This week’s Torah portion, Parshas BaMidbar, is always read before the
festival of Shavuos, the time of the giving of the Torah. Usually, as
this year, it is read on the Shabbos directly preceding Shavuos. In
other years, Parshas Naso is read directly before the holiday and
Parshas BaMidbar is read on the preceding week.
the surface, Shavuos shares a more apparent connection with Naso than
with BaMidbar. Naso means “lift up,” and thus relates to the giving
of the Torah insofar as it brought the Jews to a true state of
elevation. G-d “chose us over all the nations and gave us His
Torah,” giving us the opportunity to establish a bond with His will
contrast, BaMidbar, meaning “in the desert,” refers to a seemingly
undesirable place, a barren land, unfit for human habitation. Why did
G-d choose to give the Torah in such a place? One of the resolutions of
this question is that Torah study requires absolute and total
concentration. When a person studies Torah, nothing else should be on
his mind. He must remove all worldly matters — and even any other
Torah subjects — from his thoughts and concentrate on the subject at
hand. His mind should, in effect, be barren like a desert, with the sole
exception of the Torah subject he is studying.
point is emphasized by the Torah passage describing the giving of the
Torah, which begins: “In the third month... on this day, they came to
the Sinai Desert.” The mention of “the third month” underscores
the relation of the Torah to the number three. Similarly, our Sages
describe the Torah as a threefold light. Indeed, there are three aspects
relevant to Torah study: G-d’s giving the Torah, the Jews receiving
it, and the Torah itself. The connection of the number three to the
Sinai Desert — which, as explained above, implies that while a person
is studying, there is nothing in his world but the Torah — indicates
that, in regard to these three elements, G-d’s giving the Torah and
its reception by the Jews are secondary, whereas the primary concern is
the Torah itself.
Torah is “one Torah,” a single unified entity. When a person studies
it, he becomes totally absorbed in this unity, as our Sages declared,
“The Holy One, blessed be He, the Jewish people, and the Torah are
one.” In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains how this unity is
established. When a person studies Torah, his intellect, which is an
essential part of the person himself, becomes one with the subject
matter in a “perfect unity to which there is no resemblance or
comparison in physical terms, to be totally one and unified.”
concept is also alluded to in the name Tanya. To explain: Tanya
is referred to as “The Written Torah of Chassidus,” which is the
soul of the Torah. Accordingly, the wording in the text is extremely
precise, just as the wording of the Written Torah is far more precise
than that of the Oral Law. Thus, the first word of the text, which has
been used by the Rebbeim as the name of the text, was surely carefully
however, raises a question, because the name Tanya has no
apparent connection to the goal of the text, which as the Alter Rebbe
writes on the title page is “based on the verse, ‘The matter is very
close to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, to do it,’ to explain how
it is ‘very close’...”
difficulty can be resolved as follows: On a simple level, the name Tanya,
which means “it has been taught,” alludes to the importance of Torah
study. Although Tanya will open a person up to a deeper level of
service of G-d, to love and fear of Him, its essential emphasis is on
the study of the inner dimension of the Torah, achieving a perfect unity
between the wisdom of man and the wisdom of G-d. This concept is so
fundamental to the text that it was alluded to in its very name.
this context, it is worthy to stress the importance of studying Tanya,
and in particular, its opening chapters. There are those who feel that
since they have studied Tanya previously, it is unnecessary for
them to continue this study and would rather study other subjects in
Chassidus. This, however, is a faulty perspective. Tanya must be
constantly studied, in particular the opening chapters, including the
preface. (This study should come in addition to the study of Tanya
within the study of Chitas.)]
emphasis on the study of Torah to the extent that nothing else exists in
one’s world but the Torah, also relates to the content of Parshas
BaMidbar, which describes the census of the Jews. Rashi explains
that taking this census reveals the dearness of the Jews before G-d,
“because they are dear to Him, He counts them always.”
