Imagine you were given the task of selecting from all Jewish holy books a number of passages that summarize the essence of Judaism. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a man of extraordinary wisdom and vision, in fact the greatest Jewish leader of our generation, did just that. The Rebbe selected 12 Torah Passages — or 12 Pesukim, from the entire range of Jewish literature and suggested that every child learn these pesukim by heart.

תּוֹרָה צִוָה לָנוּ מֹשֶׁה מוֹרָשָׁה קְהִלַת יַעֲקֹב

“The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov.” [Deut. 33:4]

The Torah was given to us through Moshe, G‑d’s most faithful servant. Every single Jewish boy or girl inherits the Torah for his or her self. Imagine how happy a person would be if he just received news that he had inherited 10 million dollars! So too should we be happy on realizing that we have the Torah which is worth far more than money.

The Torah does not just belong to the rabbis or scholars, but to every Jew. Every Jew has his portion in the Torah. In fact, the soul of every Jew is like a letter in a Sefer Torah — The Torah is only complete when all letters are present. Every Jew must study Torah to the best of his ability.

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל ה' אֶלֹקֵינוּ ה' אֶחָד

“Hear O Israel, G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is One.” [Deut. 6:4]

The Shema teaches us that G‑d is One and that He is everywhere.

The word Echod, אחד, meaning “one” is made up of three letters. The ’ד represents the four corners of the earth, the ח' represents the seven heavens and the earth [7 + 1 = 8]. Both the ד' and ח' have their source in the א' — the One Creator.

This teaches us that not only do we believe there is only one G‑d [unlike some religions who believe in many gods], but more than that. We believe that everything in the universe is created afresh every single second by G‑d. Just as your heart pumps blood around the body, so too does G‑d pump His creative energy into the universe every single second by bringing the whole world into existence. [If G‑d were for one second to withdraw this energy, we would cease to exist].

Since G‑d is a “hands-on” Creator, we may therefore understand that everything that happens in the world is by Hashgocha Pratis— by Divine Providence. The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, taught that even if the wind turns over a leaf in the street, it is by Divine Providence. G‑d has a master plan for creation.

בְּכָל דוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָיב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִצְרָיִם

“In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally had gone out of Egypt.” [Pesachim 116b]

Some 3300 years ago, G‑d delivered the Jewish people from Egypt, from slavery to freedom. As the Haggadah tells us: “If G‑d had not taken us out of Egypt, then we would still be slaves there now.”

We thank G‑d every day for our freedom, and we promise in our heart to use our liberty in the best possible way, chosen servants of the King of Kings.

There is a deeper explanation. The Hebrew word for Egypt — Mitzrayim — can also mean a “limitation”. Our Yetzer Hora often tells us that we can’t do a certain mitzvah. Going out of Egypt in the spiritual sense, means breaking away from our own biggest enemy — our Yetzer Hora.

The most powerful weapon we have to combat the Yetzer Hora is the Torah. The Talmud says: “G‑d says — I created the Yetzer Hora and I have created the Torah as an antidote.”

In every single generation, and in fact, every single day, we must all make the greatest effort to break out of our own personal Egypt, accept the Torah and draw closer to the Holy Land — to serving G‑d properly.

כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לָהֶם חֵלֶק לְעוֹלָם הַבָּא שֶׁנֶאֱמַר וְעַמֵךְ כּוּלָם צַדִיקִים לְעוֹלָם יִירְשׁוּ אָרֶץ נֵצֶר מַטָעַי מַעֲשֵׂה יָדַי לְהִתְפָּאֵר

“All Israel have share in the World to Come, as it is stated [Isaiah 60:21]: ‘And Your people are all Tzaddikim [righteous].’ They shall inherit the land forever. They are the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, in which I take pride.” [Sanhedrin 90a]

G‑d takes special pride in each and every Jew. He created us, and He cares for us, and watches over us like a gardener who watches over a tender plant. And as we grow, learning His Torah, and doing the wonderful mitzvot in it, G‑d prepares for us a place in the World to Come.

The Rabbis tell us that the pleasures of the World to Come are unimaginable. Even if we were to add together all the greatest pleasures of this world, they would not equal one hour of the pleasure in the World to Come.

However, being here on earth is the purpose of creation and the World to Come is only a reward. We should not serve G‑d in order to get the reward. The Rabbis tell us: “Better one hour of Teshuvah and good deeds in this world than all of the World to Come.”

כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִּלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ

“It is within your close reach to follow the Torah in speech, feeling and deed.” [Deuteronomy 30:14]

One should never think that the Torah is too difficult to keep. G‑d never asks a person to do something without giving him the ability to do it. G‑d asks every Jew to keep the Torah and this posuk tells us that it is within our reach to fulfill the mitzvot.

