“He saw tranquility that it was good…yet he bent his shoulder to bear…” (49:15)

   Yissaschar was the only one of all the tribes that had no connection to this world! The only bond that Yissaschar had to this world was the study of Torah. This is the tribe that everyone has to make the effort to assist, with each tribe contributing something. Zevulun does business—“Zevulun rejoiced in his going out”—Yehudah wages war, Levi serves in the Beis HaMikdash. But Yissaschar takes nothing from this world…only the study of Torah. Yissaschar was only interested in learning Torah, because the study of Torah is greater even than serving in the Beis HaMikdash, as it is written, “It is more precious than pearls” (Mishlei 3:15). It is greater than the Kohen Gadol going into the Kodesh Kodoshim. A talmid chacham who is a mamzer is greater than a Kohen Gadol who is an am ha’aretz—even though he is a mamzer who came from a forbidden relationship and has such a terrible blemish. If he learns Torah day and night, he is greater than the Kohen Gadol.

   The only way a person can escape from his yetzer hara is through studying Torah in depth—by learning until he feels that he is about to die, until he feels like he wants to die—“regarding a man who would die in the tent,” (Numbers 19:14). He needs to toil in Torah, to kill himself for it—not to study slackly, casually. Torah study is not done in a relaxed manner! A person has all kinds of desires, and he also has a desire for nachas—serenity. All of a person’s desires were hinted at in the generals of Eisav and one of them is the “general of serenity, [aluf nachas].” A person loves to walk at a leisurely pace, to be stress-free, to learn with peace and tranquility. But truthfully, the real nachas, the true serenity is only Torah study. “He saw tranquility that it was good…yet he bent his shoulder to bear”—this is the yolk of Torah (Rashi). The only genuine form of relaxation is the calmness which emanates from the soul. By learning Torah the soul is polished, cleaned, and all the filth is scraped off—all of the dirt is removed, and only then can one achieve this menuchas hanefesh.

   A person needs to know that he is responsible for the work of creation. Each day he needs to create the world anew. The world runs according to those who learn Torah—the world is created through Torah learning. “Because all the innovations of the work of creation that Hashem renews each day come through Torah study…One day there is rain the next is dry, one day the air is cool and moist, etc. etc.” (Likutei Halachos, Yibum 3). Rebbe Nosson explains that you are building the world. You slept, and a tragedy happened. You were dreaming, or spoke with someone when you were supposed to be studying, and there was a disaster. A person needs to know that there’s no reason to read the newspaper or to know what is happening in the world. Even if just for a second you take an interest in what is happening in the world, then this will cause a tragedy to happen. A person should know that if he wastes time when he should be studying Torah, then a disaster will occur! You need to realize that all the changes that are going on in the world are according to your Torah study. When a person learns, then the whole world starts to love us, because all the nations sometimes love us and sometimes hate us. Whoever learns history knows that one year they love us and another year they hate us and want to exterminate all the Jews, because everything is dependent on our Torah study—not on the politicians or anything else. When a person learns Torah in depth, he plugs his intelligence into the Torah, and so he creates the world anew. He creates a new reality. He lives a new reality! Suddenly he has enough money to go to Uman! All of a sudden, he feels an influx of spirituality, an influx of material bounty! This is because he created a new world. He had previously been in a world where he didn’t have money, but now he is in a world where he has money, because he is now in a completely new world, because each moment a person creates new worlds. If a person learns b’iyun, then each moment he is creating new worlds.

