"ראש חדש ... ביום ... הבא עלינו לטובה"
Rosh Chodesh ... will be on ... which comes to us for good.” (Siddur)

QUESTION: It is customary to bless the coming month on the last Shabbat of the preceding month. Why do we not bless the month of Tishrei on the last Shabbat of Elul?

ANSWER: The Maggid of Mezritch said in the name of his Rebbe, the Ba’al Shem Tov, that Hashem Himself blesses the month of Tishrei and this gives us strength to bless the other eleven months of the year.

(היום יום כ"ה אלול ועי' לקוטי שיחות ח"ד ע' 1139, הערה 3)

* * *

Rosh Chodesh Tishrei falls on Rosh Hashanah, which is the day when Hashem judges Klal Yisrael. It is against our interest that Satan know when Rosh Hashanah occurs, and by not publicly blessing Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, we hope to keep it secret so that Satan will not know when to come before the Heavenly tribunal to speak evil against the Jews.

For this reason, Rosh Hashanah is referred to as the “hidden” festival, as the pasuk states: “Tiku bachodesh shofar — Blow the shofar on the new moon — bakeseh leyom chageinu — on the covered up [‘bakeseh’ — related to ‘kisui,’ ‘covering’] i.e. hidden day — which was appointed for our festival” (Psalms 81:4).


"אתם נצבים היום"
“You are standing today.” (29:9)

QUESTION: It is customary on Motza’ei Shabbat Parshat Nitzavim to begin reciting Selichot. (In the event that there is no opportunity to recite four Selichot before Rosh Hashanah, we begin a week earlier.)

Is there a hint for this in the Torah?

ANSWER: The words “Atem nitzavim hayom” — “You are standing today” (אתם נצבים היום) — have the numerical value of 694, which is the same as that of the words "לעמוד לסליחות" — “To rise for Selichot.”

(מטה משה ח"ה סי' תשע"ט)

"והוא יהיה לך לאלקים"
“And that He be a G‑d to you.” (29:12)

QUESTION: Rashi quotes a Midrash about Parshat Nitzavim following Parshat Ki Tavo: “When the Jewish people heard the one hundred curses less two, they turned pale and exclaimed, ‘How will we be able to survive?’ Moshe comforted them by declaring, ‘Atem nitzavim hayom’ — ‘You are still existing today, regardless of the many wrongdoings which you have already committed.’ ”

Why does the Midrash say “one hundred less two,” instead of simply saying “ninety eight”?

ANSWER: Parshat Ki Tavo contains ninety eight curses which are spelled out clearly and an additional two curses which are not explicit, but are included in the pasuk, “Even any illness and any blow that is not written in this Book of the Torah, G‑d will bring upon you, until you are destroyed” (28:61).

Upon hearing the ninety eight explicit curses, the Jews were not so frightened, thinking, “We will find a way to combat them.” However, when the last two were stated in a vague manner, the people, not knowing their nature, could not anticipate a cure for them. These two curses frightened the people.

(כלי יקר)

"כי את אשר ישנו פה עמנו עמד היום...ואת אשר איננו פה עמנו היום"
“But with whoever is here, standing with us today...and with whoever is not here with us today.” (29:14)

QUESTION: Since it says asher yeshno poh” — “whoever is here” — the word “imanu” — “with us” — seems to be redundant?

ANSWER: When Mr. Cohen arrived in Shul one morning, Rabbi Kirsch greeted him warmly. When the minyan had reached Ashrei, Rabbi Kirsch approached Mr. Cohen and shook his head with a welcoming nod. This repeated itself again when the people were reciting “Ahavat Olam.” After davening Mr. Cohen asked the Rabbi, “You greeted me when I came into Shul; why did you greet me twice more during davening?”

The Rabbi replied, “I did not see you since you left Shul last night after Ma’ariv. Therefore, when I saw you in the morning I greeted you. Before Ashrei, and also before Shema, I noticed that your mind had wandered elsewhere. Consequently, when I recognized that you, together with your thoughts, were back in Shul, I greeted you each time welcoming you back.”

In his parting message to Klal Yisrael, Moshe tells the people that he is addressing both those who are “yeshno poh” — “present here” — i.e. together with us in body and spirit, as well as those who are“imanu omeid hayom” — physically standing with us — although their minds have wandered off.

