Parshas Behar-Likkutei Torah-The two levels of Shabbos

This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

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Parshas Behar


Es Shabsosaiy Tishmoru.…

[Likkutei Torah p. 80]

Parshas Behar discusses the Mitzvah of Shabbos. While there are many verses in the Torah that discuss the Mitzvah of Shabbos, one particular verse in this Parsha holds special significance because it reveals to us a new meaning and inner dimension contained within Shabbos. The verse does not enter into a lengthy discussion to describe this hidden secret of Shabbos, but rather alludes to it with a simple word modification used in the commandment to guard the Shabbos. The verse states, “Guard my Shabbasos” in the plural form, when it should just say, “Guard my Shabbos”, being that Shabbos is a single entity. The Alter Rebbe explains that there are two levels of Shabbos that are found within every Shabbos, and hence the verse is commanding us to guard both of these aspects. What are these two aspects of Shabbos? The Alter Rebbe then goes into a thorough examination of the elevations of the worlds and our Divine service that occur on Shabbos in relation to the rest of the week. On Shabbos, the worlds are elevated, along with our Divine service of Torah and the Mitzvos that we performed throughout the week. What is the identity of these elevations, and what is their purpose? The Alter Rebbe introduces us to the true purpose and goal contained within our performance of Torah and Mitzvos, and novelizes that there are two levels of nullification of the soul that we aspire to attain through our Divine service. One level is reached through the Mitzvos, while the second level will only be experienced in the future. These two levels also correspond to the two elevations experienced on Shabbos, the lower Shabbos and the higher Shabbos. If we were to guard Shabbos properly and hence ensure the occurrence of these two elevations, we would merit the immediate redemption. 



Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      What two aspects are contained within every Shabbos?

2.      How are our Torah and Mitzvos elevated to G-dliness?

3.      What is the true purpose of the performance of the Mitzvos?

4.      What two forms of Bittul exist, and how do they relate to the revelation experienced in the future era?


Keeping two Shabbosos:

The verse states, “Es Shabsosaiy Tishmoru/You shall guard my Shabbasos”. The plural tense of the word Shabbasos suggests that the Torah is commanding us to guard Shabbos two times. This sheds light on the saying of the Sages:[1] Rebbe Yochanan said in the name of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochaiy, “If only the Jewish people would keep two Shabbasos properly, Moshiach would have come.” However, this seems to contradict the Talmud Yerushalmi, which states, “If the Jewish people would keep one Shabbos properly, Moshiach would come.” The answer is that in truth even the first statement does not refer to two physical Shabbasos, but rather to the two aspects contained within every Shabbos. By guarding even a single Shabbos, one is guarding two aspects of it. Thus, both statements of the Sages suggest that if the Jewish people would guard the two aspects of even one Shabbos properly, Moshiach would come. Yet what are these two aspects of Shabbos? To understand this matter, we must first introduce a deeper meaning behind the idea of Shabbos.


The elevations that occur on Shabbos:

It is well known that Shabbos is a time of elevations for all worlds, and all the Torah and Mitzvos that one has accomplished during the week are elevated on Shabbos as well. This does not mean that the service of one’s Torah and Mitzvos remains frozen until Shabbos comes and then becomes elevated. Rather, it means that the elevation of the Torah and Mitzvos that take place during the week is a result of the ray of Shabbos that shines each day. What serves as the conduit for the Shabbos ray to be able to shine during the week? A person’s Avodas Hatefillah. The daily prayers act as a ladder that elevates the Torah and Mitzvos of that entire day. Davening is referred to as Olas Tamid, being that during prayer one is constantly ascending from level to level and from world to world. Essentially, Tefillah serves as a constant elevator of all of one’s Divine service. This is similar to Shabbos, which is called Olas Shabbos, being that on Shabbos all the worlds are elevated. However, although the Torah and Mitzvos experience a daily elevation through prayer, they receive an even higher and greater elevation on Shabbos. This is because all of one’s weekday prayers, which carry one’s Torah and Mitzvos, are themselves elevated on Shabbos. To understand this elevation and what it accomplishes, we must first examine the elevations experienced by the soul after it has completed its service in this world.


The two forms of elevations of the soul:

There are two forms of elevations that the souls will experience in the future era. One form of elevation is experienced immediately after the soul leaves the body and enters into Gan Eden. The second elevation will occur only after the coming of Moshiach, in the era of the resurrection. These two forms of elevation are completely incomparable, with the second being of an infinitely greater measure than the first. The highest elevation that the soul can experience will only take place in the future, and it is not even experienced in Gan Eden. In general, these two forms of elevation are referred to as Soveiv and Mimalei. In Gan Eden, the soul experiences a ray and glimmer of Divine light, called Mimalei. In the future era, however, the soul will experience G-d’s infinite light, called Soveiv.


