Parshat Acharei - Friday, April 11, 2014 - 11 Nissan, 5774 
Shabbat Hagadol 

Torah Reading: Acharei (Leviticus  16:1 - 18:30) 
Haftorah: Amos 9:7 - 15*  
*Note: the Chabad custom is to say the regular Haftorah for Acharei, not the special Shabbat HaGadol Haftorah, which is only said when Shabbat HaGadol falls out on Erev Pesach.   
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 7:13 PM 
Shabbat ends: 8:15 PM 


Life in the Plural
One of Judaism’s major contributions to the world has been its emphasis on life. In this week’s parsha the Torah states: “You shall guard My statutes and My judgments which a person shall do, and you shall live by them, I am G‑d.”
The words “and you shall live by them” appear to be superfluous.
Knowing that there are no superfluous words in the Torah, our sages deduced from this phrase G‑d’s instruction that we must live with the commandants and not die with them. Life takes precedence over all but three of the commandments.
On a deeper level, commentators observe that Judaism is not just about life in its most accessible sense. Our challenge is to infuse every aspect of our physical existence with spiritual meaning and life.
This, perhaps, is what Rashi had in mind when he interpreted the word “life” here as a reference to the World-to-Come. It is only in the future Messianic Age that we will be able to fully appreciate and experience the true and ultimate meaning of life. In the present, our responsibility is to do our part in discovering the deeper dimensions of life and infusing them at into our practice of the Mitzvos.
Complex Beings
In Hebrew, the word for life chaim is in the plural.  Three reasons, based on Chassidic teaching, can be given for this phenomenon:
The first explanation for chaim’s plural nature is that it reflects the complexity of human life. We are taught that true life is an amalgam of different components, colors, hues and shades (Introduction to Tanya).
When the Talmud (Eiruvin 13b) wishes to express how the conflicting views of Beis [School of] Shammai and Beis [School of] Hillel are both valid, it states: “These [the words of Beis Shamai] and these [the words of Beis Hillel] are “Divrei Elokim Chaim-the words of the living G‑d.” In this phrase both the word for G‑d [Elokim] and the word for living [Chaim] are expressed in the plural.
Chassidic thought explains that G‑d’s unified light becomes refracted into a rainbow-spectrum of light beams when it is filtered through the different G‑dly attributes and diverse human attitudes.  The Light then assumes the appearance of the various attributes and mindsets.
We can now understand that the word chaim reflects the full spectrum of Divine attributes that characterize the different human personality types.
But, while each individual mostly reflects one color of the refracted light, Kabbalah and Chassidic thought teach us that, in truth, each and every one of us possesses a full complement of faculties.     
Let us translate this concept into terms that we can apply in our own lives. We can see that the plural usage of chaim implies that to live life to the fullest we must learn to reflect the Light with all our soul’s multifarious faculties and talents.
Human Uniqueness 
Angels and animals cannot draw upon the complex system of feelings that we experience as humans because they do not possess these variegated faculties.
Each human being has thus been referred to as a “miniature world.” Every creation and force that exists in the macrocosm is reflected in the microcosm.   Indeed, have we not been taught that “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. (Sanhedrin 37a)”?
Frequently we are unable to be at peace with ourselves because we do not understand the complexity of our nature. When we vacillate from one direction to another we can become distraught because it seems that we cannot maintain consistency.
In truth, the problem is not necessarily the lack of consistency in our lives, but our inability to recognize that we are multifaceted beings. If we had a deep knowledge of ourselves, we would know that we are composites of opposite feelings. We would recognize that the challenge is not curbing the tendency to go in different directions but to know when to go in the different directions.  Furthermore, we are challenged to elicit the appropriate emotion for the occasion. We are not being inconsistent if we dance at a wedding and grieve at a funeral.  The problem of consistency arises when we are joyful at the funeral and are gloomy at the wedding. The problem is not consistency itself but rather knowing when, where and how to express a given emotion.
In the present day and age we may find ourselves unable to be in touch with our multifaceted emotions and to express them in an unimpeded and balanced fashion. It cannot come as any surprise that Galus-exile conditions block our ability to be fully expressive.
In these days immediately prior to the Festival of Passover, also known as the Season of our Freedom, we must surely focus on our freedom from the slavery we knew in Egypt.   It is no less important for us to acknowledge our need for the spiritual freedom to express all our faculties in the most harmonious and productive way.
