1. Torah bids us to begin with a word of royalty, and our Sages say that the (true) kings are the Rabbis. Hence royalty is associated with Torah, and it is thus fitting that this farbrengen begin with the portions of Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya (Chitas) said daily. This is especially appropriate since this farbrengen is associated with the completion of the writing of the Sefer Torah
The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything a Jew encounters can provide a lesson for his service to G-d. Certainly then, every day has a unique lesson special for that day; and that lesson comes from the Torah which is peculiar to it. This is consonant with the Alter Rebbe’s dictum that we must ‘live with the times,’ meaning to live according to the lessons derived from the daily portion of the weekly parshah — and likewise with the daily portion of Tehillim and Tanya. For in addition to learning these daily portions, there are also lessons to be derived from them in our service to G-d.
There is a central theme in today’s portions of Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya, associated with today being Rosh Chodesh Shevat, and also marking the completion of the Sefer Torah. That central theme is the emphasis on unity of all Jews. On Rosh Chodesh Shevat, Moshe Rabbeinu began to teach the Jews the book of Devarim — “These are the words which Moshe spoke to Israel.” Moshe spoke to all Jews, to all the different categories — the idea of unity among Jews. This is also emphasized in today’s portions of Chitas
Chumash: Today’s portion of Chumash, the second section of parshas Bo, ends with the words “For all the children of Israel there was light in their dwelling places.”
Tehillim: The portion of Tehillim said today, Rosh Chodesh, is the beginning of the book of Tehillim, which starts with the words “Happy is the man.” This is also connected with Rosh Chodesh Shevat, when Moshe began to teach the Jews the book of Devarim. Our Sages explain that the leaders of Israel started their blessing to the Jews where their predecessor left off. Moshe finished (the book of Devarim) with the words “Happy are you, Israel,” and King Dovid (author of Tehillim) began with the words “Happy is the man.” Hence today’s portion of Tehillim is associated with Rosh Chodesh Shevat when Moshe began to teach the book of Devarim. And Moshe’s blessing of “Happy are you, Israel” refers to all Israel.
Furthermore, in the self-same chapter of Tehillim, it states (1:3): “He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season; its leaf shall not wither...” Our Sages (Chulin 92a) have noted that the Jewish people are compared to a vine. Its fruit are the learned people, and the leaves are the unlearned. Hence this verse stresses the unity of the Jewish people (the learned — fruit; unlearned — leaf), for, as our Sages continued to note, “without the leaves, the fruit would not be.”
Tanya: Today’s daily portion of Tanya, as apportioned by the previous Rebbe, is the second half of Ch. 18, which explains the concept of faith and self-sacrifice which every Jew possesses. Faith in G-d is higher than reasoning and intellect, and hence even the least in Israel are willing to undergo self-sacrifice for their belief in G-d. This essential point of Judaism exists in each and every Jew equally, regardless of a Jew’s individual spiritual standing.
The above point common to today’s portions of Chitas — the unity of all Jews — is emphasized in the conclusion of the writing of the Sefer Torah. The previous Rebbe writes concerning the customs of celebrating the conclusion of writing a new Sefer Torah, that it should be brought into a synagogue with great joy, dancing, singing, music, etc. when it is brought into the synagogue, the verses of Ato Horaysa are said, as on Simchas Torah, and Hakofos are made as on Simchas Torah. The joy of Simchas Torah is not associated with the study of Torah, but with the essence of Torah (above its study) — in which all Jews (regardless of their status in Torah scholarship) are equal. Hence, at the completion of the writing of a Sefer Torah (which is celebrated as on Simchas Torah), the essential unity of all Jews is emphasized.
2. When a Jew’s service is permeated with belief and self-sacrifice, and fulfills the commandments because of his intrinsic bond with the very Essence of G-d; then, since he performs his mission with the strength of G-d Himself, he has dominion over the entire world to fulfill that mission.
The above is described in today’s portion of Chumash. It states (10:12) “The L-rd said to Moshe: Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt...” Moshe was still in Egypt, Pharaoh was still king — yet Moshe only had to ‘stretch out his hand’ to affect the entire land of Egypt. Since he acted with the mission and strength of G-d, he had dominion over the entire land.
