Vol 20.23 - Vayishlach - Yud Tet Kislev     Spanish French Audio  Video

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Chumash-Vayishlach     Iggeret HaKodesh-Epistle 2

(5742) "I have become small etc". "I fear lest I have became sullied with sin" (Rashi Gen. 32:11) and Iggeret HaKodesh (Epistle 2)  


1. On the verse (Gen. 32:11): “I have become small/katonti from all the kindnesses etc.”, the Alter Rebbe writes in his Iggeret HaKodesh (which he wrote “after his arrival from Peterburg”):

 “With every single favor” that G-d-bestows upon a man, it must affect him that become very humble (shefal ruach). For the Chesed refers to the state of G-d: “actually (mamosh) bringing him close (before Him/Kamei)”. And where there is more Chesed (with a person) , there is more (bringing a person closer to G-d) “before Him/Kamei” meaning that (he is much more Batul: “like nothing, naught, and non-existent”.

And therefore Jacob said “I have become small from all the kindnesses etc.” for through all the kindnesses that G-d did with him, it made him small in his eyes. And this is the Bittul that comes from G-d‘s drawing him near.

Rashi explains on the verse:

(”My merits have diminished because of the kindnesses and the truth that You have rendered me. Therefore, I fear lest that since the time that You promised me, I have become sullied with sin and it will cause me to be delivered into Esau’s hands.”).

In the simple meaning of the verse, Rashi explains that the reason Jacob asked “Now deliver me etc.” was because although he had a clear promise: “And I will watch over you” and “I will be with you” – (nevertheless) he was afraid and that feared that “since the time that You promised me, I have become sullied with sin”.

The Alter Rebbe explains the words “I have become small from all the kindnesses” as a lesson Torah – a lesson in Avodat Hashem, relevant and applicable to every Yid - that the revelation of kindnesses from Above must affect that the person become humble (batul) (shefal ruach).

This also applies to the difference in that manner of Jacob‘s saying “katonti” to the manner of the way the Alter Rebbe writes in the Iggeret HaKodesh:

  • Jacob said this in a manner of prayer and request, when he was standing in a situation of danger, and feared Esau – which is how his fear and request, is explained.
  • The Alter Rebbe, however, wrote his Iggeret “after his arrival from Peterburg”, thus when he was out of danger. The letter is (together with his thanks to G-d) a lesson and exhortation to Chassidim, as he writes:

“Accordingly, I am now making a weighty announcement to all the men of our (Chassidic) fraternity, regarding the multitude of kindnesses, “the great things that G-has done with us.” etc. Let (the men of our fraternity) not become haughty" 

– yet in this situation, the explanation: “With every single favor” that G-d-bestows upon a man, it must affect him that he becomes very humble (shefal ruach)”, does not fit.

2. One must however understand (in the inner aspects of this):

How is it really possible that Jacob should be afraid that: “perhaps I have become sullied with sin” – how is such an issue applicable the Jacob?

One could understand the concept of: ”My merits have diminished because of the kindnesses and the truth that You have rendered me” because when a “miracle is performed for a person”, “one’s merits are decreased” (menachin lo m’zechuyosav). This, however is only a reason for (the dictum): “one’s merits are decreased”. However, it is not a sin that would cause one to nullify G-d‘s promise?

Similarly one must understand this regarding the Alter Rebbe:

That which the Alter Rebbe cites in the Iggeret itself, not only that:

“This (humility born of kindness) is also the characteristic trait of Jacob”

but also the continuation in the explanation of the verses:

“and therewith he justified himself for his fear of Esau, and did not regard the (Divine) promise given to him as being sufficient: “And behold I am with you (and I shall protect you wherever you go) etc. (This was so,) because Jacob regarded himself as utterly insignificant on account of the multitude of G-d’s kindnesses, (as he said,) “for (only) with my staff (did I cross the Jordan, and now I have (enough property for) two camps), and he considered himself as being utterly unfit and unworthy to be saved, and so on. As our Sages, of blessed memory, expressed it, “(Jacob was apprehensive) lest sin would cause (him not to be saved),”

appears to mean that:

1.       That the explanation of the Alter Rebbe in “katonti etc.” is that the B that comes on account of the multitude of (G-d‑d’s) kindnesses, from G-d drawing him near – is connected with the simple meaning of the verse (pshat) – that this means Jacob ‘s fear that he appeared in his eyes to have sinned.