Composite of Phases
The second reason for the usage of the word chaim in the plural is based on a discourse of the Rebbe (Likkutei Sichot, volume 24, p. 177-187) which describes our existence as a composite of two phases and influences. During the first phase, we try to integrate all that with which we have been endowed with what we have accumulated from the experiences and achievements of our lives. In the second phase our task is to add to that which was given to us.
The Rebbe likens this effort to the process of birth. Even before a child is born it lives within its mother’s womb. It is alive. Yet, we do not call that a life in the fullest sense of the word
In truth, all of life is like birth. There are “unborn” and “birthed” elements to every moment of our lives. Yesterday’s accomplishments are gifts that we take along with us on our life’s journey. While yesterday these accomplishments were ours and were attained with much effort, relative to today they are gifts that we take with us. It’s what we do today that determines whether we are truly alive. Yesterday’s life, relative to what we can make of life today, is like the fetus in the womb when compared to life after birth.
If one were to live one’s life using only the vitality that was bequeathed by others, it would not be a complete life. That “receiving” aspect of life represents only one part of the whole.
Moreover, even if we have achieved much on our own but retired to rest on our laurels, we would not enjoy the full measure of life. This compares to the fetus that is not considered a full-fledged soul because, while it is a living being, its life is remains one-dimensional. It only has that which its mother gives it.
Life lived to the fullest requires that a human being know how to draw on the past as a catalyst to promote future growth. But one who remains content with yesterday’s achievements lacks the true vitality that is known in Hebrew as chaim - in the plural.
In every venture we must ask ourselves a two-part question: is what we’re doing now derived from or based on existing knowledge and inspiration; and what new insights and feelings are we generating?
Here too, the limitations posed by Galus inhibit our ability to forge ahead. We appear to need all of our spiritual energy just to hold on to what we already have acquired. Our life in Galus, therefore, is close to that of the child growing in its fetal position doing nothing on its own, totally dependent on its mother; it is a one dimensioned form of life. The World-to-Come will free us from that constrained life.
Shared Life
The Rebbe also expounded the third reason why the word chaim is used in the plural. He explained that a life which is not lived in concert with others is not worthy of the title life. For life to be worthy of its name it must be a shared life.
This thought, that life is only worthy of its name if it is a life lived in the plural, is rooted in the Talmud (Ta’anit 23a). Choni HaMa’agel (the “Circle Drawer”) was a saintly miracle worker of the Second Temple era. Choni awoke from a seventy year sleep and discovered that none of his peers remained alive. He asked G‑d to take him from this world too. The Talmud characterizes his desire to leave this world with the words: “Either friendship or death.”
Elsewhere the Talmud (Bava Batra 16b) describes the kinship of Job’s friends and the way they gathered from far and wide to comfort him. The Talmud explains that they had sensed Job’s terrible suffering and were all impelled to rally to him. The Talmud then concludes with the statement: “This echoes the folk saying ‘Either friends like those of Job or death!’”
Indeed, this very thought was at the root of Eve’s creation. G‑d says: “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helpmate.” (Genesis 2:18). Thus the basic rationale for marriage in the eyes of the Torah is companionship.
However, as much as we need to focus on ideal relationships and show a commitment to the commandments, reflecting the true definition of chaim, Rashi informs us that living with the commandments will become a true reality only in the World-to-Come. In Galus our ability to connect to others is compromised. Our challenge now is to do our utmost to enhance our relationships with others and restore the idyllic marriage of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This will prepare us for the time about which we sing in the wedding Sheva Berachos:
“O G‑d our G‑d, may there be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the r sound of joy…the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride.”
Moshiach Matters
The Baal Shem Tov established a custom to eat a third meal on the last day of Passover. This meal is known as "Moshiach's Meal," for on this day Moshiach's radiance is revealed. This revelation foreshadows the Redemption.
It takes place specifically on the last day of Passover, for this is a day which is added only in the Diaspora. The essence of the added day is that in the Diaspora and in the time of exile, the Jewish people transform 24 mundane hours into a day of holiness. On the last day of Passover this means transforming them into a festival of freedom and redemption. And this process of transformation is the essence of the imminent Redemption - converting the very exile itself into redemption, so that G‑dliness is revealed even at the very lowest levels of creation.
Based on Yerushalmi Megila, ch. 1, Law 5
From Time and Transcendence by Rabbi Fivish Dalfin