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   What Made the Waters Stand?

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Text of the Passover Haggadah

 Last Days of Passover Resurrection and Cloning

What Made the Waters Stand?

Publisher's Foreword

At the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, Moshe Rabbeinu and the Jewish people recited a song of praise to G-d. The Torah introduces that song with the phrase: Az Yashir Moshe, and our Sages comment: "This is an allusion in the Torah to the Resurrection of the Dead."

A similar theme is reflected in the sichah which follows which establishes a connection between the revelation at the splitting of the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds), and the ultimate revelation in the Era of the Redemption.

Moreover, the sichah highlights the path of Divine service necessary to lead to that Redemption, an unrestrained commitment hat encompasses every dimension of our spiritual personality, leading us beyond the natural tendencies not only of our animal souls, but also of our G-dly souls.

May the "season of Redemption" be marked by the fulfillment of the prophecy, "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show [the people] wonders." And then led by Moshe - and all his spiritual heirs - we will all join together in joyous songs of praise, for "those who repose in the dust will arise and sing."

Sichos In English
13 Nissan, 5755

When Miracles Intrude on Nature

The Midrash relates [1] that at the time of the splitting of the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds), fruit-bearing trees sprouted forth from the bed of sea. The children picked the fruit from the trees, and gave them to the birds who joined the Jews in their song of praise to G-d. [2]

There is a general principle in Jewish thought: [3] "The Holy One, blessed be He, does not perform a miracle without a purpose." This is not a canon to be accepted on faith alone; it has a rationale basis.

Nature is one of G-d's creations, as reflected by the verse: [4] "I laid down... the laws of heaven and earth," i.e., it is G-d who structured nature's pattern, and He did so with a specific intent. Since a miracle, by definition, involves a disruption of the natural order, G-d will not work a miracle unless it is absolutely necessary.

It is true that nature conceals G-dliness. In that vein, Chassidus explains [5] that the Hebrew word for nature, teva, has an alternate meaning, "sunk." For just as an entity submerged in water cannot be seen, all that is perceived is a watery mass, so too, the natural order covers up the G-dly light which maintains it.

"In His goodness, He renews each day, continuously, the work of creation." [6] Nevertheless, because the world follows a stable, ongoing pattern, [7] it is possible to think, heaven forbid, that this structure lacks a Master, [8] but rather proceeds on its own. This said, it is nonetheless true that it is G-d who laid down and maintains the rules of nature, and He will not disrupt them needlessly.

An explanation is therefore necessary. [9]

In order to save the Jewish people, the miracle of the splitting of the sea would have been sufficient. Why was it necessary for there to be an additional miracle: that fruitbearing trees with ripe fruit should sprout from the sea's bed?

According to the natural order, it takes time from trees to grow, more time for them to bear fruit, and still more time for the fruit to ripen and become fit to eat. In this instance, the trees sprouted and bore fruit immediately, and that fruit was fit to be fed to the birds.

Also, the very nature of the miracle of the splitting of the Sea requires explanation. The water in the sea did not dry up. Instead, the water continued to flow, and yet this very water stood firm as a wall protecting the Jewish people as they crossed the sea, as it is written: [10] "And the water was like a wall for them on their right and on their left." Seemingly, it would have been sufficient for the Jews to have passed through the sea on dry land. Why was it necessary for the water to stand erect like a wall? [11]

It is therefore necessary to conclude that this miracle, that the water stood erect like a wall (and similarly the miracle that the sea's bed sprouted fruit-bearing trees) was an intrinsic element of the miracle of the splitting of the sea. For this reason, when the Torah relates the miracle of the splitting of the sea, it mentions the fact that the water stood erect as a wall twice: once in the beginning when the Jews first entered the sea, and once at the end, when the Jews had completed crossing the sea, indicating that the water had continued standing erect throughout the Jews' crossing.

What Made the Waters Stand

On the verse, "And the water was like a wall for them on their right and on their left," the Mechilta comments that at the time of the crossing of the sea, there were accusations leveled against the Jews in the heavenly realms: "How is it possible that men who serve idols are allowed to walk on dry land amidst the sea?" Since there were idolators among the Jewish people, the Divine attribute of justice question: How are they better than the Egyptians, "these are idolators, and these are idolators"? [12]

The Mechilta continues: What enabled the Jews to be saved? What was on "their right and their left."