"והיה בשמעו את דברי האלה הזאת והתברך בלבבו לאמר שלום יהיה לו כי בשררות לבי אלך...לא יאבה ה' סלח לו"
“And it will be that when he hears the words of this curse, he will bless himself in his heart, saying, “Peace will be with me, though I walk as my heart sees fit...Hashem will not be willing to forgive him.” (29:18-19)

QUESTION: The word “bilevavo” — “in his heart” — and “libi” — “my heart” — seem extra. It could have said, “He will bless himself saying...Though I walk as I see fit”?

ANSWER: A frequently heard comment of non-observant Jews is, “I am a Jew at heart.” They excuse themselves from putting on tefillin, observing Shabbat, etc., with these words. In the pasuk, the Torah is now talking about a curse, G‑d forbid, for the lack of observance, and therefore says of those who excuse themselves “vehitbarech bilevavo —blessing themselves with a “good heart” — and claiming “besherirut libi eileich” “[It will be sufficient if] I go with good thoughts in my heart” — that “Hashem will not be willing to forgive him — this approach to Torah and mitzvot is unacceptable.

(כתב סופר)

* * *

The Torah consists of six hundred and thirteen mitzvot, representing the six hundred and thirteen human body parts. The mitzvot are distributed among the various body parts; some are performed with the hand, others with the foot, and the mind, etc. A wise man once said that a reason why there are so many heart ailments in our times is because there are too many “cardiac Jews” — people who put the entire weight of their Jewishness on their heart and thus overburden it.

"הנסתרת לה' אלקינו והנגלת לנו ולבנינו עד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת"
“The hidden are for G‑d, our G‑d, but the revealed are for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah.” (29:28)

QUESTION: What are “the hidden things” and what are “the revealed things”?

ANSWER: Throughout history Jewry has eagerly awaited the ultimate redemption through Mashiach. Our sages (Sanhedrin 98a) have identified two times for his coming. One is “be’itah” — the preordained time by Hashem at the beginning of creation, and the second is “achishenah” — a hastened revelation before the destined time. If the Jews are deserving, Hashem will hasten Mashiach’s arrival. If they are not, G‑d forbid, the redemption will come “in its time.”

The designated time of the coming of Mashiach is hidden and only known to Hashem. However, we do know that if we repent sincerely then we will immediately be redeemed, as scripture says “Hayom, im bekolo tishma’u” — “Today, if you will hearken to His voice” (Psalms 95:7).

In the previous pasuk, Moshe tells the people that “Hashem removed them from upon their soil with anger, with wrath, and with great fury, and He cast them to another land, as this very day!” In an attempt to comfort them and uplift their spirits, Moshe now assures them that this situation will not go on forever. Hashem will definitely send Mashiach and take us out of galut — exile — regardless if we deserve it or not. However, when this will take place is “hanistarot” — “hidden” — “laHashem Elokeinu” — “[and is] known only to Hashem.” However, “haniglot lanu ulevaneinu ad olam” — “what is revealed to us and to our children forever” — is that “[if we] carry out all the words of this Torah,” the redemption will take place speedily.

(כתב סופר)

"והיה כי יבאו עליך כל הדברים האלה הברכה והקללה אשר נתתי לפניך"
“It will come that when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you.” (30:1)

QUESTION: The word “vehayah” — “it will be” — usually denotes simchah — happiness and joy. How does that accord with “vehakelallah” — “and the curse” — that may, G‑d forbid, “come upon you?”

ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachot 54a) says that one is obligated to bless Hashem when something bad occurs to him just as he blesses Hashem for something good. Our sages explain this to mean that just as one receives good tidings with simchah — “joy” — seemingly bad tidings are also a Divine act and must be accepted with happiness (ibid. 60b). Consequently, the word “vehayah” which denotes joy, is appropriate in this pasuk and is attainable when one bears in mind that “asher natati lefanecha” — “that I — Hashem — am the one who has presented it before you.”

