1. Of the twelfth of Sivan, the Alter Rebbe writes in the Siddur
that tachnun is not recited from the beginning of Sivan until the twelfth. And he explains, the five days after Shavuos are included because in the Temple, the festival offering could be brought for an entire week.
More specifically, it states that one may compensate for the holiday (sacrifice) for seven days. The Hebrew word “Tashlumim” which means compensation, also means “to bring to a state of perfection,” a meaning which enables the service of the week after Shavuos to be understood in terms of our sages’ counsel: “proceed higher in holy matters.” This is particularly applicable to teshuvah, of which the Alter Rebbe writes: “the essential aspect of teshuvah is in the heart.” And because there are many levels of “service in the heart”, even if one completes and perfects teshuvah on one level, on a deeper level he must begin anew. Similarly, one’s performance of Torah and Mitzvos may be considered complete; yet upon approaching a higher level one must lift one’s service to an even higher state.
This concept is reflected in Torah law. While Torah specifies certain sacrifices which are brought by every Jew, regardless of economic status, other sacrifices are defined by one’s wealth. A rich man brings one type of sacrifice, a poor man another, and a very poor man a third type. The increase in wealth brings an increase in obligation. These levels however have a limited import, for if one’s economic status changes after the sacrifice has been brought, one is not Halachically required to bring another, for the sacrifice has already wiped away the sin. Hence, even if one’s position changes, another offering is not needed, for the sin no longer exists.
Teshuvah, however, is in a different category, for it is a constant process depending upon one’s level. one’s teshuvah at a lower level becomes insufficient once one reaches a higher level; and hence, upon attaining a higher level one must complete one’s teshuvah on a higher rung.
Similarly, no matter how complete our service of Shavuos, we are obligated to complete a higher level of service on each of the days of compensation. For as our sages said: “Just as there (during our ancestors’ acceptance of Torah) [they felt] awe and fear, trembling and sweat, so here (when we study Torah) [we must feel] awe and fear, trembling and sweat.” Although the giving of the Torah was a unique event — “our eyes saw and not those of another, our ears heard and not someone else’s,” — in which each Jew saw a direct revelation of G-d, we must nevertheless approach Torah with the same awe experienced then, continually reliving the giving of the Torah.
One might question: If we must constantly relive Mt. Sinai, why differentiate between the twelfth of Sivan (the last of the days of compensation) and the thirteenth? Every day we bless G-d as “the Giver of the Torah” — using the present tense, viewing Torah as having been given anew. Then where is the uniqueness of Shavuos and its days of compensation?
This question can be answered through a similar question regarding Pesach. Although we are required to remember the exodus from Egypt twice every day, on Pesach night we are specifically commanded to tell the story. Similarly, we receive the Torah each day of the year, yet the celebration of “the season of the giving of the Torah” (and “the days of compensation”) is unique.
Therefore, in addition to our daily obligation to study Torah, during “the days of compensation” for Shavuos, we must both compensate and perfect and complete the service of Shavuos. And even though every Jew surely carried out his service of Shavuos in the fullest, most complete manner, each may still attain an even higher level of perfection.
Our sages dictum, “Deed is most essential” is particularly applicable to our generation, “Ikvos Mashiach” (the generation preceding Mashiach). Therefore, everything which we began (or resolved to begin) on Shavuos must be perfected and completed, utilizing each day until the twelfth of Sivan to raise our service to a higher state of completion. The very fact that G-d has given us another day indicates that we must reach a higher level for “the Holy One blessed be He did not create anything without a purpose.” We must begin with an increase in diligent Torah study, both Niglah and Chassidus; and since “study is great because it leads to deed”, this must lead to an increase in deed and our efforts to spread Torah and mitzvos.
In the few hours left to the twelfth of Sivan, we can still complete these matters, fulfilling the obligation of this day, compensating for and adding perfection and completion to our service of Shavuos. A resolution made now, in the presence of many minyanim of Jews, will surely affect our actions, for lion every assembly of ten Jews, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) rests.” And although we do not consciously sense the Shechinah’s presence, it still influences our behavior. Moreover, we are assembled in a house of study and prayer which also influences us. And, to add to all this, this assembly is being heard by many people in other places. Although in regard to many matters, in order to be included in the same assemblage one must be in the same place, this is not the case now. For when speaking of matters which are true in all places at all times, fulfilling the words of the Rebbeim, studying a verse in the Written Law or a concept in the Oral Law — those who, although “found there” are, through modern inventions, “hearing what is spoken here.”