The right refers to the Torah which they would eventually receive, as it is written: [13] "from His right, a fiery faith." And the left to prayer, alternatively, [14] to tefillin.

Torah study and prayer (alternatively, tefillin) represent two vectors of Divine service which served as a wall protecting the Jews on either side.

This Midrash is also problematic.

Why was it necessary for the Jews to have two merits to protect them, one on each side, as it were? Why wasn't one of the merits sufficient?

In particular, why was the merit of the Torah which the Jews would receive not sufficient. The giving of the Torah represents G-d's choice of the Jewish people from among the nations. (And therefore, when reciting the words "and You have chosen us from among all nations and tongues" in the blessings before reciting the Shema, [15] one should recall the giving of the Torah.) [16]

This choice refers to the Jewish body [17] which is different from a gentile's body. [18] For the existence of a gentile's body stems from the three impure kelipos, while the existence of a Jew's body stems from kelipas nogah. [19]

The distinction between the three impure kelipos and kelipas nogah is extreme, as radical as the difference between kelipah and the realm of holiness. For the three impure kelipos cannot ascend to holiness, and kelipas nogah can. [20] As such, potentially, kelipas nogah is an extension of holiness.

Moreover, ultimately, this potential will be expressed for the sparks of holiness of kelipas nogah will certainly ascend to the realm of holiness [21] as implied by the expression: [22] "No one will ever be estranged from Him."

Although it is possible that entities stemming from kelipas nogah can temporarily descend to the level of the three impure kelipos, this is only a passing phase and ultimately, they will ascend to holiness.

Since from the giving of the Torah onward, the Jews were differentiated from non-Jews in such a fundamental manner, one would think that the merit of the giving of the Torah itself would be sufficient. Why was it necessary that it be coupled with the merit of prayer or tefillin?

When Right Meets Left

The splitting of the Sea involves two dimensions: [23]

a) It marked the conclusion of the exodus from Egypt. For until the splitting of the Sea, although the Jews had left Egypt, and passed Pi HaCheiros, [24] the furthermost point on Egypt's border, they were still pursued by Pharaoh and his armies. Only with the drowning of the Egyptians in the sea did the exodus become complete.

b) The splitting of the Sea served as a preparation for the giving of the Torah. [25] As explained in several Chassidic texts, [26] the sea was not split merely for the sake of saving the Jewish people. That could have been accomplished through other means. Nor was it necessary for the Jews' passage through the desert, since "the Jews ascended from the sea on the same side on which they descended." [27] Instead, the purpose of the splitting of the sea was to prepare [the Jews and the world] for the giving of the Torah.

The giving of the Torah represents the fusion of the spiritual and the material. [28] In preparation, it was necessary for G-d to "transform the sea into dry land," [29] remaking the natural order.

To explain: The "sea" refers to the G-dly energy which is invested in the natural order and covered up by it, just as the sea covers up all the entities it contains.

"Dry land" refers to what is revealed.

At the splitting of the sea, the "sea," the Divine energies which are usually hidden, was transformed into dry land, i.e., they became openly revealed.

At the time of the splitting of the Sea, this revelation was of a temporary nature, serving as a preparatory phase for the giving of the Torah, at which time every Jew was given the power to reveal G-dliness in this material world, joining the spiritual and the physical together in a permanent bond.

From the Microcosm to the Macrocosm

The narrative of creation begins with the word Bereishis, interpreted by our Sages [30] as beis reishis, i.e., the world was created for the sake of two entities called reishis, "first": the Torah and the Jewish people. As such, every activity which a Jew performs, even a private act, has repercussions throughout the world at large. [31]

Based on the above, we can appreciate that the revelation of the G-dliness enclothed in the world at large came about because of the revelation of the G-dliness present within the souls of the Jewish people.

For this reason, for the splitting of the sea, it was necessary for the Jews to have the merits of Torah study (the right side) and prayer or tefillin (the left side). [32] For it is through Divine service in both these thrusts that a Jew can reveal the G-dliness hidden in his soul.

