A Cause For Despair
Sichos in English
of Tammuz, 5750
is Wednesday of the week when the two parshiyos, Matos and Masei
are read. The connection between the two receives greater emphasis on
this day because the portion of Chumash studied today (i.e., the fourth aliya)
fuses together the conclusion of Parshas Matos with the beginning of
Torah portion describes the preparations for the entry into Eretz
Yisroel and the conquest of the land, including not only the land of the
seven nations that lived on the west side of the Jordan, but also the
three nations (the Keini, Knizi, and Kadmoni) whose territory began on
the eastern bank of the Jordan. As explained previously, the tribes of
Reuven and Gad desired to settle in these lands to fulfill G-d’s
promise to grant Avrohom the lands of ten nations.
describing the dialogue between Moshe Rabbeinu and these two tribes at
the conclusion of Parshas Matos, Parshas Masei begins with the
statement, "These are the journeys of the children of Israel who
left the land of Egypt." In Likkutei Torah, the Alter
Rebbe asks: After the first journey, the Jewish people had already left
the land of Egypt. Why then does the Torah connect all 42 journeys to
the departure from Egypt? The Alter Rebbe explains that the ultimate
purpose of all the journeys was to leave Egypt (Mitzrayim), i.e., to
transcend one’s boundaries and limitations (meitzarim u’gvulim).
Conversely, the departure from Egypt includes all the 42 journeys,
because ideally, directly after the Jewish people left Egypt, they were
meant to enter Eretz Yisroel. They would have taken possession of the
entire land, the land belonging to all ten nations.
Torah is eternal, containing lessons applicable at every time and in
every place. Surely, the above is applicable at present, in these last
days directly before Moshiach’s coming. We, like the Jewish people
described in the Torah, must be prepared to enter Eretz Yisroel. Indeed,
preparation alone is not sufficient. As long as a Jew has not entered
Eretz Yisroel, even if he is standing at the banks of the Jordan,
opposite Jericho, he is still in exile, and must await the final journey
which will take him out of Egypt.
this very moment, is the time when we must conclude the exile entirely
and begin the Messianic Redemption. Each individual must begin this
process by making an increase in Torah and mitzvos. The Tanya
explains how Torah and mitzvos represent a redemption on the
individual level. These individual redemptions will lead to the
Redemption of the people as a whole. Then, we will proceed to Eretz
Yisroel and witness how "kingship will be the L-rd’s."
will be hastened by gifts to tzedaka, which "brings close
the Redemption." Thus, we will conclude this gathering by
distributing money to be given to tzedaka.
above receives greater significance at the present time. Tammuz is the
tenth month of the year and "the tenth shall be holy."
Similarly, we are entering the 26th day of Tammuz and 26 is numerically
equivalent to the name Havaya. This leads to the 27th of Tammuz, "zach"
(pure) in Hebrew numerology, which in turn will lead to the kindling of
the menora in the Beis HaMikdash with pure oil. May
it be in the immediate future.
28th Day of Tammuz, 5750
three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av are referred to
as the Three Weeks of Retribution and Bein HaMetzarim,
"between the straits," names whose connotation is not openly
presents a conceptual difficulty. The number three is generally
connected with positive themes, e.g., the three Patriarchs, the three
pilgrimage festivals. Similarly, our Sages associated the giving of the
Torah with the number three, praising G-d for giving, "a threefold
light to a threefold people...in the third month." Furthermore, the
number three has implications of permanence, as expressed in the verse,
"the threefold cord is not easily severed." Similarly, in halachic
terms, the number three is connected with a chazaka, a presumed
outcome. Accordingly, it is difficult to understand: Why is the concept
of retribution and destruction, the direct opposite of holiness and
permanence, associated with the number three?
awesome descent of the Three Weeks is intended to allow for an ascent.
When a person wants to reach a level that is much higher than his
present rung, it is necessary for him to undergo a descent first.