וְהִנֵה ה' נִצָב עָלָיו וּמְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כּבוֹדוֹ וּמַבִּיט עָלָיו וּבוֹחֵן כְּלָיוֹת וָלֵב אִם עוֹבְדוֹ כָּרָאוּי

“G‑d stands over him, and the whole earth is full of His glory and He searches his mind and heart [to see] if he is serving Him as is fitting.” [Tanya ch. 41]

We have previously spoken of G‑d as a powerful Creator. However, this passage from the Chabad classic Tanya teaches us that G‑d is a very personal G‑d. He is not at all removed from us, too busy with universal affairs to care about us. On the contrary, G‑d is concerned for every individual and searches our mind and heart to see if we are serving Him properly. In every circumstance and at any given moment, a person should be aware that G‑d is standing by him and watching his thoughts, speech and action. This though should fill a person with feelings of Yirat Shamayim fear of Heaven.

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֶלֹקִים אֵת הַשָׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

“In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth.” [Genesis 1:1]

The opening verse of the Torah tells us that G‑d created the heavens and earth. Our Sages of blessed memory comment on the world Beraishit — “in the beginning” — that it is made of two words, Beit and Raishit literally meaning two firsts. They explain that in fact, the world was created for Torah and the people of Israel, both of whom are scripturally referred to as Raishit [first]. The purpose of creation is that the Jews fulfill the directives of the Torah.

Bearing this in mind, we must take everything in the world and use it for a mitzvah purpose. Even when we do simple things such as eating, we should eat for a holy purpose i.e. to serve G‑d with the energy produced by the food. In short, we should serve G‑d in all our ways.

וְשִׁנַנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ

“And you shall teach the Torah to your children and you should speak about it when you are at home and when you travel, before you lie down to sleep and when you wake up.” [Deuteronomy 6:7]

The Torah instructs us to teach the words of Torah to our children and students. Learning Torah is one of the greatest mitzvot and what one learns one should teach to others.

This posuk further instructs us that our daily conversation should be filled with words of Torah, both at home and away from home. We should refrain from idle chatter.

“When you lie down and get up” is the Biblical source for reading the Shema in the evening and morning.

יָגַעְתִּי וְלֹא מָצָאתִי אַל תַּאַמִין לֹא יָגַעְתִּי וּמָצָאתִי אַל תַּאַמִין יָגַעְתִּי וּמָצָאתִי תַּאַמִין

“If someone says: ‘I have worked hard but I have not been successful,’ don’t believe him. If someone says: ‘I have not worked hard and I have been successful,’ don’t believe him. If someone says: ‘I have worked hard and I have been successful,’ believe him!”

“Man was born to toil [work hard].” [From the book of Job].

G‑d is good and wishes to give us good things. However, He wants us to earn what we have. We will feel much more fulfilled if we know we have worked hard and deserve a reward. True success therefore comes only if a person has worked hard.

וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעַךָ כָּמוֹךָ – רַבִּי עַקִיבָא אוֹמֵר זֶה כְּלָל גָדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה

Rabbi Akiva says: ‘you should love your fellow as yourself’, is a basic principle of the Torah.” [Leviticus 19:18, Midrash]

The 613 mitzvot can be divided into two categories: mitzvot between man and G‑d, e.g. prayer, Tefillin, Mezuzah; and mitzvot between man and man. One may not neglect either mitzvot between man and G‑d or between man and man. In fact, if one is lacking in the mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael — Love your Fellow Jew — then there is something missing in one’s love of G‑d. As our Father in Heaven, G‑d is happy with us when we love each other and live peacefully. Thinking about another and doing a favor for another is a basic principle of the Torah.

וְזֶה כָּל הָאָדָם וְתַכְלִית בְּרִיאָתוֹ וּבְרִיאַת כָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַּחְתּוֹנִים לִהְיוֹת לוֹ דִירָה זוֹ בְּתַּחְתּוֹנִים

“The purpose of the creation of every Jew and of all the worlds is to make a dwelling place for G‑d in this world.” [Tanya Ch. 33]

This quote from Tanya teaches us that the reason why G‑d made each Jew and why He created the whole world is so that by following the Torah and mitzvot we can make ourselves, and our homes and the world around us, a dwelling place for G‑d where He will live, just as we live in our own homes.

יִשְׂמַח יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּעוֹשָׂיו פֵּירוּש שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁהוּא מִזֶרַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לוֹ לִשְׂמוֹחַ בְּשִׂמְחַת ה' אַשֶׁר שָׂשׂ וְשָׂמֵחַ בְּדִירָתוֹ בְּתַּחְתּוֹנִים

“The Jews should rejoice in their Maker. Every Jew should share in G‑d’s joy, who rejoices and is happy in His dwelling in this world.” [Tanya Ch. 33]

Every Jew, no matter what sort of background or learning he has had until now, even until a minute ago, so long as he is a Jew, is a member of the Jewish people; and he should be happy and proud that Hashem has given him the special and greatest mission he could have — to make himself, make his home and make the world around him, a place where G‑d is at home.