are 600,000 Jewish souls. Similarly, the Rabbis teach that the name
Yisroel is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning “there are 600,000
letters in the Torah.” Nevertheless, despite this multiplicity,
ultimately both the Torah and the Jewish people are single indivisible
entities. The “one people” are connected with the “one Torah”
and the “one G-d,” to the extent that “Yisroel, the Torah, and the
Holy One, blessed be He, are all one.” This is the ultimate expression
of the dearness of the Jewish people.
relates to our Sages’ description of Sinai as the mountain from which
“hatred descended to the world.” This statement can be explained as
follows: It is written: “He placed the world in their hearts,” i.e.,
G-d placed the future of the world in the heart of every man. The
existence of the entire world depends on man. Through his service in
worldly matters, “turning away from evil” and “doing good,” man
has the power to correct the entire world.
when there is nothing else in a Jew’s world but Torah, he brings about
a parallel situation in the world at large. All the undesirable aspects
of the world are negated or transformed into good, and it is revealed
how the entire world exists only for the sake of the Torah.
we receive the Torah with happiness and inner feeling. (This is the
blessing the Rebbe Rayatz would give for the holiday of Shavuos.) And
may we merit the age when, “a new Torah will emerge from Me,” with
the coming of Moshiach.
The above concepts can be connected with the sixth chapter of Pirkei
Avos, which we study this week. This chapter begins with the
statement: “The Sages taught in the language of the Mishna:
‘Blessed be He who chose you and your teachings.’” The word
“Sages” refers to every Jew, each of whom are a member of “a wise
and understanding nation.” These qualities are revealed through the
Torah. Therefore, a Jew’s behavior must be permeated by the Torah, it
being the only thing in his world.
tablets were the work of G-d and the writing was the writing of G-d, charus
(engraved) on the tablets.’ Do not read charus, but cherus
(freedom). There is no free man except one who occupies himself with the
study of Torah.”
Shalo explains that when our Sages teach, “Do not read...but...”
their intention is not to negate the simple meaning of the verse, but to
add a new interpretation. Thus, the teaching mentioned above reveals
that the Torah is connected with both freedom and engraving.
explains that engraved letters are unique in that they are an integral
part of (and not separate from) the object on which they are written.
When a Jew studies Torah in a manner of “engraving,” he becomes
unified entirely with the Torah he studies. His entire existence becomes
Torah. This leads to true freedom; he is lifted above all worries and
approach to learning Torah has an effect in the world at large, as the
chapter continues, “Whoever repeats a concept in the name of its
author brings redemption to the world.” The world, which, in its
present state, conceals G-dliness, will ultimately become permeated by
the quality of redemption. Thus, the world will be elevated to a state
where it will be revealed that “Everything G-d created in this world
was created solely for His glory.” “Glory” refers to Torah, as Pirkei
Avos mentions beforehand, “There is no glory other than
Torah.” Thus, it will be revealed that there is nothing else in the
entire world but the Torah.
chapter concludes, “The L-rd will reign forever and ever.” According
to the Kabbalistic tradition, when the letters of “va’ed”
(ever) are transposed, the word “echad” (one) is produced,
implying that the unity of “the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One,”
will be revealed “forever and ever.” This will be revealed not only
to the Jews, but also to the nations of the world, as it is written,
“Then I will transform the nations to adopt a clear speech, that they
may all call in the name of the L-rd.”
Our Sages teach that the Jewish children were chosen as the guarantors
of the Torah. Therefore, it is appropriate that they — even infants of
a very young age — should be present in the synagogue to hear the
reading of the Ten Commandments. This can be accomplished without great
difficulty since in most communities there are several synagogues, and
often, several different times of prayer at a single synagogue.
Therefore, the entire family need not attend the Torah reading together
and a convenient time can be arranged so that all Jewish children can
hear the Ten Commandments.
the Torah reading, it is proper to explain to the children how important
receiving the Torah is and how they should prepare to receive it.