Were a person's Divine service to be limited to one thrust, he would be lacking. Even were he to devote himself to his mission with all his powers, dedicating himself with mesirus nefesh, self-sacrifice, it is possible that this would merely be an expression of his individual nature, the nature of his animal soul or even the nature of his G-dly soul, but something to which he feels a personal inclination.

The expression of the true and complete bittul and devotion of a Jew to G-d implies going beyond his self entirely. This is accomplished by serving G-d with two opposite thrusts.

A person cannot perform Divine service of this type as expression of his personal nature, for every person's nature is defined according to one particular thrust.

How is it possible for him to combine two opposite thrusts? When he gives himself over to G-d entirely. [33]

Thus when the Jews' Divine service encompasses both the right and the left vectors, it expresses how their devotion to G-d extends beyond the limits of their nature.

What is the source for this commitment? The hidden G-dliness which every Jew possess es within his soul, for the soul is "an actual part of G-d from above." [34]

Everything that happens in the world at large is dependent on the Divine service of the Jewish people. By revealing the inner G-dliness hidden within their souls through the twofold service mentioned above (or through the merit that in the future, they would manifest such service), the Jews precipitated a change in the world at large. The sea, the hidden G-dliness, was revealed, and it stood as a wall on both their right and left sides.

A Greater Purpose Beyond the Rescue of Life

There are still concepts which require clarification.

The repetition of the verse: "And the water was like a wall for them on their right and on their left," can be explained as referring to the two purposes for the splitting of the Sea: the salvation of the Jewish people, and the preparation for the giving of the Torah.

More particularly, the first time the verse is mentioned, it refers to the salvation of the Jewish people, and the second time, to the preparation for the giving of the Torah.

The above explanation explains how the splitting of the Sea serves as a preparation for the giving of the Torah.

With regard to saving the Jews from the Egyptians and silencing the accusations against the Jews in the spiritual realms, however, seemingly the merit of one type of Divine service would have been sufficient. In particular, this applies with regard to the merit of the giving of the Torah when the Jews were chosen from among the nations.

Why was the merit of the two vectors of Divine service necessary at the beginning of the Jews' entry into the sea to save them from the Egyptians?

The difficulty can be resolved as follows:

The giving of the Torah is the ultimate goal of the exodus from Egypt. Thus when G-d first told Moshe about the exodus, He also told him: "When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain," [35] i.e., receive the Torah on Mount Sinai. And the very first of the Ten Commandments affirms the connection between the giving of the Torah and the exodus, stating: "I am G-d your L-rd, who took you out of the Land of Egypt." [36]

For this reason, at the final stage in the exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the Sea, it was necessary that even at the outset, the connection to the giving of the Torah be expressed through Divine service in both vectors.

Were the objective to have been only to save the Jewish people from the evil influence of Egypt, two-fold Divine service would not have been necessary. Indeed, any commitment to Divine service takes one out of the limits of evil.

But the purpose of the exodus and the giving of the Torah was to take the Jews out of all limits entirely. And this requires a twofold service, employing both the right and the left vectors.

Leaving Egypt Entirely

There is a deeper dimension to the above concepts. Not only is Divine service with one vector not an adequate preparation for the giving of the Torah, it is also inadequate to enable the Jews to leave Egypt. [37]

To explain:

Every entity on the material plane has a source in the spiritual realms. [38] The Hebrew name for Egypt, Mitzrayim, resembles the word meitzarim, meaning "boundaries" or "limitations." The source for Egypt in the realm of evil are the boundaries and limitations that exist in the realm of holiness, serving G-d with a limited commitment, whether those limits are established by the nature of the animal soul or by the nature of the G-dly soul. [39]

Thus when one serves G-d with a limited commitment, he is not totally forewarned against contact with the Egypt associated with evil. Since he has not totally nullified himself, the source for Egypt, the boundaries and limitations of holiness, remains. And the possibility exists that Egypt's influence will be empowered.

The way to ensure that the Egypt associated with evil will have no influence is to go beyond the limits of "the Egypt of holiness" by making an unbounded commitment to G-dliness that expresses itself in the twofold Divine service described above.

