Sichos in English
Parshas Tetzaveh; the 13th Day of Adar I, 5749
The opening verses in this week’s portion deal with the commandment to
kindle the menora: “And you, [Moshe] must command the Jewish
people to bring you clear illuminating oil, made from crushed olives, to
keep the lamp constantly burning. Aharon and his sons shall arrange [the
menora] from evening until morning in G-d’s presence...” (Shmos
Several difficulties arise from the latter
verse: (1) If Aharon HaKohen was designated to kindle the menora,
why was the oil brought to Moshe? (2) In the first verse, which speaks
of the oil being brought to Moshe, he is told to keep the menora
“constantly burning.” But the next verse, which speaks of Aharon’s
role, says “from evening until morning.” What is the meaning of this
Chassidus explains that the kindling Aharon
performed indeed lasted from evening until morning. However, by taking
the oil, Moshe generated new strength into the lamps so that Aharon
could then light the lamps to burn constantly.
To properly understand this explanation, we
must first discuss the symbolic meaning of candle lighting in man’s
The menora represents all of the
Jewish people, for an individual lamp represents a Jewish soul, as it
says, “the lamp of G-d is the soul of man” (Mishlei 20:27). The menora
with its seven branches encompasses the Divine service of all the Jewish
people. The branches of the menora represent seven paths of
serving G-d, such as love, fear, etc. Aharon’s job was to kindle the
Jewish lamps — to awaken the love of the Jewish people for G-d — so
that they would desire to be united with the blessed Ein Sof.
This leads to an increase in joy and delight in the observance of Torah
and mitzvos, through the revelation of G-dliness that comes as a
result of Torah and mitzvos.
In this process there are two aspects.
“From evening to morning” alludes to a path of Divine service
changing a state of night and darkness to morning and revelation.
Chassidus explains that this approach begins when only a ray of light
pierces the darkness, followed by gradual change until the light brings
full illumination, like the day that follows the night.
The “constantly burning” approach
alludes to a state of constant and unchanging Divine service, a state of
being continuously connected to one’s G-dly source. In this way, one
is always in a state of illumination.
These two approaches represent the
difference between the function of Moshe and Aharon, and by extension,
the general difference between the Divine service of prayer and Torah
Aharon served in the Sanctuary, a place
consecrated for the offering of sacrifices. In the post-Temple era, this
aspect of Divine service has been allocated to the service of prayer. As
the Talmud relates, the daily prayers were established to substitute for
the daily offerings in the Beis HaMikdash. Generally, the
direction of prayer is from below upward. In other words, it refines the
animal soul so that it too will be inspired with love of G-d. Also, mitzvos
are said to move in an upward direction insofar as they elevate the
material objects used in the fulfillment of the commandments.
Moshe represents Torah study. In fact, the
Torah is referred to as “Toras Moshe” (Moshe’s
Torah). The direction of Torah study is generally seen as descending
from Above downward.
Although Torah is the word of G-d, the
wisdom of the Holy One, blessed be He, which has descended below so that
man may study and comprehend it, it nevertheless retains its lofty
status and is not restricted by temporal or spatial limitations. In this
sense, Torah is seen as the “constantly burning” lamp.
In contrast, prayer, man’s supplication to
G-d, as well as mitzvos, man’s actions, are involved with
material concerns and are thus subject to the constrains of physicality,
namely time and place. Prayer and mitzvos are, therefore, seen as
lamps that burn from “evening to morning.”
The difference between study and prayer also
expresses itself in this framework. Prayer is set for specific times —
morning or evening. Morning prayer, Shacharis, symbolizes the
nature of Avrohom, the attribute of kindness. Mincha, on the
other hand, represents severity. And the evening prayer, Maariv,
symbolizes beauty, the attribute of Yaakov.
Similarly, all time-bound mitzvos,
such as the kindling of the menora, are set in specific time
frames. And in the case of mitzvos pertaining to the Beis
HaMikdash, they can only be performed when the Beis HaMikdash
Torah is above time; Torah must always be
studied regardless of any time constraints. Even those halachic
rules that designate time frameworks may also be studied at all times.
The study of practices limited to the time of the Beis HaMikdash
goes on even after the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, as it says,
“one who studies the laws of the ola sacrifice is considered as
if he had offered an ola” (Menachos, end). So too, with
the study of the plans of the Beis HaMikdash, as it says, “In
the merit of studying the rules of the Beis HaMikdash, I will
consider it as if they had been involved in building the Beis
HaMikdash” (Tanchuma, Tzav 14).
