Ch. 47.

(Entire) Chapter 47.

Ch. 46 began with the Alter Rebbe explaining yet another simple and straightforward means by which every Jew can arrive at a great love of G‑d, thereby enhancing his performance of Torah and mitzvot. This is done by utilizing the love which comes into being “as water mirrors the face to the face.” For just as water reflects the image of a face peering into it, so too, is there reflected the “heart of man to man.” The Alter Rebbe went on to explain that all the particulars mentioned in the parable of the mighty king and the wretched commoner, as enumerated there, are infinitely more applicable with regard to the love showered by G‑d upon each and every Jew. He showed us His great love when He Himself descended to take us out of our nethermost level, in Egypt, and led us into His innermost chambers by giving us the Torah and mitzvot, whereby we are able to attach ourselves to Him with the ultimate level of unity. Accordingly, the Alter Rebbe then expounded the word kidshanu in the text of the benedictions as implying betrothal, the perfect union of man and wife. Kidshanu also implies Supernal Holiness, which alludes to the supreme state of exalted separation which Jews attain through the performance of mitzvot, recalling G‑d’s holiness — His total exalted separation from all worlds.

Ch. 47 will continue this theme, and answer the following question (as the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, notes): How can the love reflected “as water mirrors the face to the face” be expected of us nowadays, when G‑d’s love was shown to us thousands of years ago, at the time of the Exodus? The answer given by the Alter Rebbe is: Not only is it reasonable to expect this love of a Jew when he recalls the initial Exodus (and the giving of the Torah) when G‑d himself descended (thus showing His great love for us), but also, in truth this is a present-day event as well — for the Exodus is a daily occurrence.

והנה בכל דור ודור, וכל יום ויום, חייב אדם לראות עצמו כאילו הוא יצא היום ממצרים

“In every generation and every day a person is obliged to regard himself as if he had that day come out of Egypt.”

This text is cited from the Mishnah (Pesachim 10:5), except that the Alter Rebbe inserts the words, “and every day.” For the Exodus is not only an event which takes place in every generation: it is also a daily event in the spiritual life of the Jew.

והיא יציאת נפש האלקית ממאסר הגוף, משכא דחויא

This refers to the release of the divine soul from the confinement of the body, the “serpent’s skin,”

The body is a source of confinement for the divine soul, since it derives its life-force from kelipah. It is from this exile that the divine soul escapes,

ליכלל ביחוד אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, על ידי עסק התורה והמצות בכלל

in order to be absorbed into the unity of the light of the blessed Ein Sof, by engaging in the Torah and commandments in general,

ובפרט בקבלת מלכות שמים בקריאת שמע, שבה מקבל וממשיך עליו יחודו יתברך בפירוש, באמרו: ה׳ אלקינו ה׳ אחד

and in particular through accepting the Kingdom of Heaven during the recital of the Shema, wherein the person explicitly accepts and draws upon himself G‑d’s unity, when he says: “The Lord is our G‑d, the Lord is One.”

וכמו שנתבאר לעיל, כי אלקינו הוא כמו: אלקי אברהם וכו׳, לפי שהיה בטל ונכלל ביחוד אור אין סוף ברוך הוא

It has previously been explained — in ch. 46 — that “our G‑d” is understood in the same way as “the G‑d of Abraham,” and so forth, because he became nullified and absorbed into the unity of the light of the blessed Ein Sof,

Abraham’s self-nullification and consequent union with G‑d were so complete that G‑d is called “the G‑d of Abraham.” Through the performance of the mitzvot, the same may be said of every Jew, so that G‑d may rightfully be called “our G‑d,”

רק שאברהם זכה לזה במעשיו, והילוכו בקודש ממדרגה למדרגה

except that Abraham merited this union by reason of his works and his advancing in holiness from degree to degree, until he uplifted himself to this great level of nullity and unification of self with G‑d,

כמו שכתוב: ויסע אברם הלוך ונסוע וגו׳

as it is written:1 “And Abram journeyed, going on and on [to the South].”

Abraham progressed from level to level until he attained the esoteric level of “the South,” which alludes to the highest possible degree of love for G‑d. Abraham, then, achieved this state as a result of his own labors.

אבל אנחנו, ירושה ומתנה היא לנו, שנתן לנו את תורתו, והלביש בה רצונו וחכמתו יתברך, המיוחדים במהותו ועצמותו יתברך בתכלית היחוד

But as for us, the children of Abraham, for us it is a heritage and a gift, in that He has given us His Torah and has clothed in it His Will and wisdom, which are united with His Essence and Being in perfect unity;

והרי זה כאלו נתן לנו את עצמו, כביכול

and surely this is as if He gave us His very self, as it were. Since His wisdom and Will are one with Him, through Torah study and performance of mitzvot we are able to take Him, as it were, and be united with Him.

כמו שכתוב בזהר הקדוש על פסוק: ויקחו לי תרומה דלי, כלומר: אותי

This is as the Zohar2 comments on the verse:3 “that they bring to Me an offering.” (4The word “to Me,” says the Zohar, actually means “to take Me” — to “take” G‑d.

The Zohar5 interprets the word תרומה (“offering”) as referring to the Torah, inasmuch as it is a composite of the word “Torah” and the letter mem, alluding to the Torah that was given after Moses‘ forty-day sojourn on the mountain. (The numerical value of mem is 40.) The Zohar goes on to explain that through terumah, through Torah, Jews are enabled to “take Me” — to “take” G‑d.