(אור החיים)

* * *

Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli was a disciple of Rabbi DovBer of Mezritz (the Mezritcher Maggid). The fact that illness and utter poverty were Rabbi Zusha’s lot did not in the least diminish his piety, humility, and love of Hashem for which he was renowned. A story is told of Rabbi Schmelke of Nikolsburg, who once approached Rabbi DovBer of Mezritch and asked him how it was possible to follow the injunction of our sages to “Make a blessing upon hearing bad news just as one would make a blessing upon hearing good news.” Rabbi DovBer told Rabbi Shmelke to go to Rabbi Zusha, and he would answer his question.

Rabbi Shmelke went to Rabbi Zusha, upon whom poverty and illness had left their physical marks. When Rabbi Shmelke posed his question to him, Rabbi Zusha was surprised. He replied, “You should have asked someone who has actually experienced misfortunes, G‑d forbid. Thank G‑d, I have only had good things happen to me throughout my life.”

The answer to Rabbi Schmelke’s question was that someone should rejoice in his lot to the point that he is not even aware of harsh events. This symbolized Rabbi Zusha’s life.

(ספורי חסידים)

"והיה כי יבאו עליך כל הדברים האלה הברכה והקללה...והשבת אל לבבך"
“It will be that when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse...then you will take it to your heart.” (30:1)

QUESTION: The Torah’s intention is that by, G‑d forbid, experiencing the curse, a severe form of punishment, ultimately the people will do teshuvah. If so, why is“haberachah” — “the blessing” — mentioned?

ANSWER: One who was blessed with riches and suddenly becomes impoverished is more despondent than a person who was born into a poor family and grew up in poverty. The Torah is declaring that not only will there be a curse, but it will take place after one enjoyed a period of blessing. A downfall of such magnitude would definitely awaken the person to teshuvah.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר בשם העקידה)

"ושבת עד ה' אלקיך"
“And you shall return unto G‑d, your G‑d.” (30:2)

QUESTION: What is the essence of teshuvah?

ANSWER: Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneerson, the fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch, explained that the word teshuvah (תשובה) is comprised of five Hebrew letters, each letter a path and a method in the avodah — service — of teshuvah.

"ת" is for "תמים תהי' עם ה' אלקיך" — “Be sincere with the Eternal your G‑d” (Devarim 18:13). This represents the service of teshuvah that comes through sincerity and wholeness of heart — “earnestness.”

"ש" is for "שויתי ה' לנגדי תמיד" — “I have set G‑d before me always” (Psalms 16:8). This form of teshuvah results from one’s constant awareness that the world, and all that is in it, is constantly brought into being by Hashem.

"ו" is for "ואהבת לרעך כמוך" — “Love your fellow as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidut, taught that this love is a means to “Love G‑d, your G‑d” (Devarim 6:5). This service of teshuvah stems from goodness of heart.

"ב" is for "בכל דרכך דעהו" — “In all your ways, know Him” (Proverbs 3:6). This form of the service of teshuvah comes from one’s perceiving that all that happens to him and around him is hashgacha peratit — individual Divine Providence.

"ה" is for "הצנע לכת עם ה' אלקיך" — “Walk discreetly with your G‑d” (Micah 6:8). One must take care not to be conspicuous or act ostentatiously. It is said, “Man should always be artful in piety” (Berachot 17a). The artfulness lies in seeing that his piety not be noticed at all.

(היום יום ג' - ח' תשרי)

"אם יהיה נדחך בקצה השמים משם יקבצך ה' אלקיך ומשם יקחך"
“If your dispersed will be at the ends of the heaven, from there G‑d, your G‑d, will gather you in and from there He will take you.” (30:4)

QUESTION: Since people do not live in heaven, should not the pasuk have stated, “If your dispersed will be at the ends of the earth?”

ANSWER: Shamayim — heaven — denotes spiritual matters, while aretz — earth — refers to the mundane and material. The term “biketzeih” — “at the ends” — comes from the word “ketzat” — “a little bit.”

Since every Jew has certainly done some good and therefore has some merits in Heaven, Moshe told the Jewish people: “Im yiheyeh nidachacha — In the event that some of you may be dispersed — you need not worry because as long as you are holding onto ketzeih hashamayim — a little bit of spirituality — this will serve as the string through which Hashem will take hold of you and bring you back to Him and the Jewish people.”

(שמעתי מדודי הרב ברוך הכהן ז"ל כהן מח"ס קול תודה)

* * *

Many people have questioned the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s mitzvah campaigns: “Why bother putting tefillin on a mechalel ShabbatShabbat desecrator — why go through the effort of putting a mezuzah on a home where kashrut is not observed?”

