1. This week’s Torah portion, Parshas Bamidbar is always read before the festival of Shavuos, “the season of the giving of our Torah.” Usually, as this year, it is read on the Shabbos directly preceding Shavuos. In other years, Parshas Naso is read directly before the holiday and Parshas Bamidbar is read on the preceding week.

On the surface, Shavuos shares a more apparent connection with Naso than with Bamidbar. Naso means “lift up” and thus relates to the giving of the Torah which brought the Jews to a true state of elevation. G‑d “chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah,” giving us the opportunity to establish a bond with His will and wisdom.

In contrast, Bamidbar, meaning “in the desert,” refers to a seemingly undesirable place, a barren land, unfit for human habitation.1 Why did G‑d choose to give the Torah in such a place?

One of the resolutions of this question is that Torah study requires absolute and total concentration. When a person studies Torah, nothing else should be on his mind. He must remove all worldly matters — and even any other Torah subjects2 — from his thoughts and concentrate on the subject he is studying.3

This is further emphasized by the Torah passage which describes the giving of the Torah which begins: “In the third month,... on this day, they came to the Sinai desert.” The mention of “the third month”4 underscores the relation of the Torah to the number three. Similarly, our Sages describe the Torah as “a threefold light.”

There are three elements5 to Torah study: G‑d’s giving the Torah, the Jews receiving it, and the Torah itself. The connection of the number three to the Sinai desert which, as explained above, implies that while a person is studying, there is nothing in his world but the Torah indicates that, in regard to these three elements, G‑d’s giving the Torah and its reception by the Jews are secondary, and the primary concern is the Torah itself.

The Torah is “one Torah,” a single unified entity.6 When a person studies it, he becomes totally absorbed in this unity as our Sages declared, “The Holy One, blessed be He, Israel, and the Torah are one.” In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains how this unity is established. When a person studies Torah, his intellect — which is one with the person himself — becomes one with the subject matter in a “perfect unity to which there is no resemblance or comparison in physical terms, to be totally one and unified.”

[This concept is also alluded to in the name Tanya. To explain: Tanya is referred to as, “The Written Torah of Chassidus,”7 which is “the soul of the Torah.” Accordingly, the wording in the text is extremely precise just as the wording of the Written Torah is far more precise than that of the oral law. Thus, the first word of the text, which has been used by the Rebbeim as the name of the text, was surely carefully chosen.8

This raises a question because the name Tanya has no apparent connection to the goal of the text, which as the Alter Rebbe writes on the title page is “based on the verse, ‘The matter is very close to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, to accomplish it,’ to explain how it is very close....”

This difficulty can be resolved as follows: On a simple level,9 the name Tanya which means “It has been taught,” alludes to the importance of Torah study. Although Tanya will open a person up to a deeper level of service of G‑d, to love and fear of Him, its essential emphasis is on the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah, achieving a perfect unity between the wisdom of man and the wisdom of G‑d. This concept is so fundamental to the text that it was alluded to in its very name.

In this context, it is worthy to stress the importance of studying Tanya, and in particular, its opening chapters. There are those who feel that since they have studied Tanya previously, it is unnecessary for them to continue this study and would rather study other subjects in Chassidus. This is a wrong perspective. Tanya must be constantly studied, in particular, the opening chapters including the preface. (This study should come in addition to the study of Tanya within the study of Chitas.)]

The emphasis on the study of Torah to the extent that nothing else exists in one’s world but the Torah, also relates to the content of Parshas Bamidbar, which describes the census of the Jews. Rashi explains that taking this census reveals the dearness of the Jews before G‑d, “because they are dear to Him, He counts them always.”

There are 600,000 Jewish souls.10 Similarly, the Rabbis teach that the name Yisrael is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah.”11 Nevertheless, despite this multiplicity, ultimately, both the Torah and the Jewish people are single indivisible entities. The “one people” are connected with the “one Torah” and the “one G‑d,” to the extent that “Israel, the Torah, and the Holy One, blessed be He, are all one.” This is the ultimate expression of the dearness of the Jewish people.

This relates to our Sages’ description of Sinai as the mountain from which “hatred descended to the world.” This statement can be explained as follows: It is written: “He placed the world in their hearts,” i.e., G‑d placed the future of the world in the heart of every man. The existence of the entire world depends on man. Through his service in worldly matters, “turning away from evil” and “doing good,” man has the power to correct the entire world.

Thus, when there is nothing else in a Jew’s world but Torah, he brings about a parallel situation in the world at large. All the undesirable aspects of the world are negated, or transformed into good, and it is revealed how the entire world exists only for the sake of the Torah.

May we receive the Torah with happiness and inner feeling. (This is the blessing the Previous Rebbe would give for the holiday of Shavuos.) And may we merit the age when, “a new Torah will emerge from Me,” with the coming of Mashiach.

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2. The above concepts can be connected with the sixth12 chapter of Pirkei Avos, which we study this week. This chapter begins with the statement: “The Sages taught in the language of the Mishnah: ‘Blessed be He who chose you and your teachings.”‘ The word “Sages” refers to each and every Jew who is a member of “a wise and understanding nation.” These qualities are revealed through the Torah. Therefore, a Jew’s behavior must be permeated by the Torah, it being the only thing in his world.

Pirkei Avos continues:

“The tablets were the work of G‑d and the writing was the writing of G‑d, charus (‘engraved’) on the tablets.” Do not read charus, but cherus (‘freedom’). There is no free man except one who occupies himself with the study of Torah.

The Shaloh explains that when our Sages teach, “Do not read..., but...” their intention is to add a new interpretation, but not to negate the simple meaning of the verse. Thus, the teaching mentioned above reveals that the Torah is connected with both freedom and engraving.

