1. Shabbos Mevarchim joins together two months: It is the last Shabbos of the previous month, and simultaneously blesses the coming month. It therefore contains aspects loftier than each of these months; and furthermore, because it is the cause of their joining together, it is also loftier than even the synergistic effect of the two months combined — for the cause is always greater than the effect.

The above applies to Shabbos Mevarchim of every year, just as the other matters which emphasize the common theme of every Shabbos Mevarchim — such as the text of the blessing said at the Blessing of the Month, which does not vary from month to month. Additionally, every Shabbos Mevarchim has a unique aspect, associated both with the peculiar nature of the month which it blesses (in our case, Menachem Av) and the nature of the preceding month of which Shabbos Mevarchim is the last Shabbos (in our case Tammuz).

There are, moreover, differences every year as to which parshah, and on which date, Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av falls. This year, it is parshas Mattos Massei, and it is the 28th of Tammuz. Consonant to the Baal Shem Tov’s dictum that everything is by Divine Providence and can provide lessons for service to G‑d, there are lessons to be derived from the above. And these lessons, although derived from the way the calendar comes out this year, apply to all other years as well; they are but emphasized in the particular year from which they are derived. This parallels one of the general rules by means of which the Torah is expounded: “When a particular case that is included in a general law is singled out to instruct us concerning something new, it is singled out not only to teach concerning its own case, but is to be applied to the whole of the general law.”

Shabbos Mevarchim draws down blessings for the coming month. The previous Rebbe directed to hold a Chassidic farbrengen on Shabbos Mevarchim, through which extra blessings are effected. The greatness of any Chassidic farbrengen is seen from the Alter Rebbe’s adage that a Chassidic farbrengen can effect more than can the angel Michoel.

“Michoel” is the angel of Israel, and its great defender. Although each Jew has a soul which is “part of G‑d above,” Jews still need an angel to draw matters down below, to be enclothed in nature. As our Sages have said, “every blade of grass below has ‘a mazel’ above which strikes it and tells it ‘grow.’” Particularly in the intense darkness of exile, when G‑d is concealed in the world, Michoel, who is the defender of Israel, is needed to draw down all things below. Simultaneously, however, “Michoel” symbolizes one of the loftiest levels, totally transcending nature.

Thus there are two totally different aspects to “Michoel.” On the one hand, he represents the drawing down of matters to the lowest levels of nature. On the other, he represents a level transcending nature. Michoel, then, represents the concept that the drawing down into nature is also the idea of transcending nature — a very lofty level indeed. Yet, the Alter Rebbe says that a Chassidic farbrengen can effect more than can the angel Michoel!

This applies to every farbrengen. That of Shabbos Mevarchim, which is an auspicious time for drawing down blessings — and not just for the coming week which is already blessed by the preceding Shabbos, but for the whole month — is surely a very lofty matter.

2. Besides the common theme of every Shabbos Mevarchim, that of today, Shabbos Mevarchim Av, has a unique concept corresponding to the peculiar nature of the two months which are joined together by this Shabbos Mevarchim — Tammuz and Menachem Av. The common theme of these two months is “bein hametzorim” — “between the straits” — the three weeks which are between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha BeAv. It is one concept and one period of time, part of which is in Tammuz, and part in Menachem Av (and particularly since Shabbos Mevarchim is also in this period).

This period is a time of mourning. But, since Shabbos Mevarchim is a lofty concept, greater than the synergistic effect of these two months combined, there must also be a positive element in it, not just an undesirable one.

The explanation will be understood by first clarifying the concept of Yaakov and Eisav. There is a difference between Eisav as he is in the world, and Eisav as he is in the Torah.

When a simple Jew learns about Eisav, he knows his behavior was not good. Similarly, when he learns about Yaakov, he knows that there is another name, “Yisrael.” “Yisrael” is the distinguished name, whereas “Yaakov” was given because “His hand was holding onto the heel of (“eikev”) Eisav.” When, therefore, a simple Jew is called to the Torah, and recites a blessing over the section concerning Eisav, he wonders: How can a blessing be made over something concerning Eisav, who behaved badly?

This, however, applies only to Eisav as he is in the world. But his conduct in the world is irrelevant compared to the fact that through him an extra parshah was added to the Torah. Thus a Jew makes the same blessing over the reading concerning Eisav as he does over the reading of the Ten Commandments. Since the same blessing would not be made over a bad thing as over a good thing, we must conclude that the reading concerning Eisav is a good thing.

