1. Erev Shavuos, the fifth of Sivan, is the day on which the Jews made the commitment “Naasah V’Nishmah — we will do and we will listen.” The Talmud elaborates on this subject in the tractate of Shabbos. The intrinsic connection between Shavuos and Shabbos is emphasized by the fact that giving of the Torah occurred on Shabbos, in addition to a number of other similarities between the two. For example, while the giving of the Torah is commemorated only once a year, it is relevant at all times, being “our life.” Just as life is constant and unceasing, our connection with Torah must be never ending. The same concept applies to Shabbos; while only one of the seven days of the week, yet “all the days are blessed” from it. The Hebrew word for blessing — Boruch — means to draw down. The influence of Shabbos is drawn down into all the days of the week. Furthermore, the commandment to “Remember the Shabbos day” applies to every day of the week.
This also applies to our behavior; for just as there is a separation between the Shabbos and the week, there is a separation between Israel and the nations. The Jews must also “bless” — draw down G-dliness into the totality of creation. A Jew was created to serve his Creator and must use everything he encounters for that purpose. Every Jew possesses a soul that is “truly a part of G-d above,” which, when he serves G-d in the proper manner, becomes the central aspect of his existence and everything else, secondary. Furthermore, since the materially oriented aspects of his nature are entities which G-d created ex nihilo, it follows that their importance is thereby completely nullified and even the term secondary is an inappropriate description of their status. The only value material things have are as means with which to fulfill G-d’s desire to make a dwelling place in the lower world. With this attitude one is able to overlook all the difficulties in fulfillment of his mission. One situation might require time, another effort, yet with this determination he will persevere.
This is connected to the concept of Na’aseh V’Nishmah, which implies a commitment beyond the realm of intellect, expressing a willingness to act even before one hears what he is commanded to do. On the surface, this is contrary to the natural behavior of the Jews who are a “wise and understanding people.” However, when G-d heard this, He declared “Who revealed this secret to My children?” Na’aseh V’Nishmah is the secret which is present in the soul of every Jew. Na’aseh — we will do — expresses the innermost aspects of his soul. Nishmah — we will listen — is the development of that commitment, drawing it down into the realm of understanding.
Hence, when the fifth of Sivan arrives, it is necessary to recall our ancestors’ deeds. On one hand, the Jews made their commitment at a unique time. They were being lead through the desert, by Moshe and Aharon and had seen signs and wonders. However, their act created an effect that continues even to the present, giving the Jews the power to renew that original commitment and strengthen it to the point where it becomes a new action. This commitment serves as the proper preparation for the giving of the Torah anew. The Torah, G-d’s hidden treasure descends to this material world and becomes “the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov,” the property of every Jew, enabling us to receive the Torah on Shavuos with joy and inner feeling.
2. The Talmud relates that when the Jews declared Na’aseh V’Nishmah, placing Na’aseh before Nishmah, the angels gave them two crowns, one connected with Na’aseh and a second connected with Nishmah. The Rebbeim have frequently questioned this. While the text declares that they were given the crowns because they placed Na’aseh before Nishmah, it then proceeds to say that one crown was given for Na’aseh and one for Nishmah. One might assume however from the beginning of the statement, that there should only have been one crown — for placing Na’aseh before Nishmah. Why then, were there two? This question must be answered in a manner which everyone can understand and apply to his behavior; for the Torah is called the Torah of life and should show every Jew how to live.
This question can be resolved by understanding the nature of crown as a material object. The crown is the highest of all of person’s garments. In general, one’s garments are different from food, for while food is assimilated into one’s system and becomes part of one’s flesh and blood, a garment only covers the body. A crown covers the head, a relatively small portion of the body, yet is the highest aspect of the body. One of the main differences between a man and an animal is that an animal’s head is on the same level as the rest of his body, even the tail. In contrast, a man’s head is raised up and stands higher than all his other limbs. And the crown is placed above all the parts of the head, higher than the mouth, eyes, nose, and ears. The fact that the crown is higher than the rest of the body including the head demonstrates that it possesses a greater importance. Hence, the most important manifestation of royalty is the crown. When Haman asked that the king’s crown, garments, and horse be given to the man who he would like to honor, the latter two were given, but not the crown. Similarly, Torah law prohibits another person from wearing the king’s crown. The kings of the House of Dovid were tested through the crown, for if the person was fit to be king, the crown would always adjust itself to fit his head.
This concept finds its parallel in the service of G-d. A Jew must serve G-d with the totality of his being, as the Mishnah declares: the purpose of his creation is “to serve his Creator,” with a service which incorporates all one’s heart, soul, and might — every aspect of his personality. There must be a level of service which serves as a “crown,” standing above all the individual aspects of his nature, his intellect and emotions. This involves serving with true will and true pleasure, above the feelings of one’s heart. Each person has a particular tendency which dominates his personality and shapes it into one fundamental thrust. This is his crown.