Every Jew is a disciple of Moshe Rabbeinu — “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is an inheritance for the congregation of Yaakov.” Every Jew is a heir to continue fulfilling G-d’s mission, and with the resultant power he will be successful wherever he may be. Indeed, such success is recorded in the end of today’s portion — “And for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwelling places.” Even while still in Egypt, in exile, the Jews stood ‘upright’ and with an ‘upraised hand,’ having ‘light in all their dwelling places’ — even in the land of Egypt. When a Jew entered an Egyptian’s house during the plague of darkness, he could see everything. He had light; while the Egyptians had paralyzing darkness. He saw where the Egyptians kept all their valuables, and later, when departing Egypt, could fulfill G-d’s command of “A woman shall ask of her neighbor silver and gold vessels and garments.” If the Egyptians would deny having such valuables, the Jew would tell him exactly where they were kept, having ascertained their hiding places during the plague of darkness.
Not only did a Jew thus have dominion over Egypt (and thus fulfill G-d’s command to ‘empty out’ Egypt), but the light that Jews had then (“And for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwelling places”) affected and influenced the Egyptians to readily acquiesce in giving their valuables to the Jews — in order to help fulfill G-d’s command. As we see this is indeed exactly what happened. The Jews, when asking for the Egyptians’ valuables, did not request them as payment for their years in slavery, but simply because so G-d commanded them; and the Egyptians did not refuse but gave their vessels to them.
The above concept of a Jew being able to influence the world through fulfilling G-d’s mission with faith and self-sacrifice, is also expressed in the idea of the completion of a Sefer Torah. The joy at the completion of a Sefer Torah, as explained previously, emphasizes the unity of Jews, and is associated with the very essence of Torah higher than comprehension and understanding. Such a level is connected to the level of faith and self-sacrifice which is also higher than comprehension and understanding, and is found in all Jews equally.
At the celebration of the completion of a Sefer Torah, this central point of Jewishness is revealed in each and every Jew, who then acts in the mission of G-d and affects the entire world. In practical terms, the celebration (singing, dancing, etc.) was not just in the place where the Sefer Torah was completed, but extended into the streets — and non-Jews could see that Jews were joyously celebrating the completion of the writing of a Sefer Torah.
This then is the central theme of all the above — Rosh Chodesh Shevat, today’s three portions of Chitas, and the completion of the Sefer Torah. All of them express the unity of Jews, which is associated with faith and self-sacrifice higher than rational understanding. May it be G-d’s will that through the completion of the Sefer Torah, which (the writing of a Sefer Torah) is the last mitzvah in the Torah, the end of the exile be hastened. But even while in exile, the standing of Jews should be such that “for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwelling places.” Then, with joy and good heart, all Jews will dance with the Sefer Torahs in welcoming our righteous Mashiach, speedily in our times.
3. The above is relevant to the completion of the writing of every Sefer Torah. Every Jew is commanded to write a Sefer Torah, as the Rambam states: “It is a positive commandment on every Jew to write a Sefer Torah for himself, as written ‘And now, write for yourselves this Song;’ that is, write for yourselves the (entire) Torah, which contains this Song — for it is not permitted to write the Torah in separate sections.” Hence, in order to fulfill the commandment of “Write for yourselves this Song,” a person must write the entire Torah.
In addition to the obligation of every individual to write a Sefer Torah for himself, there is the Sefer Torah of a congregation. Throughout the generations it has been customary to write a Sefer Torah for the entire congregation, (besides those written by individuals to fulfill the mitzvah of ‘Write for yourselves this Song’). our Sages tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu wrote thirteen Sefer Torahs: one for each of the twelve tribes, and the thirteenth was placed in the Sanctuary (from which all the others were checked). The Sefer Torah for each of the tribes was the congregational Sefer Torah for that tribe, belonging to all the tribe. The thirteenth Sefer Torah belonged to the entire congregation of Israel — to all Jews. And a Sefer Torah belonging to a congregation, especially the thirteenth Sefer Torah written by Moshe for all Jews, expresses the unity of Jews in much greater fashion than an individual’s Sefer Torah.
The Zohar states that Jews, Torah, and G-d are all one — through the Torah, Jews are united with G-d. Thus there are 600,000 letters in a Sefer Torah, corresponding to the 600,000 all encompassing Jewish souls. Indeed, the word ‘Yisrael’ forms the acrostic “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah.’
