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Rabbi Elimelech Biderman - Torah Wellsprings - Shavuot - Part 1

“Success in Torah for the year is dependent upon these three days. Someone who’s a masmid during shloshes yemei hagbalah will have success in Torah study the entire year.” - Rebbe Avraham ‘HaMalach’

The sheloshes yemei hagbalah is a time to prepare for mattan Torah, for which preparation is essential. The Kedushas Levi zt'l writes, "If a person merits it, every Shavuos he will hear [Hashem’s] voice announcing 'I am Hashem your G-d' How could a person not prepare for this…? Millions of angels tremble before Hashem's magnificence. Certainly us, human beings [should tremble and seek to prepare ourselves for this revelation]. Three days of preparation isn't enough. Even if one prepares the entire year, it also isn't enough."

It states, ... "Moshe went up to Hashem… And Hashem called to him from the mountain" (Shmos 19:3). The Or HaChaim HaKadosh writes, "When Moshe took the first step, and went up the mountain, immediately Hashem called to him. You must know that holiness doesn’t happen unless one prepares for it. As the Zohar states, ‘the arousal from below causes the arousal from above.'" Therefore, only after Moshe made preparations and took a step towards holiness, by going up the mountain, did Hashem call him. Similarly, we must prepare ourselves for mattan Torah, and then we can receive the holiness of mattan Torah.

If you do your part, and try to prepare yourselves, Hashem will help your attain your desire, and you will be ready. All a person has to do is the best he can, and the Torah promises, "you will be ready."

Shulchan Aruch (141:1) teaches that (throughout the year) the baal korei must stand when reading the Torah. The Levush explains that this is because Moshe and Bnei Yisrael stood when the Torah was given. Similarly, in siman (146:4) Shulchan Aruch states that some say that even those listening to kriyas haTorah should stand up. The Mishnah Berurah (141:19) explains, "This is because when hearing the Torah, one should imagine it as though he is receiving the Torah from Har Sinai, and at Har Sinai everyone stood. We see from these sources that each time we read the Torah, it’s like mattan Torah. Certainly when we read in the Torah about mattan Torah, it is a replay of mattan Torah. It is as though we are receiving the Torah from Har Sinai.

All of our sins are atoned on Shavuos. As the Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah 4:5) states, "By all korbanos it states, ‘a goat for a sin-offering.’ But by the korbanos of Shavuos, it doesn’t state sin. It states, ‘a goat for atonement.’ Hakadosh Baruch Hu is telling Bnei Yisrael, ‘Since you accept the yoke of Torah, It’s as though you never sinned your entire lives.’" This occurs annually on Shavuos.

The Beis Avraham zt'l explained why we read the Aseres HaDibros three times a year: When an ill person needs a very strong medication — too strong for the patient to endure — the doctor will administer the medication in two or three installments. By not giving it all at once it’s easier on the patient’s body. Similarly, we read the Aseres HaDibros three times a year: parashas Yisro, parashas Ve'eschanan, and Shavuos. The spiritual experience that comes from this reading is very intense, thus the spiritual impact is divided up so the Jewish nation can endure it.

Every year on Shavuos, each Jew is like a groom that’s getting married to the Torah, the bride. As the Gemara (end of Taanis) writes, וביום חופתו is referring to the day of mattan Torah.

The Shlah HaKadosh (18) writes, "One is obligated to be very happy on this day because it is the day when we merit receiving the crown of Torah. As chazal (Pesachim 68:) states, 'All opinions agree that one needs to enjoy festive meals on Shavuos [and one can't spend the entire day davening and learning in beis medresh]. Why? Because it’s the day the Torah was given to the Jewish nation.'" How can a person not rejoice on this day, the day that Hashem elevated the Jewish nation from all nations to be His chosen nation? Who wouldn’t rejoice when the Creator of the world chose him — a human being made of flesh and blood — to be close to Hashem? Therefore, don’t be passive and callous. Pick up on the joyous spirit. The entire universe is excited on this day, and you too, should connect to this great joy.

On the night of Shavuos there is a custom to remain awake the entire night and to study Torah. The Mishnah Berurah (494:1) writes in the name of the Arizal, "Whoever doesn’t sleep on this night, and he learns Torah, is guaranteed that he will live the entire year, and that no harm will come to him."

This is as the Zohar (introduction vol.1, 8:) states, "Reb Shimon and all the friends were singing Torah and making chiddushim, and Reb Shimon and all the friends were joyous. Reb Shimon said to them, 'My children, you are fortunate, because tomorrow the bride [the Torah] will go to the canopy only with you, because you are making the tikun tonight and you are rejoicing with the Torah. All of you will be inscribed in the book of memory, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu will bless you with seventy blessings and will crown you… Because whoever joins us this night will be protected above and below for the entire year and he will live the year in peace."