The revelation of Soveiv is a reward for the Mitzvos:

The later elevation granted to the souls in the future era comes as a reward for the performance of the physical Mitzvos during their earthly lifetime. The future revelation of Soveiv Kol Almin, which is Hashem’s infinite light, causes one to be completely nullified before Hashem. The novelty of the future is that the soul in the body will be able to experience this degree of revelation and still retain its existence. This is something that no creation, neither angel nor soul, has ever experienced and is the great novelty of the future era. The ability for the soul within the body to withstand the revelation in the future derives from the soul’s preparatory service of performance of the physical Mitzvos during the Galus. This begs the following question: What is it about the physical Mitzvos specifically that empowers and enables one to receive such an infinitely high revelation?


 Bittul – The purpose of the Mitzvos:

The common denominator among all living beings, whether souls or angels, is that they all contain a sense of self. We all feel our existence, wants, and desires. This in fact is the source of all evil that occurs, as the person feels his will, desires, lusts, passions, and hatreds, and acts accordingly in order to fulfill them. At the same time, this is also the source of much good that is performed in the world. People feel their will and desire to help one another, to benefit society, and to serve G-d and be loyal to Him. Nonetheless, the common denominator among all these actions, even the good ones, is that they are the result of one’s feeling of self and desire to act on it. This opposes the main focus of creation, which is for one to nullify his self, nullify his ego, and make himself subservient to G-d’s will. This is also what prevents the creations from being able to sustain G-d’s infinite light, as their sense of self is naturally resistant to the degree of revelation that would compromise their very existence, and hence they can only receive a mere glimmer of G-dliness. It is precisely for this reason that the Mitzvos were given. The main focus behind every Mitzvah is to help subjugate and break down one’s ego and feeling of self for the sake of G-d. This concept is called Bittul Hayeish. For example, when giving Tzedaka, if one feels truly sorry for the pauper’s situation and has more than enough money to spare on his behalf, then he is not considered to be accomplishing the true purpose of this Mitzvah, as his ego and feeling of self has not only not been diminished even slightly, but it has been actively expressed, as he desired to give the pauper money due to his own personal feelings of mercy. Certainly, the man has done a good deed and will be rewarded, but this deed has not accomplished the ultimate intent of the Mitzvah. The ultimate intent of Tzedaka, as with all Mitzvos, is to break oneself to the point that even when one is not aroused with mercy for the pauper, and he worked very hard to earn his money, he still breaks his ego and gives the pauper charity. Only this accomplishes the Bittul Hayeish that is the objective behind all the Mitzvos.  


The higher Bittul:

While the Bittul experienced through the performance of the Torah and Mitzvos is important and vital, it is still not a true nullification of self. This is because in these cases, one has merely harnessed and nullified his power of deed, so that his actions refrain from doing what his heart desires and are instead subservient to G-d’s will. Yet all the while, one’s inner soul, personality, and character still maintain their feeling of identity and self, which as explained above, opposes the revelation of G-d’s infinite light of Soveiv to be united with the creations. Nevertheless, this Bittul, which was accomplished by one’s acts of Torah and Mitzvos, serves as an arousal from below, an Isarusa Delisata, which will result in a corresponding act by Hashem to lift us to the higher level of Bittul, in which our entire mind and heart will be nullified to Him and united with His infinite light. This will occur in the future era and is the reward of the Mitzvos that we performed during exile, as mentioned earlier. Each person will merit a degree of higher Bittul and unification commensurate to the Bittul that he performed in his Divine service while in this world. It is for this reason that the Sages state, Sechar Mitzvah Mitzvah, “The reward of a Mitzvah is the Mitzvah itself”, as it is the Bittul achieved during the performance of the Mitzvah that brings one to experience the higher Bittul in the future, with the revelation of Hashem’s infinite light.      