In light of the abovementioned, his efforts can be well understood. The Rebbe has unlimited love for Klal Yisrael, and he wants every Jew to perform at least one mitzvah through which Hashem will take hold of him and bring him back into the fold of Judaism.

Dvar Torah Questions and Answers on Vayeilech

"וילך משה וידבר את הדברים האלה אל כל ישראל...לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבוא"
“Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel...I can no longer go out and come in.” (31:1-2)

QUESTION: Rashi always uses selected words of the pasuk as a heading for his explanation. Why does he quote the first pasuk, “And Moshe went, etc.,” without offering any explanation on it at all, and then goes on to quote the second pasuk, “I cannot go out and come in,” accompanied by a lengthy explanation?

ANSWER: The prophet Shmuel would personally travel throughout the Jewish community to judge the people (I Samuel 7:17), while it was Moshe’s custom to have the people come to him. The Midrash explains that Shmuel was allowed to relinquish the honors due to him, but Moshe was a king, and even if he renounces his honor, his honor is not renounced (Kiddushin 32b). If so, why did Moshe now go himself and speak to the entire community?

Rashi seems to be concerned with this question and therefore explains that the two pesukim are connected, with the second pasuk clarifying the difficulty. The reason why “vayeilech Moshe” — “Moshe went” — to the community and did not summon them to come to him, is because “lo uchal od latzeit velavoh” — “I can no longer go out and come in” — i.e. “the authority was taken from me and given to Yehoshua. Thus, I am no longer the king and I am permitted to forego my honors and go personally to the entire community.”

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"בן מאה ועשרים שנה אנכי היום"
“I am one hundred and twenty years old today.” (31:2)

QUESTION: This day was the seventh day of Adar and Rashi writes, “This day my days and my years are completed. On this day I was born and on this day I will die.”

The Gemara (Megillah 13b) says that when Haman was looking for a suitable day to annihilate the Jewish people, he was happy when the lots he cast fell on the month of Adar because he knew that Moshe died on the seventh of Adar. He did not know, however, that Moshe was also born on that day.

If he knew the day Moshe died, why didn’t he also know the day he was born?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Kiddushin 72b) says that before a tzaddik leaves this earthly world, a new tzaddik is born who will replace him. The Zohar (Bamidbar 273a) says that there are sparks of Moshe in every generation, and according to the Arizal, they are embodied in that generation’s leader.

Haman actually knew that Moshe was born on the seventh of Adar; however, since he died on the seventh of Adar, he considered this “a cut-off period” for Klal Yisrael. He did not know that when one tzaddik leaves this world, a new tzaddik — a new Moshe — is born to replace him and that Klal Yisrael will be victorious over all their oppressors in his merit.

(יערות דבש, ח"א דרוש ג' ע' כ"ג ע"ב)

"הקהל את העם האנשים והנשים והטף"
“Assemble the people — the men, the women, and the small children.” (31:12)

QUESTION: Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria asks, “Men come to learn, women come to listen, but why do the infants come?” He answers, “To give reward to those who bring them.” When Rabbi Yehoshua heard this he exclaimed, “Lucky are you our patriarch Avraham to have a descendant such as Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria” (Mechilta 13:102).

Why was Rabbi Yehoshua so excited about Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria’s explanation, and what does it have to do with Avraham?

ANSWER: Superficially, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria’s question is somewhat strange. If the parents and entire Klal Yisrael are assembling, obviously they must bring their infants, because otherwise who will care for them? Therefore, Rabbi Yehoshua deduced that Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria’s question was not merely “why are they coming?” but “why did the Torah have to mention that they should be brought?”

There is a rule in the Gemara (Kiddushin 31a) that one who is commanded to perform a mitzvah and does it, is greater than one who does it voluntarily. Therefore, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria explained that the Torah mentions the bringing of infants in order to make it a command.

When Rabbi Yehoshua heard that from the mitzvah of “Hakheil” we learn that fulfilling a command is greater than voluntary performance, he became very excited, because now he realized the justification for Avraham’s not circumcising himself until the age of 99, although he had fulfilled every other mitzvah of the Torah. The reason was that Avraham wanted to be in the category of “metzuveh ve’oseh” — one who performs a mitzvah as a fulfillment of Hashem’s command. Since circumcision can be performed only once, Avraham therefore waited for a direct command from Hashem.

