Divrei Torah Sivan / Shavuos

Torah Table of Contents       

The Power of Unity

Based on the Imrei Aish, as published in the Ma'amorei Oraysa, Iyar 5750

The Medrash relates that when Am Yisrael received the Torah, the nations of the world became jealous, asking what made Am Yisroel different that they should draw themselves so much closer to Hashem than the rest of the world? Hashem silenced them by asking the nations of the world to bring their "family trees".

The Imrei Aish points out the interesting use of the reflexive form of the word "to draw themselves closer" to Hashem, noting that the Medrash could easily have said "to draw closer". There must be a message in that for us.

His proposed answer is that the primary reason that the nations of the world were not really willing to receive the Torah was because they recognized that in order to receive and subsequently observe the Torah, a strong sense of Unity is required. Without Unity, many Mitzvos cannot be properly observed. For example, there are Mitzvos that are specifically for the Kohanim (Priests), for the King, the Levites, etc. If the entire nation is unified, then when the King or Kohen performs his specific Mitzvos, he does so as a true representative/ambassador of the entire Jewish people. A lack of unity will leave parts of the nation out of the picture, making those Mitzvos "incomplete".

This then, explains the Imrei Aish, is what perplexed the nations of the world - "How can the Jewish people draw themselves so closely together (which results in the merit and proper preparation to draw closer to Hashem). When Hashem replied to the nations of the world that they should bring their family trees, He pointed out to them that this sense of Unity is foreign to them.

Similarly, we find by Yaakov Avinu the pasuk states that they went down to Egypt as 70 souls - but the word "nefesh" in the singular is used for souls, rather than a plural form. They went to Egypt as a unified, single entity. In contrast, we find that Esav's family is referred to as 6 souls (nefashos), - the plural form. Even though there were only 6, there was already a clear state of divisiveness present.

We can now understand the phrasing of our original Medrash better - the non-Jewish world cannot comprehend the extent of Jewish Unity. For Am Yisrael drew themselves together, from their own motivation towards unity, which led to their ability to properly receive the Torah. (Translator's note - and this is exactly what we need to focus on ourselves in order to properly and fully receive the Torah ourselves.)

Translated by Reb Eliezer Weger of Rechovot, a Modzitzer Chasid


"From the Mountain to the People"

[How the Chassidim had Fish for Shavuos]
a story of Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir

from the sefer Negina v'Chassidus b'Veis Kuzmir U'Vnoseha, by R. Meir S. Geshuri
["Music and Chassidus in Kuzmir and its Offshoots"]

Among the followers of Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir was Rebbe Shlomo HaCohen of Radomsk, author of the "Tiferes Shlomo." One year, word reached Kuzmir that Reb Shlomo was planning to come to Kuzmir together with some of his Chassidim for Shavuos. The Kuzmirer Chassidim began feverishly preparing for the event.

Shavuos that year came out on Sunday night through Tuesday. Reb Shlomo and his entourage, as well as many other Chassidim, arrived in Kuzmir for the preceding Shabbos. The tumult in Rebbe Yechezkel's court was great, with tremendous preparations being made for both Shabbos and the holiday which followed. Chassidim would say that on Shavuos in Kuzmir, one could experience the same spiritual arousal as the Jews had on Mount Sinai when they received the Torah.

Special attention was given to the preparation of fish for both Shabbos and Yom Tov in Kuzmir. Often the Rebbe himself would "meditate" on the fish before allowing it to be brought into the kitchen. And he always came into the kitchen to add salt and pepper to the huge copper pot in which the fish was cooked.

On Friday morning, the Rebbe's shamash [attendant] came to him with a query from the Rebbetzin. Since the coming Sunday was Erev Yom Tov, and the [non-Jewish] fisherman wouldn't be bringing their fish to town that day, should she leave over some of the Shabbos fish for the Yom Tov meals?

"Chas veshalom [G-d forbid]!" answered the Rebbe. "The fish that have come to us for Shabbos cannot wait for their tikkun [rectification] until Yom Tov. For Yom Tov, Hashem will provide us with other fish."

Towards sunset, as the Rebbe was making his final preparations for Shabbos, he summoned his distinguished guest, Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk, to his room. "Radomsker Rebbe! I order you to harness your horses and return to Radomsk to spend Shavuos with your Chassidim!"