And there will descend from above, success in carrying out all resolutions, particularly the resolutions to “return the hearts of the fathers through the sons.” Success will be granted in the entire daily service beginning with prayer (and even before prayer, with charity, as the Talmud relates, “Rabbi Eliezer would give a penny to a poor man and afterwards pray”) followed by study; and then “following the way of G-d, doing righteousness and justice”, spreading Torah, Mitzvos and Yiddishkeit in this world without limitations. And this will draw one Jew after another until “I will cause the spirit of impurity to pass away from the world” with the coming of the true and complete redemption led by Mashiach. This redemption will not be given as “bread of shame” but will be earned through our efforts with ourselves, our families, our portion of the world, and our sphere of influence within the world. And these efforts will bring about, speedily in our days, the coming of Mashiach.
2. Although the aforementioned is applicable to the twelfth of Sivan every year, in accordance with the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that a Jew must learn from everything he sees or hears, we must also learn a lesson from this year’s weekly portion of the twelfth of Sivan. This year, the twelfth of Sivan coincides with Parshas Behaalos’cho which includes the description of the lighting of the Menorah.
A question: The parshah states “and this is how the Menorah was made...”, a passage which seems redundant and out of place. For the construction of the Menorah has already been described in parshas Terumah and parshas Vayakhel and the purpose of this section appears to be to describe the lighting of the Menorah. Why then is the making of the Menorah, a seemingly superfluous discussion, inserted here? Another question: The passage begins with G-d’s command to Aharon to kindle the Menorah, followed by the statement, “this is how the Menorah was made.” One would naturally assume that the order should be reversed, construction mentioned prior to kindling.
Both questions can be answered through the teachings of Kabbalah which explain that the Menorah represents the Sefirah of Malchus. There are two qualities within Malchus:
1) its elevation from below to above as alluded to in the phrase “when you light (literally: ‘raise up’) the lamps”; and
2) its construction — “this is how the Menorah was made.”
The construction of Malchus is dependent upon the Sefirah of Chochmah, represented by Aharon. Since Aharon (Chochmah) is mentioned neither in parshas Terumah nor parshas Vayakhel, the fashioning of the Menorah is discussed again in Behaalos’cha, teaching us that both qualities, elevation and construction, are dependent upon Aharon.
The Menorah is relevant to our service, as the Book of Proverbs states: “The candle of G-d is the soul of man.” Each of the seven candles of the Menorah represents one of the seven types of souls. And it is the task of Aharon to kindle each “candle of G-d,...soul of man”, causing them to “shed light towards the [central shaft of the] Menorah”, and lighting them in such a way that “the flame arises by itself.”
It must mow be explained how this is connected to actual deed and the giving of the Torah:
G-d told the Jewish people that through Torah, they would become “a nation of priests.” And as the Baal Haturim explains, this statement endowed every Jew with the qualities of a High Priest, making the command to Aharon to light the Menorah relevant to every Jew, who shares this quality with Aharon.
A High Priest was required to always stay in Yerushalayim. And although an ordinary priest was permitted to leave the city, and indeed had to do so in order to collect terumah and maaser from farmers, he was required to maintain his level of purity outside of Yerushalayim and not only when he is “standing to serve before G-d.” So too, in our daily worldly activities we must follow the dictum “know G-d in all your ways” and “may all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven.”
The approach of the ordinary priest follows the guidelines of Shulchan Aruch which advises: “Proceed from the House of Prayer to the House of Study and then follow the custom of the land (i.e. work to earn a living).” The Talmud (Berachos 35b) relates a disagreement between R. Yishmael and R. Shimon on the verse: “This Torah scroll shall not depart from your mouth.” R. Shimon interpreted the verse literally, insisting that one should have no other pursuits besides Torah. R. Yishmael disagreed, arguing that one must earn a livelihood. The Talmud concludes that many followed the opinion of R. Shimon and did not succeed, while many followed the opinion of R. Yishmael and were successful in maintaining their standard.
Yet, when a Jew views himself as part of “a nation of priests” he realizes, as the Rambam writes, that “G-d is his portion and inheritance.” He then possesses the perspective of the High Priest, constantly “standing before G-d”, never leaving Yerushalayim, standing above material concerns. “Yerushalayim” derives etymologically from two words, “Yirah Shalem” — complete fear. A High Priest is always “in Yerushalayim,” maintaining a complete fear of heaven.
To clarify further, the word “Kohen” translates to mean “officer.” An officer is one who restrains himself in order to fulfill his duty towards his commander. But a Jew who is not an officer, who does not control his animal soul and portion of the world is incapable of fulfilling the purpose for which he was created — the transformation of the world into a dwelling place for G-d. Thus, the level of Aharon, of the High Priest, is relevant to every Jew’s level of personal service.
