1. The verses of “Ata Horaysa” prior to the Hakofos are recited in order to bring out reasons for the joy of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. Each verse of the Ata Horaysa gives us an additional reason for increasing our joy and happiness during these holidays.
Simchas Torah is observed by all Jews, expressing the concept of “Hakhel” — to gather together all men, women, and children, for every man, woman, and child rejoices with the Torah. Therefore, the lessons which are contained in the verses of Ata Horaysa must be understood and comprehended by all.
Containing within them great and deep explanations of Chassidus, the verses of Ata Horaysa should be explained in such a manner that even a child is able to comprehend the lessons the verses provide. During last night’s farbrengen the first verse of Ata Horaysa was explained in a manner that even a child could understand and the second verse of Ata Horaysa will likewise be explained in this manner. The reason is as follows:
This year Simchas Torah is connected with the Mitzvah of Hakhel which was observed by all of Israel. Rashi comments on the verse (Devarim 31:12) that the men came to Hakhel to learn, the women came to listen, and the children came to give reward to those who brought them. This statement of Rashi (based on a statement of Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Chagigah 3a) regarding the children can be explained in two ways:
The first explanation is, since “the Holy One, blessed be He, wished to make the people of Israel meritorious, He therefore gave them Torah and Mitzvos in abundant measure.” Hence, with the occasion of Hakhel, G-d gave an additional merit to the men and women who came to learn and listen to the Torah, by having them bring their children to participate in the Mitzvah.
Another explanation of the statement regarding children is: When the parents brought their children to participate in the Hakhel celebration, they received an additional reward which was brought about through the children’s presence. The children’s presence at Hakhel caused the ascension of their parents to a higher level of holiness and comprehension of Torah; their “learning” and “listening” of Torah was elevated to greater heights. This elevation of the parents was the additional reward given for bringing the children.
Children are compared to students, as our Rabbi’s have explained the verse: “and you shall teach your children — these are the students.” In reference to studying with students the Rabbis (Taanis 7a) taught, “I have learned much from my teachers, and from my colleagues more than from my teachers, but from my disciples more than from them all.” The teacher gains most from his students, not at the beginning, but after the teacher has taught the student over a long period of time. After the teacher has raised the standard of his student to greater levels of knowledge and comprehension, the student can then provide new insights and knowledge and t (D his teachers. The knowledge and “learning the student provides does not stem from the student Is own ability, but rather from the investment of time and effort which the teacher has made in the student.
Likewise, men, women, and children attended the Hakhel. Men came to Hakhel to learn Torah, expressing the concept: “I have learned much from my teachers.” Women came to Hakhel to listen to the reading of the Torah: “and from my colleagues more than from my teachers.” Children were present at Hakhel in order to give reward to the parents who brought them, expressing the concept of “but from my disciples more than from them all.” The additional knowledge and learning from the Torah reading which took place at Hakhel because of the “children — students” was the reward to the parents — in addition to the merit of bringing the children (the two explanations mentioned above).
The above contains a practical lesson. When one is disseminating Yiddishkeit, together with the wellsprings of Chassidus, he should remember that he has been chosen and appointed by the previous Rebbe as his personal emissary. This gives great merit to the messenger, who must always be aware of his mission and carry it out with joy. At the same time, he should remember that spreading Yiddishkeit to others may potentially bring forth great reward, similar to the reward received by the parents who brought their children to Hakhel.
2. The second verse of Ata Horaysa is “[Give thanks] to Him who alone performs great wonders, for His kindness is eternal.” This verse is relevant to even a child, in addition to the first verse of Ata Horaysa, which is, “You have been shown to know that the L-rd is G-d; there is none else aside from Him.” As explained at last night’s farbrengen in a manner which could be explained even to a child, the verse says “Ata Horaysa — You have shown.” The child understands the word “You” to mean Hashem, Himself. A child does not understand the word “You” to mean anything else. The concept of Hashem’s manifold attributes, manifestations, and supernal emanations is not comprehensible to a child. Therefore, when a child says the blessing over a glass of water, he is unaware of the existence of all the Sefiros and levels which are present within G-dliness, but knows only “Baruch Ata – blessed are You” Hashem. The child feels and understands that he is talking to Hashem and Hashem is talking to him. The child has not even learned the story of creation; yet he knows that Hashem has created everything, including the glass of water he is about to drink. The child might question this explanation, thinking: I know Hashem created the water I drink and therefore I recite a blessing. My non-Jewish neighbor also drinks water. The only difference is that I know Hashem created the water, while the non-Jew does not. The water that I drink and the water the non-Jew drinks appears to be the same.