"Really, Rebbe?" replied Reb Shlomo. "I've just come, and I still have much to learn from the Rebbe in avodas Hashem. I need to see how the Rebbe receives the Torah! And now you're sending me home, to all the common folk? Now that I'm here, please allow me to spend the holiday with you!"

"I'll tell you," answered Reb Chatzkel. "When the Torah was given, it says, 'And Moshe went down from the mountain to the people' [Shemos, 19:14]. Rashi explains that this indicates that Moshe did not occupy himself with his own business [affairs], but went [directly] from the mountain to the people. One could ask, did Moshe Rabbeinu have a private business, was he a merchant, that the Torah praises him for not occupying himself with his business?"

"No!" he continued. "It means that Moshe, upon receiving the Torah from Hashem, didn't think about himself - he didn't consider that maybe he should grasp things 100 percent, discuss them with Yehoshua, and then transmit them to the people. At that time, he wasn't concerned with himself, with his 'affairs', even though these, too, were connected to Torah and avodas Hashem. Rather, he went directly from the mountain to the people."

"So now, Radomsker Rebbe, you would like to ascend undisturbed to the heights. But I'm telling you, you must go down from the mountain to the people, and return home for Shavuos."

In the midst of this conversation, the two tzaddikim heard a commotion from just outside the door. Someone wanted to see the Rebbe about an urgent matter; but the gabbaim, knowing that he was involved with the Radomsker, tried to hold him back. Upon hearing the tumult, Reb Chatzkel opened the door and asked the man to come in. It was a simple Jewish fisherman. The Rebbe remained seated in his chair, and motioned to the Radomsker to remain there while he talked to the man.

"Rebbe, I'm a poor fisherman," the man exclaimed. "I rented a place on the Vistula [called Visla in Polish and Hebrew] River for a year, and every day I send my non-Jewish workers there to catch some fish. But I have no mazel [good fortune], for even if they catch something, the market is flooded with that kind of fish, and it's so cheap and in such low demand that I can't even sell it. I'm at my wits' end! Rebbe, it's gotten so bad that the only thing I have left is this winter coat. And that's why I've come to the Rebbe, to ask - I must sell this coat in any case. But what should I do with the money? Should I try one more time, and send my men out on Motzaei Shabbos [Saturday night], to try to catch something? Or am I better off using the money for Yom Tov?"

The Radomsker Rebbe understood from this exchange that Rebbe Yechezkel was going to show him how to descend "from the mountain to the people." He watched intently as Reb Chatzkel prepared to answer. The Kuzmirer pondered the matter for quite a while, as if he was asked about a very lofty spiritual matter.

"Of course, you must send your men out to fish! Our brethren need fish for Yom Tov! Even my own Rebbetzin told me that she was worried that she wouldn't have fish for the holiday."

"But Rebbe," the fisherman argued, " I've tried so many times, without success..."

"Listen, my dear friend, if you happen to catch a huge salmon, bring it to me, the Chassidim will eat it and enjoy it for Yom Tov."

"Ha, ha," laughed the fisherman. "Please forgive me, Rebbe, but there are never any salmon in the Vistula! It has never happened that one of us has caught a salmon!"

"Listen, I only ask that if you should catch a salmon, you promise to bring it to me. We need fish for Yom Tov."

"But Rebbe---" At this point, the gabbai approached the fisherman and whispered to him, "You fool, what's the difference? Just promise him and leave!"

"Yes, Rebbe, the gabbai's right! If I catch a salmon, I'll bring it to you, even though---" At this point, the Rebbe interrupted him, and blessed him with success from now on.

After spending Shabbos with his Rebbe, the Radomsker had his horses harnessed and ready to return to Radomsk on Motzaei Shabbos, to that he would get home on time for the holiday.

Sunday morning arrived, and the Jewish homemakers went to the market place to buy fish for Yom Tov. To their dismay, there was not a fish to buy! After all, it was Sunday, and the non-Jews did not cancel their day of rest just to supply the Jews of Kuzmir with fish.

Suddenly a man appeared, carrying a huge salmon. Behind him was the Jewish fisherman who had received the bracha from the Kuzmirer. The women surrounded him from all sides, trying to persuade him to sell them the fish, but he refused all offers.

