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Tuesday
Jan232018

UNCOVER YOUR TRUE IDENTITY

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

This Shabbos, Parshas B’Shalach, is the special day of 11 Shvat. While the official day of the acceptance of the Nesius was on Yud-Shvat, the Rebbe puts a special emphasis on the following day, the first official day of Dor HaShvii, the seventh generation. In the sicha of VaEira 5752 (also see Besuras Geula, chapter 59), the Rebbe speaks about the specialty of our generation that began on the 11th day of the 11th month and the year 5711.

In the expanded explanation in the sicha of 22 Shvat 5752, the following inyan is explained. In short, the number ten demonstrates completion and perfection of the world as it is in its own limited being. The number eleven stands for the state in which the world elevates itself and becoming a vessel for the infinite revelation of Hashem within the vessels of creation. That is the whole concept of Moshiach: “Oros of Tohu in Keilim of Tikkun – the infinite revelation in the finite world.” As we are the generation that will bring the Geula, our identity and mission is connected to the number eleven in all aspects.

It occurred to me that if we look into the HaYom Yom of 11 Shvat, we would probably see the Avoda of our generation mentioned there. The Rebbe writes: “[A Jew’s] day begins with Modeh Ani. This is recited before washing negel-vasser, even though one’s hands are [still] impure, for there is no impurity in the world that can taint a Jew’s Modeh Ani, [his grateful acknowledgment of G‑d]. He may lack this or that [element in his Divine service], but his Modeh Ani remains intact.”

On a practical level, the can be understood based on the famous discourse “On the Essence of Chassidus.” There, in footnote 78, the Rebbe adds: “On the simple level, the fact that none of G-d’s names are mentioned in Modeh Ani and therefore it is permissible to say Modeh Ani even before the morning washing of the hands (see Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein 1:5; and in the second version, ibid. par. 6; and the beginning of the Siddur Admur HaZakein) indicates that Modeh Ani is below the level of the Names.

But on an inner level and understanding of these ideas, the reason why there are none of the Divine names in Modeh Ani (and also why we recite it before the washing of the hands) is that Modeh Ani is above the level of names. Modeh Ani has a quality, namely its Yechida aspect, not shared by Elokai Neshama (although textually, Elokai Neshama contains all of Modeh Ani and more). Why, then, in view of the uniqueness of Modeh Ani according to Chassidus, was it not recited in the days of the Talmud? We may make the following conjecture: The arousal and expression of the Yechida comes only when even one who is in a state of impurity acknowledges the Eternal King. This is similar to the thought expressed (Maamer “Kol Dodi,” 5709, Seifer HaMaamarim 5709, p. 107 and elsewhere), that the capacity for self-sacrifice engendered by Yechida is more evident in the times of the Exile, and especially in the later times, “the heels of the Moshiach,” than in the times of the Beis HaMikdash. And it should be noted that it is likewise with respect to Chassidus — which is the category of Yechida — that Chassidus, too, came to revelation only in the later generations, when the world was in a state of unconsciousness.

Modeh Ani is analogous to the word “Anochi Havaya Elokecha’’ – I am the L-rd your G-d” (Shmos 20:2). Though Anochi (“I”) indicates the Essence that transcends all names, nevertheless and for this very reason the name Anochi does not possess any Holiness, because the word Anochi is not a vessel for the Essence; it only alludes to and represents it. The Seven Names of G-d are vessels for what they represent, e.g. Kindness, Eternity, etc., and as such are holy and must be treated with reverence — not be erased, for example. Anochi is not a name or a vessel for His Essence, but refers to Essence, hence it has no holiness.

In what context was this HaYom Yom of 11 Shvat said by the Frierdike Rebbe? It is from a Sicha that the Frierdike Rebbe spoke on Simchas Torah 5703. The Rebbe was talking about the spiritual state of American Jewry. The American Jew, at that time, was consumed with the physical pursuit of a livelihood and the pressure to adapt and assimilate into American culture and behavior. Yet the Frierdike Rebbe was saying that each Jew has a part of him, a Neshama and a Modeh Ani, which remains untouched and untarnished by America.

This understanding of the Jew is the entire foundation of the Hashkafa of the Rebbe for our generation. In 5711 the Rebbe was facing an assimilated and broken Jewish nation. Yet from the first Farbrengen on Yud Shvat, the Rebbe made clear the objective of our generation: “It is this that is demanded of each and every one of us of the seventh generation, and ‘all those that are seventh are cherished’: Although the fact that we are in the seventh generation is not the result of our own choosing and our own service, and indeed in certain ways perhaps contrary to our will, nevertheless ‘all those who are seventh are cherished.’ We are now very near the approaching footsteps of Moshiach; indeed, we are at the conclusion of this period, and our spiritual task is to complete the process of drawing down the Sh’china — moreover, the essence of the Sh’china —specifically within our lowly world.”

Instead of withdrawing and focusing on rebuilding the Lubavitch community, the Rebbe started sending Shluchim over the whole world to reach every Jew. Shlichus is based on the conviction that every Jew “…may lack this or that [element in his Divine service], but his Modeh Ani remains intact.” If a person does not understand that, how can he go on shlichus to a place where every person claims that he is not interested in growing in Yiddishkait? It is because the Rebbe teaches us this special Hashkafa, based on Rambam (Gerushin 2:20): “With regard to this person who [outwardly] refuses to divorce [his wife] – he wants to be part of the Jewish people, and he wants to perform all the mitzvos and eschew all the transgressions; it is only his evil inclination that presses him. Therefore, when he is beaten until his [evil] inclination has been weakened, and he consents [to the divorce], he is considered to have performed the divorce willfully, because we are able to go out with the full conviction that really every Jew wants and cares of Hashem and Torah and Mitzvos.”

In the sichos of the winter of 5752, the Rebbe spoke extensively about the Modeh Ani of a Yid. The Rebbe explained (Toldos Ois 8): we see that the established Nusach is to say “Modeh Ani” and not “Ani Modeh,” which would seem more grammatically correct. The Rebbe explains that this shows us that a Yid realizes, even before he recognizes his own existence, his “Ani,” that he is aware that his true essence is “Modeh,” completely given over to Hashem.

This level of recognition comes from the Etzem Ha’nefesh. The Rebbe adds that the word “Modeh” has the numerical value of the word “Hen.” When Balak refers to the Jewish people, he says “Hen Am Levadad Yishkon” – they are a nation that dwells alone. This shows that the level of “Modeh-Hen” represents the essence of the Neshama which stands alone and higher that all other levels.

The Rebbe then speaks at length about the essence of a Yid and the essence of Moshiach. Let us finish with a quote from that sicha (Besuras Geula 49): “It can be suggested that the “air (spirit) of Moshiach” is even higher than “the light of Moshiach,” because the light of Moshiach indicates the revelation of Moshiach through his actions (such as “he will fight the wars of G-d” until “he is victorious,” etc.). However the air of Moshiach indicates the essence (the very life) of Moshiach. That is, [this refers to] the revelation of his existence (from his earlier status as a leader) as the King Moshiach. And after the revelation of his existence (air that is incomparable to the light of Moshiach) begins the revelation that all can see through his activity (light of Moshiach).”

 

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com

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