Neither yesterday nor tomorrow, it is, in a sense, the
best of both worlds
A TELLING STORY: The Rebbe in His Laboratory
The spiritual pathologist sees what others dont;
he also knows the ramifications of what he sees
Ten things were created on the eve of Shabbat at twilight.
These are: the mouth of the earth;
the mouth of the well; the mouth of the donkey; the rainbow; the manna; the staff; the shamir; and the writing, the inscription,
and the tablets [of the Ten Commandments].
Ethics of the Fathers 5:6
Twilight (bein hashemashot) is a halachic
(Torah-legal) term for a time-period that marks the transition
from day to night and from one calendar day to the next.
According to Torah law, the calendar day runs from nightfall
thus, Shabbat begins Friday evening at nightfall and ends
at nightfall on Saturday night. Nightfall is when
the light of day has faded to the point that three middle-sized
stars are visible in the sky. The halachists calculate this
to be the point at which the sun has descended 5.9 degrees
below the horizon; this occurs approximately 30 minutes after
sunset, depending on the location and the time of year.
Nightfall, however, only marks the point at which the nightand
the next calendar dayis certain to have begun. Between
sunset and nightfall is the period defined as twilight, a time-period with laws and rules of its own. The previous day
has ended (or perhaps ended), yet the following day has not
yet (or perhaps not yet) commenced.
Talmudic and halachic literature present three definitions
a) It is a period that is possibly day, possibly night.
According to this definition, the concept of twilight
is wholly a product of our ignorance of the precise point
at which one day ends and the next begins. Nevertheless, our
ignorance results in special laws that apply to this period.
b) It is an admixture of day and night; a time-period in
which day and night overlap, so that it possesses
c) It is neither day nor night, but an entity of its own
which effects the transition from day to night and from one
day to the next.
The above-quoted mishnah from Ethics of the Fathers
enumerates ten things that G-d created in the closing moment
of the six days of creation, on the eve of Shabbat,
at twilight. But if twilight is a product of our ignorance
as to the precise moment at which the day ends, it follows
that for G-d, the creator of night and day, there is no twilight.
Obviously, then, the twilight of which our mishnah
speaks is an actual entity, a time period that is some sort
of intermediary between one day and the next, as in definitions
b or c above.
In truth, b and c are essentially
the same definition. Chassidic teaching explains that an intermediarya
thing or force that facilitates a transition from one state
to anothermust include elements of both states, as well
as an overriding element that effects the transition. Thus,
a poet who wishes to translate a poem from English into French
must possess mastery of both languages; indeed, if his translation
is to capture the full power and beauty of the poem, his mastery
of the two languages must be greater than what would be required
to write such a poem in either language.
Another example of this principle: A child psychologist must
be familiar with the world of childhood. A psychologist who
counsels adults must have knowledge and insight primarily
into the psyche and experiences of adults. But a psychologist
counseling adolescentspeople who are struggling with
the transition from childhood to adulthoodmust have
intimate knowledge of both worlds, and more so than either
of his colleagues.
Each and every day of time was created by G-d for a specific
purpose; each possesses qualities and potentials uniquely
its own. Thus, the days of our lives
do not simply begin where the previous day leaves off. Rather,
there is a gap between them that must be bridged,
a transition that must be effected. Hence the special quality
and function of twilightthe period that
possesses qualities of both days and can thus bridge this
gap and facilitate this transition.
This is especially true of the transition from Friday to
Shabbata transition from work to rest, from achievement
to repose, from flux to tranquillity. A transition between
two time-periods which differ greatly in their function, nature
and very essence.
The Cosmic Week
Our sages tell us that the original week of creation embodies
the whole of history, which likewise constitutes a week:
six workday millennia, followed by a seventh,
Thus, writes Nachmanides, the first day of creation, which
saw the creation of light, embodies the first millennium of
historythe millennium of Adam, the light of the
world, when the world was still saturated with knowledge
of its Creator and was sustained by the indiscriminate benevolence
of G-d; the second day, on which the Creator distinguished between
the spiritual and the physical elements of His creation, yielded
a second millennium of judgment and discriminationas
reflected in the Flood which wiped out a corrupt humanity
and spared only the righteous Noah and his family; the third
day, on which the land emerged from the sea and sprouted forth
greenery and fruit-bearing trees, encapsulates the third millennium,
in which Abraham began teaching the truth of the One G-d and
the Torah was given on Mount Sinai; the fourth day, on which
G-d created the sun and the moon, the two great luminaries:
the greater luminary... and the lesser luminary, corresponds
to the fourth millennium, in which the First Temple (2928-3338)
and the Second Temple (3408-3829) in Jerusalem served as the
divine abode from which light emanated to the entire
world; the fifth day, the day of fish,
birds and reptiles, unfolded into the lawless and predatory
Dark Ages of the fifth millennium; the sixth day, whose early hours saw the creation of the beasts
of the land, followed by the creation of man, is our millenniuma
millennium marked by strong, forceful empires, whose beastly
rule will be followed by the emergence of Moshiach, the perfect
man who brings to realization the divine purpose in creation
and ushers in the seventh millenniumthe World
to Comea time of perfect peace and tranquillity.