By rising above his natural tendencies, a person can nullify any connection to the Egypt associated with evil.

No End to One's Horizons

On this basis, we can appreciate the inner motivation for the mitzvah of recalling the exodus from Egypt every day. [40] This mitzvah is incumbent upon every Jew, regardless of his spiritual level, whether he is a complete tzaddik or on the other end of the spiritual spectrum.

A tzaddik must recall the exodus every day, because his Divine service brings him into connection with G-d. Just as G-d is infinite, so too, there are infinite levels within a person's Divine service. For no matter how high a spiritual level a person reaches, his efforts are still limited. Therefore, each day, he must strive to transcend these limitations, and reach an even higher rung.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to understand: How can the spiritual "exodus from Egypt" of a tzaddik be compared to the exodus from Egypt of a person who must leave the Egypt of evil? How can the two be included in the same mitzvah?

The answer is that the exodus from Egypt on even the highest level shares a connection with the exodus from Egypt on the lowest level.

If a perfect tzaddik will remain content with his Divine service and not strive to advance further, he will not have forewarned the possibility of falling into the Egypt associated with evil. Although he is on a high level of Divine service, since he does not desire to ascend higher, he is confined within "the Egypt of holiness," and from there, there is a downward path leading - albeit with a multitude of intermediate phases - to the Egypt associated with evil. The only way to forewarn all connections with the Egypt of evil, is to make a commitment to advance without any restraints or limits in one's Divine service.

Every day, one must seek to reach a higher peak.

Regardless of the heights a person has already reached, he must resolve - as was the practice of chassidim, as the [Previous] Rebbe related - [41] that tomorrow, his Divine service will be on a different plane altogether.

When Potential Becomes Actual

Based on the above, we can resolve the questions raised at the outset: why fruitbearing trees sprouted from the bed of the Sea and grew fruit ready for the birds to eat. These were not additional factors, but rather elements inherent to the miracle of the splitting of the sea itself.

To explain: When a kernel is planted in the ground, it contains - in potential - the entire tree which will grow from it with all its fruit. [42] All that is necessary is for this potential be revealed. This is merely a matter of time depending on the quality of the fruit; the higher the quality of the fruit, the longer it takes to grow.

Moreover, the existence of this potential is rooted in the power of growth vested in the earth. With that power exists in potentia everything which will later grow from the earth (for the growth of plants from the earth's power of growth is not a complete expression of the potential for new existence to be brought into being ex nihilio). [43]

At the time of the splitting of the Sea, the Jews' Divine service caused the inner, hidden G-dliness to be revealed, not only within their own souls, but within the portion of the world which relates to them. Therefore, in order to enable the Jewish children to feed the birds which sang together with the Jewish people, the inner potential which was hidden in the bed of the sea was revealed and it sprouted fruitbearing trees. Moreover, the inner potential within the trees themselves (and their seed) was revealed, and they bore ripe fruit.

A Spiral of Ascent

The bed of the sea is inert matter, the lowest of all the forms of existence. Thus the revelation of the hidden G-dliness that occurred at the splitting of the Sea affected even inert matter. And this began an upward spiritual spiral. From the inert matter grew fruitbearing trees, members of the plant kingdom. The fruit from these trees were fed to the birds, living beings and became assimilated into their systems, becoming part of their flesh and blood. And the birds sang together with the Jewish people, sharing in the praise recited by humans. And this praise was recited to G-d, pointing to the ultimate goal of our mortal experience, unity with G-d. [44]

Thus at the splitting of the Sea, the inner G-dliness invested in inert matter was revealed, and it was elevated - through the intermediaries of the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom, and humans - to the extent where it became one with G-d.

Heralding the Ultimate Revelation

All the stories related in the Torah provide us with guidance in our daily lives. This is particularly true with regard to the splitting of the sea which we are obligated to recall every day. [45]

Every day a Jew must endeavor to reveal the G-dliness hidden in his soul. This will be expressed through the service of G-d without any reservations, employing all of one's different potentials, even those with opposing tendencies.