   The Rebbe brings in Torah 101, “When a person does a sin, chas v’shalom, then the sin and the crime are engraved on his bones”, as it is written (Yechezkel 32), “And their sins will be on their bones.” The Rebbe said, “Do you want to be forgiven for your sins? You want to erase your sins? It’s difficult, since your sins are engraved on your bones.” The sin breaks your bones. All of a person’s bones are broken—this one hurts, that one hurts—but it’s only because of the sins. Each and every sin is etched on to the bone. “And your sins will be engraved on your bones.” The bones are hollow. They have been engraved on, and now they break from so many engravings. If a person wants to reconnect his bones, to build his bones anew, to escape from “and your sins will be on your bones,” it is only through learning b’iyun, taking the exams, being examined, and learning b’iyun. Doing teshuva doesn’t help for damage already done since the bones are already broken and engraved upon. How can doing teshuva help after that? The answer is one needs to draw new mentalities into the bone, to renew the bone, and this can only be done through Torah study b’iyun. Through Torah study you activate all the cells that were already damaged, weakened, and had started to wither away. Studying renews them, activates them and gives them new life. The Torah rebuilds you and makes you a new person. A person is always looking for advice on how to break his bad character traits. So there is hisbodedus and chatzos. Everything is fine and dandy, but if he is not learning Torah b’iyun nothing will help him. If a person is not learning Torah b’iyun, then he is missing the essential factor—he has no brain, because a brain only comes from learning Torah b’iyun. This is like a person who does hisbodedus without using his intellect. There is no way for him to receive—Hashem wants to give him! Tomorrow, he will pray with kavannah, and after praying he runs out to eat. He is ready to run out of there—he runs out to talk with his friend. As they are saying Aleinu he is already taking off his tefillin and talking to his friend. Then Hashem says to him, “I want to give you. After praying, you should say some pasuk or learn two or three halachos, or you should learn a few lines of Gemara, and then you will have a wonderful brain and will understand everything. When praying we request that “you should put in our hearts binah to understand and become intelligent, to hear, to study, and to teach, to guard and to do.” Hashem wants to give him now all the mochin, but here, he is already starting to talk with his friend, or he runs out before Aleinu, and he is already taking off the tefillin, and he is already outside, talking, fighting, hitting, eating, and Hashem says, “I wanted to give you wonderful mochin. Why did you bolt out of here?”

   The Rebbe says that without learning Torah b’iyun, a person has no brain, and anything that a person does is lacking in essence, because the most important thing is learning b’iyun. Therefore, the Rebbe said that discipline in learning is more important than keeping the mitzvos. The Rebbe brings in Sefer HaMidos 33, that “learning is the basis of all the mitzvos.” A person needs to become accustomed to studying, as we request every morning, “make us study Your Torah regularly”—that we should get used to studying Torah. And the Rebbe says that getting accustomed is not enough! Reciting Gemara the same way one recites Tehillim is not good enough. Only studying b’iyun is called “study Your Torah regularly”! Take a Rashba, Rambam, Ritba, and the Shita Mekubetzes, and the Rosh and the Rif and the Ran, and the Nimukei Yosef, all the commentaries. The Maharam Shif, and the Maharsha, and the Bach, all that there is. And if the Maharsha is difficult for you, then use a commentator who is easier to understand, but this is the way your head must be working, all the time b’iyun—your basis should always be b’iyun. So the Rebbe says that if a person always learns b’iyun, “when one plumbs the depths of and understands the wisdom of the Torah, then he will have the burden of government and making a living removed from him.” But this is only for learning which reaches the depths of understanding of the wisdom of the Torah. Then he merits anpin nehirin—a glowing face. And then when all of a person’s thoughts are only in learning Torah b’iyun, understanding the Gemara well, knowing the sugyah well, understanding all the rishonim, all the achronim, and summarizing it, and writing it down, and in the meantime making a few new chidushim. Then, at that moment, he merits to such an anpin nehirin, a glowing face, that the whole world makes teshuva. He receives such anpin nehirin that the whole world makes teshuva just from the light of his face alone. “The wisdom of a person enlightens his face,” and though this, the burden of government and making a living is taken from him. Then, there is no burden of making a living in the world. There are no Russians, no Arabs, no goyim, nothing—there is no burden of government. For one person who will put his head into Torah b’iyun, Hashem is ready to remove the burden of government from the world, and all the kingdoms—to cancel the kingdoms—so that only Israel rules—only the Torah rules.


Biur Pnei HaMelech Chaim

“There are two paths in life. One path is positive and the other is negative.”

   There is a positive path that is the path of “ayin”—nullification, nothingness. And there is the negative path which is the path of “yesh”—the material world of “existence.” A person gets up in the morning, and immediately, before he does anything else, he says “modeh ani”—I am grateful to the One who gave me back my neshama. Who says I deserve to receive my neshama back? Afterwards, he washes his hands, which is essentially washing off the “by my power and the work of my hands,” so that he should know that everything that he does, he doesn’t do alone—Hashem is with him. G-dliness is the highest thing there is in the world. The single existence is all that there is. Other than that, there is nothing. What is there? HaKadosh Baruch Hu implanted in the souls of Israel the divine spark which is a part of His essence. This is in reality a person’s inner sense of existence. And we can’t ignore the fact that if only He exists, then it follows that the only part of us that truly exists is our divine spark. Just like Hashem is eternal, our divine spark is eternal. So we can’t degrade ourselves and think that we are nothing, because we have something wonderful and awesome in us, which is a piece of the G-d above. But this piece of G-d above is also considered to be the concept of “ayin”—nothingness. It can’t exist where there is somethingness. Wherever somethingness exists, the G-dly spark is not seen. So it isn’t present. The whole idea is to go from somethingness to nothingness. A person needs to start his day with this idea and think about it all day—it should accompany him all the day. He needs to remember that he is trying to negate his somethingness and come to nothingness. And actually, all this is included in the concept of temimus—simplicity.   

