1. Today, Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan, contains two aspects: the concept of Shabbos Mevorchim, present in all months; and the particular concept of Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan. For just as every month is unique, so too every Shabbos Mevorchim of a particular month has a unique aspect not present in any other Shabbos Mevorchim.
The distinction of the month of Sivan is recorded in Torah, which terms it “the third month” (whereas the name ‘Sivan’ is from Bavel). The idea of three is associated with Mattan Torah, as the Talmud explains (Shabbos 88a): “Blessed is G-d Who gave the three-fold Torah (Five Books of Moshe, Prophets and Writings) to the three-fold people (Kohanim, Levi’im and Yisraelim) through the third-born (Moshe, the third child of his parents, born after Miriam and Aharon), on the third day (of separation), on the third month.” We see then that the “third month” is associated with Mattan Torah which emphasizes the distinction of the number three.
Torah states that (Yisro 19:1-2): “In the third month of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, on that day, they came to the wilderness of Sinai ... and Israel encamped there before the mountain.” In Hebrew, the word for “encamped,” is “Vayichan,” singular tense on which Rashi comments that they encamped “as one man with one heart; but all the other encampments were with complaints and with strife.” In other words, although during all the encampments in the 44 day interval from the exodus until Rosh Chodesh Sivan there were complaints and strife, in “the third month,” when the preparations to Mattan Torah began, all the Jews were “as one man with one heart.” Hence the special distinction of Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan is preparations to Mattan Torah through unity of all Jews, as it was at the original Mattan Torah. For although Shabbos Mevorchim blesses all the days of the coming month, special emphasis is laid on and announcement is made concerning the day of Rosh Chodesh — and it was on Rosh Chodesh that they came to the wilderness of Sinai and encamped there “as one man with one heart” “on that day” in the verse being Rosh Chodesh Sivan).
Since the above lesson is derived specifically from the month of Sivan, it is fulfilled with special life and excitement. For since it is something new — a unique lesson learned from the unique quality of the month of Sivan — it produces a greater impression than something experienced before. It is man’s nature to be affected more by something new than something old, and hence Torah commands us that its concepts should “every day be in your eyes as new.” In other words, Torah instructs us that we must break out of the limits of nature and to engage in Torah as if it were completely new. And since the above lesson is learned from the unique quality of Sivan, it is as if it were new, and produces great excitement, leading to its fulfillment with greater vitality.
But all is not clear. We explained above that the unique quality of Sivan is the idea of unity, oneness (“as one man with one heart”). This seems to be more suited to the month of Nissan, which is the first month of the year (number one) , rather than Sivan, the third month.
There is, however, a difference in the types of unity which correspond to the months of Nissan and Sivan. There is the concept of “unity” that transcends the idea of strife or division; and there is the concept of “unity” which exists despite division — when two or more divided parties are united. This latter type of unity, which is loftier than the former, is that of the month of Sivan, whereas the former is of the month of Nissan. when the Jews left Egypt in Nissan, there were no divisions or strife between them, for all left in an equal manner, as stated: “All the hosts of G-d went out from the land of Egypt” — and their association to “the hosts of G-d” was equal. Hence, at the time of the exodus, the divisions into Kohanim, Levi’im and Yisraelim. were not yet present, and their divisions into the 12 tribes was not apparent — all went out together at one time. Their unity in Sivan however was after there were already divisions — “complaints and strife” — and this expresses the distinction of Sivan: that even though they were previously divided, the moment they came to the wilderness of Sinai they were united “as one man with one heart.”
This is also expressed in the name of this month — “the third month.” The difference between the number “one” and the number “three” is that in the former, there is no division or opposition at all, divisions only start from the number “two.” The distinction of “three” is that through it, two opposing things are united.
We find this idea expressed in Torah, in the “thirteen rules by means of which the Torah is expounded.” One of those rules is “When two Biblical passages contradict each other, the meaning can be determined by a third Biblical text which reconciles them.” Likewise, the Torah was given on the “third day” (of separation), similar to the third day of creation. on the first day of creation it states “one day,” for then G-d was “the only one in His world,” and there were no divisions. On the second day, the concept of division began — “and He separated.” on the third day, “it was good” was said twice, “once for the conclusion of the second day, and once for the conclusion of that day.” In other words, the separation and division of the second day were rectified on the third day.
The above explanation answers another question. Before a soul descends below, its unity with other souls is much greater than when enclothed in a body, as explained in Tanya (Ch. 32), that regarding “their root and source in the living G-d.... they are all of a kind, and all having one Father.” If so, what is the greatness in the unity of Jews below on this world, “as one man with one heart?”
