We each possess a male and female self, a conqueror of hostile
lands and a cultivator of the inner spirit; at times, however,
these roles overlap
Life in the Regular
Monotony as an illusion of human nature
Lead or Leash?
The difference between a leader and a front-runner
Not much is known about the lives of Machlah, Noah, Chaglah,
Milkah and Tirtzah. But at a defining moment in the history
of Israel, these five sisters, daughters of Tzelafchad the
son of Chefer, profoundly influenced the Jew's approach to
the world in which he lives.
Tzelafchad was of the generation born in Egyptian slavery,
liberated by the Exodus, and granted the Land of Canaan as
Israel's eternal heritage. Although that generation did not
merit to take possession of the land themselves, when their
children crossed the Jordan River to conquer it they did so
as their fathers' heirs. Each family received its share in
the land in accordance with its apportionment among the 600,000
members of the generation of the Exodus.
Tzelafchad had five daughters but no sons. The laws of inheritance
as they were initially given in the Torah, which recognized
only male heirs, made no provision for his share to be claimed
by his descendants. Machlah, Noah, Chaglah, Milkah and Tirtzah
refused to reconcile themselves to this, and approached Moses
with the petition: "Why should our father's name be eliminated
from his family, because he has no son? Grant us an estate
amongst [the heirs of] our father's brothers."
Moses presented their argument to G-d, who responded: "The
daughters of Tzelafchad speak rightly. Give ... their father's
estate to them." G-d then instructed Moses to include the following clause in
the Torah's laws of inheritance: If a man dies and he has
no son, you shall pass his estate on to his daughter.
The Exodus and the conquest of the Land-the two events which
framed the 40 years in which we were forged as a people-represent
the two primary endeavors of life. "Going out of Egypt"
represents the liberation of the soul from all that confines
its true self and will; "conquering and settling the
Land of Canaan" represents the conquest of the material
world and its development as a "home for G-d"-as
an environment receptive to and expressive of the goodness
and perfection of its Creator.
The generation of the Exodus succeeded in the first endeavor
but failed in the second. They extricated themselves from
the pagan culture and slave mentality in which they were immersed,
refining their souls to the point of worthiness to receive
the Truth of Truths directly from G-d at Sinai. But they spurned
the task of "conquering and settling the land,"
loath to abandon their spiritual hermitage in the desert in
order to grapple with the materiality of the world and labor
to transform "The Land of Canaan" into "The
Holy Land." So it was decreed that they would live out
their lives in the desert, leaving it to their children to
settle the land in their stead.
On the individual level, each of us faces these two tasks
throughout our lives: the endeavor to liberate and actualize
our soul's spiritual potential, and the challenge to make
our material life and environment a holy and G-dly place.
We each must struggle to make the transition from a childhood
and youth devoted to self-development and self perfection
to a life of productive involvement with the outside world.
A Different Conquest
But people are different from one another. In the words of
the Talmud, "Just as their faces are different, so are
their characters different." There are bold characters and meek characters, aggressive natures
and passive dispositions. There are those of us who revel
in a challenge, and those who are all but devoid of the warrior
instinct and the zeal for confrontation.
Therein lies the deeper significance of the laws of inheritance
as commanded by G-d in response to the petition by the daughters
of Tzelafchad. "If a man ... has no son" - if a
person ascertains in his or her self a lack of "male"
aggressiveness and combativeness -he might deduce from this
that he has no role to play in the "conquest of the land."
Such a person might be inclined to devote all his energies
to the refinement of his inner self, and leave the task of
sanctifying an unholy world to those with "sons."
Says the Torah: conquering and settling the land is not an
exclusively male endeavor. Each of Israel's souls has a "portion
in the land" - a corner of the material world it is empowered
to possess, civilize and sanctify. Indeed, this is a task
which often calls for aggressiveness and confrontation; but
there is also a "feminine" way to transform the
materiality of our lives into a "Holy Land."
"If a man ... has no son, you shall pass his estate
on to his daughter." The very fact that a person is by
nature disinclined toward the aggressiveness of the "male
warrior" indicates that he has been granted the capacity
to transform his surroundings via his "daughter"
- by employing the passive, compassionate, non-confrontational
side of his soul.
