D’var Torah by Rabbi Shimon Raichik: “We don’t learn the Torah and do mitzvos only because we have to because we are religious or for a portion in Gan Eden. We do it because we are planting the seeds of the geula.”
By Rabbi Shimon Raichik – Rov of Anash in Los Angeles
This Shabbos is the Shabbos before Shavuos when we say the 6th Chapter of Pirkei Avos, completing the first cycle of saying Pirkei Avos after Mincha. The second Mishnah says the following (6:2):
“Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said: every day a bas kol (a heavenly voice) goes forth from Mount Horeb and makes proclamation and says: “Woe unto humankind for their contempt towards the Torah”, for whoever does not occupy himself with the study of Torah is called, nazuf (the rebuked. As it is said, “Like a gold ring in the snout of a pig is a beautiful woman bereft of sense” (Proverbs 11:22).
And it says, “And the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tablets” (Exodus 32:16). Read not haruth [‘graven’] but heruth [ ‘freedom’]. For there is no free man but one that occupies himself with the study of the Torah. And whoever regularly occupies himself with the study of the Torah he is surely exalted, as it is said, “And from Mattanah to Nahaliel; and Nahaliel to Bamoth” (Numbers 21:19).”
The following is a segment of the Rebbe’s explanation of this Mishnah. The Rebbe asks the following questions.
Har Sinai has five names, nevertheless the common name is Har Sinai as it says (at the beginning of Pirkei Avos) “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai”. Why does this Mishnah call it Har Chorev?
Second, what does the Mishnah mean that the Jewish people shames or shows contempt to the Torah? When someone doesn’t learn the Torah it is himself that he shames? How does this shame or show contempt for the Torah?
Third, why does the Mishnah use the word ‘osek-occupy’ instead of ‘learn’ when speaking about lack of Torah study?
Fourth, the Torah says very serious things about someone who doesn’t learn the Torah (see Tanya chapter 1). Therefore why does this Mishnah refer to one who doesn’t study the Torah as only ‘nazuf-rebuked’?
The Rebbe asks many additional questions on the Mishnah but we will focus only on these four.
The Rebbe explains that when Hashem gave us the Aseres HaDibros, the Torah, it began with the word “Leimor-saying”. This teaches us that Hashem not only gave us the Torah but Hashem gave us the power of “Leimor” the ability that our occupation with the Aseres HaDibros, (which includes all the words of the Torah), will absorb and penetrate into our physical reality. We need to know that the end result of our learning the Torah and doing mitzvos will transform the world.
Not only will we be rewarded for our efforts but with every word of the Torah and every mitzvah we do the world changes permanently. This is how we conquer the world, by both revealing G-dliness into the world and by destroying the forces of negativity that stand in opposition of the greater good.
This explains the Mishah’s use of the word ‘occupy’ instead of ‘learn’. The word ‘osek-occupy’ is also the word for ‘eisek-business’. In business every entrepreneur places highest value on the merchandise he sells, displaying it beautifully, advertising it in a captivating way to the greatest possible audience, and talking endlessly to customers about the value of his products. He does his best to make it clear to the customer that he is not doing the entrepreneur a favor by purchasing, rather he is doing his customer the favor of providing him with the opportunity to purchase these items. Also, the way a business works is for profit.
So too it is with the Torah and mitzvos. We don’t learn the Torah and do mitzvos only because we have to because we are religious or for a portion in Gan Eden without a feeling of being a stakeholder in changing the world. We do it because we are planting the seeds of the geula, we are making the world a better place and changing the world forever. We are bringing the coming of Moshiach and making the world a dwelling place for Hashem. This is the profit of our work. We are entrepreneurs for Hashem and we are part of Hashem’s ‘business plan’. We are always after new customers, as the Previous Rebbe’s guidance to publicize the Torah and help others to recognise it’s greatness. If however it’s done only because we like to or only because we enjoy it then we miss out on how powerful the Torah and mitzvos truly are.
This is why “Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said: every day a bas kol (a heavenly voice) goes forth from Mount Horeb” , not Har Sinai because at Matan Torah we were given the ‘sword (cherev)’ the spiritual power to cut off the negative forces and to transform the world.
This is also why the proclamation says: “Woe unto humankind for their contempt towards the Torah”, for whoever does not occupy himself with the study of Torah is called, nazuf (the rebuked). When we don’t understand the true value of Hashem’s ‘product’ the Heavenly voice shouts so that we should wake up to realize the preciousness, the jewel that we have and what we can accomplish with the Torah and mitzvos to bring Moshiach. This is the power of “Leimor” that was given to us before the Aseres HaDibros by Matan Torah to change the world that was created with the Asara Mamaros-Ten Utterances to fulfill our purpose of making this world Hashem’s home.
With this we prepare for Matan Torah on Shavuos. With this we will finish the war of this galus and merit being together with Moshiach in the Third Beis HaMikdash hearing all together the Asreres HaDibros and the Torah Chadasha.
A Good Shabbos, A Good Yom Tov
(Adapted from Likutei Sichos v. 1 and v. 4)