Nachmanides also notes that each thousand-year day
is preceded by a twilightan overlapping
period which, while technically belonging to the previous
millennium, contains the beginnings of the next. Thus, Abraham
was born 52 years before the third millennium, King Solomon
built the First Temple 72 years before the fourth, and so
with each millennium.
Therein lies the special significance of the twilight following
the sixth day of creation, on which G-d created the ten things
enumerated by the mishnah. For on the macro-historical
level, this is the twilight which facilitates the transition
from the six millennia of history to the age of Moshiach.
The significance of this time is of primary relevance to
our generation. For it is we, who have entered the final quarter
of the sixth millennium,
who are living in this most crucial juncture of historythe
twilight that translates six thousand years of human toil
and achievement into the day that is wholly Shabbat
and rest, for life everlasting.
In his parting words to the people of Israel, Moses enjoins:
You shall keep the mitzvah, the decrees and the laws
which I command you today to do them.
The Talmud interprets this to imply:
Today to do themand not to do them
Today to do themand tomorrow to
receive their reward.
In other words, our present-day world and World to Come represent
two different modes of existence, each of which is confined
to a world all its own. Our present world is the environment
for deed and achievement, but without the possibility to enjoy,
or even envision, the fruits of our labor. On the other hand,
the World to Come is a world of ultimate reward, tranquillity
and bliss, but one that precludes any further achievement
on the part of man. The Talmud goes so far as to quote the
verse, There will come years of which you will say:
I have no desire in them, and declare: This refers
to the days of the Messianic era, in which there is neither
merit nor obligation. As one chassidic rebbe expressed it, In
the days of Moshiach we will yearn for the hardships and challenges
Intrinsic to our nature is that we derive true satisfaction
only from what we achieve in the face of challenge. Yet it
is the paradox of life that true satisfaction can be experienced
only under conditions of tranquillity, and that true challenge
can exist only under conditions in which the satisfaction
of achievement lies hidden and unknowable beyond the horizon
of ones goal.
Hence the delegation of the reward of our deeds to an unknowable
tomorrow, and delegation of achievement to a strife-ridden
today. Were the first six workday
millennia of history to include more than the merest hint
of the satisfaction implicit in our attainments, its challenges,
and thus its achievements, would be greatly diminished. On
the other hand, were the seventh millennium to include the
conditions that allow for true achievement, it could not serve
as the arena for true satisfaction.
Thus reality consists of two worlds locked into dichotomy
by their very natures and their most basic functions. In the words of the Ethics,
A single moment of teshuvah
and good deeds in this world is greater than all of the World
to Come. And a single moment of bliss in the World to Come
is greater than all of this world.
Yet there also exists a third arena, an environment in which
these two worlds overlap, a reality that incorporates both
deed and reward, both struggle and tranquillity; a twilight
that mediates between the six work days of creation
and the ultimate Shabbat.
How does a person experience tranquillity while in the pith
of struggle? How can a person enjoy perfection while still
grappling with his shortcomings? When he is completely one
with what he is doing.
This is the law of the Torah, proclaims the verse
introducing the laws of the Red Heifer.
The chassidic masters point out that the word chukat
(the law of) used by the verse derives from the
word chakikah, engraving; thus the above
verse may also be rendered, this is the engraving of
the Torah. Indeed, the Torah was first given to us in
the form of Ten Commandments engraved into two tablets of
Chassidic teaching explains that a persons relationship
with the truths he bears can be like that of a parchment scroll
with the words written upon it, or like that of a stone tablet
with the words engraved in it. The scroll, too, serves as
a platform and medium for its words, yet the substance of
the scroll and the substance of the words remain two distinct
entities, however strongly the ink might adhere to the parchment.