והוה לי למימר: ותרומה

The text should hence have read “[Me] and an offering,”

Since “Me” refers to G‑d and “an offering” refers to Torah, it would seem more appropriate for the verse to state, “You shall take Me and an offering (Torah),” since it is by means of the Torah that the Jew takes “Me”.

אלא משום דכולא חד

except that both are one and the same. G‑d and Torah are truly one. Were the verse to state “Me and an offering” we might be led to believe that the two are separate entities, when in truth they are truly one and the same.

עיין שם היטב

Study it well there, and the matter will be clearly understood.

וזהו שאומרים: ותתן לנו ה׳ אלקינו באהבה כו׳

This is the meaning of what we recite,6 “And You have given to us, O L‑rd, our G‑d, with love….”

Because of His great love for us He granted us the gift that He be our G‑d, so that we may be united with Him. It is also stated:

כי באור פניך נתת לנו ה׳ אלקינו כו׳

“For by the light of Your countenance have You given us, O L‑rd, our G‑d…,” once again stressing the gift He has given us, viz., that He is our G‑d.

ולזה

Therefore —

Since this unity with Him and the gift we have received — that He is our G‑d — is not dependent on our spiritual service, it is within the province of every Jew. Were this level achieved only through one’s spiritual service, it would be correct to say that not everyone has yet reached this lofty level of unity whereby G‑d becomes his G‑d. Since, however, we are granted this level as an inheritance and a gift, it applies to all Jews equally. For a bequest and a gift have nothing to do with the status of the recipient. Should a person be a rightful heir he inherits no matter what his standing; should a benefactor decide to shower his benevolence upon an individual, that individual is a valid recipient no matter how undeserving he may be. (Not so wages, which are commensurate with one’s toil.) At any rate, since this unity is equally attainable by all Jews, therefore —

אין מונע לנו מדביקות הנפש ביחודו ואורו יתברך אלא הרצון, שאם אין האדם רוצה כלל, חס ושלום, לדבקה בו כו׳

nothing stands in the way of the soul’s unity with G‑d and His light, except one’s will; for should the person not desire at all, G‑d forbid, to cleave to Him…, then this unity will not be achieved.

אבל מיד שרוצה, ומקבל וממשיך עליו אלוקותו יתברך, ואומר: ה׳ אלקינו ה׳ אחד, הרי ממילא נכללת נפשו ביחודו יתברך, דרוח אייתי רוח ואמשיך רוח

But immediately when he does so desire, and accepts and draws upon himself His blessed G‑dliness and declares:7 “The L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One,” then surely is his soul spontaneously absorbed into G‑d’s unity, for the individual’s yearning8 “spirit evokes spirit and awakening from Above, and draws forth and bestows spirit” — an added measure of spirituality, so that the person is drawn to G‑d and cleaves to Him.

והיא בחינת יציאת מצרים

And this dynamic within the person’s soul is a form of “Exodus from Egypt.”

The spiritual counterpart of the Exodus is the acceptance of the Kingdom of Heaven during the recitation of the Shema, and one’s desire to cleave to G‑d and be united with Him, for by these means the soul frees itself from the exile and confines of the body and becomes one with G‑d.

ולכן תקנו פרשת יציאת מצרים בשעת קריאת שמע דווקא, אף שהיא מצוה בפני עצמה, ולא ממצות קריאת שמע, כדאיתא בגמרא ופוסקים

Therefore it was ordained that the paragraph concerning the Exodus from Egypt be read specifically during the recital of the Shema, as an adjunct to it, even though it (i.e., recalling and verbalizing the Exodus) is a commandment by itself, not pertaining to the commandment to recite the Shema, as stated in the Talmud and Codes,9

Recalling the Exodus and the formal recitation of the Shema were placed together:

אלא מפני שהן דבר אחד ממש

for they are actually the same thing.

Accepting the Kingdom of Heaven during the Shema and the Exodus from Egypt are truly one and the same, since this acceptance is one’s personal, spiritual Exodus, whereby the divine soul escapes the encumbrances of the body.

וכן, בסוף פרשת יציאת מצרים מסיים גם כן: אני ה׳ אלקיכם, והיינו גם כן כמו שנתבאר לעיל

Likewise, the paragraph referring to the Exodus from Egypt also concludes,10 “I am the L‑rd your G‑d.” This also accords with what has been explained earlier — that through the Exodus one ensures that G‑d becomes his G‑d, by achieving total unification with Him.

From the above we realize that the Exodus from Egypt is a daily event in the life of the Jew. Hence, just as during the first, historical Exodus (as explained earlier) G‑d showed us his boundless love, obligating us to respond in kind, loving him “as water mirrors the face to the face,” so too should the daily, individual, spiritual Exodus affect us, since G‑d constantly shows us his boundless love.

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FOOTNOTES

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1. Bereishit 12:9.
2. II, 101b.
3. Shmot 25:2.
4. Parentheses are in the original text.
5. III, 179a.
6.  Liturgy.
7.  Devarim 6:4.
8.  Zohar II, 162b.
9.  Berachot 21a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 67:1-2.
10. Bamidbar 15:41.