However, since Above there are absolutely no separations or division, their unity is similar to the unity of the month of Nissan — completely transcending the concept of division. But the ultimate goal is that souls should descend below, enclothed in separate bodies, and after being in a state of separateness to unite together “as one man with one heart” — which is the loftiest level of unity (the unity of “the third month”).
Hence, the unity of Jews must express itself especially in relation to those Jews of a low level, those in whom the concept of “all of a kind, and all having one Father” is not revealed — since they are on a low level of Torah and mitzvos. For concerning Jews in whom this concept is revealed (through their high level of Torah and mitzvos), it would not be necessary for the soul to descend below, since this concept exists also beforehand, Above. Thus we must say that the necessity to unite all Jews encompasses and indeed applies especially to those Jews on a lower level of Torah and mitzvos.
In addition, such unity must be expressed specifically in the lowest category of things — actual deed, the performance of mitzvos. In regard to thought or feelings, a Jew may not yet be a fit “vessel;” but deed is relevant to every Jew, being “believers the sons of believers” — through pure acceptance of the yoke of Heaven. Through starting with deed, a Jew is brought to fulfill yet more mitzvos, until he reaches those things associated with thought and feelings. On the other hand, the actual performance of mitzvos should not be regarded as a secondary thing only important as a step in reaching higher matters. The contrary is true: “Deed is the essential thing.” For just as the ultimate aim is to unite those Jews who are on a low spiritual level (in whom the concept of “all of a kind, having one Father” is not revealed) , so too with those Jews themselves, the ultimate purpose is that this unity should permeate the lowest level — deed.
The above is emphasized in Mattan Torah, of which it states “The L-rd descended upon Mt. Sinai.” G-d did not elevate that which was below to above, but lowered that which was above below.
Unity through deed is very easy to effect in every Jew on every spiritual level. When a Jew is told that he is required not to change nature, but only to perform a mitzvah — something that entails no great effort or time — there is no reason for refusal. During a day, a person does many things, without lengthy reckoning of the gain accrued from them. If so, there is no reason to refuse to do yet another thing — the fulfillment of a mitzvah.
This is especially so when the Jew is told the great gain derived from a mitzvah. A simple example: When a person is approached to invest one penny with the aim of gaining immense wealth, then, even if he is extremely doubtful if the hoped for gain will materialize, he will still certainly be willing to invest the paltry sum of one penny. In our case, when a Jew is told that through the extremely minor investment (of effort and time) in performing a mitzvah he will reap untold gain, then, even if he is doubtful, he will still be interested in making such a small investment.
Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan, from which extends the blessings for the whole of Sivan and especially Rosh Chodesh Sivan, is the appropriate time to make good resolutions to engage in activities to unite all Jews “as one man with one heart” — as it was on the original Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Indeed, on Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan there is more strength given than on Rosh Chodesh, for since Rosh Chodesh is blessed on Shabbos Mevorchim — meaning the blessings for Rosh Chodesh come from Shabbos — Shabbos must be loftier than Rosh Chodesh — and therefore has the power to extend blessings and success to Rosh Chodesh.
Such resolutions and their fulfillment are the proper preparation to receiving the Torah, as our Sages said, that when G-d saw all Jews united, He said that now they are ready to receive the Torah.
Through this we merit G-d’s blessings, extending to the main blessing of the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach. Our Sages say that had Israel merited it, they would have entered Eretz Yisrael immediately after the exodus from Egypt and Mattan Torah, such that there would never have been another exile. Hence in our case, when the preparations to Mattan Torah and Mattan Torah itself are proper, we merit immediately the eternal redemption, when we will go to our Holy Land, to the holy city of Yerushalayim, to the third Bais HaMikdash.
2. The above applies to Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan every year. In addition, there are lessons to be learned from the particular day of the month on which Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan falls this year – the 29th of Iyar, Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan. The Baal Shem Tov said that everything a Jew encounters can serve as a lesson in his service to G-d, and thus the particular date on which Shabbos Mevorchim falls every year is also instructive.
This teaching of the Baal Shem Tov is relevant to every Jew, be he great or small in Torah. A great person may think that since his service is already perfect, a particular event can have no meaning for his service to G-d. But, says the Baal Shem Tov, since G-d has shown a particular happening to a person, we must conclude that it is G-d’s will to learn an additional lesson from it. And if a great person does not conduct himself in consonance with this teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, the deficiency incurred is more pronounced than if an ordinary person does not do so — precisely because he is a great person and must act accordingly.
