Rabbi Elimelech Biderman - Torah Wellsprings - Emor - Part 2
There is an opinion in the Gemara which says that one isn't obligated to have meals on Shabbos and yom tov. One can devote the entire day for Torah and prayer. (The halachah is that one must make meals on Shabbos and yom tov, nevertheless, there is such an opinion stated in the Gemara.) About Shavuos, however, there is no debate. All agree that one must have festive meals on Shavuos. The Gemara (Pesachim 68) says, "Everyone agrees that on Shavuos, you must celebrate with good foods and festive meals." One can't make the day entirely for Torah and prayer. Rashi writes, "[On Shavuos] you should be happy with food and drink, to show that we are glad and happy with this day, when the Torah was given to the Jewish people." We can explain that one must be happy on Shavuos to demonstrate that the Torah isn't solely for Olam HaBa. The joy of Torah makes for a better life in this world as well.
Reb Chaim Kreiswirth zt’l said, "If a person wants to be a masmid, he should study Torah since learning Torah is a segulah for hasmadah." It sounds witty, but there is actually wise counsel concealed in these words. When one isn't inspired to learn Torah, it’s recommended that he study, if only for a few minutes. Something will pique his interest. He wants to know the answer. He will study some more. And then he’ll perceive the beauty of Torah so he’ll study some more, until he’s a masmid. So if a person desires to be a masmid, he should learn. One moment of Torah will lead to the next; each hour will lead to many more hours. Halachah forbids us from eating matzah on erev Pesach, so we will eat the matzah at the Seder with an appetite. The separation increases our love for this food, so we can eat it with greater gusto. The custom is to stop eating matzah two weeks or thirty days before Pesach, to increase our appetite and appreciation for the matzah. Someone asked his rosh yeshiva that we should do the same with Torah. Perhaps we should stop learning a couple of weeks before Shavuos, so we can accept the Torah on Shavuos with joy and desire. The rosh yeshiva explained that Torah is different than all worldly pleasures. Refraining from physical pleasures increases the desire, but when it comes to Torah, the more one studies it, the more he desires it. Therefore, a preparation for Shavuos would be to learn Torah, because the more we learn the more we love and desire the Torah.
We are now in the days of sefiras ha'omer; days that are mesugal for becoming pure. As written in the tefillah said after sefiras ha'omer, "[we count the sefirah] so we will be purified from kelipos and from tumah." It isn't only sefiras ha'omer that purifies us. During these days, we purify ourselves by studying Torah.
Our right to the Torah over the angels is because we have a yetzer hara. We therefore shouldn’t be discouraged by the struggles, since because of them Hashem gave us the Torah. And when we overcome the challenges, and we study Torah and keep the Torah, we become very deeply connected with the Torah.
When one struggles to study Torah and/or to keep the mitzvos, he becomes very connected to the Torah — a connection that wouldn’t be there, if Torah would be easy to keep.
We have several holidays during the year, such as Pesach, Shavuos, Succos, and so on. In addition, the Chasam Sofer zt'l teaches, a day one serves Hashem with all his strength is like a holiday, just for him. The Chasam Sofer learns this from this week's parashah. The Torah (23:2) says, "Speak to Bnei Yisrael, and tell them, Hashem's holidays… these are My holidays." And two verses afterwards, the Torah (23:4) writes, "These are Hashem's holidays… that you shall proclaim at the right time…" (Rashi discusses why two verses, so close to each other, seem to saying the same thing.) The Chasam Sofer explains as follows: One verse calls the yomim tovim, "My holidays," and one verse calls them "their holidays." Pesach, Shavuos, Succos, and so on, are Hashem's yomim tovim. But a day that a Jew devotes himself to avodas Hashem, it is his holiday. He has turned the day into a yom tov for himself, because he devoted that day for Hashem's service.
The Zohar writes, "On this day [of Pesach Sheini] it is announced in heaven, 'Whoever hasn’t yet seen the Shechinah should come to see the Shechinah now, before the gates close. When is this announced? On the fourteenth of the second month (Pesach Sheini), as then the gates are opened for seven days, afterwards the gates close." Pesach Sheini illustrates the specialness of yearning to serve Hashem.
Strong desire breaks down barriers, and something would have been worked out. If there's a will, Hashem will arrange a way.
The Beis Yisrael zt'l (Behaloscha 5723) writes, "It seemed that there was no hope [for the impure people] but their strong desire and their proclamation, 'why can't we bring the korban,' granted them the right to bring a korban Pesach on Pesach Sheini. Because man can open up gates even when they appear closed. As chazal (Pesachim 85:) say, 'Even an iron wall can't separate the Jewish people from their Father in heaven.' Similarly, Shlomo HaMelech said, 'Fortunate is the person who listens to Me to rush to My doors every day…' (Mishlei 8:34). This means that one should stand by the door even when it appears to be closed, and to wait by the door every single day until the doors open, because if one desires, Hashem will help him.
Rashi writes, "Moshe told the impure people, 'Stand here and I will listen to what Hashem commands.' [Moshe spoke] as a student who is certain that he will hear an answer from his teacher. Fortunate is a human being who is so certain that he can speak with the Shechinah whenever he wants to." The Shinover Rav zt'l asks: Moshe was the most humble person. Why was he certain that Hashem would speak with him? Why wasn’t he doubtful that perhaps this time he’s not worthy that Hashem should answer his question? The Shinover Rav answers that Moshe’s confidence lay in the merit of the people who were shouting that they couldn't bring the Korban Pesach. Moshe was certain that Hashem would answer him in the merit of their strong desire. We should desire to serve Hashem, and to do good deeds. The desires will cause matters to happen. Among the desires we should develop is the desire to raise good, G-d fearing children. The Midrash states that before Shmuel HaNavi was born, a bas kol announced that a child will soon be born, his name will be Shmuel, and he will be a navi. Many parents hoped that their son would be that child who will be the prophet, so they all named their child Shmuel. As it turned out, Chanah had that Shmuel the Prophet. Nevertheless, because the parents so desired to be the parents of a navi, they merited that their sons (their Shmuel) had prophecy at least once in their lifetime, because a desire brings results.
Another place for desire is to yearn to help your fellow man. There is a lot that we can do, and it all begins with a sincere desire. The Midrash (Mishlei 12) states, "Whoever lies on his bed and thinks, 'Tomorrow I will do a favor for so and so,' he will rejoice with the tzaddikim in Olam HaBa…" We see from this Midrash that he will receive reward just for his desire. And we can assume that because of his good desires, he indeed will succeed and do many good deeds.
Chazal tell us that angels have six wings: Two cover their face, two cover their feet, and the middle two wings are for flying (and for singing). When the Temple was destroyed, the angels lost the two wings for flying. Their ability to fly was taken from them by the churban. One should always seek and desire to fly and to grow in avodas Hashem. If he loses that drive, that’s חורבן ,destruction, similar to the angels who lost their wings by the churban. Instead, we should yearn and strive, and then the sky is the limit of how much we can achieve.