The Tzemech Tzedek zt'l writes, "I guarantee that whoever stays awake all Shavuos night and studies Torah, will [become a talmid chacham and] merit the crown of Torah." His grandson, Rebbe Shalom Ber of Lubavitch zt'l added, "The Tzemech Tzedek was a posek and a rav, and therefore as he ruled below, that is how the beis din of heaven rules. Therefore one must be awake the entire night and toil in Torah." Rebbe Shalom Ber emphasized that one should be "awake," with vigor and joy, and to learn Torah in that manner, throughout the night.

Someone asked Reb Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt'l whether he should remain awake all night, because he knows that it will ruin his entire next day, and it’s very hard for him. Reb Shlomo Zalman told him that although he has a valid point, he should remain up all night studying Torah. He explained, "There is a great rule with these matters: One should be scrupulous with a custom that was accepted by all G-d fearing Jews and scholars, and educate his family to have the correct respect for it… Since all those who learn all over the world keep this custom, and if you won't keep it your children and your wife will consider it lightly, that you aren't acting properly, therefore you should keep the custom, even if it is hard" (Halichos Shlomo 12, note 13).

It is worth quoting here the Shlah (Misechta Shavuos, Ner Mitzvah, 8) who quotes Reb Shlomo Alkabetz zt'l who described a Shavuos night, when scholars were awake, studying Torah: "When we began studying Mishnah, and we learned two masechtos, Hashem granted us that we heard a voice saying… 'Listen My friends… My beloved, shalom to you. Ashreiechim and fortunate are your parents who gave birth to you. You are fortunate in this world and in the next world for you devoted yourself to crown Me this night, which for so many years, My crown has fallen off My head and no one consoles Me. I am thrown to the earth, hugging garbage, and now you returned the crown to its place. Be strong My friends, be strong My beloved. Rejoice, celebrate, and know that you are exalted people… Your Torah went up before Hakadosh Baruch Hu and tore open the heavens… The angels are silent, and all angels of heaven and Hakadosh Baruch Hu listen to your voices… You are fortunate and your parents who gave birth to you are fortunate. My beloved, since you didn’t sleep this night, I was elevated this night. Therefore be strong and be happy My children, My beloved… Don’t stop learning… your Torah is sweet to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

The Megaleh Amukos writes, "It states in Shaar HaKavanos in the name of the Arizal that when one is awake [any night of the year] and studies Torah the entire night, he is freed from one כרת. If this is said about any night of the year, then certainly on Shavuos night it will atone for many many krisus…"

The Chasam Sofer zt'l said that whoever learns the night of Shavuos with hasmadah, without hesach hadaas (without taking breaks) will merit seeing Eliyahu HaNavi. Students of his yeshiva took these words very literally, and they strived to learn Torah without stop on Shavuos night. Every Shavuos morning, after Shacharis by the neitz, Reb Chaim Leib Aurbach zt’l (father of Reb Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt’l) would go to the Pupa dayan (of Yerushalayim) to wish him a gut Yom Tov. One year, he saw the Pupa dayan was extremely happy, and he asked him about it. The Pupa dayan said, "I wasn't planning to tell you, but since you asked, I will tell you. I studied in the yeshiva of the Ksav Sofer and we were taught in the name of the Chasam Sofer zt'l that whoever studies Torah the entire night of Shavuos without hesach hadas he will merit giluy Eliyahu. The students of the yeshiva always strived for it, and I also try to study diligently throughout the entire night, with an aspiration to have giluy Eliyahu. Last night, I was struggling to understand a section of the Zohar that I've always found difficult. An elderly person came into the beis medresh and explained the Zohar to me in a beautiful way. I closed my eyes in concentration to see whether the answer was correct. When I opened my eyes, the man wasn’t there anymore, and then it was time to daven Shacharis. Now, are you still wondering why I’m so happy?"

There will be people who will say, "I am not a great tzaddik. These levels aren't for me." Therefore, we quote the words of Seder HaYom, who discusses the merit of studying Torah on this night, and he writes, "You are fortunate, and your lot is fortunate. The Creator is proud of you. Don’t let this be light in your eyes, because even if a person is lowly on one side, he is also very great, in a different way. He has the ability to sustain all worlds, more than the angels can. He gives strength to the Creator, as it were… Everyone — even the lowest and simplest person must consider themselves special and great in this regard, and say, perhaps I will do something that will bring pleasure to Hashem…"

But what aspect of Torah do we lack, which we receive each year on Shavuos? We received the Torah about 3,300 years ago. Why do we say that on this day we receive the Torah again? Don’t we already have the Torah? By the same token, the Sfas Emes (Shavuos 5661) asks, it states (Devarim 33:4), "Moshe commanded us Torah, it is an inheritance for the congregation of Yaakov." This implies that we already have the Torah. It’s our inheritance. However, Chazal say (Avos 2:12), "prepare yourself to learn Torah, because it isn't an inheritance." So is Torah an inheritance or isn't it? Do we have the Torah already, or don’t we? The Sfas Emes replies that although we have the Torah as an inheritance, the chiddushei Torah are new each year. Hashem gave us the Torah, and that is our inheritance. But Hashem also gives each individual the ability to be mechadesh in Torah, to find new explanations, clarity, and so on. That part of Torah is given to us on Shavuos, and becomes revealed each time a person studies.