Such a commitment to Divine service forewarns one from the influence of the Egypt associated with evil and prepares one for the ultimate goals of the exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah, and the Future Redemption. As our Sages commented: [46] "Had the Jews not sinned," the redemption from Egypt would have been the ultimate Redemption.

At the time of the Future Redemption, the G-dliness which permeates all existence, even inert matter, will be revealed. This also took place at the splitting of the sea. [47] Yet, at the splitting of the sea, the revelation was only temporary, while in the Era of the Redemption, the revelation will endure. The temporary revelation at the splitting of the Sea empowered the Jews, granting them the potential that after the giving of the Torah, they could integrate this transcendent revelation within the makeup of the world through their Divine service. For this reason, great tzaddikim were able to appreciate the ultimate outcome of their Divine service. When looking at inert matter, they were able to perceive the G-dliness enclothed within it. As the Alter Rebbe once said, [48] "I do not see the beam. I see the G-dly energy which brings it into being."

In the near future, this degree of perception will be shared by all. "The glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh will see.. that the mouth of G-d has spoken." [49] The G-dliness enclothed in every created being will be revealed and appreciated by everyone, with the coming of the complete and ultimate Redemption, led by Mashiach. May this take place in the n ear future.


  1. (Back to text) Shmos Rabbah 21:10; Kuntres Bikkur Chicago, p. 60.

  2. (Back to text) See Tosafos Shabbos as cited in Orchos Chayim, sec. 324.

  3. (Back to text) See Derashos HaRan, Discourse 8: "The first introductory principle is that G-d desires to maintain the natural order to whatever degree possible. Nature is very dear in His eyes, and He will not change it unless it is absolutely necessary." See Shabbos 53b, et al.

  4. (Back to text) Yirmeyahu 33:25.

  5. (Back to text) See the maamar entitled Mah Tovu 5689, and the maamar entitled Nasata L'yerei'acha 5693 (Sefer HaMaamarim 5711, p. 290).

  6. (Back to text) Daily liturgy, Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 43.

  7. (Back to text) See Avodah Zarah 54b.

  8. (Back to text) Cf. Bereishis Rabbah beginning of ch. 39.

  9. (Back to text) See the gloss of the Tosafos Yom Tov to Avos 5:4.

  10. (Back to text) Shmos 14:22, 14:29.

  11. (Back to text) Even if it was necessary for the water to stand erect so that the Jews could pass through the sea (see Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 2, the commentaries to Avos, loc. cit., and Avos D'Rabbi Nassan), one might still ask: Why was it necessary for the Torah to mention this fact twice?

  12. (Back to text) Yalkut Reuveini, Shmos 14:27; Zohar, Vol. II, p. 170b.

  13. (Back to text) Devarim 33:4.

  14. (Back to text) Yalkut Shimoni, sec. 238. [The Hebrew for prayer is tefillah. Thus there is a similarity in the terms used by the two sources.]

  15. (Back to text) Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 45.

  16. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch HaRav 60:4.

  17. (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 49.

  18. (Back to text) Shabbos 146a.

  19. (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 6. See the notes of the Rebbe Rashab to that chapter (Kitzurim L'Tanya).

  20. (Back to text) See Tanya, chs. 6 and 7.

  21. (Back to text) In contrast, the question of whether the sparks of holiness contained in the three impure kelipos will be elevated or not depends on the nature of the future Redemption.

    Will it come at its set time [in which instance, only those aspects of existence which have an inherent connection to good will be elevated], or will it come before its time [in which instance, the realms of holiness will be extended further]. See the maamar entitled, Yaviu Levush Malchus in Shaarei Orah, ch. 94-96.

  22. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchos Talmud Torah 4:3; Tanya, ch. 3. The wording is based on a Hebrew expression originally found in II Shmuel 14:14.

  23. (Back to text) See the sichah to Parshas Beshallach in this series where this concept is also discussed.

  24. (Back to text) See Lekach Tov and Chizkuni commenting on Shmos 14:2.

  25. (Back to text) See Torah Or, the maamar entitled Ashirah; Likkutei Torah, Parshas Tzav; see also Pesachim 118a.

  26. (Back to text) See the series of maamarim entitled ViHechrim, 5631, and the maamar entitled Vayoleich Havayah es HaYom, 5704 (Sefer HaMamaarim 5704, p. 179).