To return to the concept of Na’aseh V’Nishmah. Na’aseh implies a commitment to act. It is expressed through the carrying out of positive commands, doing what G-d has commanded to be done. Nishmah expresses a commitment to listen, carried out through the fulfillment of negative commandments, restraining oneself from doing things which G-d has prohibited. As such, neither Na’aseh nor Nishmah is a crown. They do not involve the totality of a person’s nature. However, when Na’aseh is placed before Nishmah, showing that one will follow all commands, no matter what he is ordered to do, whether it is seemingly compatible with one’s nature or not, both the services of Na’aseh and Nishmah become crowns, expressing an all encompassing level of commitment.
The commitment of Na’aseh V’Nishmah was made Erev Shavuos and served as the preparation for the giving of the Torah. It provides us with a lesson that is applicable to our behavior. Every Jew must, and can, make a similar commitment, for G-d gives us the potential to do so. When such a commitment is made, every aspect of our nature functions as a crown, and reveals the potential within each Jew as one of a “kingdom of priests.” (The Targum interprets the word “Mamlechas” meaning kingdom in a personal sense: each Jew becomes a king.) Then, each Jew behaves as a king and as the Talmud states “the king’s word uproots mountains.” (The latter also refers to the Yetzer Horah which appears as a mountain.) The Jews proceed onward to receive the Torah — thus making the year, a year of Torah, and subsequently a year of Tefillah and Teshuvah which in turn will bring a good and blessed year in both material and spiritual matters.
3. The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything a Jew either sees or hears should serve as a lesson in the service of G-d. The sole purpose of each Jew’s creation is, in the Mishnah’s words, “to serve his Creator.” Everything which occurs to him, even the slightest detail, is controlled by Hashgachah Protis. Hence, everything must contribute to that central purpose and aid his service to G-d. Furthermore, this lesson must affect one’s deed and action, not only in the spiritual realms of prayer and study, but also in the mundane realms of eating, drinking, business, etc. Not only should the lesson be written down, printed, repeated, and remembered, but most importantly, it must be applied and incorporated into our behavior. The Besht emphasized that the way one eats and drinks, not only during a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal, but even during the week is not a minor matter, but is, on the contrary, related to the fundamental purpose of his creation. Thus, Chassidus always demanded that a concept be developed to the point where it produces a ‘bechain — a practical directive.’ This might raise a question, for at times a non-Jew will see the very same things as a Jew. How can these events be so important for the Jew and not for the non-Jew? This question can be answered by the statement: “Gold was created in the world solely for the (purpose of the) Temple.” However, once gold was created, man was given free choice and the opportunity to use it for other purposes as well.
The above is relevant to the Lag BaOmer Parade, when many children marched wearing crowns. True, they were paper crowns, but they gave the children happiness, enabling the child to see himself as the king of his class or group. Therefore, when it came to shouting Shema Yisrael, he did so with more feeling. The children’s behavior reveals how, as our sages declare, all Jews are kings. This applies to adults as well as children, but if told to an adult, the possibility exists that he will seek trouble over all of his surroundings, issuing decrees and demanding to be served. In the case of a child, however, this worry does not exist, for wearing the crown will produce only positive results as was the case in the Lag BaOmer Parade. Those children who wore crowns acted as leaders of their group, proclaiming Shema Yisrael louder than the other children.
Their behavior reinforces the Talmud’s statement “each Jew must say the world was created for me.” He is the king of the world and uses the world to further the goals of R. Shimon bar Yochai. Furthermore, an adult can have a deeper appreciation of this concept than a child, for he has seen how through Hashgachah Protis and revealed miracles, Hashem controls his life. This is particularly true of businessman who have more contact with the outside world. Chassidus explains that they are more conscious of Hashgachah Protis than Torah scholars.
Our sages declared, deed is the most essential thing. In previous generations, there was a barrier separating between Niglah (the exoteric, legal realm of Torah study) and Nistar (Torah’s mystic secrets). R. Shimon bypassed that barrier and taught both Niglah and Nistar. Furthermore, his teachings were spread to the point where they reached “children of the world” — worldly children. Similarly at present, we must “spread the Wellsprings of Chassidus outward.” Then, these efforts will destroy the barriers of Golus and hasten the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.
[Trans. note: The Rebbe Shlita spoke the following Sichah in response to a proclamation issued by certain Rabbi’s criticizing the Lag BaOmer Parades in Israel.]
4. Today is the first day of Sivan, the day on which the Jews “camped opposite the mountain.” The Torah deviates from the seemingly proper pattern and uses a singular form of the word “camped” which is interpreted by our sages to emphasize a state of unity among the Jewish people, that they camped “as one man with one heart.” Despite that, there are still some who wish to create strife and disagreement among Jews. The Talmud declares that the Temple was destroyed because of the sin of baseless hatred. It also declares that at present “all the appointed times for Mashiach’s coming have past.” Hence, just as the appointed time for the exile to end has come, it also follows the exile’s cause — baseless hatred — has also perished. Yet, there are still those who would like to revive the cause for the Temple’s destruction. They will not succeed. However, because they lack merit, they were able to inject doubt into the minds of those children who attended the Lag BaOmer parade and shouted Shema Yisrael. With that verse on their lips, thousands of Jews have sacrificed their lives; those children mirrored their dedication, shouting Shema Yisrael openly. Why would some object to this? There is only one answer: baseless hatred.
