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Shabbos Parshas Terumah

Shabbos Parshas Tetzaveh

Shabbos Parshas Ki Sissa

Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, Parshas Shekalim

1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5749

Shabbos Parshas Pikudei

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Ta'anis Esther, 5749

Purim, 5749

Motzoei Shushan Purim, 5749

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Machne Israel Special Development Fund

Yechidus

Shabbos Parshas Shemini, Parshas Hachodesh

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Motzoei Shabbos, Parshas Metzora

Maamar Matzah Zu

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6th Day Of Pesach, 5749

Shevi'i Shel Pesach, 5749

Acharon Shel Pesach, 5749

Maamar Vehechrim

Shabbos Parshas Acharei

Yechidus

Shabbos Parshas Kedoshim

2nd Day Of Iyar, 5749

Shabbos Parshas Emor

   8th Day Of Iyar, 5749

Shabbos Parshas Behar,

Eve Of Lag Baomer, 5749

Evening Following Lag Baomer, 5749

Shabbos Parshas Bechukosai

Address To The Women's Convention

Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar

Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5749

Eve Of The 4th Day Of Sivan, 5749

1st Day Of Shavuos, 5749

2nd Day Of Shavuos, 5749

Yechidus Following Shavuos

12th Day Of Sivan, 5749

Eve Of The 13th Of Sivan, 5749

Sichos In English
Volume 41

Shabbos Parshas Emor
8th Day Of Iyar, 5749
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  2nd Day Of Iyar, 574915th Day Of Iyar, 5749  

1

This Shabbos falls in the midst of the counting of the Omer and is the third Shabbos after the holiday of Pesach. The number three shares a unique connection to the giving of the Torah. Our Sages emphasize how the Torah, "a threefold light", was given to the Jews, "a threefold people" in "the third month" by third [of Amram's children, Moshe].

Three is associated with the concept of peace. The number one refers to a state of unity above division. Thus, our Sages note that, in the narrative of creation, the Torah states "one day," rather than "the first day" to emphasize how then, "G-d was at one in His world."

Two reflects a state of division, the opposite of unity. Thus, our Sages state that division was created on the second day and therefore, the expression "And G-d saw that it was good" is not mentioned on that day.

Three refers to the potential to establish unity within the context of the division brought about by the number two. This is a higher level of unity. The unity associated with the number one refers to a unity that exists before individual existence (which allows for division). Therefore, it does not represent complete unity (since it is not known what will happen after entities take on their own individual existence). In contrast, the number three refers to unity as it is established within the context of division. Because this is an expression of true unity, the statement "And G-d saw that it was good" is repeated twice on that day.

This concept is exemplified in the principle:

When two Biblical passages contradict each other, the meaning can be determined by a third Biblical text which reconciles them.

The intent is not that the third text supports one of the two positions and thus, outweighs the other, but rather that the third text will reconcile the two and bring out a new perspective which is acceptable to both positions.

There is a parallel to the above concepts in our service of G-d. G-d is essentially one. This unity was revealed on the first day of creation. However, since G-d desired "a dwelling place in the lower worlds," He created a world (the Hebrew for "world" -- olam -- is related to the word "helam" -- concealment) which appears to be separate from G-d (division as symbolized by the second day). The purpose of such a creation was that a Jew will become "a partner with G-d in creation" and establish unity between the creation and G-d. This unity comes, not through nullifying the existence of the world, but rather through fusing the world -- as it exists within its own context -- with G-dliness.

This represents true unity, the unity expressed by the third day. Our Sages associated the contribution of the third day with the expression: "Good for the heavens and good for the creatures." This unity brings together "the heavens" and "the creatures," fusing them into a single entity.

On the basis of the above, we can appreciate the connection between the Torah and the number three. Our Sages state: "The entire Torah was given only to establish peace in the world," i.e., peace and unity between the world and G-d.

