1. This farbrengen is connected with Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av. The name Menachem Av (Menachem meaning, ‘the comforter’) is used traditionally to describe this month. Since the time of the Second Temple’s destruction, the addition of the word ‘menachem’1 to the name Av has been common usage. In fact, certain texts refer to the month as Chodesh Menachem alone, omitting entirely the word Av.

The word ‘menachem’ was added to emphasize and to stress the concept of Geulah, the Messianic redemption. The inclusion of the word menachem in the name of the month indicates that this is a time during which G‑d will comfort the Jewish people.

(The aforementioned is particularly relevant to our time, which appears to be appropriate for the revelation of the Messiah according to all the signs provided by the Talmud.)

The above is reflected in the Zodiac sign for the month, the lion. Though the lion is often used as a metaphor for non-Jews, (and is also representative of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who destroyed the first Temple), nevertheless, from a deeper perspective, the lion can also be used as a metaphor for G‑dliness. Indeed, the ultimate source of the lion’s power (and the fear which that induces among the populace), is G‑d’s ultimate power which generates a true sense of fear amidst all creation.

The concept of Shabbos Mevarchim is to bless the month, i.e., evoke and bring to full fruition the blessings of that month. Regarding the month of Av, it means to bring about the revelation of its comforting aspects through the coming of Mashiach. (G‑d is willing and anxious to send Mashiach; He is waiting only for the Jews to prepare themselves.) The blessing of the month of Av is intended to bring to actualization that potential.

This year, there is an added emphasis on the concept of Menachem Av. This is evident from the one day postponement of the fasts of Tishah beAv and the Seventeenth, of Tammuz, because of the observance of the Sabbath. Not only were the fasts postponed, but their original calendar dates were celebrated in a manner of complete and total pleasure, true Oneg Shabbos. In addition, there is an obligation to celebrate the Shabbosim of “Bain Hametzarim” (the Three Weeks) with even greater joy than the Shabbosim of the entire year.2 This serves as an indication that these fast days will be transformed into days of joy.3

The chronology of this year serves to emphasize the concept of Menachem in another way. This year is a leap year intended to add extra days to compensate for the days lost in previous years. That concept has its parallel in the service of the Jewish people to G‑d. Their service during the leap year can make up for the unfulfilled potential of the previous years.

This concept relates closely to the idea of the Geulah. The reason for the Golus is explained in the Mussaf prayer: “Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” Our sins are the only reason for the Golus, and when they are expiated (the most proper means of expiation being intensified service in Torah and Mitzvos), then the Golus will end and the Geulah commence.

This lesson is particularly relevant in a leap year, when the opportunity is provided to compensate for one’s past behavior. Each year affords a specific number of hours, days, weeks in which we can work to bring the Geulah. A leap year, with its additional days, provides more time to work to bring the redemption closer. The realization of that concept should imbue every Jew with increased desire and motivation for Torah service.

2. Generally, in the period of Bayn HaMetzarim (the Three Weeks), an attempt is made to minimize Simcha. However, the simchah which is derived from the study of Torah (described in the Psalm “the precepts of the L‑rd are just, rejoicing the heart”) is not only permitted, but encouraged.

The stress on Torah study is especially relevant in view of the prophecy of Isaiah, “Zion will be redeemed by judgment, and its captives through Tzedakah.” Our sages have interpreted “judgment” as Torah study. Though each Jew is obligated to study Torah and give tzedakah the entire year, these activities receive extra emphasis in these three weeks which are so closely associated with Golus and Geulah.

When this service is performed with simchah4 (which is stressed by the Rambam as fundamental to the performance of Torah and Mitzvos), then it affects the very essence of G‑d and hastens the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our days.

3. As mentioned before, Simcha is a fundamental element necessary in the performance of all the Mitzvos. Each and every Mitzvah provides an opportunity for a Jew to connect and relate to G‑d’s essence. The realization that this opportunity exists generates true Simcha in the performance of all the Mitzvos.

In addition, however, since Simcha must be internalized (to the point where the joy brings the individual to sing, dance, move his entire body, his hands and his feet), an attempt should be made to tie the observance of Torah and Mitzvos to objects which naturally produce Simcha. (For that reason, though there were ample spiritual and philosophical reasons for Simcha on the Jewish holidays — Passover, Shavuos, Sukkos — rather than rely on these influences, the Torah commanded that every Jew bring peace offerings (which were eaten later by him and his family), and drink wine on the festivals. The Talmud explains this principle, saying “Real Simcha is enjoyed when feasting on sacrificial meat. Real Simcha is enjoyed when drinking wine.”