Although G-d gives the Torah in a generous manner, He desires that the
Jews prepare themselves to receive it. This will allow them to receive
the Torah in a full and complete manner.
adults should prepare to receive the Torah by increasing their Torah
study. In particular they should increase the study of the inner
dimension of the Torah (Torah’s mystic dimensions). This realm of
study shares a connection with the holiday of Shavuos. To explain: Our
Sages interpret the verse, “Honey and milk will be under your
tongue,” as a reference to the inner dimension of the Torah, stating,
“Subjects that are as sweet as honey and milk should be ‘under your
tongue’” (i.e., not studied openly). On Shavuos, it is customary to
eat sweet milchig foods, indicating that this is a time when this
realm of knowledge is given prominence.
is also reflected by the narrative of the giving of the Torah, when G-d’s
chariot, associated with the deeper aspects of the inner dimension of
the Torah, was revealed to every Jew. Although ordinarily one begins
with the study of the revealed dimensions of Torah law, when the Torah
was given, an exception was made, and at the outset, even before the
declaration of the Ten Commandments, G-dliness was revealed.
vision of G-dliness perceived by the Jewish people was also comprehended
intellectually. That is, not only did they see G-dliness, they also
internalized this vision. Thus, our Sages explain that at the giving of
the Torah, the Jewish people “saw what was [normally] heard and heard
what was [normally] seen,” implying that the revelation affected not
only the power of sight, but also the power of hearing, which is
connected with the power of understanding.
the revelation at Mount Sinai included an emphasis on G-d’s chariot,
the inner dimension of the Torah, it is appropriate that the preparation
for receiving the Torah anew should also emphasize this subject matter.
This will also affect our study of nigleh (the teachings of Torah
law). The inner dimension of the Torah is called, “the soul of
Torah,” whereas nigleh is referred to as its body. It is
natural for the body to be drawn after the soul.
increase in Torah study should begin this Shabbos. As mentioned several
times throughout the year, on Shabbos there should be an effort to
“gather groups to study Torah.” Surely, this applies on the Shabbos
preceding the giving of the Torah. Therefore, it is proper to use the
remaining hours of this Shabbos to gather together Jews to study Torah
communally (preferably in a manner of, “When ten people sit and study
Torah...,” or in even greater numbers, as it is written, “Among the
multitude of people is the glory of the king”). Simultaneously, these
gatherings should also be used to mention all the preparations for the
holiday of Shavuos.
the “running to the performance of a mitzva,” the efforts to
gather Jews in shul for Torah study, lead to the time when we run
to greet Moshiach. Indeed, there will be no need to run, for Moshiach
will come directly here to the Rebbe Rayatz’s shul and house of
study. Then “a great congregation will return here” –
the Jewish people, together with all the elements of the world
which they have elevated, will return to Eretz Yisroel, to Yerushalayim,
and to the Beis HaMikdash.
We can also derive a lesson from the day on which Shavuos is celebrated.
Our Sages teach that on the day of Alef, the first day of Pesach,
will fall Taf, Tisha B’Av. On the day of Beis, the
second day of Pesach, will fall Shin, the holiday of Shavuos.
implies that the experience of “the season of our freedom” on Pesach
will transform all the negative factors of Tisha B’Av into good,
bringing about the ultimate Redemption. …
Shavuos, may we receive the Torah anew with joy and inner feeling and
may this lead to our receiving “the new Torah that will emerge from
Me,” in the Messianic age. Our Sages declared, “All the appointed
times for Moshiach’s coming have passed and the matter is dependent
only on t’shuva.” Our Sages also teach that even a fleeting
thought of t’shuva is enough for one to be considered a
completely righteous man. Thus, through t’shuva we will nullify
the reason for the exile – our sins – as we recite in prayer,
“because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” When the reason
for the exile ceases to exist, the exile itself will end and we will
proceed together to greet Moshiach.