Torah Fax    

Friday - Shabbat January 22 - 23

Torah Reading:  Bo (Exodus 10:1 - 13:16)
Candle Lighting Time 4:43 PM
Shabbat ends 5:46 PM 

Attracting Oposites

The Two Conditions

Just before their departure from Egypt the Jewish people were given two commandments: To sacrifice a Paschal lamb and to have all the males circumcised.

Rashi, quoting the Talmud, explains the significance of these two commandments:

“The time had come for Me to keep My oath that I had made to the patriarchs, that I will redeem their children. Alas, they did not have any Mitzvot in their hands with which to be preoccupied, so that they may be redeemed, as it says, ‘And you were naked and bare [of Mitzvot].’ He, therefore, gave them then two precepts, the blood of the Paschal sacrifice and the blood of circumcision.”

But why did G‑d have to give them two commandments? Even if they had observed one Mitzvah they would no longer have been considered “naked,” from the spiritual point of view. Furthermore, even if two Mitzvot were necessary, what is the significance of these two Mitzvot specifically?

True Freedom

Going out of Egypt is the act of breaking out of the mold that limits our spiritual growth. As we shall see, in order for one to truly be liberated one must adopt a two pronged approach.

Freedom is not merely the absence of obligations or burdens. True freedom is defined as the ability to express our soul’s desires. When there is either an external or internal force that imposes its will on us and impedes the soul from expressing its most natural self—that is bondage. When we remove those barriers to the soul, we are in effect free.

But freedom can be experienced on many levels. To the extent that we follow the dictates of the G‑dly soul over the desires of the animal soul we determine the degree to which we are free. In other words, if a person does the right thing not exclusively due to the influence of one’s soul, but for ulterior motives, their state of freedom is imperfect. And when one is not totally free, they can easily relapse into a state of servitude to their base instincts and animalistic tendencies.

How does one achieve complete freedom? Simply put, when one has become totally subservient to the will of G‑d, which is the soul’s greatest passion, they are absolutely free.

The Test

The obvious question is, how does one know when their devotion to G‑d is complete? How does one know that the devotion is not a product of one’s animal nature?

One way of determining the source of one’s dedication is to see whether they are able to direct their behavior to go against their natural tendencies.  

For example, if a person who is naturally inclined towards kindness devotes his or her life to doing acts of kindness it may not be an expression of the G‑dly soul. This person’s soul might still be in Mitzraim. How do we know that this person’s desire to do kindness is pure? But when the kind person manages to occasionally go against his nature of kindness and perform acts of judgment in the quest to do the right thing—that is a sign that one’s devotion is not merely a product of their nature, but is an expression of their G‑dly soul. It is a sign that they have achieved total freedom.

We can now understand why the Jews leaving the Egyptian exile into freedom had to perform two Mitzvot to remove the stigma of “spiritual nakedness.” Had they just performed one Mitzvah it would not have guaranteed that they were expressing their soul’s aspiration. Now that they performed both—the Paschal lamb and circumcision—it was a clear indication that they were capable of breaking out of their internal exile.

Combining Two Opposites

These two Mitzvot reflect opposite directions on a number of levels:

First, the Paschal lamb was a repudiation of idolatry (rejecting evil) motivated by a sense of the utter futility and evil of idol worship, whereas circumcision was an act of total devotion (doing good), involving the trait of love.

Second, the Paschal Lamb was done in public. It was intended to be an “in your face” gesture. Circumcision was a private experience. There are people who will only do the right thing in public to gain recognition and glory, while others are, by nature, extremely private and will only do things when no one else is around.

Third, while both the Paschal lamb and circumcision were sacrifices, the former involved sacrificing one’s property, whereas the latter was the sacrifice of one’s own flesh and blood. The Talmud refers to two personality types, one that cares for their life more than their property and one who cares more for their property than their life. One must love G‑d, the Talmud states, by being prepared to do both: To “love G‑d with all your soul” (i.e., even be prepared to give your life for Him) and “with all your might (or, resources)” (i.e., to be prepared to give up your possessions not to betray your love for G‑d). The two Mitzvot at the time of the Exodus combined both of these opposite personality types.

In short, by performing these two opposite forms of Mitzvot, they demonstrated that they had the capacity to experience true freedom.

Getting Out of Our Internal Exile

The application to our own day, as we find ourselves on the threshold of the Messianic Age, can be explained as follows:

Part of the process of Redemption is to get ourselves out of our own internal exile. To be sure, Moshiach can take us out of exile—both the physical and spiritual—even if we are not ready, but it is far more desirable to be part of the process.

One way of experiencing true freedom is to employ opposite approaches in our service to G‑d and humanity. By fusing our Torah study with practical Mitzvot, emotional heartfelt prayer with rigid Talmudic logic, introspecting and performing public acts of goodness andkindness, simple faith with profound philosophical analysis etc., we will exercise of our soul’s ability to express its desires. Once the soul is free we are well on the way to the total state of freedom and Redemption.

Combining the Intellectual and Emotional Approach

There is another way of applying the paradoxical “two Mitzvah” approach to our preparations for the final Redemption.

In the aftermath of the Redemption two things will change dramatically. While the laws of nature do not have to be suspended and supernatural phenomena are not necessarily the rule for the Messianic Age (as Maimonides writes) nevertheless, there will be two major changes:

First, the entire world will recognize G‑d. Idolatry—in all of its subtle and not so subtle forms —will disappear because G‑d will be fully revealed. This will be an intellectual achievement in which we we will all be able to comprehend G‑dliness.

Second, the spirit of impurity will we removed, and G‑d will “circumcise the foreskin of our hearts.” The insensitivity to spirituality will no longer exist because the occlusion and obstruction to our heart will be removed. The world will become a more refined world. This change involves our emotional makeup.

Our preparation to this period must therefore contain both an intellectual component and an emotional component; we must study the teachings of Chassidut that introduce us to the understanding of the unity of G‑d in its most advanced form.

But, that does not suffice. We must also work on the refinement of our hearts and emotions, mostly through prayer—which our Sages defined as “Service of the heart.”

The combined force of these two efforts—that parallel the offering of the Paschal lamb (which negates idolatry) and the circumcision (that removes the impediments to our soul’s self expression)—will be the catalysts that will usher in the Messianic Age, through our righteous Moshiach.

Moshiach Matters  

"The life of the Previous Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn) can be divided into 3 stages. The first is when he began spreading Chassidus during the lifetime of his father, Rebbe Sholom Dovber, the second is during his reign as Rebbe when he spread Chassidus throughout the world, including bringing Torah to America. The third stage is after 1950 (the years of the Rebbes leadership), when his work intensified greatly, to the point that the world has become absolutely ready for the arrival of Moshiach."
(The Rebbe, Parshas VaEra, 1992)    

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit  


© 2001- 2010 Chabad of the West Side