(פרדס יוסף)

"הקהל את העם האנשים והנשים והטף"
“Assemble the people — the men, the women, and the small children.” (31:12)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Chagigah 3a) relates that once Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka and Rabbi Elazar (ben) Chisma went to pay their respects to Rabbi Yehoshua in Peki’im.

He asked them, “Who gave the lecture?”

“Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria” they replied.

“And what was the theme of hisAggadic discourse today?”

They answered, “The section hakheil — ‘assemble.’ ”

“And what exposition did he give thereon?”

“Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones. The men came to learn, the women came to hear, but why do the little ones come? In order to grant reward to those that bring them.”

He said to them: “There was a fair jewel in your hand, and you sought to deprive me of it.”

Why was Rabbi Yehoshua so intrigued by this teaching?

ANSWER: In Pirkei Avot (2:9) Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai said of Rabbi Yehoshua, “Happy is she who bore him.” It is related in the Jerusalem Talmud (Yevamot 1:6) that his mother strove to permeate him with Torah. When he was a little baby she would bring his cradle to the Beit Hamedrash so that he would hear the words of Torah.

Consequently, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria’s explanation that the reason for bringing very small children is, “To grant reward to those that bring them” was of special significance to him since it substantiated his mother’s efforts to connect him with Torah. Hence, he said to them, “You had a fair jewel in your hand which applies specifically to my mother and me, and I would have been deprived of it had you kept it to yourselves.”

(משך חכמה)

"ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל"
“So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel.” (31:19)

QUESTION: This pasuk contains the 613th mitzvah of the Torah — the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah.

The Rambam (Sefer Torah 7:1) writes: “It is a mitzvah for every Jew to write a Sefer Torah for himself, as the pasuk states, ‘So now write this song (Ha’azinu) for yourself,’ which actually means ‘So now write a Sefer Torah, which includes this song, for yourself.’ Even one who inherits a Sefer Torah is obligated to write his own.”

What lessons can be derived from the letters of a Sefer Torah?

ANSWER: The halachah requires that in a Sefer Torah every letter must be “mukafot gevil” — “surrounded by parchment.” (Menachot 29a) Therefore, the scribe must take heed that no letter touch another one. On the other hand, halachah also requires that the letters which comprise a word must be placed close enough to each other so that they do not appear as individual letters and not part of a word. From these two halachot we can derive a lesson of great importance regarding the Jewish people collectively and individually.

Firstly, it is imperative that every Jew stand on his own two feet and observe the Torah and its mitzvot. No Jew should “lean” on another and rely on him. The Torah is the inheritance of every Jew, and everyone is obligated to observe and maintain it.

Although every Jew must be independent in his observance of Torah, there is at the same time the principle of areivut — responsibility one for the other. One Jew should stand immediately alongside the other and be very close to him, to the extent that they appear as one collective body and not as egotistical individuals.

* * *

Another lesson to be learned from a Sefer Torah is that a Torah consists of many letters. Although each one stands independently, the kashrut of the Sefer Torah is dependent on all the letters together. The lack or incompleteness of even one single letter affects the validity of the entire scroll. Analogously, each and every Jew is an essential component ofKlal Yisrael, upon whom the wholeness of the Jewish people depends.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ב ע' 333)

* * *

A Sefer Torah is written with ink, and the only acceptable color is deep black. The following lessons can be derived from the ink:

While all colors can easily be combined one with another to form new colors, black is extremely difficult to change. Similarly, a Jew should not permit the influence of society or the vagaries of life to undermine or dilute his true “color” and strict adherence to Torah.

The ink must stick firmly to the parchment, and, if it “jumps off,” i.e. becomes detached, the Sefer Torah is pasul — disqualified. The implied lesson is that the Jew should adhere tenaciously to Torah and never became detached from it.

* * *

In 5742 the Lubavitcher Rebbe embarked on a campaign for Sifrei Torah to be written so that every Jew in the world should acquire a letter in a communal Sefer Torah. The intent of this was to unite Klal Yisrael through Torah.