   A person doesn’t need to be a philosopher and to start giving lectures: there is nothingness, and there is somethingess, etc. Everyone will write down everything he says. But he simply embodies this through his actions. He does what he is obligated to do. He doesn’t know anything.

   This is my work, and that is his work.  But mine brings me back to myself, so for me it is again somethingness. No, it’s not for me, but for the G-dly point that is in me, the spark of divinity which is in me, for my purpose, for my concerns, for what I will have to give an accounting later. Somethingness threatens us in many forms—it is essentially our enemy. We came to this world only to nullify this—our taste, our style, our understanding, what we think we deserve, our complaints, our criticisms—all this we came to nullify.

   The Tam (simpleton) in Rabbeinu’s story doesn’t know much, but one thing he knows: that he doesn’t need to pay any attention to what people say. He isn’t bothered by other people; he only requests that they shouldn’t make fun of him. What is making fun of a person? It is the opposite of temimus/simplicity. Everything that is not connected with Hashem, fulfilling the advice—“be simple with Hashem, your G-d,” everything that is not coming close to temimus—which is sheleimus/perfection—is a kind of mocking cynicism. This is the sign of falsity. Cynicism is the trait of the jokers, who will not see the face of the Shechina. What does it mean to joke? I am so great—not only do I think that I am better than you are, but all that I have to do in life is to make fun of you. It is impossible to describe what an unbearable and awful klippah this is. In the deepest sense, whatever is not connected with temimus is leitzanus—jeering cynicism.

   The Tam represents temimus/simplicity. He doesn’t get excited about anyone—not from those who praise him and not from those that make fun of him. He isn’t part of anything. He is only connected to the source—to the source of his soul and to his task in life, to whatever he needs to do. What is simplicity? Simplicity is perfection. It is a kind of perfection that is indescribable. Yaakov was an “ish tam”—a simple man. If you switch the letters of tam you get something terrible (mes—death). This means that Hashem does not waive or relinquish our simplicity. A person who wants to remain here in this world and who wants to finish his tikkun, must be a tam. Being a tam means that you have no questions, no difficulties—whatever it says, that’s what you do. Whatever they tell you to do, you do it. Even though we don’t understand it, and even if it bothers us. Where exactly does it bother us? In the path of somethingness. In the path of nothingness, it doesn’t bother us. Simplicity is being happy with whatever Hashem gives us. We need to accept all the decrees with love. Everything is honey and sugar. A person needs to be on the path from somethingness to nothingness all the time. A person is born into somethingness—he was born with two closed fists—the symbol of somethingness. And when he dies, his hands are open. There is nothing. He doesn’t leave anything here in this world. This is like the father that said to his children who asked him: what about his will and what about our inheritance? So he told them that it was to be found in such and such a place, and to open it only after he passed away. After the shiva was over, they went to this place that he told them about and they opened it and what did they find there? Slippers. What he actually wanted to tell them that even my slippers I couldn’t take with me. You can’t take anything at all. Nothing. So actually, the existence of a person in this world is to become part of nothingness in the end. 


Parparos L’Torah

   “The angel who redeemed me from evil, may he bless the lads, and may they be called by my name and the names of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzhak, and may they multiply like fish within the land.” (48:16)

   Chazal ask: Why did Yaakov Avinu bless Ephraim and Menashe, the sons of Yosef, that they should be like fish and not like some other animals or birds?

   Chazal answer: Of all the creatures that the blessed Creator created—domesticated animals, wild animals and birds—there are pure species and there are species that aren’t pure. And this is also true for the fish. But still, there is a difference between fish and other types of animals. Other species of animals (the kosher ones) need to be shechted in order for them to be fitting for consumption, which involves many halachos and rules. And even after being shechted properly, these animals still need to be checked according to the laws of treifos and many other halachos. And in the end they need rinsing and soaking, salting and washing. But this does not apply to fish. If a fish has all the signs of being kosher then it is tahor from start to finish—without shechita, soaking, salting and any additional checking. So this is why Yaakov Avinu blessed the lads that they should “multiply like fish within the land”—that they should be like fish. This was telling them: what are these fish that are born in purity and remain pure until their end. So are you: your inception and births were in holiness and purity, and you will be like this forever. The Holy One of Israel does not lie and will not abandon you forever and ever, amen.