"This fish is for the Rebbe's Tish, for the Yom Tov meal of the Chassidim," he explained. "He ordered it. Did you ever see a salmon from the Vistula? However, Hashem prepared a lot of fish for you as well. Soon my workers will be bringing them. There hasn't been such an abundance of fish in ages!"

At that time, the village of Kuzmir was filling up with multitudes of Chassidim for Shavuos. The fervor and the holiness were great, almost like at Mount Sinai. At the festive meals, each Chassid received a generous portion of salmon, and it had a wonderful taste. The taste of that fish remained in the memories of the Kuzmirer Chassidim for their entire lives!

Translated by Reb Yitzchak Dorfman of Yerushalayim, a Modzitzer Chassid
In loving memory of Nechama bas Yehuda Dorfman, whose yahrzeit was 3 Sivan.


Why Did the Jews Fall Asleep when the Torah was Given?

Based on a Ma'amar from the Rebbe Shlita, Shavuos night, 5753

It says in the Zohar (Emor 97), "The early Chassidim would not sleep on this night (of Shavuos), but would be engaged in Torah study, saying, 'Let us inherit this holy inheritance, for us and our children, of the Two Worlds (this world and the World to Come).'" The Magen Avraham (Orech Chaim, 494:1) adds that "already most of the learned do so (stay awake all night learning Torah). One could explain this simply that because Am Yisrael were sleeping the night the Torah was given, and Hashem had to awaken them, as it says in the Midrash. Therefore, we need to fix this.

The Midrash referred to is found in Shir HaShirim Rabba (1:56). There it quotes the pasuk, "And it was on the third day, in the morning" (Shemos, 19:16). It also says, "For on the third day, Hashem descended before the eyes of the nation" (19:11). The Jews were asleep for the entire night, for sleep is pleasant on Shavuos, and the night is short (emphasis mine). Rav Yudin said, even the fleas didn't bite them. Hashem came and found them asleep, and began to awaken them with horns..

The Rebbe Shlita asks, how is it possible that Klal Yisrael rose to such a level that they could say Na'aseh V'Nishma (we will do and we will listen/understand), and then go to sleep?? How could the Midrash say that "sleep is pleasant"? And finally, our Sages say that Moshe Rabbeinu "added a day on his own da'as" - how was that?

Shavuos is a rectification for the sin of the Eitz HaDa'as (Tree of Knowledge). At that time, the snake said to Adam, "you will be like Elokim, knowing good and evil." The commentaries differ as to the word Elokim: some say it refers to Hashem ("you will be like G-d"), while others say it refers to the angels. In any case, the serpent tried to inject them with arrogance (ga'avah).

The prerequisite for receiving Torah is humility, as seen when Hashem ignored all the hills and mountains of the earth, and chose to cause his Shechina to dwell on the lowest of the mountains, Sinai. Why is humility a prerequisite? One who is arrogant is compared to one who worships idols (in this case, himself). One cannot receive the Torah, which begins with "I am the L-rd your G-d," and "You shall have no other gods before Me," and have even a trace of idolatry in him.

One who is arrogant lacks "da'as", as our Sages tell us that "all arrogant ones are fools," and "one who is boastful, his da'as departs from him." From this it follows that the humble have da'as. One should learn humility from his Creator, who brought his Divine Presence onto the lowest of the mountains. He should also learn from Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the humblest of men. Therefore our Sages tell us that Moshe added a day "mida'ato", from his da'as.

When the Jews said, Na'aseh v'Nishma, Hashem asked, "Who revealed this secret to my children, a form of speech that the Ministering Angels use?" There was a chance that they would fall into arrogance with this, and negate their chances for receiving the Torah, which, as mentioned above, requires humility. Therefore Hashem told them to sanctify themselves "today and tomorrow," for on the third day He would be coming to give the Torah. How would this bring them to humility? Our Sages tell us that anyone who swears or vows that he won't sleep for three days is punished and may go to sleep immediately, for it is physically impossible.

When Adam was created, the angels thought he was a Divine being, and wanted to say "Kedusha" before him. Hashem them put him to sleep, and they no longer considered him Divine. Sleep, our Sages say, is "one-sixtieth of death." Therefore, it is difficult to be arrogant and asleep.