The teaching of the Baal Shem Tov is also relevant to a “small” person in Torah, even a child. A child could think that since he is only a young child, he is not able to derive a lesson from a particular event; and if he is to be taught such a lesson, the obligation rests upon his teacher to tell it to him. But, says the Baal Shem Tov, it applies to a child directly. A child believes that everything is created by G-d, and hence knows that any occurrence in the world is by Divine Providence. Thus, when encountering something, it is being shown to the child by G-d (and not to his teacher) — and the reason is to learn appropriate lessons in service to G-d. (Afterwards, his teacher can explain the lesson in a more profound manner.)
The lesson learned from Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan being on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan this year (29th of Iyar) is as follows: In such a case, there is no break between Shabbos Mevorchim and Rosh Chodesh, for Rosh Chodesh immediately follows Shabbos Mevorchim — and there are no interrupting matters. The lesson from this is that the good resolutions undertaken on Shabbos Mevorchim (regarding the matters of Rosh Chodesh and the entire month) must be fulfilled immediately, without any other matters intervening.
Moreover, the fulfillment of the resolutions concerning Rosh Chodesh must start already on Shabbos, for on Shabbos there are already matters associated with Rosh Chodesh. For example, at Minchah on Shabbos, “Tzidkoschoh Tzedek” is not said, since it is Erev Rosh Chodesh — indicating that the effects of Rosh Chodesh are already taking place.
The above lesson is relevant not only to Rosh Chodesh Sivan, but to all the days of the year, and to all years. When a Jew makes good resolutions concerning Torah and mitzvos, he may think to defer their fulfillment for a while, believing there is no reason to hasten. For since the world has been existing on the three pillars of Torah, prayer and good deeds for 5741 years and several months in any case, there is no need to hasten to immediately fulfill his resolutions. The lesson learned from Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan falling on Erev Rosh Chodesh teaches that the reverse is true: good resolutions must be fulfilled immediately.
In practical terms, the service uniquely associated with Rosh Chodesh Sivan — the unity of Jews — must begin immediately. And, as explained above, it must begin with influencing another Jew in the area of deed — to perform an actual mitzvah, which in turn leads to other mitzvahs, etc.
Unity of Jews is effected through Torah, as stated: “And Israel encamped there before the mountain,” the “mountain” being Mt. Sinai on which the Torah was given. Unity can only be effected through Torah, for otherwise, there are unbridgeable differences between Jews, ranging from “the heads of your tribes” to “the hewers of your wood and water carriers.” G-d can perform the impossible and unite two opposites — but how can man do so? However, G-d gave Jews the strength and ability to make an “ark” for the Torah, such that the impossible is revealed. The ark, although a physical object with definite measurements, simultaneously did not take up any space in the Holy of Holies — and this ark was constructed by Jews. And since Jews have been given the strength to make such an ark for the Torah in this manner, through Torah all Jews can be united together despite their differences. Thus, to unite all Jews in deed, the best way is through each Jew purchasing a letter in a Sefer Torah.
A further advantage of uniting Jews in this manner is that through purchasing a letter in a Sefer Torah, the letter belongs to him eternally. Although every mitzvah is eternal, it is only so “Above,” whereas “below” its eternality is not openly seen. For example, although giving tzedakah is a mitzvah which is eternal, openly it is not revealed: although yesterday tzedakah was given to a poor person, today the poor person needs tzedakah again. But in the case of a letter in a Sefer Torah, it exists during a person’s lifetime, and for all generations. Hence, the special lesson from Rosh Chodesh Sivan is to increase in all efforts associated with the campaign to ensure that all Jews acquire a letter in one of the general Sefer Torahs.
These efforts must be made by all Jews. A person “great” in Torah may think that it is not fitting for him to try to get other Jews to acquire letters in the Sefer Torah, for it is a waste of his abilities to spend time on such things when he could be learning Torah. However, such a person must know that he must use his abilities precisely in this most important of all tasks — to unite all Jews “as one man with one heart.” Indeed, work in this area helps a person be successful also in his Torah study.
On the other hand, “small” people, including children, can and must work to influence others to purchase letters. Small children, despite their young years, can, when they speak with sincerity, have great success in convincing even adults to buy letters.
It was explained previously that the proper preparation to receiving the Torah is the unity of Jews. Hence, when endeavoring to convince another Jew to purchase a letter in the Sefer Torah, a person can explain to the other Jew that by so doing he (the latter) is helping him (the person attempting to convince the other Jew) to receive the Torah properly. For since receiving the Torah is dependent upon the unity of Jews, it is necessary for him to have the other Jew purchase a letter!