Through this campaign the Rebbe was eager to accomplish that which is written in the Book of Daniel (12:1), “And at that time Michael will stand, the great [heavenly] prince who stands in support of the members of Your people, and there will be a time of trouble such as there has never been... and at that time Your people will escape; everyone who is found written in the book” (see Ibn Ezra).

(לקוטי שיחות ח"כ ע' 506)

"ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל"
“So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel.” (31:19)

QUESTION: At the end of many Chumashim it is written that in the Torah there are a total of three hundred and four thousand, eight hundred and five letters. How does this correspond with what the Kabbalists (Megaleh Amukot, ofan 186) say that there are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah, and that in fact the name of the Jewish people, Yisrael (ישראל), is an acronym for, "יש ששים ריבוא אותיות לתורה" — “There are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah”?

ANSWER: In addition to the basic letters of the words of the Torah, there are the letters א, ה, ו, י, which are “fill-in” letters and which are replaced by the nekudot vowels. For example, the kamatz takes the place of an "א". Were it not for the kamatz the word “baruch” — "ברוך" — would be spelled "בארוך", and many words would have a "ה" at the end of them were it not for the vowel under the final letter, such as “yadata” — "ידעת" — which would be spelled ידעתה. The “chirik” takes the place of a "י", and the “shuruk” or a “cholom” takes the place of a"ו". Thus, in addition to the written letters, there are many letters that one must visualize in his mind when reading the Torah. The total of the written letters together with these letters is six hundred thousand.

(לקוטי תורה ויקרא פ' בהר)

Alternatively, in writing a Sefer Torah there is a requirement to leave a small space between one letter and the other, and a larger space between the words. In addition, there must be spaces between one parshah and the other. A parshah setumah — closed parshah — is separated with a space in which nine letters can be written, and a parshah petuchah — open parshah — needs even more space and must start on a new line. There are required spaces in the Az Yashir, which is written in the form of brickwork, and the song of Ha’azinu is written in two columns with an empty space down the center. Also, between one sefer and the other one there are four empty lines. All these spaces are for letters which are not seen by the human eye.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Shekalim 6:1) describes the Torah Hashem gave Moshe as “white fire and black fire.” The black fire represents the written letters, and the spaces between them are represented by the white fire, and both have the same holiness. This is also evident from what the Gemara (Mo’eid Katan 26a) says that if one, G‑d forbid, sees a Sefer Torah being burned, he must rend his garment twice; once for the written content being destroyed and once for the parchment. Consequently, the written letters together with the letters in the open spaces total six hundred thousand, which only the holy Kabbalists, with their profound wisdom, were able to count.

(שמע שלמה מהגר"ש ז"ל אלגזי, ועי' ניצוצי זהר [שיר השירים] מילואים ע' קכ"ו,

ולקוטי שיחות ח"ב ע' 333, וח"כ ע' 419)

"ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל"
“So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel.” (31:19)

QUESTION: Why is the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah rarely performed? Moreover, why isn’t it common that when a boy becomes Bar-Mitzvah he should fulfill this mitzvah just as he endeavors to fulfill all the other mitzvot of the Torah?

ANSWER: The commandment to write a Sefer Torah is for the purpose of “velamdah” — “to study [from] it.” In olden days, all learning was done from the Sefer Torah. In contemporary times, the “velamdah” — “to study it” — is primarily the reading of the Torah in public, and each Jew when he receives an aliyah to the Torah, is at that time, personally fulfilling the mitzvah of “velamdah.”

To properly fulfill the mitzvah, it is not sufficient to just own a Sefer Torah, but one must actually write it, or have it written for him. The one having the aliyah, accomplishes this in the following way:

In communal matters there is a rule, “leiv beit din matneh” — the Beit Din makes a mental stipulation whenever necessary (see Ketubot 106b). When a community needs a sefer Torah, they engage a sofer — scribe — to write one for them, and the leiv beit din stipulates that it belongs to the entire community and is being written on behalf of everyone in the community. Moreover, they stipulate that it is being acquired on the condition, that when one has an aliyah, which is his time of “velamdah” — “to study it” — not only will he acquire total ownership of the Sefer Torah (שלו), but it shall be considered that he hired the scribe to write expressly for him. (There is no need for continued ownership of the sefer Torah, except at the moment of the observance of the mitzvah, i.e. when it is being used for the purpose of “velamdah” — “to study [from] it.”