Now let us take a second look at the
Torah’s command to Moshe “to bring you” (the oil), although it was
Aharon who kindled the menora. In order for Aharon to be
effective in kindling the menora, the Divine service of raising
from below upwards, it was first necessary for Moshe to be involved in
receiving and providing the oil. As Chassidus explains: “Then Aharon
would have the power...to draw the revelation of love in the souls of
the Jewish people to engender light and joy in the mitzva” (Torah
Moreover, when Moshe made the preparatory
steps, Aharon was then able to kindle the lamps in a way that it would
not only burn from evening to morning, but also to be constantly
In mitzvos too, there is the
potential for a higher dimension. Normally every mitzva involves
a specific act and a specific time — from “evening to morning.” In
the higher dimension, however, mitzvos assume a continuous
quality, beyond the division of time. When this state permeates the
individual, the “mitzva lamp” can be “constantly”
burning, infused with the “Torah light.”
A question remains: Since the first level of
observance is temporal, why does the verse speak of the “constantly
burning” lamps first and only then mention the dimension of “evening
to morning?” The order would seem to be reversed, from the simple to
the more sublime?
To clarify this point we must say that there
is a special significance to the opening words of the portion, “And
you must command...,” which represents a loftier approach both from
the point of view of Moshe (drawing Torah down), and in the actions of
Aharon as well, in the process of raising up. In this context, right
from the outset it is necessary to speak of the continuously burning
Some further elucidation is in order. Why
the unusual phraseology: “And you must command?” Normally we find
the simple term “tzav” (command). Why was Moshe directly told
to personally give this command to the Jewish people? At the same time,
Moshe is not mentioned by name. He is merely referred to with the
Herein lies the explanation: “And you”
alludes to the essential being of Moshe that stands in a dimension that
is higher than a name. The essence of Moshe must effect a connection
between the essence of the Jewish people with the Essence of the Holy
One, blessed be He, Above. Only then will the kindling be without
When we speak of the essential being of
Jewish souls, we are talking of a level that is much higher than that of
Torah, because the “thought” of the Jewish people preceded
everything, even the Torah (see Bereishis Rabba 1:4).
Where do we see this intrinsic quality? In the Jewish people’s
inherent power of self-sacrifice, which stems from the Pintele Yid,
the essence of the Jewish soul, which is “truly a part of G-d.”
“The soul of man is G-d’s candle,” that candle is constantly
burning, never ceasing or changing. As the Alter Rebbe states, “A Jew
cannot and does not want to be separated from G-dliness.” (See HaYom
Yom, 21 Sivan)
This concept is hinted at in the use of the
pronoun “you” instead of a name. A name is only a superficial
appellation to the person’s self, which, of course, exists even before
the person is named.
It is true, however, that a person’s name
is bound to the root of his soul; it provides the conduit for the
life-force to be drawn down from the soul’s root to the aspect of the
soul that is invested in the physical body. But the soul’s root
referred to here is not the essence of the soul itself. The true
essential being is loftier than the soul’s root and loftier than any
name; no name can encompass it, for it is the lofty essence, part of
When we speak of connecting the soul’s
essence with G-dliness, we do not speak of connecting two separate,
independent entities; rather, we are referring to an essential unity.
At the close of the portion of Tetzaveh,
there is a further reference to this state of unity, as it says, “You
shall make the incense-burning altar.” The word “ketores”
(incense) here has the etymological root of ‘tying together,’
alluding to the ultimate connection between the Jewish soul and G-d.
We may now explain why the verse first
mentions the higher state of continual burning.
Notwithstanding his or her external
condition, every Jew, by virtue of his/her essential being, is connected
to and bound to the true essence of G-d. This bond exists in every Jew,
from the most venerable elder to a newborn baby, and from the most
learned scholar to the simpleton. By virtue of this essential bond, the
connection is also continuous, like the ever-burning lamps. For this
reason, the Torah first speaks of the continuously burning lamps.
Indeed, the foundation of all Divine service is the eternal essential
bond between G-d and man, alluded to in the words “And you must
We find daily expression of this eternal
process in the first words we say upon awakening: “Modeh Ani”
(I offer praise to You...). When a Jew awakens in the morning and
becomes “a new being,” it is too early for the various levels and
individual powers to be manifest. Instead, the essential being
supercedes all other powers. This is the “Ani,” the “I.”
(In this sense the first person pronoun “I” is similar to the second
person pronoun “you”). At the moment of waking, the essential
“I” is in a state of gratitude to G-d, a state of subservience and
cleaving to the inner life Above, the true Essence. Coming at the start
of the day, this serves as the basis upon which all further action and
function in Divine service is built. This connection and devotion of the
essence of the soul to the essence of G-d infuses all the other
activities of the day in a manner of a “constantly burning lamp.”
In order to reveal and tap this power, we
must be involved in Torah study. For although G-d’s supernal thought
of the Jewish souls preceded Torah, nevertheless, in the temporal world,
the route to connection with G-d is through Torah. As the Zohar
states, the Jewish people connect themselves with Torah and Torah is
connected to G-d. This is especially true through the esoteric teachings
of Torah, which unites the inner soul of the Jew with the inner essence
of the Holy One, blessed be He. Through that process, the inner
essential bond between G-d and the Jewish people is also revealed.