Similarly, though Torah study in general produces Simcha, it is necessary to find an object of study which itself naturally produces Simcha. Hence, in these three weeks which are associated with the destruction of the Temple and also the Messianic redemption, it is appropriate to learn texts which concern themselves with the Geulah and likewise with the structure and measurements of the Temple. The study of these texts5 (and the realization of the dearness of the Messianic Redemption which will result) will evoke genuine Simcha. The fusion of the study of Torah and performance of the Mitzvos with the quality of Simcha will hasten the coming of Mashiach and the re-entry of the Jewish people into the land of Israel.

4. The above relates to the portion of the week, Parshas Pinchas, in which the preparation for the entry into the land of Israel and the division of the land of Israel into tribal domains is mentioned.

That passage raises an interesting question. On the surface, the division of Israel should have occurred after the conquest of the land. How could the Jews divide it up before they actually controlled it?

However, since G‑d’s speech is considered as deed, and particularly, since G‑d had showed Moshe Rabbeinu everything that would happen in the land of Israel over the entire continuum of time (including even the events of the present day), the conquest of Israel was considered inevitable. G‑d’s prophecy, especially after Moshe saw it portrayed in detail, produced a powerful enough effect, not only in the mentality of the Jewish people, but in a spiritual sense, on the very land of Israel itself, to the degree where Moshe Rabbeinu felt there was no need to wait until the actual conquest for Israel to be divided.

That conquest of Israel established the land as an eternal Jewish homeland. Especially now, after the second conquest in the time of Ezra, and likewise, after the many sufferings6 endured by the Jewish people during the years of Golus, we will soon be able to divide the land of Israel again. Every Jew will receive his share with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.

5. The last Mishnah of the first perek of Pirkei Avos reads as follows: “Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said: ‘The world endures by virtue of three things: justice, truth, and peace.’ As it is said, ‘Administer truth and the judgment of peace within your gates.’”

This Mishnah resembles the second Mishnah of the same chapter which reads, “The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G‑d, and deeds of loving kindness.” The difference between the two Mishnas and the particular implication of the words “stands” and “endures” are discussed by many commentators. The specific meaning attached to these terms is emphasized by the fact that other texts use different terms (substituting the phrase “was created for” in the first Mishnah and “stand” in the last Mishnah). Since the sages were exact in structuring the final text, it is evident that there is a significant difference between the two phrases in question.

The Hebrew word “kiyom,” translated as “endures,” is associated with life, energy and activity. The expression, “the world stands,” reflects the mere existence of the world. However, the expression “HaOlam Kiyom,” “the world endures,” describes the forces which energize and vitalize the world.

The three pillars: “Torah, service of G‑d, and deeds of loving kindness” suffice to provide for the world’s existence. The three qualities: justice, truth and peace infuse that existence with vitality and life.

6. A closer look at the Mishnah under consideration raises the following questions: a) The verse quoted from Zechariah as a proof that these three elements are necessary to enliven the world is preceded by another phrase: “Speak every man the truth to his neighbor,” which seemingly adds a fourth element; b) The order of words used by the Mishnah is always very precise. In the Mishnah under consideration, the order of words in the Mishnah — justice, truth, and peace, varies from that of the verse in Zechariah — “truth, justice, and peace.”

The first question can be answered by a deeper analysis of the prophecy of Zechariah. The first phrase “Speak every man the truth to his neighbor” is a directive for individual behavior. It is not relevant to the issue of what forces enliven the world. However, the continuation of the verse, “Administer ...in your gates,” describes public behavior and is relevant to that issue.

The answer to the second question revolves around the very purpose of Pirkei Avos. Pirkei Avos was intended to be a guide for “Milta DiChasidusa,” pious behavior. Therefore, the Mishnah alters the order used by Zechariah and relates the qualities in the order required from a behavioral perspective.

From such a perspective the first of the qualities necessary is judgment. You have to become aware of Torah’s judgment concerning the point at hand. Comprehension of that judgment allows you to realize the truth and therefore execute the matter in a manner of peace.

In order to communicate this concept and show its relevancy to each individual, this Mishnah was necessary. An individual might think that Zechariah’s prophecy does not apply to him, seeing that he is not a judge, nor can he influence “your gates” — the behavior of the city in which he lives.