2.       That even this aspect was related to the situation of the Alter Rebbe (even) “after his arrival from Peterburg”.

One could say that, that the Alter Rebbe also means to imply that,

without looking at that which, while in prison,

 he had a promise from the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid that he would be freed and afterwards to again be able to reveal Chassidut , even more than before,

but even “after his arrival from Peterburg”, G-d demanded this from him.

It is not understood:

How is the concept of “katonti” relevant to the Alter Rebbe – that "perhaps sin would cause" (him not to be saved)?

3. In general, the explanation of this is:

When one rises to a higher (spiritual) level, a thing that, while in a lower level, would not be considered a sin, is considered a sin, at that higher level.

And the explanation (pshat) in this is:

It is not just that he is culpable if he would now (at his higher level) commit the same deed as he did previously,

 (for this is not an innovation (and easily understood) -

but he is also culpable for the previous deeds that were done in the past ( which at the time he committed them, were not considered sins).

Therefore, it is relevant to Jacob and the Alter Rebbe since while now (having risen) to a higher level, that (they be) judged for it (the past deeds) and be required to repent for them.

This, however, is not sufficient:

While it is true, that at the time of the deed, it was not considered a sin, yet (after) having risen (to a higher level) is now considered a sin, one must, however say that “this is not a simple matter” (glateh zach). Bacause, even at the (original) time he committed the deed, he should have (done the proper thing). For if everything was as it should be – it would not be necessary (shayach) to do Teshuva.

Therefore, the question remains:

How is it relevant to mention this regarding Jacob and afterwards to the Alter Rebbe?

The Panim Yafot explains the concept of:” I have become small/katonti from all the kindnesses etc.” that:

“When souls rise from one world to a higher world,

          (for “Tzaddikim do not have rest etc. as it says: “they go from one level to another level (Yeilcho m’chyil el                      chayil) )

before they rise to the higher world, they return to (a state of) smallness (katnus)

(and this is like what is cited in the preface of (the book) “Chinuch Katan” (Intro. to Sha'ar Hayichud) on the verse: “For a tzaddik may fall seven times, and yet rises”)

In the words of the Panim Yafot:

“Between (rising from) the first greatness/elevation (gadlus rishon) and the second greatness/elevation (gadlus sheini) there is (the level of) ‘second smallness (katnus sheini)”

And this is the explanation of the verse: ” I have become small/katonti” etc. At the time of the elevations, when Jacob rose from the diaspora to Eretz Yisroel – before his elevation he was (in the state of) “katonti”.

According to this, it is understood why Jacob requested: “deliver me etc.” “from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau”. Because since, after the promise and also after the previous elevations, he was in a state of “katonti” – he, therefore, needed to ask “deliver me etc.”. And as it is explained in Panim Yafot: that even though second smallness (katnus sheini)” is still greater than the first greatness/elevation (gadlus rishon), nevertheless, since it is albeit a state of smallness, one must (during this time) have a great vigilance (shmira gedola).

(and accordingly one could thus explain the connection between the explanation of the Alter Rebbe with the explanation of Rashi.

The explanation of :”( perhaps I have become sullied with) sin” is from the word: “I and my son Shlomo will be lacking (chataim). There is a deficiency (smallness) in his Avodah compared to the new status and standing.