As previously stated, both the construction and kindling of the Menorah are dependent upon Aharon. The Menorah was made of “beaten gold”, with seven branches representing both the seven emotional qualities within each individual and the seven categories of Jews within the whole Jewish nation. Each individual must begin with himself, with his particular tendencies towards too much kindness, too much severity, etc. This lack of balance between one’s own attributes, this natural instability, results from a lack of awareness that the Menorah was of “beaten gold”, fashioned from a single block. For every Jew must be aware that all seven qualities exist in potentia in one single potential; and just as G-d commanded Moshe to hammer out branches from the block of gold, so too, each individual must fashion all of these qualities in a balanced manner from his one potential.
And in accordance with the great principle of Torah to “love your fellowman as yourself,” one must proceed to working with the Menorah which is the whole Jewish people, working to direct all Jews towards “the central shaft of the Menorah.” Then, being beyond any sense of personal will, beyond all boundaries, they will be motivated solely by G-dliness, the inner core of existence — a commitment stemming from the G-dly essence of every Jew. And then will apply the Talmud’s adage: “the one who gives more end the one who gives less [are equal] provided they direct their hearts to heaven.”
Thus, we see the connection between the kindling and construction of the Menorah within the same passage. Moreover, mentioning the kindling before the fashioning is also significant, for whenever the Menorah is kindled anew, it is, in a spiritual sense, refashioned. The Jewish people at the time of the giving of the Torah are described in the Talmud as being in the state of a new-born child. And every year, when we remember and reexperience that event, each of us becomes a new entity. Kindling the Menorah is paralleled by fulfilling the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer in preparation for Shavuos. Although counting each day may seem to be an inconsequential activity, it makes of each day a mitzvah, a course of action — in a sense, a refashioning of a new and higher Menorah. On Shavuos the Jews become a new entity, a new born child, with the giving of the Torah. And the Torah retells how the Menorah was fashioned, bringing out a higher level in the Menorah than existed before.
This concept, that every Jew has a soul which is “an actual part of G-d” and through kindling the “candle of G-d, the soul of man” one remakes his entire personality can be understood by even a small child. If one tells this to a child (provided one understands the concept himself and is affected by it to the point where he will speak of it from the heart), then the child will respond.
May the above be carried out in actual deed, beginning with the children and thereby affecting the parents. May we merit to see “good fruit from one’s efforts” and establish the Army of Hashem which, led by Mashiach, will go to our holy land “on eagles’ wings.”
3. This year, Yud Bais Sivan falls on Tuesday, a day of two-fold good — “go to the heaven and good to the creatures.” This must also be applied to practical action beginning with the Mitzvah campaigns Mivtzah Ahavas Yisrael, Mivtzah Chinuch, Mivtzah Tefillin, Mivtzah Mezuzah, Mivtzah Tzedakah, Mivtzah Bayis Maley Seforim, Mivtzah Neiros Shabbos Kodesh, Mivtzah Kashrus, and Mivtzah Taharas HaMishpachah. Also to be stressed is the annulment of the law concerning ‘Mihu Yehudi — Who is a Jew” and the campaign to prevent any compromise on the issue of Shleimus haAretz — maintaining the completeness of the land of Eretz Yisrael. As is said in connection with Ahavas Yisrael: “touching them (the Jews) is like touching the apple of His eye”; similarly, concerning Shleimus haTorah — the complete state of Torah, one must realize that Torah is not a human invention but comes from G-d. And the same applies in regard to Shleimus haAretz.
The above must be carried out in activities which emphasize how “our children are our guarantors”, which are appropriate throughout the year and even more so in these days connected with the giving of the Torah. Therefore, it is appropriate to gather children together in the remaining hours of Yud-Bais Sivan as well as Yud-Gimmel Sivan (which according to some authorities [though not the Alter Rebbe] is included in the days of compensation for Shavuos). Although this has been done a number of times recently, nevertheless, each gathering represents a new event, a higher level, as explained in regard to the Menorah. Similarly, the Talmud mentions that the hundredth time one studies an idea one must expend the same energy as the first. Each review must not be a mere repetition, but a new and exciting experience.
Now is the appropriate time to do so. Our sages stated: “this world is like a wedding feast — one must grab and eat, grab and drink”, a statement particularly relevant now during the “Sheva Berachos,” the seven days of rejoicing after Shavuos — the wedding between G-d and the Jewish people. Therefore, despite any difficulties involved in previous efforts to gather children, new efforts must be undertaken. The assemblies must be carried out with enthusiasm, enabling the children to appreciate them and be drawn into the excitement.