Before the giving of the Torah, there was a decree separating the higher spiritual realms from our physical world. At the giving of the Torah, G-d nullified that decree. He "descended on Mount Sinai" and also gave the potential for the Jews to elevate the physical world and impart holiness to material objects. Similarly, before the giving of the Torah, the Torah's place was in the spiritual worlds. After the giving of the Torah, the Torah "is not in the heavens," but rather, its permanent place is in this world [and halachic decisions are determined by men].

On the basis of the above, we can understand why the giving of the Torah did not come immediately after the exodus from Egypt, but rather was preceded by the counting of the Omer. This service was necessary because the intent of the giving of the Torah was to establish the Torah within this world in a permanent manner and thus, establish peace (in the fullest sense of the world without either entity sacrificing its qualities as explained above) between the spiritual and physical realms.

The exodus from Egypt (which took place in the first month) is insufficient. Though "the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, revealed Himself to them," this was a revelation from above which did not permeate the nature of the world itself and, therefore, was only temporary in nature. The world itself remained as it was, an entity separate from the Divine revelation.

Only after the service within the world itself -- although this came about through the arousal from above associated with the exodus -- was the world ready to receive the Torah in a manner in which it could be internalized and thus effect the world in a permanent manner.

This is the contribution of the days of the counting of the Omer which connect Pesach to the giving of the Torah. Thus, the Omer offering was of barley, described by our Sages as "animal food," indicating that the service during this period revolves around refining the emotional qualities of the animal soul.

Even though this service is not as elevated as the revelation of "the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He," it is precisely this service which allows for the giving of the Torah. At that time, the fiftieth gate of understanding, a level which surpasses those revealed in the exodus, is drawn down. Furthermore, because this revelation is preceded by the service of the Jews, it can be internalized to the extent that it becomes a permanent part of their beings.

2

The concept explained above is also related to the customs which the Shulchan Aruch associates with the counting of the Omer, the atmosphere of semi-mourning that is associated with the death of Rabbi Akiva's students.

The Talmud explains that these students died because they did not show appropriate respect to each other. These laws are part of the Torah -- which is the "Torah of kindness." Thus, it follows that they teach us an important lesson; not only to observe the customs of semi-mourning, but also to correct the cause of this tragedy, the lack of respect for one's fellowman by increasing our ahavas Yisrael. This is associated with the service mentioned above, refining the emotional qualities of the animal soul.

Why won't a person show proper respect for a colleague? Because G-d created each person with different thinking processes. However, G-d did not intend that these differences cause division or strife. His intent was to allow for the higher level of peace and unity that can be established within a place where there is the potential for difference (as explained above). When people with different opinions work together, they develop a multitude of different perspectives which brings about a clearer and better solution. Reaching such a solution requires each person to forego his natural tendency to adhere to his own viewpoint and consider the matter from other perspectives, showing respect for the other people.

This is the service appropriate during the counting of the Omer, it requires a person to work on himself and change his nature -- his intellect and emotions -- which were he not to work on, might cause him to show a lack of respect for others similar to that shown by Rabbi Akiva's students. He must refine and develop these qualities to the extent that they will help bring out the advantage that can come from different people having a variety of perspectives.

Even if strife and discord have already arisen, efforts must be made to correct the situation by overextending oneself in the direction of peace.[75] This approach will ultimately bring about a higher level of peace than existed before the outbreak of strife.[76]

[In this context, we can understand the unique importance of Lag BaOmer. Lag BaOmer is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. He was one of the students of Rabbi Akiva who remained alive. As evident from a number of Talmudic passages, he expressed the principle of ahavas Yisrael, which his teacher, Rabbi Akiva, considered "a great principle of the Torah," in a complete manner. Therefore, Lag BaOmer, his yahrzeit, is a day of celebration, not only when compared to the days of the counting of the Omer, but also to the entire year.][77]

Similarly, this is also a proper preparation for the giving of the Torah. Our Sages note that when the Torah describes the camping of the Jewish people before Mount Sinai, it uses the verb vayichan, a singular conjugation. They comment that this shows that the people camped "as one man, with one heart." This unity was one of the necessary steps in preparation for the giving of the Torah.