But, the question remains, how can we say there is anything good concerning Eisav? However, since Eisav was the son of Yitzchok and Rivkah, there must be some good in him. His bad behavior was only because his evil inclination overpowered him — but that does not eliminate the good that is within him.

A simple Jew knows this from his own conduct. Although every Jew is the son of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He — which is infinitely higher than being the son of Yitzchok and Rivkah — sometimes he behaves badly. The reason? His evil inclination overpowers him. Thus, after the deed has been done and the evil inclination’s temptations are no more, a Jew regrets his bad deed. The fact that he feels contrite over a deed that he did to fill his desire — shows that his true desire is to “perform all the mitzvos and to keep away from transgressions.” Therefore, after the evil inclination’s overpowering force is removed, his true desire reasserts itself, and he regrets his actions.

Undesirable actions are hence only temporary, and they are for the purpose that they should eventually be transformed into good — and, “as the superiority of light which follows (prior) darkness,” this good is loftier than good which was not a result of transformation of evil.

An intelligent person, then, who sees further than the present facts, understands the true situation — that even now, at the time of the transgression, it will eventually be transformed into good.

When we therefore read of Eisav in the Torah, it is certainly a good thing. Moreover, even his misdeeds will certainly be transformed into good, for in the future, the promise, “I will remove the spirit of impurity from the land,” will be fulfilled; and indeed, an even loftier level will be revealed — “as the superiority of light which follows darkness.”

The same applies to the idea of “bein hametzorim”: The undesirable event of “bein hametzorim” is only in the world; in Torah, however, it is a good thing. The Tzemach Tzedek explains that through “bein hametzorim” we reach the lofty heights that come when the undesirable things are transformed — again, the idea of “the superiority of light which follows darkness.”

This is similar to the idea of, “From out of the straits I called to G‑d; with abundance G‑d answered me.” It is specifically the call from the “straits” that produces G‑d’s answer with “abundance.” This verse is recited before the blessing of the shofar, and this “abundance” is effected by the shofar. The shofar is narrow at one end and wide at the other. When one blows in the narrow end (“straits”) and hears the sound from the wide end, it is similar to the idea of, “From out of the straits I called to G‑d, with abundance G‑d answered me.”

So too in our case: It is specifically through the idea of “bein hametzorim” — “between the straits” — that the greatest levels are effected. As the Rambam writes: “All these fasts are destined to be abolished in the days of Mashiach; moreover, they are destined to become Yomim Tovim and days of joy and gladness, as it states, ‘So says the G‑d of Hosts: The fast of the fourth (in the month of Tammuz) and the fast of the fifth (in Av) ... will be to the house of Yehudah for joy and gladness and Yom Tov’” — the idea of “with abundance G‑d answered me.”

The Rambam, at the end of the above passage, writes: “Therefore love the truth and peace.” That is, the way to transform the fasts (the undesirable events of the period of “bein hametzorim”) to joy and gladness is through conduct in the manner of Ahavas Yisrael and unity between Jews.

The reason for this is because the second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of hatred without cause between Jews. When this hatred is eliminated, the cause for the exile is eliminated — and thus automatically the effect, the exile itself, is also ended.

Thus the idea of “bein hametzorim,” in its positive aspect, is openly emphasized at a farbrengen, where Ahavas Yisrael and unity between Jews is stressed. For the reason why a Chassidic farbrengen can do more than the angel Michoel, the great defending angel of the Jews, is not because at a farbrengen a Jew can defend Jewry better than can Michoel. Not at every farbrengen is there a Jew who is on such a level, loftier than Michoel! But instead, the reason is that when our Father in Heaven sees His sons behaving with love and peace to each other, then “the father is filled with delight and satisfaction from His sons’ conduct and does wonders to fulfill their requests....” In other words, Michoel only defends Jews; a Chassidic farbrengen openly demonstrates the love of Jews for each other.

The lesson from all the above: Shabbos Mevarchim Av, especially at the farbrengen, is the appropriate time to urge efforts in Ahavas Yisrael and unity of Jews. It is the idea of “Love the truth and peace,” through which these days will be transformed into days of joy and Yomim Tovim.

