Four That Are One1
They are not well understood, but we have it on good authority that the
Four Parshios are laden with special potential. R. Pinchas Koritzer
related that he achieved extraordinary episodes of ruach ha-kodesh
on these Shabbosos.
But why would reading another section of Torah text make a Shabbos
essentially special? Why do we read these parshios altogether?
They all grow out of mitzvos that can be fulfilled actively. Why read
about them, rather than just do them? Why would the public reading of them
rise to the level of a mitzvah de-orayso in the case of Zachor,
and possibly even Parah? Why do we attach a kriah to one group
of mitzvos, in contradistinction to so many other mitzvos of the Torah
that are observed without any special fanfare or reading?
The common element to all of these parshios is that they support
the all-important goal of devekus. Each parshah
showcases a different factor in the long journey towards more meaningful
connection with Hashem. The message of each is so vital that it simply
persists in all times, even when the mitzvah that it is paired with cannot
be practically fulfilled.
Machtzis ha-shekel, the subject of Parshas Shekalim, connects a
Jew to the beis ha-mikdosh. The latter, and the korbanos that
were offered therein, point to the eternal bond between a Jew and his
Creator. They address the sins that can tarnish the relationship between
them and restore it to its previous luster. Each year brings a new cycle
of korbanos to the beis ha-mikdosh; machtzis ha-shekel
renews the commitment of a Jew to the avodah of the system
The kernel idea behind the avodah is central and essential to
us. It remains strong even in the absence of a Temple. Paraphrasing the
gemara , the Magid of Kozhnitz taught that the Temple’s destruction was
restricted to its “outer” chambers. Its “inner” chambers were unscathed.
The churban did not and could not touch the place that hosts the
primary bond between Hashem and His people. (The gemara depicts
the cheruvim locked in embrace at the time of the churban,
even though this was supposed to happen only at times that the
Jewish people were faithful to their calling. The hour of the Temple’s
destruction, when Divine wrath was vented on His house, would hardly seem
to be such a time. The gemara’s point is that the devekus
between HKBH and us remains even in such times. Hashem engineered this
manifestation of devekus precisely at the time of the churban to
lend comfort and support to us at such a difficult time.)
Amalek is the root and source of the kelipah of evil. The Torah
speaks of Hashem placing His Hand upon His throne in an oath regarding
the perpetual war with Amalek. The word for throne is spelled deficiently,
leading Chazal to remark that His very throne is incomplete as long as
Amalek has not been eradicated. Moreover, no individual can achieve the
full complement of devekus so long as Amalek’s power is left
While the mitzvah of physically battling Amalek is limited to certain
times and conditions and not applicable today, the inner meaning of the
mitzvah is very much with us. We address that inner core with a daily
mitzvah of remembering Amalek, and a yearly one of doing so through the
Torah reading of Parshas Zachor. The contemporary mitzvah demands of us
that we do not make peace with the existence of evil for a single day –
not within ourselves, and not in the world in general.
Parshas Parah addresses a different dimension of evil. Tumah is
a related phenomenon, a state brought on by the existence and flourishing
of evil. It is incompatible with taharah, its opposite. Thus,
when Man gives the sitra achra the opportunity to succeed, not only
does Man falter and fail, but tumah takes up residence within him.
This tumah estranges him from Hashem, moves him in the opposite
direction of the devekus -union he seeks.
We are unable today to deal with the layers and dimensions of tumah
that used to be neutralized by the parah adumah. Inner
taharah, however, remains an option through teshuvah and
achieving devekus. Reading Parshas Parah plays a role in this,
as will be explained later on.
Parshas Ha-Chodesh stresses the essential and central role of beis din in
determining when Yom Tov will arrive. All the spiritual gifts attendant
to a Yom Tov are dependent upon the deliberations of a human court. The
Heavenly Court, as it were, operates in this regard at the behest of its
human counterpart. The proclamation of the New Moon by flesh-and-blood
judges sets off the cascade of spiritual reactions in the Upper Worlds
that shape the content of the Yom Tov.
The inner core of this, on the level of the individual, is the dependence
of isr’usa dil’eila on isr’usa dilesasa. All kinds of
spiritual gifts are waiting to be sent to us from Heaven, but they require
that we make something of a first move ourselves. Reading Parsha Ha-
Chodesh is such a move, whereby we draw down the holiness of the
approaching holiday through an expression of the holiness already within
A well-established teaching of kabbalah sees every mitzvah
acting upon each of the four Worlds: atzilus, beriah, yetzirah,
and asiya. Those four worlds relate in the microcosm to
four parts of our individual makeup: our bodies, and the three primary
parts of our souls – nefesh, ruach, and neshamah.
Depending on our preparedness and intention, our mitzvah performance takes
place on different levels. Sometimes, we perform a mitzvah merely with
our bodies. Sometimes, we function on the level of ruach, or
Without a Beis Ha-Mikdosh, it is impossible for us to perform
many mitzvos on the physical level. We must know, however, that these
mitzvos have not disappeared or been shelved. They still exist, on the
level of neshamah. They can be accessed through Torah. The
Torah always functions as the cement between Hashem and the Jewish people.
When the neshamah of a mitzvah can no longer be joined to its
physical counterpart in the avodah of the Beis Ha-Mikdosh,
the substitute “location” for it is Torah itself.
R Moshe of Dolina explained with this why we recite the Torah verses
dealing with the Exodus at the Pesach seder. The special
ohr of the evening is resident within the words of Torah. By
reciting them, we gain access to that ohr. This reasoning also helps
explain why we read the section of vay’chulu before
kiddush Friday night.
We now understand why we designate a Torah reading for this particular
group of mitzvos. Each is fundamentally important as a step towards
devekus; the active fulfillment of each of them is somewhat distant
and inaccessible to us, after having lost thebeis ha-mikdosh.
Each, however, remains realizable on the level of the neshamah of
the mitzvah, even as its physical aspects are beyond our grasp. We enter
into this level of observance specifically through words of Torah.
The Zohar calls Shabbosyoma de-nishmasa, the “neshama
day.” It makes perfect sense that Shabbos is the time best suited to
engage these four pillars of our avodah, yielding for us the Four Parshios.
 Based on Nesivos Shalom, Shemos, pg. 282-286
 Chagigah 5B
 Yoma 54B
 Shemos 17:16
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and Torah.org