Thus, Scripture states, “And you must
command,” and then it goes on to speak of the oil. Oil is wisdom —
Torah — especially the esoteric teachings, as explained in Chassidus
that the revealed aspect of Torah is the light and the esoteric wisdom
is the luminary. This is revealed in the “continuously burning lamp”
in the Torah and then in the “evening to morning” state, which
represents mitzvos. But since the individual lives with Torah,
his mitzvos are permeated by the “continuous” light. And here
the state of “evening to morning” adds even to the eternal state,
for night to day indicates an immeasurable increase and ascent.
In this leap year, we are now close to Purim
Katan (the 14th of Adar I). Purim is connected with the theme of
self-sacrifice, the power that stems from the inner essence of a Jew.
Chassidus explains that during the period
that Haman’s decree stood intact — nearly a year’s time — all
the Jewish people stood in a state of active self-sacrifice, everyday
and every moment. At every moment they were ready to sacrifice their
lives and not give up their faith; not one Jew even entertained the
thought. (See Torah Ohr, Megillas Esther 120d.) In other
words, during this period, their essential bond with G-d was revealed.
This intense feeling was then transmitted to
their practical observance, which is why the Jews fulfilled what they
had previously accepted at Matan Torah, as alluded to in
the verse, “The Jews fulfilled and accepted” (Esther 9:27). Matan
Torah was only the beginning, while the main acceptance of Torah
took place during the episode of Purim. For the spirit of self-sacrifice
penetrated every level of Torah observance and Torah study. In fact,
this self-sacrifice was done with a spirit of gladness and joy, in the
manner by which Aharon brings light and joy to the Jewish people.
In a leap year, this effect is more
pronounced, as there are two Purims, one minor and one major, indicating
different levels of devotion and essential powers of the soul.
When Shabbos Parshas Tetzaveh is the day
before Purim Katan it is an auspicious time to take new strength in
faith and devotion, which will then infuse all areas of practice and
action. This is especially true when we study the esoteric teachings, of
which it is said, “Know the L-rd of your father and serve Him with a
complete heart” (Divrei HaYomim 28:9).
Specifically, we should study the teachings
of the Rebbe Rayatz, the extension of Moshe in our generation. Through
the Rebbe we attain the state of, “And you must command.” He is the
shepherd of the Jewish people, who nurtured the Jewish people and
inspired them with faith and self-sacrifice in an innermost way.
On this day, everyone should undertake to
study the Rebbe Rayatz’s discourse “And the Jews Accepted,” of
5687. In this maamer, he explains the role of Moshe to nurture
the faith and self-sacrifice of the Jewish people even in the time of
Exile, as in the period of Mordechai and Esther — so that they reach
the state of “luminary.”
The Rebbe Rayatz taught this discourse on
Purim Katan 5687 (1927). This was at a time when he stood in great
personal danger, yet he did not show any fear for his own welfare. In
fact, he had been warned that there were spies present who would use his
words against him, which in fact happened, as he was arrested later that
year. The Rebbe Rayatz spoke words of spiritual reawakening and soulful
inspiration to awaken and motivate his followers with tremendous
enthusiasm to carry on their work in Torah and mitzvos despite
the oppression, with the full power of self-sacrifice.
The Gemara states: “We may attend to
communal matters on Shabbos” (see Shabbos 150a). It will surely be
beneficial to start studying the discourse today and to continue into
Purim Katan, and through Shushan Purim Katan. And this is in addition to
the regular customs of Purim Katan and Shushan Purim Katan (as outlined
in Shulchan Aruch), as well as the customary practice of
studying the laws of Purim thirty days in advance and the Chassidic
teachings associated with Purim.
Tzedaka should also be increased, for
Purim is especially connected with the practice of charity to the poor,
so that everyone who stretches out his hand is given assistance.
Certainly there should be an increase in
joy, for “when the month of Adar begins one increases joy” (Taanis
29a), and this includes the month of Adar I. The redemption of Pesach is
connected to Adar, since Moshe was born on the seventh of Adar. May we
merit to see the true redemption even before Purim Katan.
And although we use the term katan
(small), therein lies its greatness, for Yaakov was called small, Dovid
was the smallest, and the moon was the small luminary, yet “this small
one will be great,” with the true and complete redemption. This is
also connected to the 14th of the month, when the moon begins to reach
its full state.
May the true and complete redemption come
through our righteous Moshiach and then we will go with our youth and
elders, sons and daughters, and those who will “arise from the
dust,” the Rebbe Rayatz at their head, all together to the Holy Land,
to Yerushalayim the Holy City, and to Tziyon.