In general, this means “stand all of you prepared” to receive the blessing of the previous Rebbe, through increasing mightily in fulfilling his mission of disseminating Chassidus, beginning with the spreading of Judaism, Torah and mitzvos, through the mitzvah campaigns.

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3. In addition to the above general lessons of Shabbos Mevarchim Av, directives are also to be derived from the calendar of this year — from the date on which Shabbos Mevarchim falls, the 28th of Tammuz, and from the parshah read today, Mattos Massei.

Parshas Massei is always associated with the month of Menachem Av. It is always read on Shabbos Mevarchim Av, or on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Av, or in Av itself (when Tisha BeAv is on Shabbos). The connection between the two is that in parshas Massei we read of all the journeys — symbolizing the era of exile — until “Yardein Yericho,” which refers to the future redemption through our righteous Mashiach, when the tragic events of Av will be transformed into joy, gladness and festivals.

Parshas Mattos, however, is not always associated with the month of Av. When Mattos and Massei are separate, Mattos is read on the first Shabbos of the period of “bein hametzorim” — which is the Shabbos before Shabbos Mevarchim Av. Thus, when parshas Mattos is also read on Shabbos Mevarchim Av (as this year, when Mattos and Massei are read together), there is an additional lesson to be derived.

“Mattos” (“tribes”), literally means “staffs,” indicating strength and firmness. In man’s spiritual service, this corresponds to service not just in the manner of “do good,” but also in the manner of “keep away from evil.” Although such service must be done pleasantly, it must simultaneously have the proper strength and firmness — “mattos.”

The idea of “mattos” is associated with the idea of “nedarim,” — oaths, which is spoken of at the beginning of parshas Mattos. Chassidus explains that “nedarim” is the idea of abstinence, as stated in Pirkei Avos, (3:13) “vows are a fence for abstinence.” It is the idea of, “Sanctify yourself in that which is permitted to you.” It is not the concept of, “Keep away from evil,” but goes further; abstinence from things which are permissible.

This needs special firmness (“mattos”), for the Evil Inclination tries to dissuade a person by saying that one shouldn’t sanctify himself in permitted things, for the Talmud Yerushalmi states: “It is enough for you what the Torah prohibited you.” And the Talmud Yerushalmi, continues the Evil Inclination, is relevant to every Jew, for every Jew inherits the whole Torah.

The answer to this is that although it is true the Yerushalmi says, “It is enough for you what the Torah prohibited you,” nevertheless, we follow the Talmud Bavli, which says, “Sanctify yourself in that which is permitted to you.” And this is accomplished through the firmness of “mattos” — special strength not to be affected by the Evil Inclination’s words.

After the service of “nedarim” in the manner of “Sanctify yourself in that which is permitted to you” (through the firmness of “mattos”), the ultimate goal is to reach an infinitely high level — the level of the wise who permit the vow, the idea of conversion of darkness into light.

This is the connection between parshas Mattos and the month of Av, for the tragic events of Av will be transformed into days of joy and gladness — the same idea of converting darkness into light.

There is also the lesson to be learned from today’s date — the 28th of Tammuz. The portion of Tehillim recited on the 28th includes Psalm 136, where the phrase, “for His kindness is ever-lasting,” is found twenty-six times. This Psalm is called “the great Hallel,” loftier than the regular Hallel.

This psalm follows psalm 135, where the same matters are discussed. The difference is that the former refers to these matters as they are in Torah, whereas in psalm 136, the phrase, “for His kindness is everlasting,” is said on each of these matters — which indicates the drawing down of the revelation of “His kindness” to the world; that is, after it is in Torah, it is drawn down to the world.

“Hallel” is the idea of revelation transcending nature, recited only over a special miracle. Simultaneously, it draws down the revelation below — “for His kindness is forever.”

The lesson from this for Shabbos Mevarchim Av is that special strength is given to engage in those actions through which the tragic events of Av are transformed into joy and gladness.

Although we are now in exile, and cannot recite Hallel over the future redemption, we are obligated to give praise and thanks for the good of the past. Our Sages say, “G‑d wanted to make Chizkiyahu the Mashiach,” but did not do so for Chizkiyahu did not say Shirah (Song) over the miracles that happened to him. Had he said Shirah, there would have been no destruction, and the true and complete redemption would have happened.

Thus, although in exile, we must still say Shirah over the good things in the past. In particular, to give thanks for the dissemination of Chassidus in every place through fulfilling the mission of the leader of our generation. Through the dissemination of Chassidus we hasten the true and complete redemption, speedily in our times.

