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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

Shabbos Parshas Vayikra, Parshas Zachor

Ta'anis Esther, 5749

Purim, 5749

Motzoei Shushan Purim, 5749

Shabbos Parshas Tzav, Parshas Parah

Machne Israel Special Development Fund

Yechidus

Shabbos Parshas Shemini, Parshas Hachodesh

Shabbos Parshas Tazria

Shabbos Parshas Metzora, Shabbos Hagadol

Motzoei Shabbos, Parshas Metzora

Maamar Matzah Zu

Tzivos Hashem/Pesach

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

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

   29th Day Of Iyar, 5749

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 Bamidbar
29th Day Of Iyar, 5749
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  23rd Day Of Iyar, 5749Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5749  

1

There are a number of factors which connect the present Shabbos to "the season of the giving of our Torah" that we will celebrate in the coming week:

  1. It is the Shabbos on which the month of Sivan is blessed. Sivan is the "third month" and is associated with the Torah, "a threefold light" given to a "threefold people."

  2. It is also the Shabbos which precedes the holiday of Shavuos. Since all the days of the coming week are blessed from the previous Shabbos, it follows that this Shabbos contains a specific blessing associated with the holiday of Shavuos.

  3. Shabbos falls directly before Rosh Chodesh, the day associated the essential preparatory step for the giving of the Torah. The Torah relates that on Rosh Chodesh, the Jews camped before Mount Sinai "as one man, with one heart." The Midrash relates:

The Holy One, Blessed be He, declared: "Since Israel [demonstrated] hatred for division and love for peace..., it is time for Me to give them My Torah."

Accordingly, the primary preparatory steps necessary for the receiving of the Torah are an increase in ahavas Yisrael and achdus Yisrael (the love and unity of the Jewish people).

Also, it is self-understood that in preparation for the receiving of the Torah anew, we should increase our study of Torah, both Nigleh and P'nimiyus HaTorah. In particular, guidelines regarding this increase in Torah can be taken from the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos, the chapter customarily studied on this Sabbath.

In general, the custom of studying Pirkei Avos on the Shabbasos between Pesach and Shavuos is to teach "the manner of Torah study and how to behave with it after one has studied." With that intent, the Rabbis added another chapter, a collection of Beraisos to be studied on the sixth Shabbos. These Beraisos all focus on the study of Torah or the rewards given for its study. Therefore, it is called Kinyan Torah, "the acquisition of Torah."

There is a deeper lesson to be learned from the fact that on the first five Shabbasos, we study Mishnayos and on the Shabbos before Shavuos, we study a collection of Beraisos, which are on a lower level than Mishnayos.[103] As will be explained, the final preparations for receiving the Torah are dependant on the study of the Beraisah.

The latter concept can be explained as follows: There are two aspects to the giving of the Torah. On one hand, Torah is G-d's "hidden treasure," His will and His wisdom which existed before creation. Conversely, the Torah was given within the context of our material world. "It descended... from level to level in the downward progression of spiritual worlds until it enclothed itself in physical things and entities of our world."

In particular, this concept is expressed in the contrast between the giving of the Torah by G-d and the receiving of the Torah by man. G-d's wisdom is drawn down to the extent that it can be perceived and comprehended by human intelligence in a manner where the person's intellect grasps and encompasses the Torah he is studying. The person, his thought, and the subject matter he is studying become fused in perfect unity. Furthermore, since "study is great because it brings to deed," the effects of the giving of the Torah are also apparent in our deeds," both those directly connected with the performance of the mitzvos and those carried out in the spirit of "All your deeds shall be for the sake of heaven," and "Know Him in all your ways."

Even though the Torah undergoes such a tremendous descent, it remains essentially unchanged. Even in our world, it is G-d's wisdom. Thus, it can bring about the refinement and the elevation of our world, drawing down the revelation of the giving of the Torah within it.

An allusion to this concept is found in the opening words of the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos: "The Sages taught [this chapter] in the language of the Mishnah:," i.e., the chapter is a collection of Beraisos, however, the manner of expression resembles the Mishnah until the level of the Beraisos is almost equivalent to that of the Mishnah.

To explain the above: Pirkei Avos begins by relating the chain of tradition through which the Torah was transmitted from generation to generation. This process also reflects a chain of descent as obvious from the continuation of that Mishnah which states, "Make a fence around the Torah." Why are fences necessary? Because the people's spiritual level had descended and they needed new safeguards to prevent them from transgressing Torah law.

Nevertheless, the safeguards that the Sages instituted cannot be considered as additions to the Torah. They are also a part of the Torah which "Moshe received at Sinai" as our Sages declared: "Every new concept which is brought out by an experienced sage was given to Moshe at Sinai." Similarly, the Beraisos of the sixth chapter of Avos, though on the surface on a lower level than the Mishnah -- reflecting the extension of the Torah to lower levels, "outside" the sphere of Torah -- are taught in a manner which makes them "almost equivalent to the Mishnah."