The answer to this question may be found in the second verse of Ata Horaysa which states: You “perform great wonders.” It is explained to the child that the water a Jew drinks is not merely created by Hashem in the usual and ordinary way, but rather in a special, great, and wonderful manner.
This may be understood from the time of Moshe Rabbeinu. The Jews requested that Moshe give them water and Moshe asked Hashem. Hashem responded with a miracle: “when Moshe smote the rock, water sprang forth.”
The lesson to be learned from the first two verses of Ata Horaysa is as follows: From the first verse the child receives the lesson that he should learn Torah and observe Mitzvos according to his nature. Therefore when the child is tired and wants to sleep he may feel neither obligated nor motivated to study. However, when the child receives the additional lesson of “Who alone performs great wonders” he realizes that even when he is tired and wants to sleep he is to go beyond his natural boundaries and limitations. The child aspires to conduct himself beyond the restraints of nature, reaching the level of “miraculous” and learning Torah even when he is tired.
When the child is told that the water which he drinks is connected with “great wonders,” he will ask why he does not see the great wonders in this water.
Therefore the verse says: “[Give thanks] to Him who alone performs great wonders,” for only Hashem knows that they are “great wonders.” However, the child will then question further: If I don’t see the “great wonders,” and neither does my teacher nor all the Jewish people know of these great wonders, then what purpose is served by only Hashem knowing of the great wonders? In fact the child’s question is reinforced from the event of “he struck the rock and there streamed forth water,” for the entire miracle of water gushing forth from the rock occurred in order for the Jews in the desert to see this great wonder of Hashem. This question is answered through the end of the verse which states: “for His kindness is eternal.” The word “LeOlam”, eternal is also translated as “world.” The world has various regions which have different climates and vegetation. There are regions that have fertile growth and there are parts of the world which are desert — barren and desolate. These barren deserts are called “a land of thirst and desolation, without water.”
G-d however performs “great wonders” for a Jew, for even in a barren place of thirst, He performs great wonders for a Jew, providing water with which to quench his thirst. When a Jew is traveling through a desert and finds water, he should realize that G-d performed great wonders for him.
These “great wonders” are not only for the benefit of the Jew, but for the “world” as well. This can be understood from a story of the Baal Shem Tov. The Besht once sent Rabbi Chaim Rappaport on a mission to a certain place. Upon arriving there, Rabbi Chaim and his companions stopped to rest for a while, and found a wellspring of water. Rabbi Chaim and the others recited a blessing over the spring water and drank from it. After Rabbi Chaim returned from his mission the Besht said, “The wellspring from which Rabbi Chaim drank has been waiting since the six days of creation for these Jews to come and recite a blessing over it.” Similarly, it is explained to a Jewish child according to his level: “He alone performs great wonders, for His kindness is to the world.”
When a Jewish boy or girl walks in the street and becomes thirsty, he or she wants a drink to quench this thirst. (The reason they need to drink is so that they will be able to study Torah with a clear head.) Just as the child realizes how thirsty he is, a truck selling Kosher beverages passes by. The child buys a Kosher beverage, recites the blessing and quenches his thirst. He should realize that this is “Divine Providence.’! Hashem caused the truck to pass by at this particular moment so that a Jewish child could quench his thirst. The fact that the truck driver awoke in the morning at a particular time and drove down this particular street occurred through Divine Providence. Even the street corner on which the child recites a blessing has been waiting since the six days of creation for a Jewish child to bless G-d. This is the level of great wonders which G-d performs and can be comprehended and perceived by children.
Every Jewish child is capable of understanding this concept, for they are told the previously mentioned story of the Besht, as well as many other stories which are in the Torah. These kind of stories must be told to children. Children should not be told (as many are) empty meaningless stories, but only stories taken from the written and oral Torah, or stories about true Tzaddikim.
From this we have another practical lesson in regard to the education of the young. There was a time when the “Minhag Yisrael” of Jewish women was to quiet and comfort their infants with the lullaby: “There are raisins and almonds but Torah is the best (merchandise).” It would be commendable for women to continue that custom today. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Yevamos 1: 6) relates, that when Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya was yet a small child, “his mother would take him in his cradle to the synagogue, in order that the child’s ears should be connected with the words of Torah.” Later on he grew up to be a great and holy sage. When the Mishnah (Pirkei Avos 2:9) relates his praise it says: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya — happy is she who bore him.” This is a point of great importance for all Jewish mothers regarding the education of their sons and daughters. Mothers should be aware that the education of a child begins when the child is in the cradle, and should not be delayed until the child is strong and of school of pre-school age. Rather the child should be told from the very beginning about Hashem and Torah and Mitzvos.