This concept of two-fold good is first mentioned in the account of the third day of Creation. What do we see that is different on the third day? This day marked the beginning of growth on earth: “Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit tree bearing fruit...” Up to this time there was no growth; and although this first growth was only of vegetables (trees), it is significant for animals and people as well. For every person begins as an inanimate object at birth, then growing gradually but not yet “bearing fruit.” Eventually he becomes like an animal, capable of moving around independently, until finally he matures and is able to use and apply his intellect.
This idea is especially relevant to children, for they are close in development to grass and trees, just beginning to grow and needing the guidance of their parents until they are capable of using their intellect. Also connected with this is the idea of “the hearts of the fathers will be returned through the children.” We must go to the children and explain to them that although by the third day the heaven and earth had been created, nothing moved or grew beyond the way it was originally created. And then, G-d gave the power and capability to bring out the potential from within, to be “fruit-bearing trees, herb-yielding seed.”
Jewish children should know that the whole Jewish nation watches them, waiting to see if they will truly become “fruit-bearing trees” of their people. And everyone will assist the children in accomplishing this. The very fact that these children are in our hands means that we must do as much as possible, especially since we have just come from the holiday of Shavuos, and it is now a Tuesday, reminiscent of the concept of the third day. In addition, the verse (Shemos 19:16) states: “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning...” — the preparation for the giving of the Torah. And our sages tell us: “In the third month, on the third day, the three-fold Torah was given to the three-fold nation” (Shabbos 87a-88a).
To every Jewish child: because you are children of the Jewish nation, who have just come from the giving of the Torah on the third day, a day of planting and growth, you should go to your parents and tell them, today is the day G-d brought about sprouting from the earth, the earth is able to give out “children.” And because the whole Jewish nation is called a “land of delight” they must give out true and proper fruits, bringing about true delight to G-d, Who created the world.
4. The above applies to all those who have already carried out these activities in a complete manner in the previous days. However, if there are some who (perhaps because of reasons beyond their control) have not done so, they can draw a lesson from today’s Torah portion, which deals with Pesach Sheni. When Moshe commanded the Jews to bring the Pesach offering, there were some who were impure (according to some commentaries, they were the ones who carried out the bodies of Nadav and Avihu — thus their impurity came about due to a mitzvah) who protested that they also wanted to bring a Pesach offering. Moshe thus told them that they could do so one month later, giving us an eternal lesson — nothing is ever lost. Even if someone is “unclean ... or be on a distant journey” and thus cannot bring the Pesach offering, and even if he does so willingly he is not lost. On the contrary, he may come with a powerful protest: “why should I be deprived?” Pesach Sheni was therefore instituted to compensate for this lack.
Here too, the Hebrew word for compensation, Tashlumim, can be interpreted to mean completion; i.e. through the service of Pesach Sheni, one can reach an even higher level of completion than on Pesach Rishon. For this reason, even though one has Chometz in his house, he can still bring a Pesach offering, making the Chometz part of his dwelling place for G-d. This particularly applies in the present age when there is no time to go through the involved service of cleaning one’s house of Chometz, of acquiring true bittul. But through Pesach Sheni, in one moment, one can transform oneself in just a single moment from a totally wicked person to a totally righteous one.
The above concept can be explained to children as well. For they must know that even if they failed to do what they should, nothing is ever lost. They can always compensate — and do so in a manner which completes and perfects their previous behavior.
Therefore, we must use these moments and hours left to Yud-Bais Sivan to speak to children. If they are approached with “words that come from the heart” these words will surely “enter their hearts” and cause them to act with the simple faith that is unique to children. And in turn they will “turn the hearts of their parents” and bring about the coming of “that great and awesome day” with open and revealed good and then we will proceed to greet Mashiach in the near future.
- (Back to text) The Siddur is a text for all Jews, one to be used by each individual every day.
- (Back to text) This statement arouses a number of questions: 1) generally the Alter Rebbe does not explain the reasons behind the laws he states in the Siddur (though he does so in the Shulchan Aruch). Why does he do so in this case? 2) The placement of the statement is also problematic. The days on which Tachnun is not recited are listed, not before the recitation of Tachnun, but before the prayer L’Menatzeach Yancha. On the surface, it would have seemed more appropriate to list them before Tachnun itself and not later on.
- (Back to text) This concept is paralleled by a law regarding neatness. There is no punishment for a person who wears stained clothes. However if a stain is found on the clothes of a sage, he is obligated to die. Passing into that higher level, requires one to adopt a higher standard.