Parparos L’Torah 2

“…which I took from the hands of the Amorites by my sword and my bow.” (48:22)

   Yaakov Avinu said, “with my sword and my bow” which Unkolos translates as “with my prayer and my supplications.” Other commentators explain this as: with mitzvos and good deeds.

   The Kehilas Yaakov brings in this book, that Rav Avraham Aharon questioned Chazal: Why did Chazal take this out of its literal meaning?  And he clarifies: If it had been Yaakov Avinu’s intention that the words be taken in their literal sense, as a sword and bow, he would have said “my bow” before “my sword.” For it is known that in war, the fighting is first done from afar, with cannons and rifles which are like the bow, and only afterward is it possible to fight in hand to hand combat with short range weapons like a sword. And since “sword,” which is a weapon used to kill up close, precedes “bow,” which is fired from afar, Chazal knew that physical weapons were not what was being spoken of here, but rather mitzvos and good deeds that we use like a weapon and a shield in the war against the evil inclination. Indeed, this war is different than other wars. The evil inclination rules over a person from the moment he emerges from his mother’s womb, as is written (Bereishis 4:7): “Sin crouches at the opening,” and until the day he dies. Therefore, it is crucial that initially this war is carried out with the sword—to banish the evil inclination from his midst. Only after he was successful in this mission, with siata d’shemaya, one then has to constantly stand guard, and shoot from afar with his bow at this enemy, without having to draw close to him again, chalila.


Story on the Parsha

“Cursed is their rage for it is intense, and their wrath…” (49:7)

   It is told about the tzaddik Rabbi Mordechai from Nishchiz that he yearned for a long time to obtain a tallis from the Land of Israel . However, in those days very few people traveled to Israel, so a long time passed until one of the Chasidim visited the land of Israel, fulfilled his request, and brought him impressive, choice tallis material. Rebbe Mordechai gave the wool material to one of his students to sew from it a tallis katan in the appropriate shape and size. However, when the student folded the material to cut it and make the neck opening, he made a mistake and made two neck openings. When the student saw what harm had been done, he was shocked and worried what would happen when Rebbe Mordechai would hear about his mistake. But when the man came to his Rebbe, and told him what had happened when he was preparing the precious tallis katan, Rebbe Mordechai said jokingly: Why are you so afraid? The truth is I actually do need a tallis katan with two neck openings—one for my head, and the other to test Rebbe Mordechai to see if he would get angry.


Story on the Parsha 2

“And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt 17 years.” (47:28)

   When Rebbe Yaakov Berlin, the father of the Netziv from Volozhin, turned 60, he decided to leave the community of Mir where he was a Rav, and move to Israel . He arrived in the land, and went to live in Jerusalem within the Old City walls, and lived for 17 years comfortably and with honor. The elders of Jerusalem relate: when Rebbe Yaakov became ill and was about to pass away, the wise men of Jerusalem came to visit him with permission of the Gaon Rav Shmuel Salant. Rebbe Yaakov was lying in bed with his eyes closed, and the visitors bemoaned the end of the great and distinguished person before them. Suddenly, Rebbe Yaakov opened his eyes and said to his guests: Why are you sad? Baruch Hashem, I have lived 77 years, a life of Torah and fear of G-d, and I merited that my portion in life would be better than that of Yaakov Avinu, whose name I have. About Yaakov it is said, “And Yaakov lived in Egypt 17 years” and in comparison with him I have lived the past 17 years of my life, not in Egypt , but in Jerusalem , the Holy City . Yaakov testified about himself that his years were “few and bad,” and I, baruch Hashem, merited that all the days of my life were good and pleasant. There is no reason to be upset that I have come to the end of my life, for I am going to a world which is completely good. A big smile appeared on the pale face of Rebbe Yaakov, but a while later he added: There is however one regret that I have at this time. All of my life, I tried to say many blessings in honor of Hashem—blessings over mitzvos, blessings over pleasurable activities, and blessings of praise and thanksgiving to the Creator of the World. But the blessing “Hashem gave and Hashem took away—the name of Hashem should be blessed!” you will be able to bless after I pass away, but I’ll will not be able to say it!


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