Chassidus explains that engraved letters are unique in that they are an integral part of (and not a separate entity from) the object on which they are written. When a Jew studies Torah in a manner of “engraving,” he becomes unified entirely with the Torah he studies. His entire existence becomes Torah. This leads to true freedom; he is lifted above all worries and distraction.

This has an effect in the world at large as the chapter continues, “Whoever repeats a concept in the name of its author brings redemp­tion to the world.”13 The world, which in its present state, conceals G‑dliness, will become permeated by the quality of redemption.

Thus, the world will be elevated to a state where it will be revealed that, “Everything which G‑d created in this world was created solely for His glory.” “Glory” refers to Torah as Pirkei Avos mentions beforehand, “There is no glory other than Torah.” Thus, it will be revealed that there is nothing else within the entire world, but the Torah.

The chapter concludes, “The L‑rd will reign forever and ever.” According to the Kabbalistic tradition when the letters of ועד (translated as “ever”) are transposed the word אחד, “one,” is produced, implying that the unity of “the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One,” will be revealed “forever and ever.” This will be revealed, not only to the Jews, but also to the nations of the world as it is written, “Then, I will transform the nations to a clear speech, that they may all call on the name of the L‑rd.”

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3. Our Sages teach that the Jewish children were chosen as the guarantors of the Torah. Therefore, it is appropriate that they, even infants of a very young age,14 should be present in the synagogue to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments. This can be accomplished without great difficulty since in most communities, there are several synagogues, and often, several different times of prayer at a single synagogue. Therefore, the entire family need not attend the Torah reading together and a convenient time can be arranged so that all Jewish children can hear the Ten Commandments.

Before the Torah reading, it is proper to explain to the children how important receiving the Torah is and how they should prepare to receive it. Although G‑d gives the Torah in a generous manner, He desires that the Jews prepare themselves to receive it. This will allow them to receive the Torah in a full and complete manner.

Similarly, adults should prepare to receive the Torah by increasing their Torah study. In particular they should increase the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah (Torah’s mystic dimensions). This realm of study shares a connection with the holiday of Shavuos. To explain: Our Sages interpret the verse, “Honey and milk will be under your tongue,” as a reference to Pnimiyus HaTorah, stating, “Subjects which are as sweet as honey and milk should be ‘under your tongue,’ (i.e., not studied openly).” On Shavuos, it is customary to eat sweet milchig foods, indicating that this is a time when this realm of knowledge is given prominence.

This is also reflected by the narrative of the giving of the Torah when G‑d’s chariot,15 associated with the deeper aspects of Pnimiyus HaTorah, was revealed to every Jew. Even though ordinarily, one begins with the study of the revealed dimensions of Torah law, when the Torah was given, an exception was made and, at the very outset, even before the declaration of the Ten Commandments, G‑dliness was revealed.

The vision of G‑dliness perceived by the Jews was also comprehended intellectually. Not only did they see G‑dliness, they also internalized this vision. Thus, our Sages explained that at the giving of the Torah, the Jews “saw what was normally heard and heard what was normally seen,” implying that the revelation effected, not only the power of sight, but also the power of hearing, which is connected with the power of understanding.

Since the revelation at Mount Sinai included an emphasis on Ma’aseh Merkavah, Pnimiyus HaTorah, it is appropriate that the preparation for receiving the Torah anew should also emphasize this subject matter. This will also effect our study of Nigleh (the teachings of Torah law). Pnimiyus HaTorah is called, “the soul of Torah,” and Nigleh, its body. It is natural for the body to be drawn after the soul.

The increase in Torah study should begin this Shabbos. As mentioned several times throughout the year, on Shabbos, there should be an effort to “gather together groups to study Torah.” Surely, this applies on the Shabbos which precedes the giving of the Torah. Therefore, it is proper to utilize the remaining hours of this Shabbos to gather together Jews to study Torah communally (preferably, in a manner of “When ten people sit and study Torah...” or in even greater numbers as it is written, “Among the multitude of people is the glory of the king”). Simultaneously, these gatherings should also be used to mention all the preparations for the holiday of Shavuos.16

May the “running to the performance of a mitzvah,” the efforts to gather Jews in shul for Torah study, lead to the time when we run to greet Mashiach. Indeed, there will be no need to run, for Mashiach will come directly here to the Previous Rebbe’s shul and house of study. Then, “a great congregation will return here,” the Jewish people, together with all the elements of the world which they elevated, will come back to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Beis HaMikdash.

4. We can also derive a lesson from the day on which Shavuos is celebrated. Our Sages teach א-ת, ב-ש; i.e., on the day of Alef, the first day of Pesach, will fall Tuf, Tishah BeAv. On the day of Beis, the second day of Pesach, will fall Shin, the holiday of Shavuos.

This implies that the experience of “the season of our freedom” on Pesach will transform all the negative factors of Tishah BeAv into good, bringing about the ultimate redemption.

The association of Shavuos with the second day of Pesach is significant this year since it falls on Wednesday, “the day on which the luminaries were suspended [in the heavens].” The term “luminaries” refers primarily to the sun and the moon. They can be associated with the written law and the oral law respectively. Both these were given to Moshe on Mount Sinai. The entire oral law including even “every new concept which an experienced Sage will develop” was included in that initial revelation.

On Shavuos, may we receive the Torah anew with joy and inner feeling and may this lead to our receiving “the new Torah that will emerge from Me,” in the Messianic age. Our Sages declared, “All the appointed times for Mashiach’s coming have passed and the matter is dependent only on teshuvah.” Our Sages also teach that even a fleeting thought of teshuvah is enough for one to be considered a completely righteous man. Thus, through teshuvah we will nullify the reason for the exile, our sins, as we recite in prayer, “because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” When the reason for the exile ceases to exist, the exile itself will end and we will proceed together to greet Mashiach.