The first teaching of the sixth chapter of Avos continues: "Whoever occupies himself with [the study of] the Torah for its own sake merits many things" and continues to list various qualities and attributes that such study will bring. As mentioned above, this chapter is intended to arouse a person's desire to study and acquire Torah. By promising all these qualities, the sages desired to motivate people to involve themselves in Torah study. Since people are different and what motivates one may not necessarily motivate another, the Beraisah mentions a variety of different qualities and attributes so that every Jew, whatever his goals may be, will have a reason to apply himself to Torah study.

This also relates to the concept explained above: On one hand, it reflects a descent for the Torah, its teachings being lowered to the level of people who have to be motivated to study it. On the other hand, even after descending to that level, the Torah retains its ultimate perfection to the extent that it can bring these people the full range of benefits mentioned in the Beraisah.[104]

This line of thought is completed by the final Beraisah of the chapter which states:

All that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory as it is stated, "All that is called by My name, indeed, it is for My glory that I have created it, formed it, and made it," and it says, "The L-rd shall reign forever and ever."

This Beraisah teaches how each and every creation was brought into being to express G-d's glory -- "and there is no glory other than Torah." The ultimate expression of this glory will be in the Messianic age. However, in microcosm, there was already a revelation of this nature at the time the Torah was given.

As is customary, when completing the study of a Torah text, we connect the conclusion of the text to its opening statements. Similarly, Pirkei Avos begins with the statement "Moshe received the Torah on [Mount] Sinai." This statement also brings out the concept that the Torah effects all the aspects of our life, the material as well as the spiritual. Moshe was both the Torah leader of the Jews, the Nasi, and also, their king, the one who is responsible for their material well-being. Therefore, it was in his merit that the manna descended.[105] When G-d wanted to grant the Jews meat, it also had to come through Moshe's influence. Though Moshe complained, "From where will I have meat?", i.e., his spiritual level was too high to descend to such material things, G-d told him, "Collect seventy men... and I will separate from the spirit which is upon you and place it upon them;" the influence came from Moshe's spirit.

Pirkei Avos explains that Moshe "passed on" the Torah to Yehoshua. Though Moshe also taught Elazar, Pinchas, the Elders, and the entire Jewish people, Yehoshua was the fundamental recipient of Moshe's teachings. Thus, our Sages declared "Moshe's face was like the sun, Yehoshua's face was like the moon," i.e., Moshe's full light was reflected in Yehoshua. Therefore, Yehoshua also had both qualities of Nasi and king.

This phenomenon was not repeated in the generations that followed, however, it will be revealed again in the person of the Mashiach. He will be the teacher of the Jews and their king. In these three personalities, Moshe, Yehoshua, and Mashiach, their Torah knowledge and leadership permeated through their entire beings to the extent that even their leadership of the Jews' material affairs came through Torah.

This is also the concept expressed by the Beraisos of the sixth chapter of Avos, that the Torah is the source of all influence in the world, thus revealing how, "All that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory."


2

There is another aspect which is necessary in order to receive the Torah, the declaration "Na'aseh V'Nishmah -- We will do and we will listen." The Jew's made this declaration before the giving of the Torah, on the fifth of Sivan. Similarly, each year, in preparation for receiving the Torah anew on Shavuos, the Jews must reaffirm their commitment of Na'aseh V'Nishmah. Not only did the Jews promise both to "do" and "listen," they promised to "do" first, i.e., they gave G-d an unbounded commitment, agreeing to accept His will regardless of what He commands. This reflects an acceptance not only of G-d's will, but an all-compassing commitment to G-d, Himself, the Master of the will.

This aspect of unbounded commitment is also reflected in the custom of reading Parshas Bamidbar before the giving of the Torah. Our Sages explained that the Torah was given in a desert to teach us that to be given the Torah, a person must make himself like a desert over whom everyone treads. The fundamental quality necessary for a person to be prepared to receive the Torah is bittul, self-nullification. In this context, we can see a positive dimension of our Sages' description of a desert as "a place where man does not dwell," i.e., it reflects a level of bittul above the limits of human intellect, the very source of the Torah.

The lesson derived from the chapter Kinyan Torah, the importance of bringing Torah down within the context of our lives in the material world, also relates to the service of Na'aseh V'Nishmah. Within the realm of Torah study itself, there is a concept of Na'aseh V'Nishmah which is reflected in the study of Torah law. In regard to the abstract study of Torah law, the study of halachah represents a descent. Nevertheless, it is described as "the crown of Torah," which reveals G-d's will. Though a person may derive more pleasure from the study of other aspects of Torah, because of his commitment of complete bittul, he will devote himself to the study of halachah for it is that realm of study that G-d's will is revealed.