This is the law of life revealed by the daughters of Tzelafchad:
Not all conquests are achieved by overpowering one's adversary.
At times, receptiveness and empathy are far more effective
in overcoming the hostility of the "enemy" and transforming
its very nature. The absence of a "male heir" in
the soul may in fact indicate the presence of a "feminine"
self no less capable of claiming the soul's portion in the
world and transforming it into a "home for G-d."
Based on the Rebbe's talks on Tammuz 13, 5715 (July 3,
1955) and on other occasions
My korban, My bread for My fire, My sweet savor, you shall
observe to offer Me in its appointed time... two [offerings]
each day, a regular offering...
The human being is attracted to the unusual. One might argue
that it is the routine things in life - the regular intake
and expulsion of breath, our daily meals, our home life, our
jobs - that are most crucial to our existence, while the "special"
things are of lesser import. One might so argue - but to little
avail. Our nature dictates that the occassonality of an event
makes it "an occasion," while an event's regular
occurrence drains it of interest and significance.
Hence the Torah delegates various aspects of our relationship
with G-d to moadim, or "appointed times."
We are enjoined to sustain a perpetual awareness of the Creator,
yet one day a week is designated as the particular time in
which "to remember ... that the world has a Creator" and to "establish in our hearts
the belief in the creation of the world by G-d in six days." We are commanded to "Remember the day that
you went out of Egypt, all the days of your life," yet the once-a-year festival of Passover is
appointed as the occasion to dwell upon and internalize the
gift of freedom. And so it is with the other moadim
of the Jewish calendar: if these are to be "special"
days whose message and import makes a lasting impression upon
our souls, they must be occasional days, departures from the
routine of our lives.
Our sages go so far as to say: "One who recites Hallel
every day, commits blasphemy." Hallel is a prayer of praise
and thanks to G-d for the miracles He performs for us, which
is recited on festivals and other designated days. But are
we not enjoined to thank G-d "for the miracles You perform
for us every day"?
Why reserve Hallel for the days which commemorate the Exodus
from Egypt or the miracle of the oil that burned for eight
days? Is not every heartbeat no less a miracle, and no less
evocative of recognition and gratitude?
But to recite Hallel every day is akin to not reciting it
at all. Certainly, our "routine" lives must be imbued
with an awareness of our indebtedness to our Creator-to this
end the Jew prays three times a day, morning, afternoon and
evening. The entire point of Hallel is that, in addition to
our daily prayers, we devote certain occasions to a "special"
appreciation of G-d's miracles - a specialty which would inevitably
be diluted if the recitation of Hallel were to be made a daily
In this and numerous other ways, the Torah tells us to employ
our inborn characteristics and inclinations in the quest for
a holier and more G-dly life. But the Torah also calls for
more. G-d desires more from us than the optimal exploitation
of human nature - He desires that we also transcend our natural
selves in our relationship with Him.
The Torah provides us with "routines" (such as
the daily prayers) designed to make our relationship with
G-d an integral part of our daily lives, as well as "appointed
times" to lend it prominence and distinction. At the
same time, however, it also urges us to transcend these categorizations,
to impart a sense of specialty and occasion also to the "regular"
rhythms of life.
This is reflected in the manner in which the Torah introduces
the laws of the daily korbanot (animal and meal offerings)
brought in the Holy Temple. The communal korbanot fall
into two general categories: the "regular" offerings
(temidim) brought each day; and the "additional"
offerings (mussafim) brought on special occasions -
Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, the festivals, etc. The same "regular
offerings" were brought each day; the "additional
offerings" varied in accordance with the occasion, reflecting
the nature and characteristics of their appointed times.
As a rule, the Torah uses the term moed ("appointed
time") to refer to those special days of the calendar
imbued by the Creator of time with unique spiritual resources
and potentials (the tranquility of Shabbat, the freedom of
Passover, the joy of Sukkot, etc.).
