By Shalom Olensky
This week in the Torah:
Jacob is born. Fifteen years later, Abraham passes away; which means that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived together for fifteen years.
Rabbi Yehudah the Chassid writes:
a) “The Patriarchs lived together for fifteen years, during which time they studied together for fifteen hours a day. Indeed the Mishnah says that fifteen is the age for Talmud study.”
b) “Twenty four verses in the Torah mention Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in that order. This alludes to the fact that all of them served their Creator twenty four hours a day, regularly.”
Rabbi Chayim Yosef David Azoulai writes:
The above two comments imply two different schedules:
a) Fifteen hours were spent on study and prayer, and the body was sustained during the remaining nine hours.
b) Fifteen hours were spent on study, and the remaining hours, on prayer.
If the Patriarchs served G-d 24/7, why are the hours of study, as opposed to the hours of prayer, distinguished with a number, fifteen?
The Patriarchs represent the three pillars upon which the world stands: Abraham – Loving-kindness, Isaac – Prayer and Fear of Heaven, Jacob – Harmony through Torah. Their time together during those fifteen years is symbolic of a level where the above three distinct modes of Divine service may exist together – in Torah Study. In Torah Study different modes of Divine service can be dwelt on at the same moment, as opposed to the practical application of the diversified-but-unified intellectual ideas; they cannot all be actualized, during prayer or otherwise, at the same time. Therefore, Torah Study and the number fifteen, the two elements that housed all three “Patriarchs” together, are distinctive.
Torah is Divine even while accessible to human intellect, and can therefore combine opposites; whereas, their practical application (in prayer and Mitzvah observance) is limited to one mode at a time. Also, pure intellect is objective and can tolerate opposite factions, as opposed to emotion which is subjective and has difficulty adjusting from one type of character trait to another.
At Mt. Sinai:
G-d revealed Himself to the world, making it possible to bind the spiritual and physical. Since then, the humble objectivity of intellect can be harnessed and extended to emotions and practice. Hence we find that, ever since Sinai, a Jew is commanded to both love and fear G-d and to practice all three, aforementioned, modes of service.
The three “fathers” of Chassidism in general – the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezeritch and the Alter Rebbe – lived simultaneously for fifteen years. This represents the fact that generalized Chassidism inspires a Jew in his Divine Service only in an elevated level, leaving out the inner workings of the mind and heart and practicable character development.
The three “fathers” of Chabad Chassidism – the Alter Rebbe, the Mitteler Rebbe and the Tzemach Tzedek – shared twenty four years together. This represents the special quality of Chabad Chassidism, to permeate the human intellect and emotions, thought patterns, words and actions so that all twenty four hours of the day are influenced by Chassidism. In this way, even one’s physicality becomes permeated by Chassidism.
(Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 35, Toldos)