Similarly, for the Jewish people to reach the heights of the Messianic
Redemption, a redemption that will not be followed by a descent, it is
necessary that they first undergo the descent of exile. In this context,
the Three Weeks are associated not with exile, but rather with the third
Beis HaMikdash, which will be built after this exile.
explanation, however, is insufficient, for the Three Weeks connect the
aspect of descent (and not the subsequent ascent) with three. When a
descent is no more than a means to attain an ascent, the descent itself
is not desired. Indeed, it will ultimately be nullified and all that
will remain is the ascent. If so, why is three, usually connected with
permanence, associated with a situation that has no self-contained
purpose and which ultimately will be nullified?
question can be strengthened: Generally the number three expresses an
ascent which follows a descent. For example, in the narrative of
Creation, the first day is referred to in the Torah as "yom echad"
(one day), i.e., a day of oneness; to quote the Midrash,
"the day that G-d was one in His world." It was followed by
the second day, "the day on which strife was created," as
reflected in the separation of the higher waters from the lower waters.
Accordingly, the expression, "And G-d saw that it was good" is
not mentioned in connection with the second day, since division, even
when it is necessary for the sake of the world, cannot be called good.
This was followed by the third day, which compensated for the division
of the second day, creating peace and unifying the two opposites. For
this reason the expression "And G-d saw that it was good" is
repeated twice, revealing a compound goodness which exceeds the goodness
of the other days. This is reflected in the attribute of tiferes
(beauty), expressed on the third day of Creation, which unifies chesed
(kindness), associated with the first day of Creation, with g’vura
(severity), related to the second day of Creation. This reveals a unity
surpassing that of the first day. On the first day, the unity existed on
a level above division. Thus, there is the possibility that division
will ultimately arise. In contrast, the unity of the third day is
established within the context of division, bringing about a true state
same concept is reflected in the Torah, where we find the idea of
"a controversy for the sake of Heaven," the controversy
between Hillel and Shamai. This division has its source in the division
that came into being on the second day of Creation and, in turn, serves
as the source for subsequent differences of opinion within Torah.
"controversy for the sake of Heaven" is not a simple matter of
strife or conflict. Nevertheless, it (even the controversy between
Hillel and Shamai) brought about a descent. Ultimately, however, it
serves a positive function. The debate between an approach that favors
leniency (as its source is the attribute of chesed) and one that
tends toward severity (as its source is the attribute of g’vura)
leads to a clarification of Torah law. From the two poles, a third
opinion emerges which reconciles and unifies both conflicting
both in the world at large and in Torah, the concept of descent and
division is associated with the number two, whereas three is associated
with the ascent and unification that follows. Similarly, in regard to
the Holy Temples: The first Temple (associated with the Patriarch
Avrohom and the attribute of chesed) and the second Temple
(associated with the Patriarch Yitzchok and the attribute of g’vura)
were destroyed, whereas the third Beis HaMikdash
(associated with the Patriarch Yaakov and the attribute of tiferes)
will be an everlasting structure. Thus the original question is
reinforced: Why are these weeks, which are connected with mourning,
destruction, and exile, associated with the number three?
question can be resolved by developing a different understanding of the
concept of a descent for the purpose of an ascent. A Jew should be in a
constant process of ascent, "always ascending higher in
holiness," "proceeding from strength to strength." If so,
what is the reason for a descent? It is to proceed to a higher and more
elevated rung that could not otherwise have been reached. To give an
example from everyday life, when faced with obstructions and
difficulties, a person summons up inner strength that brings out greater
achievements that would otherwise be impossible.
this process of descent for the sake of ascent, there are two levels: a)
a descent limited to the natural order, b) a descent which cannot be
fathomed by the rules of nature.
the first case — which reflects the progression from two (descent) to
three (ascent) — just as the descent is limited, so too, the ascent
has certain limitations. In contrast, when the descent is unlimited, as
in the Three Weeks, the ascent that follows is also unlimited in nature.
first type of descent was implanted by G-d in the natural order of the
world. In contrast, the second descent is brought about by man through
his sins. In the first instance, there is a direct connection between
the descent and the ascent which will follow. In contrast, when a person
sins, on a revealed level there is no apparent connection between the
sin and the ascent through teshuva which will ultimately follow.
