1. In1 regard to the new dimension of service brought about by the giving of the Torah, the Talmud quotes Rav Yosef’s statement:

If it were not for that day which caused [a radical change]... how many Yosefs would there be in the marketplace?

Rashi explains:

If it were not for the day on which I studied Torah and became uplifted... Behold, there are many people in the street named Yosef. What difference would there be between me and them?

Chassidus interprets Rachel’s prayer upon naming Yosef, “May G‑d add on to me another son” to refer to the service of transforming “another,” a person estranged from his Jewish roots, into a son. This service is carried out in “the marketplace,”2 where the secular aspects of the world are dominant and involves transforming them into holiness. This, in turn, contributes additional light3 in the sphere of holiness.

This service existed before the giving of the Torah. On the contrary, the statement, “How many Yosefs would there be in the marketplace?”, implies that even if, ח"ו, the Torah had not been given, there would be many people capable of carrying out this service. Indeed, the Biblical Yosef lived before the giving of the Torah,4 and, nevertheless, he brought down holiness into the most coarse place in this world, the land of Egypt. He ruled that country with the king’s power and surely, was able to bring about an increase in holiness5 in that land.6

Similarly, the Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, all “carried out the entire Torah before it was given” and through their activities, revealed additional holiness within the world. For example, Avraham built several altars. Yitzchok occupied himself in agriculture7 for the purpose of giving tzedakah and Yaakov, through his labor with the sheep of Lavan, drew down holiness in the world. Similarly, Yaakov’s sons carried out the heritage of Avraham, “keeping the path of G‑d, doing righteousness and justice,” and thus, revealed holiness in the world.

G‑d created the world to allow for such an increase of holiness as implied by our Sages in their commentary on the verse, “And He rested from all the work which G‑d had created to function.” The Sages interpret the latter phrase as, “to correct,” teaching that man can become a partner in creation by revealing an additional degree of holiness in the world.

Furthermore, making this addition brings into being a new world, as it were. The element of holiness man contributes to the world changes its nature entirely. Thus, our Sages commented, “Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, creates worlds, [Yaakov,] your ancestor, creates worlds.” This potential was bequeathed to each and every Jew since every Jew’s soul was included in the soul of the Patriarch, Yaakov.

This service of revealing holiness does not relate to the new dimension brought about by the giving of the Torah. On the contrary, as explained above, this service was carried out prior to the giving of the Torah. Rather the giving of the Torah made possible an entirely different type of activity. Our Sages declared: Before the giving of the Torah, there was a decree8 separating the spiritual realms from the physical. Before the giving of the Torah, holiness could not be internalized within the world. Then, a worldly article could not become transformed into a holy entity. After the Torah was given, this decree was nullified and the potential was granted to transform the material dimensions of our existence into holiness.

This process of elevation is connected with the concept of unity. The world is characterized by division and multiplicity. Before the giving of the Torah, the holiness that individuals were able to draw down reinforced — rather than obliterated — the divisions of the world. Thus, we find the Patriarchs each expressing a different spiritual quality — Avraham, kindness; Yitzchok, power; Yaakov, beauty — but not making a fundamental change in the world. On the contrary, even after their service, the world remained fundamentally material and divergent in nature.

[This is alluded to in the expression: “How many Yosefs would their be in the marketplace?” “How many Yosefs” clearly alludes to the idea of multiplicity. Similarly, the very expression “marketplace” with its various different business customs and practices reflects multiplicity.]

In contrast, the giving of the Torah introduced the concept of unity within the world (“the marketplace”). The Torah revealed a unity which transcends the divisions of the world and, hence, has the potential to lift the world above those divisions and unify it, making it a private domain for G‑d.

The above concepts can be further explained within the context of the clarification of a problematic statement of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. The Talmud quotes Rabbi Shimon as saying:

I have seen “men of ascendancy” and they are few. If there are a thousand.... If there are a hundred.... If there are two, they are myself and my son, and if there are one, it is I.

There are several difficulties with this statement: a) Why does Rabbi Shimon say, “I have seen... and they are few.” Why isn’t the statement made in an objective manner: “There are few ‘men of ascendancy.’ ” b) Why are there several numbers mentioned, implying that Rabbi Shimon was in doubt over the number of “men of ascendancy.” Since this teaching remains for posterity, it is questionable why the Torah — the Torah of light which provides direction for the Jews — does not provide clarity on the issue. c) If the amount of “men of ascendancy” is so few, of what value is the teaching? What is its relevance to each member of the Jewish people?

These questions can be resolved as follows: Everything in the physical world has its source in the higher spiritual realms and thus, can be expressed in the service of G‑d. For example, the fire of the animal soul has to be offered on the altar, i.e., it must be dedicated to the love of G‑d. A house of two stories has to be conceived of as a Beis HaMikdash in microcosm. Just as the Beis HaMikdash had two levels, each person has to conceive of his service as having several levels.

This is accomplished by the Jewish people who are all “men of ascendancy,” i.e., they elevate the world and transform it into a dwelling for G‑d. This service is connected with being “few.” Homiletically, this means diminishing one’s self-pride, adopting an approach of selflessness, and erasing the differences that separate one person from another. Although various individuals may be characterized by different thrusts of service, one must appreciate the essential oneness that permeates them all.

In the application of this principle in our everyday life, there are several levels (as implied by Rabbi Shimon’s statements, “If there are a thousand,” “If there are a hundred,”...). It is impossible to begin the service on the level of “There is one.” First, one must begin on the levels of “there are one thousand,” “there are one hundred,” until one has internalized the approach of selflessness.