Therefore, Moshe reasoned that if Hashem comes on the third day, the people may stay awake (in anticipation of receiving the Divine) and fall into arrogance. Therefore, he added a day "on his own," making it a full 72-hour period, and they would have to sleep. Therefore, the sleep was a "pleasant" one before Him.

Translated by Reb Yitzchak Dorfman of Yerushalayim, a Modzitzer Chassid


What does Hashem Elokecha ask from you, but to fear Hashem Elokecha and to walk in His ways? (Dvorim, 10:13)

A Dvar torah from Reb Motti Rosen z"l, grandson of Harav Shaul the Second Rebbe

Rosh Chodesh Sivan

"K'ish Achad B'Lev Achad". The Pasuk (Shemos Perek 19:1) tells us that in the third month (Sivan) after they just left Egypt, Bnei Yisrael came to the desert of Sinai. The Pasuk says "Bayom Hazeh" - on this day. Rashi Hakodesh explains that it was the first day of the month - Rosh Chodesh.

The Chumash continues "V'Yichan Sham Yisrael" and he camped there - Rashi explains that Bnei Yisrael are referred to in the singular because they were as one person with one heart.

It is possible to say that this day - Rosh Chodesh Sivan - when they camped at the mountain - was just as important as the day we received the Torah. While reading the Hagaddah, we say in Dayaynu - If Hashem had brought us to Har Sinai and not given us the Torah - that would have been enough. How can we say that? How could bringing us before the mountain and not giving us the Torah have been enough?

We can say it because as we camped at Sinai we were as one man with one heart - and that is what Kabalas HaTorah is all about - Achdus. So, if we had reached that madraygah, that level of Kedusha on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, then even if Hashem had not given us the Torah, it would have been enough. That is how important the middah of achdus is. When the Am is as one person - when our achdus is so great - that is when we have reached the highest level of Kabalas HaTorah.

Editors note: This vort was said by my father, Reb Mordechai a"h, for a few days before Shavous in the year 5752. It was one of the last vorts that he recorded.

Submitted by Chumi Friedman, daughter of Reb Motti Rosen z"l


What does Hashem Elokecha ask from you, but to fear Hashem Elokecha and to walk in His ways? (Dvorim, 10:13)

A Dvar torah from Reb Motti Rosen z"l, grandson of Harav Shaul the Second Rebbe


This week we celebrate Shavuos - the time of Kabalas HaTorah. The Chumash tells us that three months after leaving Metzrayim, Bnei Yisrael reached the desert of Sinai. There they camped before the mountain and began preparing themselves to accept the Torah. On the third day, the Shofar was blown and the nation gathered at the foot of the mountain -- "VaYizvu B'Tachtis HaHar."

The Gemara in Shabbos (Daf Pay Ches) teaches "V'Kafah Hakadosh Baruch Hu Alayhem Har Kigigis," Hashem held the mountain over them like a barrel. And He said to them "Im Atem Mikablim HaTorah Mutav," if you are Mikabel the Torah, all will be good. "V'Im Lav, Sham Tihay Kevuraschem," and if not, there will be your graves. This is pshat - the plain meaning of the words.

But there is a question to be asked - why does it say "Sham Tihay Kevuraschem" - there will be your graves? It should have said "Po" here would be your graves.

If we read the words just a little bit differently then it all makes sense. "Im Atem Mikablim HaTorah" - if you are Mikabel the Torah, "Mutav" - then things will be good for you. You will have good health, success, and a good life. "V'Im Lav" - and if things are not good for you - "Sham Tihay Kevuraschem" - there is your grave - in the Kabbalah.

Hashem promises us that if we are Mikabel the Torah, things will go well for us, but if things are not going well - then we need to understand that the problem lies in our Kabbalah.

Rashi tells us that as Klal Yisrael gathered at the base of Har Sinai they were "K'Ish Achad B'Lev Achad" - like one man with one heart. We also learned (see Dvar Torah for Rosh Chodesh Sivan) that this gathering was as important as Kabalas HaTorah. The word Achad is gematria Ahava, the Hebrew word for love. The truest form of Kabbalah is one that comes through Ahavas Hashem. May we all be Zocheh to share in this truest form of
Kabbalah and "K'Ish Achad B'Lev Achad" go out to greet Melech Hamashiach B'Karov - speedily in our time.

Submitted by Chumi Friedman, daughter of Reb Motti Rosen z"l


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