3

The above is also connected to today's portion of the text of halachah which is studied on a daily basis, the Rambam's Mishneh Torah.[106] Today's portion of study deals with the delegation of the duties associated with the services in the Beis HaMikdash. The Rambam states that these duties were delegated by lot. Why were these tasks delegated in this fashion? The Rambam explains that this practice was a later institution, ordained by the Rabbis.

Originally, whoever wanted to remove the ashes from the altar would be allowed to do so. If there were many, they would run, ascending the ramp to the altar. Whoever reached within four cubits of the altar first would merit it... Once, it occurred that two were even while running up the ramp, one pushed the other. Since the court saw that the situation was becoming dangerous, they ordained that the selection of the person to remove the ashes would be done by lot.

Though originally, the division was not made by lot, once the Rabbis instituted this practice, it became Torah law. Even when there was no danger: i.e., a priestly watch with few members or for the third lottery -- which selected those to offer the incense offering -- a lottery was required.[107]

There is a parallel to this in our spiritual service: A lottery refers to a high spiritual level for a person has no choice in the matter at all. He leaves everything up to G-d. Therefore, one of the central aspects of the Yom Kippur service was the casting of lots to designate the goats to be sacrificed to G-d and to be sent to Azazel. Similarly, the Purim[108] miracle which expressed the Jews' ultimate self-sacrifice centered around the casting of lots.[109]

Thus, casting lots for the service in the Beis HaMikdash implies that a person is willing to leave the determination of the service appropriate for him to perform to G-d. This is possible because a person has reached a high spiritual level.

In this context, the Baal Shem Tov interpreted the word shivisi in the verse, "I placed (shivisi) G-d in front of me at all times" to have the mean "It is equal for me." Since G-d is constantly before me, all situations are equal. "Whenever anything happens, one will say to himself, 'It's from G-d.' Therefore, even if one might not think it desirable... since his intention is for G-d's sake, from his side there is no difference." Since the person gives himself over to fulfilling G-d's will, he is willing to perform any and every service. Whichever service will come his way -- and he is open to all types of services, letting the decision come by Hashgochah Protis (Divine Providence) in a manner similar to casting lots -- he is willing to perform.

Thus, we can understand the parallel to the service in the Beis HaMikdash mentioned above: Each Jew, by nature, desires to run to fulfill G-d's will ("running up the ramp to the altar"). He does not proceed slowly, but runs. However, at present, Torah law teaches that a person's own desires should not determine which service he is to perform. Rather, he should leave this to G-d's will.

To conclude with practical directives for action:

  1. Since today is the day directly preceding the first of Sivan, the day on which the Jews camped before Mount Sinai in perfect unity in preparation to receive the Torah, we should increase our service in ahavas Yisrael. Also we must develop bittul, total commitment, which like Na'aseh V'Nishmah is a necessary preparation to receive the Torah, and, of course, we should increase our Torah study itself.

  2. We must increase our service in "raising up many students." This is particularly relevant in the summer months when the secular schools are on vacation and it is possible to have them enrolled in summer camps in a Torah environment. Efforts must be made to insure that all Jewish children are enrolled in Torah camps in the summer months.

May these activities prepare us to receive the Torah anew "with happiness and in a way that it is internalized," as the Previous Rebbe would wish. And may we receive the Torah in a manner -- as Pirkei Avos concludes -- "G-d will rule forever," which will be realized with the coming of the Messianic redemption.[110]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) This is implied by the very name, Beraisah, which is related to the word m'barah which is the word the Targum uses for the word meaning "outside," i.e., teachings that were related outside the study sessions of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi.

  2. (Back to text) This Beraisah can be seen as a continuation of the concept explained at the conclusion of Chapter 5, "Learn it and learn it [the Torah], for everything is in it." That Mishnah speaks of the potentials that are contained within the Torah. Our Beraisah speaks of the advantages that a person can derive from Torah study, teaching him that through Torah study, he can acquire "many things."

  3. (Back to text) Even the well and the clouds of glory, which our Sages associate with Miriam and Aharon respectively, were also connected with Moshe. The fact that when Miriam and Aharon died, these miracles returned in Moshe's merit reveals that even originally, they were dependent on his influence.

  4. (Back to text) The study of the Mishneh Torah parallels the declaration Na'aseh V'Nishmah, for the Rambam (in contrast to the Alter Rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch) states the halachah alone without explaining its underlying principles.

  5. (Back to text) It is likely that only a small number of people were eligible for the latter lottery since it was restricted to those who never offered an incense offering before.

  6. (Back to text) The Rabbis have noted the connection between the two holidays, stating that the name, Yom Kippurim, can be translated to mean, "a day like Purim."

  7. (Back to text) Thus, we see that many Sages would follow a practice that resembles the casting of lots to help them decide questions regarding their future. They would take a Chumash or another holy text and open it at random and find an answer to their question based on the passage to which the text was opened.

  8. (Back to text) This is particularly true since the coming year, ", is a unique year. Its letters are an acrostic for the words, "It will be a year of miracles."


  23rd Day Of Iyar, 5749Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5749  
  
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