Likewise, we are taught about the education of a Jewish child through the concept of “He performs great wonders.” A Jewish child must be educated to be aware that Hashem performs “great wonders” especially for him, that Hashem provides the child with all his needs. The previous Rebbe stated on numerous occasions that children should be told about miracles, unlike those educators who mistakenly believe that telling children about miracles will confuse them. For example, these educators say that when the child is told “he struck the rock and there streamed forth water,” the child will become confused. Because the child knows water comes from wellsprings, rivers and lakes, and not from rocks, the child may become confused and disorientated, thinking that if Hashem wanted to provide the Jews with water He should have created a well or river for them, not a rock!
The previous Rebbe says, however, that utilizing this approach in education is a grave error. A Jewish child should be told about miracles and be aware that today Hashem performs “great wonders” for him. This is an important cornerstone in the education of a Jewish child.
A child is taught that Hashem performs 11great wonders” for him, not for an educational foundation, but also because it is the truth. As the Mishnah says, “Every person is obligated to say: the world was created for my sake.” Although the Mishnah states this in regard to adults and not children, one must first be a child in order to be an adult. Only Adom was created as an adult at the time of creation (or, as some commentaries say, until the flood everyone was born an adult). However, everyone who has existed since was born as a child. It is thus understood that when the Mishnah says, “Every person is obligated to say: the world was created for my sake,” a child is also included.
Hence, it is fitting for Hashem to create all kinds of situations in order to perform “great wonders” in the world for the child, as in the example of the truck-driver who brings a drink for a Jewish child. Telling him the simple truth, the miracles and great wonders which Hashem performs, will have a great effect upon the child.
With these explanations it is understood why the verse of “[Give thanks] to Him who alone performs wonders,” adds joy to the child on Simchas Torah and throughout the year, in addition to the joy which the first verse of Ata Horaysa gives the child. From these verses, as well as all the other verses of Ata Horaysa, we conclude with the verse of, “From Zion shall go forth the Torah; and the word of the L-rd from Yerushalayim,” that the whole year be permeated with the learning of Torah with total devotion.
When the child hears the verse “From Zion,” he understands the word Zion literally. The child connects Zion with the coming of the righteous Mashiach. As the children sing, “We Want Mashiach Now” in the language of this country, it will permeate the atmosphere of America, and the effect of their singing will cause the Congress and Senate to appropriate monies for the support of Yeshivos. It is even fitting and correct to say that the very establishment of the Congress and Senate over 200 years ago was, that they would now give great financial support to places of Torah enabling us to study Torah in peace and harmony. This support will be good for them as well, because their purpose is to help Jews; thus quickening the redemption. At the time of the redemption the Jews will be on a higher level, therefore the non-Jews who help the Jews will also be on a higher level.
3. We shall continue this farbrengen tomorrow, Shabbos, at the time of “Ravin d’Ravin” (after Minchah) in addition to the regular Shabbos Mevarchim farbrengen after Musaf. Especially since tomorrow is Shabbos Bereishis, about which the previous Rebbe said that the whole year follows the pattern set on Shabbos Bereishis.
This year, at the conclusion of Simchas Torah, we do not make Havdalah, but Kiddush (of Shabbos). We are not leaving Simchas Torah. Instead, we are entering the higher level of Shabbos, when we continue all the ideals of Simchas Torah in a more lofty fashion.
Just as Shemini Atzeres absorbs and is the culmination of all matters of Tishrei, Simchas Torah is the continuation if Shemini Atzeres. Those things done on Rosh Hashanah through the service peculiar to Rosh Hashanah are carried out on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah through joy. Afterwards we go straight into Shabbos, where, free from all dangers, we merit to have “light in (our) dwelling places” while still in exile.
May it be G-d’s will that on this Shabbos we have the joy of Simchas Torah, learning Torah diligently and assiduously; and continue to do so the whole year, making it a year full of Torah study and Mitzvos, while waiting for the imminent coming of our Righteous Redeemer.
- (Back to text) The teacher who actually taught Torah to the child is called father. This is so even when the father of the child is a learned man and has the ability to teach his child Torah. This is understood from the fact that the children of Aharon — Nadav, Avihu, Elazar, Issomor — are called “Toldos — offspring” of Moshe Rabbeinu because Moshe taught them Torah, even though Aharon, their father, was then living and a learned man.
- (Back to text) Of the first Shabbos of creation, our Sages tell us that “that particular light was in use for 36 hours,” from Friday until Motzaei Shabbos. All Shabbosim of the year follow the first Shabbos (Shabbos Bereishis).