Moshe.” It does not say “And I spoke to Moshe.” So clearly the shleeshee hamedaber is higher than even the revelation of Hashem in His holy Names.
8. Genesis 1:16.
9. Which in Kabbalah are called the partzuf of atik and the partzuf of arich, respectively.
10. Sefer Yetzirah 2:7.
11. See the Ba’al Haturim on this word.
12. See Nurturing Faith, pp. 60-5.
13. See Ibid, pp. 62-3.
14. Megilah 14a.
15. See Nurturing Faith, pp. 64-7.
16. See Ibid, pp. 66-7.
17. Exodus 2:10.
18. See Nurturing Faith, pp. 30-3.
19. See Ibid, pp. 32-3.
20. Numbers 11:21.
21. Vayikra Rabbah 2:2.
22. For example the two words אור , which means “light” and עור , which means “skin.” Before God vanquished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden the Torah says that He made them “tunics of skin.” The Talmud notes that in the Mishnaic sage Rabbi Meir’s Torah scroll it read “tunics of light.”
23. Tamid 32a.
24. Job 28:12.
25. This is also the deeper explanation of why Moshe Rabbeinu was thought to have disappeared during his forty days and forty nights spent on Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah. Parshat Tetzaveh was taught by God to Moshe during that time, thus his absence from the parshah can also be attributed to his ascent into his soul root in wisdom in order to receive the written Torah. The written Torah corresponds to thesefirah of wisdom, while the oral Torah corresponds to the sefirah of understanding.
26. See Nurturing Faith, pp. 64-7.
27. Isaiah 6:10.
28. Many excuses are possible: “God doesn’t really care if you do it this way or that,” or “Do you really think God has nothing better to do than…,” etc.
29. It is well known that the Ba’al Shem Tov said that he is a gilgul (reincarnation) of Rav Sa’adyah Ga’on.