The above is also related to the custom of studying Pirkei Avos on the Shabbosos between Pesach and Shavuos. Pirkei Avos focuses on the refinement of our ethical behavior.[78] This concept is emphasized by a teaching contained in the first Mishnah: "Make a fence around the Torah." The Sages appreciated the tendencies of our animal souls and found it necessary to impose new restrictions to curb those tendencies.

To explain in greater detail: The Torah was given in our material world in order to establish peace and unity between the Creator and the creation. Furthermore, as explained above, this unity is intended to encompass the creations as they are within the context of their own existence. This also involves taking into consideration the changes people will undergo over the passage of time, when, with each generation, the concealment of G-dliness in the world has increased. To prevent this from weakening our observance of Torah, the Sages "made a fence around the Torah," i.e., established safeguards -- restrictions which were themselves not commanded by the Torah -- to ensure the continued observance of Torah.

This week, we study the third chapter of Pirkei Avos, which also begins in a manner that emphasizes the concept of three, "Reflect on three things and you will not come to sin." In addition to the three concepts mentioned specifically in the Mishnah, the Mishnah is also teaching us to reflect on the concept of three and that this reflection will prevent one from sinning. From the standpoint of one, there is a possibility of sin -- for there is still the possibility of the existence of other entities. Surely, this is true from the perspective of two. However, when a person reflects on three, i.e., realizes how unity can be established within the context of division, he will not sin.

This is also associated with the week's Torah portion which begins: "Say unto the priests... and you shall say unto them..." Our Sages explain that this apparent redundancy teaches the obligation "to make the adults responsible for the children." They cannot remain satisfied with their own service, but must teach others. Furthermore, the verb, lehazhir also has the meaning "to make shine." The adults must teach the children in a manner which makes them shine.

This, in turn, will bring advantages to the adults as well as our Sages explain, "I received more from my students than from others" and thus, establish unity between the adults and the children.


3

The above is also connected to the daily portion of Rambam, the conclusion of the study of Hilchos Shemittah V'Yovel. The latter is also connected to Parshas Behar whose reading is begun in today's Minchah service. Many of the laws of Shemittah are contained in this Torah portion. (These laws are also connected to the present year whose Hebrew letters " form the word Tishmat, "release," the mitzvah associated with Shemittah).

In today's portion of study, the Rambam discusses the laws of a Pruzbol:

When Hillel, the Elder, saw that people hesitated to lend to each other and thus, transgressed the Torah's admonition: "Take great care lest you will have an unworthy [thought in your heart.... 'The seventh year, the year of release, is coming.' And you will look unkindly at your poor brother and will not give him.]"

Therefore, he instituted the practice of a Pruzbol so that a debt would not be released and people would lend one to each other.

Thus, a Pruzbol is one of the practices instituted by the Sages as "a fence around the Torah." Originally, there was no need for such a safeguard. However, with the descent of the ethical level of the Jewish people, the practice was necessary to ensure the observance of Torah law. Nevertheless, once this practice was instituted, it led to an increase in generosity.

The practice of writing a Pruzbol also brings out another positive dimension. A Pruzbol is only effective when the borrower owns land. Nevertheless, our Rabbis explain that we can assume that every Jew possesses land. Furthermore, some authorities explain that a Pruzbol is effective for everyone, for "every Jew possesses a portion of land in Eretz Yisrael." Thus, the practice of Pruzbol reveals how each Jew has a portion of Eretz Yisrael even during the time of exile.

The Rambam concludes these Halachos with a description of the positive qualities of the tribe of Levi:

Why didn't Levi merit a portion of Eretz Yisrael?... Because he was distinguished to serve G-d... and to teach His straight ways and righteous judgments to the masses... Therefore, he was set above the ways of the world.