In the Derech HaMelech, from the Rebbe of Piascana zt'l, it explains that on Shavuos everyone receives a non-defined prophecy. When he studies Torah throughout the year, he brings forth the chiddushei Torah that he received on Shavuos. The Sfas Emes (Shavuos 5661) writes, "The Torah is called õò íééç, a tree of life. Just as a tree grows new fruit each year, so does the Torah bring forth new fruit each year… Shavuos, when Hashem gives us the Torah, Bnei Yisrael receive their portion of [chiddushei] Torah that will become new throughout the year. They bring it forth each one at the right time and place." With this, the Sfas Emes explains the Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 16.) "On Shavuos, there is a judgment for the fruits of the trees." The Sfas Emes explains that this means on Shavuos the chiddushim you will perceive throughout the year is determined. This is also the reason the yom tov is called 'the day of new fruit.' The new fruit are the new chiddushim that come from Shavuos. The Sfas Emes concludes, "This day is the origin of Torah for the entire year." Consequently, although we have already received the Torah about 3,300 years ago, we need to receive the Torah each Shavuos, to bring forth each person's individual chiddushim in Torah.

Reb Chaim Volozhiner zt'l taught that even clarity in Torah can be considered chiddushei Torah. If at first, you don’t understand a section of Torah so well, and then you learn it again until you understand it, that clarity is a chiddush in Torah. That’s the chiddush you were given on Shavuos. And, obviously, there are the literal chiddushei Torah, novel insights in Torah that each person can perceive, each person according to his level and abilities. All of this is given to a Jew on Shavuos.

In birchas haTorah we say, 'Who gives us the Torah.' The Ta'z (Orach Chaim 47:5) explains, "It seems to me that the chachamim established that we finish the brachah with the words 'Who gives us the Torah,' that Hashem gives the Torah, which implies that Hashem gives us the Torah right now. We don’t say that Hashem gave us the Torah in the past. This implies that Hashem is always giving us His Torah, each day. Because when we study Torah, Hashem grants us the ability to understand new meanings…" So, there’s a daily mattan Torah, an annual mattan Torah (on Shavuos), and the original mattan Torah at Har Sinai. It’s the same Torah, but it is a living Torah, always with new chiddushim and understanding. Hashem rejoices with each person’s unique and individual portion in Torah.

The verse says, "the sound of the shofar was very strong…" (Shmos 19:19). The Or HaMeir of Zhitomir zt'l teaches that חזק can also mean contains. This implies that kabalas haTorah contains and carries (מחזיק) all chiddushei Torah that will be revealed afterwards. Each year, people come out with new chiddushim, because each year people prepare for mattan Torah differently. One should check to see whether he is prepared to receive the Torah.

One erev Shavuos, Reb Meir of Amshinov zt'l said to one of his chassidim, "Chazal say, 'who is a fool? The person who loses everything that was given to him' (Chagigah 4). Therefore, I’m encouraging you not to be a fool. On Shavuos we receive the Torah for the entire year. Don’t miss that opportunity." We can compare it to someone who has many fields, but he doesn’t plant in the months of Tishrei and Cheshvan. Then Shavuos time, the season for reaping he won't have anything to bring in. Similarly, this is the season for desiring Torah, for studying Torah, and for accepting the yom tov with joy and honor. It’s when we receive the Torah for the entire year. Let’s not be foolish and pass up this wonderful opportunity.

The Kaf HaChaim (494:34) writes, "It is recommended to learn [and to say] Tehillim on Shavuos, because Dovid HaMelech was niftar on this day (as stated in Yerushalmi) and therefore…the Tehillim said on this day will be answered." Similarly, the Ben Ish Chai (Bamidbar 4) states the custom to say the entire book of Tehillim on Shavuos, because it's Dovid HaMelech's yahrtzeit. Dovid was niftar on Shavuos, and we can therefore assume that he was born on Shavuos (as Chazal tell us, tzaddikim die on their birthdate). Some explain that we read Rus on Shavuos because the final passuk states, "Yishai begot Dovid," and we want to read this verse on the day he was born. The Chidushei HaRim teaches: Dovid HaMelech said about himself, "I am tefillah (prayer)" (Tehillim 109:4) and the Gemara (Brachos 7:) states, "Why was her name Rut? Because she merited a descendent Dovid who would ריווהו please Hakadosh Baruch Hu with songs and praises." These sources tell us that Dovid's essence was prayer. The Chidushei HaRim zt'l teaches that we read Rus, which discusses Dovid HaMelech's birth, on Shavuos to teach us that to acquire the crown of Torah one needs prayer.

Yisro advised Moshe, "Teach the nation [Torah and] the path they should go…" (Shmos 18:20). Targum Yonoson translates it, "Teach them the prayers to say in the synagogues." This indicates that success in Torah requires prayer


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