  27. (Back to text) Tosafos, Erchin 15a.

  28. (Back to text) See Shmos Rabbah 12:3; Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Va'eira, sec. 19. See also the sichos to Parshas Lech Lecha and Parshas Chayei Sarah in this series where this concept is also discussed.

  29. (Back to text) Tehillim 66:6.

  30. (Back to text) Osios D'Rabbi Akiva, Os Beis; Seder Rabbah D'Breishis, sec. 4; Vayikra Rabbah 36:4; Midrash Tanchuma, Bereishis 3, Rashi and Ramban, commentary to Bereishis 1:1.

  31. (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar, the maamar entitled Vihaya Mispar B'nei Yisrael.

  32. (Back to text) This does not represent a contradiction to the explanation given in several sources that tefillin draws down Divine energy from above, paralleling the activities of the right vector. For in this context, the intent is that in general all of man's Divine service (both that which involves elevating the material plane and that which involves drawing down G-dly energy) follows the dynamic of ascent (an upward movement from the physical to the spiritual) which is the thrust of the left vector.

    Conversely, the matters which are given to man from above, i.e., heavenly matters, for example, the Torah, are associated with the right vector. As our Sages (Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 18; Zohar, Vol. II, pgs. 20a, 37a, 85b) say: "He extended His right hand, and created the heavens. He extended His left hand and created the earth."

    For this reason, with regard to the Torah, it is written (Yechezkel 1:25): "And there was a voice above the firmament," reflecting its connection with the right vector.

    And tefillin, which relates to the totality of the mitzvos [even those associated with drawing G-dliness downward], as our Sages (Kiddushin 35a) commented, "An equation has been established between the entire Torah and tefillin," is associated with the left vector.

    From a more particular vantage point, when considering man's Divine service itself, the efforts to elevate material existence (which are epitomized by prayer) are associated with the left vector, and the efforts to drawn down G-dliness are associated with the right vector.

    Moreover, the two versions of the Midrash - of which it is said (Eruvin 13b): "These and these are the words of the living G-d" - can be combined producing the following concept.

    The "walls" set up at the splitting of the Sea reflect all three vectors: tefillin (drawing down G-dly energy) - the right vector, prayer - the left vector, Torah study - the middle vector (because it has a tendency to the right, it is considered as the right vector).

    It is through the consummate efforts in all three vectors that that the hidden depth of the essence of the soul (its sea) is revealed.

  33. (Back to text) See Torah Or 19b.

  34. (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 2.

  35. (Back to text) Shmos 3:12.

  36. (Back to text) Ibid. 20:2.

  37. (Back to text) This is indicated by the wording of the Mechilta cited above: "What caused the Jews to be saved?" This indicates that both vectors of Divine service were necessary to save the Jewish people.

  38. (Back to text) See Bereishis Rabbah 10:6.

  39. (Back to text) See also the communal letter sent out for Pesach, 5723.

  40. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch HaRav 67:1; see also Tanya, ch. 47.

  41. (Back to text) Sefer HaMamaarim 5710, p. 242.

  42. (Back to text) See the maamar entitled Gedolim Maaseh Tzaddikim, 5785 (Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntresim, p. 916).

  43. (Back to text) See the maamar entitled Yaviu Levush Malchus in Shaarei Orah, ch. 26; the series of mamaarim entitled VeKachah, 5637, ch. 44; the conclusion of Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 20.

  44. (Back to text) See Sefer Ikarim, maamar 3, ch. 1; Kuntres U'Mayon, maamar 1, ch. 3, Toras Shalom, Sichas Yud-Tes Kislev, 5680.

  45. (Back to text) Tosefta, Berachos 2:1, cited in Torah Or, in the maamar entitled Az Yashir; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 66:12.

  46. (Back to text) Nedarim 22b; see also Shmos Rabbah 32:1, et al.

  47. (Back to text) See Chabbakuk 2:11; Chagigah 16:1; Midrash Tehillim, the conclusion of sec. 73.

  48. (Back to text) Beis Rebbe, Vol. I, ch. 22.

  49. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 40:5.
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