The stone tablet, on the other hand, is one with its message:
the words are the stone and the stone is the words. The Torah
is telling us that its words should be engraved words rather
than written words to us: words that are the very form and
substance of our lives, rather than something superimposed
upon its surface.
This is the significance of the last three of the ten things
created on the eve of Shabbat, at twilightthe
writing, the inscription, and the tablets of the
Ten Commandments. On the twilight between the six days of creation
and the first Shabbat, G-d bestowed upon us the capacity to
not only carry out His blueprint for creation, but to engrave
it in our very selves, so that everything we do is in full
harmony with who and what we are.
As tablets of Torah, we transcend the dichotomy
of deed and reward. For when a person is completely one with
his path through life, his most arduous climb is a tranquil
flight of soul and his most painful deficiencies are the building
blocks of an integral and perfect self. In such a person,
the sharp defining line that divides achievement from satisfaction
is muted, creating a twilight in which the two
distinct, mutually exclusive worlds are merged.
Today, we stand at this most unique moment of history. At
this time of transition, on the threshold between today and
tomorrow, as six millennia of human endeavor approach their
climax into the tranquil perfection of the eternal Shabbat,
we are, in a sense, in possession of the best of both worlds.
Let us seize the moment.
Based on the Rebbes talks on Elul 23, 5742 (September
11, 1982) and on other occasions
The Rebbe in His Laboratory
The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn,
once referred to a person in a letter as a G-d fearing
When asked why he bestowed such a title upon a person who
is known as an irreligious man, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak replied:
When a pathologist is given a blood sample or a particle
of body tissue to analyze in his laboratory, he peers at it
through his microscope and subjects it to a series of chemical
tests and procedures. If he finds so much as the slightest
trace of a certain element, or a single cell of a certain
organism, he notes this in his report. For though the quantity
he discerns might be minuscule and hardly worthy of regard,
it points to the existence, or the potential for the existence,
of much greater quantities in the person.
I am a spiritual pathologist, concluded the Rebbe.
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber
. Which swallowed Korach (Numbers 16:32).
. The Well of Miriam - the miraculous
stone which provided water to the people of Israel during
their wanderings in the desert (Exodus 17:6, Numbers 21:16-18).
. Of Bilaam (Numbers 22:28).
. Of Moses (Exodus 4:17).
. A worm which split stones for the construction
of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (Talmud, Gittin 68a).
. As per Genesis 1:5: And it was evening, and
it was morning: one day.
. Twenty-four minutes after sunset on March 22 in
the Land of Israel (see Siddur HaRav, Seder Hachnassat Shabbat;
. The actual duration of twilight is
a matter of debate between the halachists. According to
one opinion, twilight is the entire period between
sunset and nightfall; according to other opinions, it is
a certain time period within this period. Another opinion
is the twilight occupies but the blink of an eyea
brief moment that intervenes between day and night (see
Talmud and commentaries, Shabbat 34b; Siddur HaRav, ibid.;
Encyclopedia Talmudit, vol. III, s.v. Bein HaShemashot
[pp. 122-126] and sources cited there).
. See Talmud, ibid.; Mishneh Torah, Laws of Eruvin
1:21; Ritva, Yoma 47b; Mefaaneach Tzefunot, p. 177-178.
. Zohar, part III, 94b; Responsa of Rashba, no.
. See Inside Time, WIR, vol IX, no. 24.
. Midrash Tanchuma, Noach 1.
. Cf. Talmud, Pesachim 118a.
. Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 4:5.
. 240-1240 ce in the secular calendar.
. Nachmanides commentary on the Torah, Genesis
. We are now in the year 5758 from creation.
. Talmud, Eruvin 22a.
. Talmud, Shabbat 151b.
. See The Subconscious of G-d, to be published
in next weeks issue of WIR.
. Return. In its narrower sense, teshuvah
is repentance for sin; in its broader sense, it is the rebounding
from negative and challenging experiences to an acme of
achievement unattainable under conditions of tranquillity
and perfection (see The Distant Road, WIR, vol. IX,
. Ethics of the Fathers 4:17; see Essence and
Expression, Beyond the Letter of the Law (VHH, 1995),
. Torah Ohr, Chukat 56a.
. The other things created at this time likewise
represent realities that are of a twilight qualityrealities
relating to the transition from our world to the world of
Moshiach. See On the Essence of the Instrument, Beyond
the Letter of the Law, pp. 250-260.
. Hitvaaduyot 5742, vol. IV, pp. 2240-2243, 2249-2253;
Hitvaaduyot 5745, vol. IV, pp. 2068-2069, 2079-2080; et