A Bar-Mitzvah boy celebrates his new status by being called to the Torah. At that time he is fulfilling the mitzvah of “velamdah” — “to study it” — and through the rule of “leiv beit din matneh” he is simultaneously fulfilling the mitzvah of writing a sefer Torah.

Although the Bar-Mitzvah boy may not have been living when the Torah was written (and it is questionable if the rule “leiv beit din matneh would apply to the unborn), it is not a problem, since according to halachah, when one corrects even only one letter of a Sefer Torah, it is as though he wrote the entire Torah (Rambam, Sefer Torah 7:1). Hence, when a correction is made in a Torah after it has been written, all those who were born since it was written, through the rule of “leiv beit din matneh,” are now considered among the writers of this particular Torah. Thus, when they have an aliyah it is then considered their Sefer, which was written specifically for them.

Moreover, when one is called to the Torah, the reader shows him the first word of the portion to be read. When he looks at it, he is actually checking at least one letter in the Torah, which is equivalent to writing the entire Torah (ibid.), and the berachah he recites is a public testimony that the Sefer Torah is kosher.

Consequently, every Jew called to read the Torah at his Bar-Mitzvah fulfills the mitzvah of writing a Torah by personally checking and attesting to the kashrut of the Sefer Torah.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"ד)

* * *

The Midrash Rabbah (9:9) relates that prior to Moshe’s passing he wrote thirteen Sifrei Torah — one for each tribe and one which was placed in the Ark. Since it was impossible to expect every Jew to personally write a Torah at that time, Moshe arranged that each tribe have a Torah, and through the rule of “leiv beit din matneh,” when a Jew learned in it, it would be deemed as his personal Torah which Moshe wrote specifically for him.

Moshe thus set a precedent for future generations that when it is difficult to personally write a Sefer Torah, one may rely on a communal Sefer Torah for the observance of the Biblical mitzvah to write a Sefer Torah.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"ד)

"ויהי ככלות משה לכתב את דברי התורה הזאת על ספר עד תמם"

“So it was that when Moshe finished writing the words of this Torah onto a book, until their conclusion.” (31:24)

QUESTION: According to the Zohar (Shemot 156a) Moshe passed away Shabbat afternoon. According to Midrash Rabbah (Devarim 9:9), Moshe wrote thirteen Sifrei Torah on the day of his passing, giving one to each tribe and one to be kept in the Ark.

Writing on Shabbat is forbidden. Why did Moshe violate the law?

ANSWER: In his holiness, Moshe recited a Name of Hashem which instructed the quill to write on its own. Writing which is not performed physically by a human being is not forbidden on Shabbat.

(ליקוטי שו"ת חת"ס סי' כ"ט בשם השל"ה)

* * *

A difficulty with this explanation is that a Sefer Torah which was written miraculously, not by a human being, cannot be considered kosher.

Tosafot (Menachot 30a) writes that Moshe did not die on Shabbat but on erev Shabbat — Friday. Perhaps theMidrash that says he wrote thirteen sifrei Torah on the day of his passing follows this opinion.

Possibly, the Midrash agrees with the Zohar that Moshe died on Shabbat, but holds that his demise started on Friday and culminated on Shabbat, and Moshe wrote the sifrei Torah on Friday when he felt his end drawing near.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ו ע' 361, וחכ"ד ע' 208)

"כי אנכי ידעתי את מריך... הן בעודני חי עמכם היום ... ואף כי אחרי מותי"
“For I know your rebelliousness ... behold! While I am still alive with your today ... and surely after my death” (31:27)

QUESTION: The words “imachem hayom” — “with you today” seem extra?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachot 18a) says “The righteous are considered to be alive, in a spiritual sense, even after death.” Moshe was alluding to this concept. Thus, he said to them that though he would live eternally, he was speaking of his experience of when “odeni chai imachem” — “I am physically alive together with you.”

He also added the word “hayom” to allude that this was the last day of physical life with them. From tomorrow on, he would “live” with them and continue to look after them, but they would not view his physical being.

(אור החיים, ועי' אגרת הקדש לאדמוה"ז לביאור הזוה"ק "דצדיקא דאתפטר אשתכח בכלהו עלמין יתיר מבחיוהי")