The Rambam continues, explaining how this concept is relevant to every Jew:

Not only the tribe of Levi, but each and every person... whose generous spirit motivated him...to set himself apart and to stand before G-d to serve Him,...removing from himself the yoke of the different [worldly] concerns which are sought by people. He is sanctified as the holiest of the holy. G-d will be his portion and inheritance forever.

The Torah itself mentions the potential for such service only in regard to the tribe of Levi. Nevertheless, "the Torah was given together with its explanation," i.e. the oral tradition. That tradition taught by our Sages[79] reveals how every Jew has the potential to become "the holiest of the holy," i.e., to reach the level of the High Priest on Yom Kippur. Each Jew, no matter where he is or what age he is living in, can make an unbounded commitment to the service of G-d and thus, reach the highest levels of holiness.

This is also related to the next order of Halachos in the Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah, The Laws of [G-d's] Chosen House. Those laws begin stating, "It is a positive commandment to construct a house for G-d which is prepared for sacrifices to be offered within." By building a Beis HaMikdash ("a house for G-d") in this world, we fulfill the intention of creation, that this lowly world should be transformed into a dwelling place for Him. The ultimate revelation of this intent will be in the construction of the Third Temple. This, in turn, is dependent on our work and service in the time of exile, being "motivated by a generous spirit, removing from himself the yoke of the different [worldly] concerns."

In this light, we can understand the verse chosen by the Rambam as an introduction to Sefer Avodah (The Book of [G-d's] Service) and in particular, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah, "Seek out the welfare of Jerusalem. Those who love her shall prosper." A Jew must long for Jerusalem[80] and seek out her welfare. This service will bring about prosperity, not only the ultimate prosperity we will enjoy in the Messianic age, but even at present, in the time of exile, we will be blessed with prosperity.

To summarize with practical directives, efforts must be made:

  1. To spread ahavas Yisrael and thus, correct the reason for the mourning practices observed during this period. These practices indicate that this is an appropriate time to increase this service and correct any inadequacies.

  2. To spread Torah study, particular public study, putting special stress on studying Pirkei Avos.

  3. To make siyyumim, including siyyumim of the Halachos in the Mishneh Torah.

  4. To prepare for Lag BaOmer, the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. In regard to P'nimiyus HaTorah (Torah's mystic teachings), Lag BaOmer is "the day of the giving of the Torah." Hence, in this context, special emphasis should be placed on the study of P'nimiyus HaTorah.

May these efforts hasten the time when the Third Temple will be built and then we will offer sacrifices to G-d. May the time come immediately.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) In particular, the way to bring out peace when a dispute has arisen is to bring the matter to a Rabbinic court for judgment. Their decision should -- as the third passage mentioned above -- be rendered in a manner that will reconcile the differences between the parties involved. Should a dispute arise between members of one community, they should present the matter to the community's Rabbis for arbitration.

  2. (Back to text) We see a parallel to this concept in halachah. A shtar (legal document) whose validity has been questioned and later affirmed has greater legal power than a shtar about which a question has never arisen.

  3. (Back to text) Thus, HaYom Yom relates that "in regard to the Mitteler Rebbe, Lag BaOmer was one of the special holidays.... Then, we witnessed many miracles, particularly, in regard to children.... Throughout the entire year, we would wait for Lag BaOmer."

  4. (Back to text) Pirkei Avos includes statements authored by the Sages. Thus, it represents the aspect of Torah which is the contribution of man in contrast to that which is revealed from above. Hence, its study parallels the service of the month of Iyar which is associated with man's efforts.

  5. (Back to text) The fact it is the oral tradition which brings out this teaching is similar to the concept explained above, that the decrees of the Sages, e.g., Pruzbol, can bring out a higher dimension of Torah observance.

  6. (Back to text) The longing for Jerusalem also has a parallel in our service of G-d. Yerushalayim -- Hebrew for Jerusalem -- can be divided into two words, Yirah Shalaim -- complete fear. A Jew must yearn to have complete fear of G-d.


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