That very term implies that there is no reason or rationale for that hatred. However, one must ask why a Jew would act in this manner. He is a son of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov — how is it possible for baseless hatred to arise within him? Furthermore, because of their hatred, they have wasted time usually devoted to the study of Torah and service of G-d and used it to spur baseless hatred. How is it possible for a Jew to act in this manner.
There is a simple answer to that question: The only one who would act in this manner is one who wears unfit Tefillin. From a personal perspective, that person must know that he is making a blessing in vain, that he has not put on Tefillin etc. However, the effect is even deeper. Tefillin are intended to subjugate the heart and the mind. Even if one wears kosher Tefillin, and has the proper intention, wishing to subjugate his heart and mind, it is very difficult and requires great effort. The Tefillin, being G-d’s Mitzvah, help attain this goal. However, when one’s Tefillin are unfit it is impossible to do so; and when one lacks the subjugation of heart and mind, we see what bitter results can follow.
It is inconceivable: In our age, after what happened to the six million Jews and we saw the results of baseless hatred, the entire Jewish community joined together. Yet, there are still those who try to stir up baseless hatred.
What does baseless hatred mean? When the Besht called for baseless love, he explained that one must love every Jew, even one who lives on the other side of the ocean, whether he has ever met him or not. The very fact that he is told a Jew exists should stir feelings of love. Baseless hatred is the very opposite. How is it possible that one has such hatred? Generally, the subjugation of one’s heart and mind would prevent such feelings from arising, but when one uses unfit Tefillin, the mind remains unsubjugated.
The Nazis did not differentiate between one Jew and another. The fact that an individual descended from Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel, and Leah was enough for them. Nevertheless, there are those who negate their study of Torah and disturb that of their students in order to stir up baseless hatred. This can only come about because the individual does not put on kosher Tefillin.
One might ask why I am making public mention of this matter. First, I wanted to counteract the influence of this baseless hatred and explain how it was possible that it could have arisen. Also, the party in question, is surrounded by a group of flatterers and they would not have let the message reach him. They are so permeated with hatred and strife that they have totally forgotten what it means to love someone. ‘ On the contrary, in order to achieve their aims, they use their influence to cut people’s salaries, etc.
Another reason for making the statements publicly was to establish a public record of what was said. This way my words will not be exaggerated or altered. Unfortunately, if the message were to have been transmitted privately, it could have been distorted. Now, it will be transmitted as it was said. In this manner, the message will hopefully reach him and he will hopefully check his Tefillin, begin putting on kosher ones, and, in the future, act with control over his heart and mind. Since I have raised a question about those Tefillin, their status is doubtful. Tefillin are a Mitzvah from the Torah itself, and hence, the principle “when doubt arises in regard to a Torah law, follow the more stringent course” applies.
May this effort destroy the last traces of baseless hatred and may we spread Ahavas Yisrael, thus eliminating the reason for the Temple’s destruction.
- (Back to text) There are those who might ask: “why am I faced with greater problems and difficulties than others? They must realize that G-d demands only that which is in their power to do. The fact that they encounter these problems is a sign that they have been given powers that another person does not have.
- (Back to text) The need for the universal relevance of the Torah is further emphasized by the fact that Torah is called “the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov. “ Each Jew receives the Torah as an inheritance as soon as he is born. Since the Torah is his inheritance, as soon as he is able to understand things, he must have an explanation of Torah which he can grasp on a simple level.
- (Back to text) A normal hat does not possess these qualities. It is not an independent entity, rather, its importance is secondary to the head itself. It is intended to protect the head from heat or rain. In contrast, a crown is an independent entity with an importance of its own.
- (Back to text) The expression uses the term “uproot.” The aim of the Torah is not to destroy the Yetzer Horah, but to uproot it and transfer its useful energies to the service of G-d.
- (Back to text) There is a difference between the act of a Mitzvah and the intention connected with it. Generally, the fact that the intention is lacking does not detract from the performance of the mitzvah. However, in certain Mitzvos the intention is unseparable from the act itself. It is part of the fulfillment of the Mitzvah. For example, the intention behind the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, which is that, as the verse declares, “You shall see them and remember, and fulfill all of G-d’s commands,” is a part of the Mitzvah itself. Similarly, in the case of Tefillin, the intention to subjugate the heart and mind is a part of the Mitzvah itself.
- (Back to text) There are those who try to rationalize and explain the holocaust. However, the Previous Rebbe declared “we should not try to justify G-d’s behavior. G-d does not want it.” The Talmud explains that when the Temple was destroyed and “gentiles danced on the Temple site,” the sages would not praise G-d as being “great, mighty, and awesome.” This was a true path of service to G-d.
- (Back to text) The Talmud (Sotah 42a) is particularly harsh in regard to flatterers. It declares: “The category of flatterers will not see the face of the Shechinah.” These flatterers may see the world, they may see Seforim, even discover Chiddushim (new concepts in Torah), but they will not see “the face of the Shechinah.” They may believe that G-d exists, but they will never feel that G-d means them and they should follow G-d’s will.