The Torah is intrinsically above all limitations. Simultaneously however, it descended and was ‘enclothed’ in the limits of time and space, to the degree that Jews in the corporeal world are the ‘masters’ over the Torah. When, for instance, it comes to sanctifying the new moon through the Bais Din, the new moon is fixed according to Jews’ calculations “even if you err unknowingly, even if you err knowingly, even if you are mistaken” (Rosh Hashanah 25a). The reason for this is that the thought [of G-d] about Jews preceded everything else, including Torah — and hence the greatness of Jews surpasses that of Torah, making them masters over the Torah.
Nevertheless, there are still certain conditions for a Jew to be able to learn Torah properly. Torah study must be done with humility, and faith and self-sacrifice. Then he reaches the level of Torah that is higher than comprehension and understanding, the revelation of the essence of Torah. From all this we see the intrinsic bond between Jews and Torah, and, as above, ‘Yisrael’ forms the acrostic ‘There are 600,000 letters in the Torah.’
Hence we see the greatness in writing a Sefer Torah for the entire congregation. In this particular Sefer Torah, which was written for all Jews, each letter was acquired by a separate, individual Jew. The writing of this Sefer Torah thus unites hundreds of thousands of Jews (304,805 corresponding to the actual number of letters). When a Jew purchases a letter, giving his money for it, he reveals his connection to a letter in the Sefer Torah. When hundreds of thousands of Jews unite together in writing a Sefer Torah, they become one entity, just as all the letters are united into the one Torah.
4. In addition, there is a further advantage in this Sefer Torah. All Jews worry about their brethren behind the Iron Curtain, and try to help them in any way possible — to unite them together with all Jews. But in the present situation, it is not possible to break down the Iron Curtain, and some other way of uniting them must be found. Every day in prayer, a Jew says “I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellow as yourself”’ — thus uniting himself with all Jews, including those behind the Iron Curtain. However, thoughts, or even speech, will not actually bring out the Jews from behind the Iron Curtain. Something concrete, some action, must be done to help these Jews. Some try to send packages; but this can only be done intermittently, and it is impossible to send them to all the Jews there.
Hence, to actually help Jews , behind the Iron Curtain, and in a manner that endures forever, one should see to it that they buy letters in a Sefer Torah; and if that is not possible, to buy letters on their behalf. Then these Jews are united with hundreds of thousands of other Jews in an eternal bond through the eternal Torah. Such a unity transcends all limits, including the limits imposed by the Iron Curtain. Just as even a metal barrier cannot separate Jews from their Father in Heaven, so too not even a metal barrier can separate a Jew from Torah. The Iron Curtain cannot separate a Jew from the letter in the Torah purchased on his behalf. The letters purchased for such Jews helps them in all their needs. The previous Rebbe explained that “Every Jew has a letter in the Torah ... this letter gives him strength and power to withstand all obstacles to learning Torah; and besides protecting him, it is also the instrument through which and because of it the blessing from above in all good reaches him...”
Hence, the Sefer Torahs being currently written, whether according to Ashkenazic custom or Sefardic custom, the custom of the AriZal or others, have the wondrous quality of uniting all Jews in an eternal bond. Notwithstanding a Jew’s individual situation, even if he is behind the Iron Curtain, those who participate in the writing of a Sefer Torah are united and become one entity. Even those Jews who are, temporarily, lost to Judaism, in their true Jewish essence wish to fulfill G-d’s commands. It is only because of the exile that they are ‘lost;’ but their essential point of Jewish identity is still alive. We must work to reveal that essential Jewishness, so that every Jew will want to fulfill G-d’s will openly.
Then we will merit to see the fulfillment of the promise “And you will be gathered one by one children of Israel”, “with our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters” — including those Jews behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, they have a special distinction, having remained faithful to Judaism in the face of overwhelming obstacles for over 50 years. Then we merit to come to the Holy Land, “the land ... which the eyes of the L-rd, your G-d, are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year,” speedily in our times, with our righteous Mashiach at our head.
- (Back to text) This refers to the Sefer Torah written on behalf of all Jews by Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch.
- (Back to text) There are only 304,805 actual letters. The number 600,000 includes the vowels etc.