Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky, for "The
Chumash of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
tithe of cattle or of the flock, any that passes under the staff, the
tenth one shall be holy to G-d. He shall not distinguish between good
and bad, and he should not exchange it. If he does exchange it, both
it and its exchange shall be holy; it may not be redeemed."
Each season, all newborn animals are placed in a pen.
The animals are then let out one at a time and the owner marks every
tenth animal as tithed. These animals cannot be exchanged with other
- even better - animals. If such an exchange is attempted, both animals
"If he does exchange it, both it
The first letters of these words in Hebrew ("hameir yemirenu
vehayah hu") are the same letters as G-d's name Havayah (yud,
hei, vav, hei) rearranged. There are twelve ways of arranging the
letters of this divine name, and each arrangement corresponds to one
of the months of the year. The combination formed by this phrase corresponds
to the eleventh month, Shevat (January-February).(1) The question
is, though, why is G-d's Name alluded to in a phrase describing a forbidden
act (exchanging a tithed animal)?
The positive aspect of this phrase can be found in its
inner meaning. Mystically, exchanging one animal for another refers
to the worthy endeavor of changing the mundane into holiness. With regard
to one's fellow human being, this means bringing someone who is estranged
from his soul back to it, revealing to him his connection to G-d.
This endeavor entails two exchanges: a person must first
enter the realm of the mundane, descending from his preoccupation with
lofty, spiritual matters and "exchange" his spiritual ivory
tower for the mundane world; he can then elevate the mundane, "exchanging"
it for holiness.
If a person is reluctant to leave the safe environs of
holiness and enter a mundane world in order to elevate it, the Torah
reassures him by tell him that
"both it and its exchange
shall be holy" - i.e. both he and that which he exchanges becomes
elevated to a higher level of holiness. He will not be denigrated by
his descent into worldliness and that which he elevates will remain
within the realm of holiness.
The idea of bringing the mundane the under wings of the
Divine Presence is exemplified by Joseph, the eleventh of the twelve
tribes, who is also associated with the month of Shevat.(2) Joseph was
named by his mother with the prayer "may G-d add (in Hebrew, "yosef")
for me another son" (Gen. 30:24).
Rachel's prayer alludes to Joseph's mission in life, which
was to transform "others", those who seem to be strangers
to G-d, revealing that they are in reality "sons". Joseph
returns the lost sons of Israel to their Father in Heaven. Joseph's
mandate is that of every person: to transform the world, which appears
to be "an other", into something whose lineage and source
is apparent. This is the message of the phrase "
if he does
exchange it, both it
(1) Pardes Rimonim 13:3; Siddur of the Arizal, kavanat Rosh
(2) Each month corresponds to another tribe (Tur, Orach Chaim,
417 end). Thus Shevat, the eleventh month beginning from Nissan, corresponds
to Jacob's eleventh son, Joseph (Siddur Beit Yaakov, Sha'ar HaGai).
[Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 26, p. 90 ff.]
Copyright 2001 chabad of california / www.lachumash.org
Rabbi Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, writer, editor
and anthologist. Originally from Los Angeles, he moved to Israel in
1977, and currently lives in Jerusalem. While living in Tsfat, he was
one of the three founders of ASCENT in 1983.