- (Back to text) Pesach is related to Shavuos. At the burning bush (which took place at Mt. Sinai), G-d told Moshe “when you take the nation out of Egypt, you shall serve G-d on this mountain.”
- (Back to text) In the sanctuary, once the sacrifice was brought, one could not bring another sacrifice to attain a higher level. However, now when there is no sanctuary and the entire service is carried out only in a spiritual sense, one can grasp higher levels. In this manner we can see an advantage gained from the destruction of the Temple.
- (Back to text) Note the comments of the Alter Rebbe in Iggeres HaKodesh in which he stresses the importance of the mitzvah of Tzedakah at present.
- (Back to text) Niglah and Chassidus are compared to the body and soul. To be healthy we must have both.
- (Back to text) Even though according to Torah law, there is no difference between ten or ten thousand, there is a difference in regard to our feelings. The presence of large multitudes of people makes a deep impression on a person. Furthermore, the Talmud mentions an opinion that requires the addition of new phrases in the Birchas HaMazon if one hundred, one thousand, or ten thousand Jews are present.
- (Back to text) The purpose of these inventions is that they be used for Torah. Our sages declare that the world was not fit for gold and it was created only to be used in the Temple. Even though it has many secular uses, the purpose for its creation was for the Temple. Similarly, in regard to all new and good inventions, the main purpose for their existence is to fulfill a function in regard to holiness. However, the choice is given to use them for other purposes as well.
- (Back to text) The fixation of months is one of the greatest mitzvos of the Torah. Even if the court errs, or even intentionally fixes Rosh Chodesh on the wrong day, their decision holds and G-d and the spiritual hosts are also bound by it. Even though, at present, we use a fixed calendar and the months are not sanctified by a court, nevertheless, the fixation of that calendar was done by a court and they sanctified all the months to come until the Messianic age. Hence, since this is a matter in which man has so much power, it is surely relevant to him.
- (Back to text) The kindling of the Menorah did not have to be carried out by the High Priest. On the contrary, any of the priests was fit to carry out that service. Nevertheless, the fact that the Torah connects it with Aharon himself, without mentioning his sons demonstrates a connection with his particular rung of service.
- (Back to text) The above is related to another Talmudic passage. The Talmud states that the first paragraph of the Shema (which declares that one must “love G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might”) describes a state in which the Jews are “carrying out G-d’s will” while the second paragraph (which omits “with all your might”) refers to a state in which they are “not carrying out G-d’s will.” Therefore, the second paragraph states “and you shall gather your crops” i.e. the Jews must do the work themselves. However, there is no mention of work in the first paragraph because since the Jews are totally devoted to G-d, their work will be done by others.
- (Back to text) The Rambam writes that being in Yerushalayim had an effect on the entire Jewish people even those who came for a short visit. Seeing the Temple service made a profound impression upon them and influenced their behavior even when they returned home. This is also relevant in a figurative service. Just as Yerushalayim affected the Jews, similarly in the study of Torah one must be “a candle that gives forth light,” involving oneself with such feeling and excitement that others want to emulate one’s example.
- (Back to text) The Kabbalah explains that the conquest of the seven Canaanite nations is representative of each individual’s struggle in controlling his seven emotional qualities. This is the fundamental aspect of our service at present. (In the messianic age, Eretz Yisrael will expand, conquering three more nations. Similarly, our dominion over our personalities will grow to include even the intellect.
- (Back to text) On the surface, one might question why it is necessary for one to speak with feeling, for as our sages declared “accept the truth no matter who speaks it.” However, in general, the only way to penetrate people is with emotion. It is “words from the heart that enter the heart.” This applies even to adults, and how much more so to children who are enlivened by feeling not intellect. When a child sees feeling, his simple emotional sensitivity will cause him to respond.
- (Back to text) In that passage the Talmud states that to be called “one who serves G-d,” one must not content himself with the hundredth repetition, but rather continue to the 101st. only then does he achieve that rung.
- (Back to text) The fact that his distance can be intentional is derived from the addition of the word “lachem.”
- (Back to text) Nevertheless, no Chometz can be eaten, with the Pesach sacrifice itself. In the offering itself, there is no room for pride and egotism.
- (Back to text) The importance of this concept is emphasized by the fact that the Alter Rebbe places it on the first page of Tanya.
- (Back to text) The concept of awe will be the “awe of humility” and “the awe of honor.” However, it will also be tempered with love for as the Zohar declares “for us it is all dependent on love.” True love is given in a manner which is understood and appreciated by the beloved.