However, the Mishnah teaches (from the perspective of Milta DiChasidusa, pious behavior) that the verse is indeed relevant to each individual. Each individual is charged with the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael, and with the Mitzvah of “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor.” Each person can and must work to spread Torah and Mitzvos within his sphere of influence. Everyone possesses the potential, not only to receive Torah instruction, but also to make a creative contribution and to guide others in the path of Torah.7

7. In the previous Farbrengen, the description of Mashiach and Messianic times in the Rambam’s text Yad HaChazaka was discussed. It was mentioned that the text includes two references to Mashiach from the Torah in one Halachah and quotes a third reference in a separate Halachah, viz. the commandment to set aside three more cities of refuge. It was explained that the Rambam’s intention was to introduce the concept explained in the ensuing Halachah, “Mashiach will not perform signs and wonders or change the natural order.” However, that entire concept can be questioned. The Jewish people not only witnessed miracles in the time of the Bais HaMikdash, but also later in Golus when involving the lives of the great Tzaddikim.8 Seemingly, similar if not greater miracles should occur in Messianic times as well.

The Rambam’s intention, however, is not to exclude the possibility of miracles in the Messianic Age. Rather, his statement aims at clarifying the concept that wonders and miracles will not be the signs of Mashiach. These will not be the means of establishing his identity.

The possibility for miracles is not negated. However, these miracles will be performed for a purpose. In the Midrash, a paradigm is found concerning the miracles performed by Moshe Rabbeinu. All the miracles he performed were for a specific intention: the manna — to provide food for the Jews, the copper snake — to heal the people, etc. Miracles of this type will occur in Messianic times. No miracles, though, will be performed in order to prove Mashiach’s identity. Rather, to demonstrate that he is indeed Mashiach, he must fulfill the prophecies outlined by the Rambam.

During that previous farbrengen, it was explained that the command to establish the cities of refuge was not necessarily a proof that Mashiach would not change the natural order. An alternate interpretation could explain that even though Mashiach would change the natural order and fulfill the prophecy, “I will banish the spirit of impurity from the Earth,” there would still be the necessity to establish the cities of refuge to protect those who committed accidental murders in the time of Golus. An example of that principle was given from the statement of Rabbi Yishmael, “When the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt, I will bring a Chatas offering,” to atone for his accidental sin. A question was raised concerning this example. Rabbi Yishmael had an individual obligation to bring a Chatas offering. However, according to Talmudic commentaries, the obligation to flee to the cities of refuge does not fall upon the individual. Rather, a Beis Din, the Jewish court, is commanded to insure that the individual flee to one of the cities of refuge. Since Rabbi Yishmael, the individual, lived in the time of Golus, the obligation which he incurred at that time must still be expiated when the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt. However, since the Beis Din, the entity capable of judging and therefore responsible for sending the individual to a city of refuge did not exist in the time of exile, it cannot have incurred an obligation during that time to institute cities of refuge when the Mashiach comes.

Yet there are other Halachic authorities, including the Sefer HaChinuch, which maintain that the obligation to flee to the cities of refuge falls upon the murderer, as well as upon the Beis Din. Even according to the opinions that the obligation falls upon the Beis Din, the murderer still has an obligation to flee to the cities of refuge.

That obligation is two-fold: a) The exile to the city of refuge serves as an atonement for the murder. The murderer is obliged to flee to the city of refuge for the sake of his own atonement; b) If the murderer does not flee to the city of refuge, he risks being slain by the “redeemer of the blood.” He is obliged to flee to the city of refuge for his own protection.

Another question was raised concerning the same issue. The murderer is obligated to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. If there is no Kohen Gadol alive at the time of his judgment, then he must stay in the city of refuge forever. Since now, in the time of Golus, there is no Kohen Gadol, those who flee to the city of refuge will be banished there forever.

A closer examination of the issue provides an answer. The general opinion is that this situation arises if there is no Kohen Gadol at the time the case is being judged. (It is irrelevant if there was or was not a Kohen Gadol at the time the murder occurred.) Capital cases (in which category accidental murder falls) can only be judged by the Sanhedrin, and by them only when their court sessions will convene on the Temple site. When Mashiach has rebuilt the Temple and the Sanhedrin will be reconvened on its premises, a Kohen Gadol will already have been appointed.