May it be G-d’s will that all the above be fulfilled with joy and good heart, as stated: “Serve the L-rd with joy.” Through involvement in these things with joy we merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, with all Jews united together in a “great congregation.”
3. Chapter 3 verse 4 of our parshah states: “Elazor and Issamor ministered as kohanim in the presence of Aharon their father.” Rashi, on the words “in the presence of Aharon,” comments that this means “during his lifetime.” There are a few puzzling points in this Rashi:
1) Rashi only offers a comment when the meaning of the verse is unclear (to a five-year-old student). In this case, a student understands that the simple meaning of “in the presence of Aharon” is “during his lifetime” without Rashi saying so.
2) Even if for some reason a student does need to be told that “in the presence of” means “during his lifetime,” Rashi has previously explained this. on the words (Bereishis 11:28) “Horon died in the presence of his father Terach,” Rashi comments that this means “during the lifetime of his father.” Why then does he need to repeat the meaning of “in the presence” in our parshah?
The Ramban explains that our verse refers to the fact that the sons of Aharon were Kohanim Gedolim (High Priests) during the lifetime of Aharon. In other words, although usually there is only one kohen gadol (in this case Aharon), in the case of the sons of Aharon, they were also kohanim gedolim. However, according to Rashi, we cannot say that this is the meaning of this verse, for we already know from the previous verse that the sons of Aharon were kohanim gedolim during his lifetime. It states “These are the names of the sons of Aharon, the anointed kohanim.” The kohen gadol held his position because he was the “anointed priest,” and hence, when the verse says the sons of Aharon were the “anointed priests,” it is already telling us they were kohanim gedolim.
3) Besides Rashi’s comments in parshas Noach and our parshah, he makes the same comment in two other places. on the verse (Shemos 20:3) “You shall have no other gods before Me (i.e. in My presence)” Rashi interprets it to mean “all the time that I exist.” On the verse (Devarim 5:7) “You shall have no other gods before Me (i.e. in My presence),” Rashi says this means “in any place where I am another interpretation, all the time that I exist.” Why does Rashi find it necessary to explain the same thing (the meaning of “in the presence”) four different times?
The explanation of this Rashi in our parshah is as follows. Without Rashi’s comment, a student learning the verse “Elazor and Issamor ministered as kohanim in the presence of Aharon their father” would have interpreted it literally — that they ministered as kohanim gedolim in the actual presence of their father. Hence Rashi is forced to explain that “in the presence of” is not to be interpreted literally, but rather as meaning “in his lifetime.”
The reason why this verse cannot be interpreted literally is because it is impossible to say that the sons of Aharon ministered as kohanim gedolim in the actual presence of Aharon — for only one person can serve as kohen gadol. Moreover, when Aharon and his sons were together, we cannot say that one of his sons would serve as kohen gadol instead of his father, for this would contradict the command of honoring one’s father.
On the other hand, when Aharon was not able to serve as kohen gadol (when for some reason he was not able to be in the Sanctuary), one of his sons would take his place and serve as kohen gadol. The meaning then of “Elazor and Issamor ministered as kohanim gedolim in the presence of Aharon their father” — “in his lifetime,” is that they ministered as kohanim. gedolim during Aharon’s lifetime when he was unable to be present — but not otherwise. When Aharon was in the Sanctuary only he could serve as kohen gadol.
The above helps clarify another puzzling matter. Rashi in parshas Korach (Bamidbar 16:6) states that Moshe said to Korach and his followers: “As for us, we have only one L-rd, one ark, and one Torah, and one altar, and one kohen gadol.” If, as explained previously, we learn in our parshah that the sons of Aharon were called “the anointed priests,” it follows there were five kohanim gedolim — Aharon and his four sons (and after the death of two of his sons, three kohanim gedolim). How then could Moshe say “as for us, we have only ... one kohen gadol?”
However, there is only one kohen gadol. The sons of Aharon ministered as kohanim gedolim (as stated “Elazor and Issamor ministered as kohanim in the presence of Aharon their father”) only as replacements for Aharon, when he was unable to be in the Sanctuary. They were considered more as deputy kohanim gedolim.
The reason why Rashi finds it necessary to explain that “Horon died in the presence of Terach his father” means “during his lifetime,” is because without his comment, a question is raised. What difference does it make (and therefore why does Torah make a point of telling us) where Horon died — “in the presence of his father” or otherwise? The Torah must tell us that Horon died to explain why Terach did not take Horon with him when he left Ur Kasdim. (as it states “Terach took Avram his son and Lot,...” but does not mention his other son Horon). But why tell us he died “in the presence” of Terach? Hence Rashi explains that “in the presence of” means “during his lifetime” and not necessarily in his actual presence.