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4. Ch. 32, verse 41 of parshas Mattos states: “And Yair ben Menasheh went and conquered their villages (“chavoseihem”), and called them Chavos Yair.” Rashi quotes the word, “chavoseihem,” and comments that it means “their villages.” He then quotes the phrase, “and called them Chavos Yair,” and comments: “Because he had no children, he called them by his own name as a memorial [Chavos Yair — the villages of Yair].

There are several perplexing points in Rashi’s interpretation.

1) How does Rashi know, in the plain interpretation of the verse, that “chavoseihem” means “their villages.” In all the verses relating the conquest of the land, we find only terms such as “cities” or “fortified cities.” Since there is no precedent in Scripture for “chavoseihem,” how does Rashi know it means “villages” and not “cities.”

The question is strengthened when we learn the following verse, “And Novach went and conquered Knos and benosehoh.” “Benosehoh” derives from the word “benos,” which means “daughters.” “Benosehoh” therefore means “its daughters,” referring not to regular cities, but to small cities (i.e. a city is the “mother,” and “benosehoh” is like its mother but smaller, just as the daughter is smaller than the mother). A village, on the other hand, is a completely different type of settlement than a city. Why, then, does Rashi say that “chavoseihem” means villages, when in every other place we find only “cities” or at the most “benosehoh” (small cities)?

2) Rashi explains that Yair called these villages Chavos Yair “because he had no children.” In preceding verses, many names of cities are mentioned — for example, Divon, Atoros, Aroer — and Rashi does not explain the reason for these names, for in the plain interpretation of Scripture, it is not necessary to explain why a particular city is called a particular name. Why, then, in regard to Chavos Yair, does Rashi explain the reason for this name, and to the extent that it forces him to explain that Yair had no sons (for since Rashi does not bring a proof that Yair had no sons, it follows that his only proof is the name he gave the villages — Chavos Yair)?

3) How does Rashi know that calling a city by someone’s name shows he has no children? In parshas Bereishis, Scripture states in regard to Cain that: (4:17) “He built a city and called its name as the name of his son Chanoch.” In the next verse Scripture tells us that “Chanoch bore Erad” — that Chanoch had children. We see that cities are called after people who have children. What, then, is the proof from our verse that Yair had no sons?

4) Why does Rashi add the words “as a memorial”? Had he stated only, “Because he had no children he called them by his own name,” it would be self-understood that it was as a memorial.

The explanation:

That Rashi interprets “chavoseihem” to mean “their villages” is not because it is the only interpretation. The Eben Ezra, for example, interprets it differently. But the general context of the verse tells Rashi that it means “their villages.”

We will understand the above by first explaining Rashi’s second comment that “because he had no children, he called them by his own name as a memorial.” When the Torah relates that a new name is given to a place, it is for a specific purpose. When the Torah says the name of a place only as a reference point, it is obvious there is no need to tell us why it is called by that name. But when the Torah tells us that people called a place by a new name — there must be some good reason for this additional piece of information. In our case, the Torah tells us that “He called them Chavos Yair” — that a new name was given to the places he conquered. This piece of information must teach us something.

Rashi therefore says that the verse teaches that “he had no children” — and therefore “called them by his name for a memorial.” And this is why Rashi adds the phrase “for a memorial” — to teach that he called it by his name not to show that he was the owner, but because he had no children, as a memorial.

Cain, however, called a place after his son Chanoch although Chanoch had children, for calling a place after someone is not necessarily as a memorial. It could be for other reasons; and in the case of Cain, he called the city after his son Chanoch to show his love for his son.

Now we can understand why Rashi interprets “chavoseihem” as “their villages.” There were many cities in Yair ben Menashe’s inheritance. Why, then, did he only call villages by his name, and not cities, which are more important and prestigious?

We must therefore conclude that villages have some special property that cities do not, something associated with the memorial that Yair wanted because he had no children.

A “city” corresponds to a “father,” and a “village” corresponds to a “son.” That is, although two separate types of settlements, a village is like the “offspring” of a city. Rashi therefore interprets “chavoseihem” as “their villages,” to explain why Yair gave his name to villages specifically, and not to cities. It was to be a memorial because he had no children, and this is expressed in villages, for a village is like the children of a city.