A Parable:

A father was experiencing trouble motivating his child to be studious and responsible about his grades. The child was simply uninterested, seeing no purpose in pushing himself to study matters that to him had no relevance and enjoyment. To the child, it was like being forced to eat a bitter medicine or bitter food, and hence who could blame him for his lack of motivation and enthusiasm? After consulting with educational professionals, the father decided to offer his son a great incentive in exchange for a change in his study patterns. If he would sufficiently dedicate himself to his studies, he would earn a trip to Eretz Yisrael at the end of the year with just him and his Dad. The child’s excitement knew no bounds, and he suddenly revealed a powerful and immense urge to learn the required material, and in a short time he became the top of his class. It was a hard and difficult push, forcing himself to swallow the “useless” information, although he did it knowing of the reward that awaited him at the end. After that year, having returned from his trip to Israel, the child continued to display his newfound commitment to his studies and revealed a very assiduous nature. The father approached his child and asked him what he felt caused the sudden change in his character, as there was no longer any added incentive for the child’s academic diligence. The child replied that the previous year’s hard work helped him reveal within himself a strong thirst and pleasure in intellectual pursuits and the acquisition of knowledge. He no longer required external motivations to learn, just as one does not need to be motivated to finish a bowl of ice cream. This parable explains the difference between the two forms of nullification experienced by the soul. In the lower level of nullification, one’s innate desires and pleasures can remain separated from his outer actions, and he simply forces himself to perform them out of subservience to Hashem. The higher level of nullification, however, will conquer one’s entire being, and leave no area of his character void of interest in G-d.  


The higher and lower Shabbos:

Based on all of the above, one can now understand the meaning behind the two aspects that are contained within every Shabbos. There is a higher Shabbos called Shabbos Ilaah, and a lower Shabbos called Shabbos Tatah. These two levels of Shabbos correspond to the two levels of elevations and nullifications. The lower Shabbos corresponds to the level of Bittul Hayeish, as all the worlds and creations are elevated on Shabbos to experience the lower level of nullification, similar to what is experienced when we perform a Mitzvah. This lower level of nullification is referred to as Shabbos Tatah, the lower Shabbos. Shabbos, which means “rest”, also relates to the idea of Bittul, as the world stops performing at its current spiritual level, and becomes elevated to a higher world, hence experiencing a greater level of Bittul. This first elevation is from the world of Assiyah to the world of Atzilus, and on this elevation the verse states, “Vayishbos Mikol Asher Asa/And He rested from all that he made”, as Asa refers to the world of Assiyah. The second elevation that the world undergoes is from Atzilus to Kesser, (which is above Atzilus). This corresponds to the second, higher level of nullification of Soveiv Kol Almin and G-d’s infinite light, which will be experienced in the future era. On this elevation, the verse states, “Vayishbos Mikol Asher Bara/And He rested from all that he created”, as Bara refers to Chochmah of Atzilus, and hence Hashem is saying that even this level becomes elevated on Shabbos. Thus the worlds go through two sets of elevations and nullifications on Shabbos, which are the two aspects of Shabbos that every Shabbos contains.


Guarding the two Shabbasos:

Shabbos is a gift from Hashem through which we are able to experience the two forms of nullifications and elevations presented above. All that is requested from us is to guard this gift, to guard the Shabbos, and prevent any damage that may cause its revelation to be lost. The entire set of Shabbos laws and prohibitions are given exactly for this purpose, to guard the gift and ensure that the revelation of Shabbos will remain intact and active. The desecration of Shabbos blocks the revelation and destroys the experience we are meant to have. In addition, acting inappropriately on Shabbos, such as lying or being gluttonous and egotistical, also blocks the Divine light of Shabbos. When we all guard Shabbos properly and ensure its revelations, we are in essence guarding both aspects of Shabbos, the lower and higher Shabbos, and through doing so we merit Moshiach, which is the revelation of the higher Shabbos, the experience of Soveiv Kol Almin, G-d’s infinite light. We can now understand the statements of Rebbe Shimon and the Jerusalem Talmud, that if we properly keep even one Shabbos, hence ensuring the elevations of the two aspects of Shabbos, the lower Shabbos and higher Shabbos, we will merit the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.


Lessons of the Mamar:

·         The purpose of performing Mitzvos is the subjugation of the animal soul. When you feel challenged to perform a certain Mitzvah, remind yourself that it is precisely in this situation that the Mitzvah has its greatest effect and fulfills its purpose in your performance.

·         Keep in mind during Davening that in essence you are creating a ladder through which all of your Torah, Mitzvos, and Divine service are being elevated.

·         Shabbos is a day of rest, which means elevation and nullification. In order to be able to experience the spiritual effects of Shabbos, one must guard it properly. Make a set Shiur on Shabbos to study the Shabbos laws so that you will have the necessary knowledge to properly keep Shabbos and help bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu!




[1] Tractate Shabbos, 118b

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