Even the opinions which maintain that the Kohen Gadol must be alive at the time of the murder would agree that in the case when there is no possibility for the existence of a High Priest (as in the case of murder committed in Golus), the necessity of remaining in the city of refuge forever would not apply. That situation is only applicable when there was a possibility for there to be a High Priest, and by Hashgachah Protis, the high priesthood was vacant. However, in the present time, when there is no possibility to fill the position of the High Priest, the question is not relevant.

This discussion sheds light on another question concerning the cities of refuge. The Minchas Chinuch writes that the command to set aside cities of refuge in Messianic times is Gezaras HaKatuv (a Torah decree without a rationale comprehensible by human reason). He explains that if, after the ingathering of the exiles, there will continue to be accidental murder, nine cities will not suffice, and if the prophecy “I will banish the spirit of impurity forever” will be fulfilled, then there will no longer be any need for cities of refuge.

However, the discussion above provided some reasons for the cities of refuge in Messianic times. Others are offered by Talmudic, Kabbalistic, and Chassidic sources. In fact, it is extremely difficult to conceive that any facet of a Mitzvah whose reasons are as clearly spelled out as those of the cities of refuge would be intended to be a Gezera HaKatuv.

8. The prophecies of the redemption call for the ingathering of the exiles and the unification of the Jewish people. Likewise, certain recent events have had very important effects on the unity of the Jewish people.

Recently, the Knesset passed, by a large majority, an amendment to the Chuk HaShvut (the Law of Return), to amend the law to require conversion KeHalacha (according to Jewish law).

This vote was only a beginning. Three more motions have to be passed before the amendment becomes law. However, now the first breakthrough has been made. A public declaration passed by the Knesset and supported by the Prime Minister calling for a change in the law has been ratified. Let us hope that this advance in the unity of the people of Israel will lead to further advances in the fields of the unity of the law of Israel and the Torah of Israel.

An important lesson results from these events. Most people had concluded that there was no possibility, not even a dream, of achieving a majority in support of the law’s amendment. However, because one individual made a firm resolution to try to advance the cause of Torah and Yiddishkeit, he was able to effect a change, not only in a synagogue or yeshiva, but in the Knesset, a forum where a Moslem, a Christian, and a Communist has the same voting power as a religious Jew.

(Parenthetically, the present situation underlines the absurdity of Israeli politics where a Christian and a Moslem (the Communist is at least Jewish and every Jew has the potential to do Teshuvah) can decide what Jewish religious law will be.) A firm decision on the part of one Jew was able to effect change even in such a circumstance.

Another lesson results from the aftermath of the Knesset victory. Directly after the motion’s passage, all the factions which oppose Halachah, though they are usually separated by broad differences, joined together to form a united front. Their behavior should serve as an inspiration and a warning to those different groups in favor of the change to the Halachah, to temporarily bury the hatchet and join together behind one position.

If the firm decision is made to change the law, it will be amended. No longer will there be an attempt made to fool Jews and non-Jews (with disastrous effects resulting for both the Jews and non-Jews involved, not only for the immediate, but also the distant future).

A similar resolution must be made concerning the issue of Judah and Samaria. Not one inch of land should be surrendered. The question is one of national security, literally life or death.

Just recently the Prime Minister of Egypt stated he would double the number of soldiers which Israel stationed in Sinai. That statement was made openly. The plans which he does not reveal are even more dangerous. In view of that threat, and the closeness of the Sinai to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Israel’s other metropolitan centers, it is obvious that surrendering any portion of the Sinai will increase the danger to Israel’s security.

Indeed, the opposition to the plea for Shelamit HaAretz (or likewise to Giyur KeHalacha) is reminiscent of the confrontation between the Biblical king, Achaz, and the prophet Isaiah. At that time the Assyrian armies were threatening Jerusalem. Isaiah approached Achaz and told him that his action in support of Torah and Mitzvos would cause a miracle that would save Jerusalem. Achaz replied that he would rather face the Assyrians than bring about the Kiddush Hashem that such a miracle would cause.

Jewish history is full of examples of how those who were willing to sacrifice Yiddishkeit and Torah principles (some for “good intention,” others because they were motivated by stubbornness and greed for power) caused conflict, oppression, and even violence against the Jewish people. When a non-Jew sees a Jew willing to sacrifice his principles in an attempt to curry his own favor, the Jew loses prestige and importance in his eyes. By firmly holding onto our Torah position we will be successful in convincing the non-Jews of its validity.