However, in introducing the laws of the daily offerings, the
Torah states: "My korban, My fire-offering, My sweet
savor, you shall observe to offer Me in its appointed time." Rashi, in his commentary to this verse, notes
this unusual application of the term moed, and remarks:
"The 'appointed time' of the perpetual offerings is every
The korbanot, representing man's endeavor to refine and elevate
his natural self and bring himself close to G-d, constitute
one of the "three pillars" of creation (today, lacking a Holy Temple,
prayer fills the role of the korbanot). In this context,
the Torah is alluding to the need to go beyond the habits
and instincts of the natural self in our relationship with
G-d. Our nature dictates that the "occasions" in
our lives are touched with a special vitality and enthusiasm,
and we exploit this trait in our seasonal celebrations of
the various aspects of our relationship with G-d; but we should
also endeavor to make "every day an appointed time"
- to evoke in ourselves a sense of wonder and specialty in
the most routine aspects of our daily existence.
Indeed, the very concept of "monotony" and "ordinariness"
is an illusion resulting from our inability to see beyond
the limitations of human nature. In truth, distinction is
not a factor of a thing's difference from other things, but
an inherent quality of the thing itself. In truth, every moment
of life is a distinct creation of G-d, embodying a unique,
special and indispensable potential which cannot be duplicated
by any other moment.
Based on the Rebbe's talks on Shabbat Pinchas 5744 (1984)
and on other occasions
My korban, My bread
The people of Israel provide nourishment
for their Father in Heaven
Zohar, part III, 26b
The Talmud points to the relationship between the soul and
the body as a model for the nature of G-d's relationship with
the world. The soul cannot be perceived by the senses, yet
its presence and effect is keenly felt in every part of the
body; so too, G-d, though He transcends our reality and is
utterly beyond its perception, vitalizes the entirety of creation
and is fully present in its every nook and cranny.
Chassidic teaching employs this analogy to explain the amazing
statement by our sages that "The people of Israel provide
nourishment for their Father in Heaven." Food is the glue that keeps
soul and body together, sustaining the embodiment of the spirit
within its material shell. By the same token, our service
of G-d is what sustains G-d's involvement with His creation,
feeding His desire to continue to infuse it with existence
Thus G-d refers to the korbanot - the animal and meal
offerings brought in the Holy Temple - as "My bread."
The korbanot (and their present-day substitute, prayer)
are the highest expression of our striving to serve G-d and
come close to Him; as such, they are the "food"
which sustains the life of the universe, the fuel that keeps
the divine soul alight within the body of creation.
And Moses spoke to G-d, saying: "G-d of the spirits
of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who will
go before them and come before them, who will take them out
and bring them in..."
Rabbi Israel Salanter was once asked to explain the Talmudic
prediction that in the days before the coming of Moshiach,
"The face (i.e., the leadership) of the generation will
have the face of a dog."
Said Rabbi Israel: "Have you ever seen a man and a dog
walking? The dog always runs ahead; to the casual observer
it seems that it is the leader. But every now and then the
dog turns around to see where his master wants to go, and
changes direction accordingly.
"Today, our world abounds with such 'leaders.' But a
true leader is not one who merely 'goes and comes before the
people,' while looking over his shoulder to see if they are
still following him. He is also the one who 'takes them out
and brings them in' - who leads them where he knows they must
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber
 Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for "Egypt,"
means "confines" and "limitations" (see
Freedom, WIR, vol. IX, no. 17).
 See Holy Land, WIR (vol. X, no. 38).
 Midrash Tanchuma, Pinchas 10.
 Knowledge of G-d is one of the six "perpetual
commandments" binding upon the Jew at all times (Foreword
("Iggeret") to Sefer HaChinuch).
 Nachmanides on Exodus 20:8.
 Sefer HaChinuch, Positive Commandment 31.
 Talmud, Shabbat 118b.
 From the thrice-daily Amidah prayer.
 See Appointments in Time, WIR, vol. IX,
 Ethics of the Fathers 1:2. See Kuzari II:26; Siddur
Im D'ach, p. 33b-c.
 Likkutei Sichot, vol. XXVIII, p.190, et al.
 Zohar, part III, 26b; Midrash Rabbah, Shir HaShirim
 Based on Likkutei Sichot, vol. XII, p. 18; ibid.,
vol. VII, p. 137, note 16.
 Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a.