And this itself is connected with “all the kindnesses” that G-d did with Jacob, which evoked not just that (he felt) “My merits have diminished” but also that his actual Avodat Hashem is now in a level of (smallness and) deficiency. Because since: “G-d actually bringing him close with a greater strength than before”, the Avodah must also be with “greater strength than before”. And if his Avodah is not so, he is in a level of descent (yeridah) and falling (nefilah) and smallness (katnus))

Similarly we can also understand the connection to the Alter Rebbe:

It is known that the aspect of the Alter Rebbe‘s “spreading you wellsprings outward (yefutzo mayanosecha chutza) mainly began after his return from Peterburg. This depicts on the greatness of elevation (gadlus) that Alter Rebbe achieved after Peterburg compared to the greatness (gadlus) (that he achieved ) before Peterburg.

And between the greatness before Peterburg and his greatness (above the previous level) after Peterburg - he was in a state of “katonti” – the imprisonment of the Alter Rebbe.

The imprisonment brought with it a multitude and tremendous suffering (yisurim). And as is known, that the Berdichover (rebbe) remanded the Alter Rebbe concerning his arrest, why he took upon his shoulders: “So much suffering (for) Klal Yisoel, supernal suffering, your spiritual and bodily suffering (yisurei hanefesh v’yisurei haguf) which could have been accomplished through makkifim (transcendental manners).

And the Berdichover (rebbe) spoke these words with regard the suffering of the imprisonment itself. Yet after this – there was additional suffering that the Alter Rebbe endured in the three hours after the imprisonment, in which he endured: “greater pain (tzar) that the entire imprisonment”.

It is understood that (visibly) this was a diminution and falling even compared to the previous levels of greatness that the Alter Rebbe achieved.

And as we see from the talk of the Rebbe Rashab, that even though it is hard to say, nevertheless it is true, that the revelation that came after Peterburg, became as the Sages state: “when the olive is crushed it brings forth oil”. From this metaphor it is understood that during the imprisonment there was smallness even compared to before Peterburg.

When an olive is crushed, when the olive is under the press, it does not possess (farmoght) neither of the two qualities:

·         It does not possess the later quality – for it has not yet produced the oil which will light the entire world and

·         It does not possess the previous quality of having been a fruit.

And even though before the crushing, one could not utilize its oil to light – it however, was a fruit that could be eaten. However, at the time of its pressing, the olive loses even this quality.

The same may be understood regarding the time when the Alter Rebbe was imprisoned in Peterburg –

For not only was there not then the spreading of wellsprings, as was after Peterburg

But there was not then, at the time of the imprisonment, the possibility of spreading of wellsprings in a manner that the Alter Rebbe did before Peterburg.

This aspect, that in that time there was not the possibility of spreading Chassidut, affected (even) the Alter Rebbe himself.

This may be understood from the aspect of Avraham Avinu, who when he was prevented from the Gemilut chasadim (performing acts of kindness) of Hachnassas Orchim (welcoming guests), when there were no guests around.

And how much more so in our case. For there it is speaking of physical Gemilut chasadim and to Arabs, and before the time of Matan Torah whereas we are speaking of after Matan Torah, and to Yidden and concerning Torah study. And even more so –public Torah study, and even more so study of Pnimiyut HaTorah.

Therefore he wrote: “I have become small /katonti”.

6. In every year, the aspects (of the occasion) return. And since all things begin from Torah, therefore we read in the Torah , on the Shabbat close to Yud-tes Kislev ( or alternatively on Yud-tes Kislev itself): “I have become small/katonti from all the kindnesses etc.”

This is the request of Jacob Avinu and from the leaders (nesiei) of Yisroel

(as it is citied in (the book) Kehilat Yakov that “nasi” (leader) is an acronym (Roshei teivot) of: “nitzutzo shel Yaakov Avinu” – “spark of our father Jacob”)

For they pray for every Jew, not considering whether they are “katonti” etc. that it should be fulfilled in them the promise: “ 'I will surely do good with you, and I will make your seed (as numerous) as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of multitude.'".

M’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach 5725

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