In particular, when the descent that is brought about by sin is
connected with three, and thus, has the power of permanence, the ascent
becomes even higher.
other words, the process of ascent that is brought about by descent is a
natural phenomenon. Since the descent into the realm of division brings
about a higher sense of oneness, the division is not genuine. On the
contrary, even on the level of division, it is felt how it is only
temporary in nature, with no purpose in and of itself, and that it
exists only to express the higher level of unity. When unity is
established in that context, then it is a true and complete unity.
Three Weeks, which is brought about by our sins, reflects the lowest
possible descent, a descent that would not be possible within the order
of nature, and reflects the aspect of permanence is associated with the
number three. Thus, we see that this exile continues without end, to
quote our Sages: "In the first generations, their sin was revealed
and the end [of the period of retribution] was also revealed. In the
later generations, their sin was not revealed and the end [of the period
of retribution] was also not revealed."
after our Sages declared, "All the appointed times for Moshiach’s
coming have passed," the exile continues. Furthermore, on the
surface, it is not apparent how such an exile will lead to the
Redemption. Nevertheless, this itself is an indication that it will lead
to an ascent that is totally beyond our comprehension, that it will
surpass even the heights of holiness that were previously attained,
establishing an entirely new framework of reference.
since this is the purpose of the descent of the Three Weeks — although
it is not consciously felt — we must appreciate that the Three Weeks
themselves have a positive dimension.
Three Weeks are associated with the revelation of the three faculties of
intellect. In that context, the word "puranusa,"
rendered as "retribution," can be reinterpreted in a positive
context. The Zohar associates Pharaoh (whose name shares the same
Hebrew root as "puranusa") "with the revelation of
all the sublime lights." Similarly, these Three Weeks can be the
source of a revelation of light that transcends all limits, the light
that will be revealed in the third Beis HaMikdash.
this context, we can explain the connection between the Three Weeks and
this particular Shabbos, the Shabbos on which the Book of BaMidbar
is completed. The process of descent for the sake of ascent which is
revealed in the Three Weeks goes beyond the limits of nature. Thus, it
brings about a strengthening of the Jewish people in Torah, as evidenced
by their calling out in powerful tones, "Chazak, chazak,
concept of an immeasurable ascent resulting from the descent into exile
is also alluded to in each of the parshiyos of Matos and Masei.
name Matos refers to a branch which has become strong and hard because
it was cut off from the tree. There is a parallel to this in our service
of G-d. The Jewish soul as it descends into a body, particularly as it
exists in exile, is, on an apparent level, cut off from its source. This
brings about a hardening and strengthening process. On the surface, the
hardening is negative in nature, intensifying the challenges which a Jew
faces. Through confronting these challenges, however, a Jew attains
added strength and power in his service of G-d, enabling him to endure
the challenges of exile without being affected.
the parsha of Masei shares a connection to the exile. Masei,
meaning journeys, in an extended sense can refer to all the journeys
undergone by the Jewish people in their departure from Egypt (the place
of boundaries and limitations) with the intent of reaching Eretz Yisroel
in the Messianic Era. These journeys add strength to the Jewish people
as expressed in the exclamation "chazak, chazak, v’nis’chazeik."
the extended exile, felt acutely in these Three Weeks, should not bring
a Jew to despair, but rather to an appreciation of the heights to which
the exile will bring us. This realization should, in turn, bring about a
strengthening of Torah and mitzvos, which will lead to the
Messianic Redemption. This should be expressed in "spreading the
wellsprings outward," extending the influence of Torah to places
which by nature have no connection to it.
particular, this should be expressed in making siyumim,
conclusions of the study of Talmudic tractates or Torah works. These siyumim
should be made in every place possible. May this lead to a siyum
of the exile.