1. The present Yom-Tov has three names: Chag HaShavuos (“The Festival of Weeks”), Zman Matan Toraseinu (“The Time of the Giving of our Torah”), and Zman Kabbalas HaTorah (“The Time of Receiving the Torah”). Their meanings are distinct. Chag HaShavuos is the fiftieth day that we sanctify after counting seven weeks from the second day of Pesach; Zman Matan Toraseinu recalls the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai though Moshe Rabbeinu; and Shavuos is the time at which we received the Torah.

The counting of the Omer, the giving of the Torah, and receiving the Torah – these are linked to each other in a specified sequence. First of all, one must get out of [one’s personal] Egypt1 if one is to be privileged to conduct his life, with avodah, in the paths of the Torah and the mitzvos. One cannot undertake the avodah of receiving the Torah before there has been the avodah of the giving of the Torah, and that can take place only after the avodah of counting the Omer. And, as we have said, the very first step must be the avodah of a personal exodus from Egypt.

A soul is lowered into a body with a particular purpose – to make this material world luminous and productive. In doing so, [the root of] the soul becomes elevated to a higher level within the lofty levels of the Infinite Ein-Sof. This ascent begins from below: one must first rectify and refine the materiality below so that it will become a vessel fit to receive the [soul’s] superior spiritual level.

2. The avodah of Shavuos is to recite the words2 of the Torah, and this is “the tikkun of Shavuos,”3 because Shavuos requires a tikkun. The time for reading the Tikkun is the night of Shavuos, for that night ought to serve as a preparation for the Giving of the Torah, which took place at daybreak. The [effectiveness of one’s] rectification and preparation for receiving that revelation depends on the content of one’s preparation.

Reading the Tikkun Leil Shavuos serves as a preparation for the intense revelations granted from Above on Shavuos – for this festival grows out of the weeks of Sefirah, from the revelation of Atzmus (the Essence of Divinity) that transcends the [self-screening] scheme of Hishtalshelus and now becomes revealed withinthe scheme of Hishtalshelus. This revelation [even within This World below] is enabled by the avodah of reciting words of Torah deliberately, without haste.4

A deliberate person has time for everything he has to say or do. Speaking is sometimes a mere preparation for an action that counts more than the words spoken. Sometimes the words themselves are the action. The difference between the two levels is clear to a person who toils in Chassidus, who lives in Chassidus, and in whom Chassidus is alive.

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A name has significance.5 On the night of Shavuos one should read the Tikkun: the mere recitation of the letters of the Torah6 constitutes the required tikkun. And that recitation is one’s main preparation to receive the Torah.

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A deliberate person is vigilant with his time. He realizes that time is made up of moments and he cherishes every minute. For a pnimi, a minute is – a minute, no less.

3. My grandfather once told my father at yechidus: “If a minute counts as time, one’s time is spent successfully. Success with one’s time is attained by being punctually vigilant with one’s time. That can be attained by monitoring the minutes, and one can monitor his minutes only by being deliberate.”

The Rashba7 was deliberate and had time for everything. He wrote a great number of halachic responsa and delivered three shiurim every day. Two of them were geared for outstanding scholars: in one he taught the tractates of the Shas in order, and in the other, he discussed responsa that he had issued. The third shiur was on a tractate on which he was focused at the time. In addition he was a renowned physician, and also delved so deeply into a number of other disciplines that Jewish and also non-Jewish sages directed their queries to him. And every day he went for a stroll outdoors…

For a person who monitors his time vigilantly, a minute is a unit of time, and a day is a year. This is the real meaning of arichus yamim. [That common phrase (lit., “length of days”) is more than an idiom for “long life.”] In terms of avodah, it means that one’s days are long.8

4. The terms maskil and oved are both terms used in the chassidic community to describe the qualities of elder chassidim. Now, chassidim know that a chassidisher maskil is [also] an oved and a chassidisher oved is [also] a maskil. Nevertheless, they are distinct. Thus, R. Yitzchak Aizik [of Homil] was an oved, but his distinguishing essence was haskalah in Chassidus. R. Hillel [of Paritch] was an outstanding maskil in Chassidus, but his distinguishing essence was avodah.

R. Hillel used to stay awake, and recite the Tikkun, on both nights of Shavuos.

From the age of bar-mitzvah, my father used to stay awake on both nights of Shavuos, and would complete the recitation of the Tikkun on his way to the health resort.

5. My father once told me that from his childhood he already toiled to become a pnimi, and the basic foundation of being a pnimi is being master over time, doing everything at its proper time.

My father went on to say: “The training with which I toiled in my youth, to forcefully impose on myself a mastery over time, brought me success in avodah, so that everything was done not only in a timely manner but also successfully.”

This mastery over time I observed in every aspect of my father’s life. For example, if he was about to set out on a journey in half an hour, there was no perceptible sign of it. Likewise, he devoted a set time every day to (in his words) “leaf through” scholarly books to see what they discussed – a practice that greatly enriched the range of his knowledge.

6. My grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, once remarked to my father that he never read the introduction to a book unless that introduction itself was a book. “For example,” he said, “in Likkutei Amarim – Tanya, the title page itself is a Torah teaching. My father (the Tzemach Tzedek) gave me a long explanation of every word on that page.”9

My father (the Rebbe Rashab) told me: “When my father (the Rebbe Maharash) first taught me Tanya, he began with the words, Sefer Likkutei Amarim…, hanikra beshem Sefer shel Beinonim.10 My father not only expounded every word, but also explained what it intended to teach in avodah. This stood me up on my chassidishe feet. That explanation became engraved in my brain and lovingly absorbed in my heart.”

When my father (the Rebbe Rashab) first taught me Tanya, he said that he wanted this learning to be integrated inwardly.11 To enable this, he said that he would prepare me by relaying to me a number of traditions. He urged me earnestly to review each of the episodes repeatedly alone, so that they would be fully absorbed. And indeed, those episodes set me up on my chassidishe feet.

7. When12 my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, was a child, he loved buying books with the weekly and monthly pocket money that his father gave him. Once he had no money left to buy a certain book from an itinerant bookseller, so he asked his father for an advance on his monthly allotment. The Tzemach Tzedek asked him why he needed it, and he explained his reason.

So the Tzemach Tzedek asked him: “Have you already mastered all the books that you’ve already bought, and that’s why you need this particular one?! First be thoroughly familiar with all the books you have, and then go ahead and buy new ones.”

The sharp-witted child challenged him: “Father, are you thoroughly familiar with all of your books…?”

“So test me,” said his father.

His son reached for the bookcase, took down a grammatical text, named a page, and listened as his father quoted what was printed there, verbatim.

Such is the standard practice of a pnimi.