The reason why Rashi explains in parshas Yisro that “You shall have no other gods before Me” means “all the time that I exist,” is because without his comment, it would be possible to interpret “before Me” to refer to the Bais HaMikdash. In the Bais HaMikdash, G-d’s presence was openly revealed, and thus the words “before Me” could well mean in the Bais HaMikdash. However, this would mean that the prohibition against idolatry (not to have other gods) is applicable only in the Bais HaMikdash — and therefore Rashi is forced to tell us that this is not so, but rather “before Me” means “all the time that I exist.”
4. At the beginning of the Tanya, an approbation by the sons of the Alter Rebbe (the author) is printed. The approbation was signed by his 3 sons in the following order — Rabbi DovBer (the Mitteler Rebbe), Rabbi Chaim Avraham, and Rabbi Moshe. However, we find differences between the three in the way they sign their names. The Mitteler Rebbe signs himself as “the son of my lord father, teacher and master, gaon and chosid, saint of Israel, our teacher and master.” Rabbi Chaim Avraham signs himself as “the son of my lord father, teacher and master, gaon and chosid, our teacher and master.” Rabbi Moshe signs as “the son of my lord father, teacher and master, gaon and chosid.” We see that each succeeding son omitted a title describing their father the previous son included. The Mitteler Rebbe wrote “gaon and chosid, saint of Israel, our teacher and master.” Rabbi Chaim Avraham omitted “saint of Israel,” and Rabbi Moshe omitted “saint of Israel” and “our teacher and master.”
The latter two omitted these titles even though they signed after the Mitteler Rebbe and hence saw how he signed (and likewise Rabbi Moshe had seen what Rabbi Chaim Avraham had written).
Such differences demand an explanation. For since the approbation was written at the beginning of the Tanya, it was meant to be learned by everyone who learns the Tanya. The approbation, unlike the preface written by the author himself, could have been placed at the end of the Tanya. The preface belongs at the beginning, for in it the Alter Rebbe explains why he found it necessary to write the Tanya. But the approbation could have been placed at the end. Since it was not, it indicates that it is to be learned before beginning the actual study of Tanya starting from Chapter 1.
5. In the farbrengen of Shabbos parshas Emor, it was explained that the disciples of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying on Lag BaOmer not because they changed their wrong conduct (the reason for the plague) of themselves, but because the loftiness of Lag BaOmer caused them to change their conduct.
This explanation has been questioned. How can we say that after Lag BaOmer there were still some disciples of Rabbi Akiva left alive (i.e. those whom the loftiness of Lag BaOmer induced a change in their conduct), when the Talmud (Yevamos 62b) states that “the world was desolate until Rabbi Akiva came to our Rabbis in the south and taught them .. and they were the ones who upheld the Torah.” It seems from this passage in the Talmud that before Rabbi Akiva came to the Rabbis in the south, he had no disciples at all — “the world was desolate.”
However, it is impossible to interpret this passage of the Talmud in such a manner. Rabbi Akiva (before the plague) had a Yeshivah in Bnei Brak where 24,000 (or 12,000) disciples studied. Besides Rabbi Akiva’s Yeshivah, there were many other Yeshivahs headed by other Tannaim (teacher of the Mishnah) both in Bnei Brak and in other cities in Eretz Yisrael. This was especially so following the enactment of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla (B. Basra 21a), which provided that “they established teachers of children in every country and every city.”
In the light of this, it is illogical to say that when Rabbi Akiva’s disciples died, he remained without any disciples at all (until he came to our Rabbis in the south); for since there were many disciples all over the land who wished to learn Torah, it is highly unlikely that some did not go to Rabbi Akiva to learn Torah. Especially since Bnei Brak, the city in which Rabbi Akiva’s Yeshivah was situated, is in the center of Eretz Yisrael, making it easy for disciples to go there from all parts of the land. Moreover, besides the actual disciples in the Yeshivah, there were many Jews living in Bnei Brak who learned Torah, and they certainly would have gone into his Yeshivah every so often to hear Torah from Rabbi Akiva.
The interpretation then of “the world was desolate” is not that there was no more Torah study G-d forbid, but that when only hundreds of disciples are left surviving from twenty-four thousand, it is a situation of “the world was desolate.” And the reason why Rabbi Akiva had to go to our Rabbis in the south (although according to the above explanation he certainly had other disciples in Bnei Brak), was to find unique disciples who would rebuild that which was desolated. This was achieved by the five unique disciples of Rabbi Akiva found in the south, who “were the ones who upheld the Torah.”