Rabbi Shimon prefaces his teaching with the declaration, “I have seen men of ascendancy.” Sight has a powerful effect on our consciousness. An idea which one hears, even testimony which is given by two kosher witnesses, may later be questioned. In contrast, something which one sees leaves a permanent impression. Similarly, the influence which “men of ascendancy” have on those with whom they come in contact parallels the lasting effect synonymous with sight.

The potential for the service of “men of ascendancy” and their influence in transforming the world into a dwelling for G‑d was made possible by the giving of the Torah. Before the giving of the Torah, there was a decree separating the spiritual from the physical. With the giving of the Torah, that decree was nullified and it was possible for the spiritual to descend to the physical and the physical to ascend to the spiritual. The intent is not only that the influence of the spiritual be felt within the physical world, but that the physical be lifted up and — through the activities of “men of ascendancy” — its fundamental nature be changed.

With this explanation, we can understand the passage quoted originally. Rav Yosef wanted to emphasize that the giving of the Torah negates division in the world. Therefore, he spoke about “the marketplace,” a metaphor for separation and “many Yosefs.” In contrast, the giving of the Torah granted the potential for “me to study Torah and become uplifted,” to rise above the world of division.

This elevation is accomplished more through the study of Torah than the performance of mitzvos. Mitzvos also leave room for multiplicity. Thus, there are 248 positive mitzvos (corresponding to the body’s 248 limbs) and 365 negative mitzvos (corresponding to the body’s 365 sinews). In contrast, there is one Torah (as there is one life-force which flows through the blood, vitalizing the limbs).

The reason for this difference is that mitzvos were given to enclothe themselves within the limitations of the world, recognizing the contexts of time and space.9 In contrast, Torah, even as it descends within this world remains “G‑d’s wisdom,” above the frame of reference of both man and the world. Therefore, in his commentary to the above passage, Rashi emphasizes that it was through the study of Torah which Rav Yosef was lifted up above the realm of multiplicity.

This concept is also reflected in the parshiyos which are read before and after the holiday of Shavuos, Bamidbar and Naso.10 Both emphasize how the Torah lifts a person above the world at large.

Bamidbar means “in the desert.” Our Sages explain that the Torah was given in the desert to demonstrate that during the time he studies Torah, a person must be cut off entirely from the outside world. No other people, not even animals or plants, should disturb him from developing a perfect union with G‑d through studying Torah.

Parshas Naso begins “lift up the heads of the children of Israel.” Its being read after Shavuos indicates how the way one can truly “lift up” one’s head (i.e., one’s intellect, the most elevated aspect of one’s personality) is through Torah study. Furthermore, after a person is himself lifted up in this manner, he has the potential to elevate the world around him.

On the verse, “these days are recalled and carried out,” the AriZal explains that when a holiday is recalled in the proper manner, it is “carried out,” i.e., the spiritual influences which distinguished it are revealed once more. Indeed, based on the principle, “Always proceed higher in holy matters,” we can assume that the revelation is on a higher level than previously. Thus, each year, the celebration of the giving of the Torah can lift a person to a higher level, taking him above the realm of multiplicity as explained above. This should inspire each person to make a new and deeper commitment to Torah study. These days — the week between the holiday of Shavuos and the 12th of Sivan, the conclusion of the days of Tashlumin for Shavuos, are particularly suited for making resolutions of this nature.

The above is particularly true this year, תש"נ, “a year of miracles,” when the entire Jewish people are lifted above the limits of nature.

[In this context, the Rebbe Shlita initiated a new campaign, which he described as “a matter of immediate necessity,” stressing the importance of public sessions of Torah study and asking each individual, man, woman, or child, to head such a session. The sichos which mention this campaign were combined and adopted into the essay, “Each Jew: A Teacher and Student of Torah” which was printed under a separate cover.]

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2. In Lubavitch, it was customary to refer to Shavuos as Chag HaMutzos,11 “the Rabbis’ festival.” Mutz (מו"ץ) is an acronym for the Hebrew words, Moreh Tzedek, the title used to refer to a community’s Rabbi. On Shavuos, many Rabbis would come to Lubavitch.12

Surely, the Rabbis would have liked to spend all the festivals together with the Rebbeim, but on Pesach and Sukkos, they were unable to leave their congregations.

On Pesach, they were occupied with the many halachic rulings associated with the observance of that holiday. Similarly, on Sukkos, there were many questions concerning the Lulav and Esrog and the Sukkah which required their attention. [Furthermore, it was customary to purchase a Lulav and Esrog from the Rabbi, paying slightly more than necessary as a gesture of respect to the Rabbi.] In contrast, on Shavuos there are relatively few halachic questions13 and thus, the Rabbis were able to spend time with the Rebbeim.

Shavuos is an appropriate time for such visits because, as “the season of the giving of our Torah,” it is intrinsically related to a Rabbi’s function. The word Torah has its source in the word הוראה which means “directive.” Similarly, a Rabbi is the source for halachic directives within his community, showing his congregants how to live according to Torah law.14 This is implied by the term, Moreh Tzedek, which literally means “one who gives directives for justice.”15

Today, the Rabbis’ visits to Lubavitch are reflected in the many Rabbis who have come to celebrate Shavuos in today’s Lubavitch, the Previous Rebbe’s synagogue and house of study. It is proper that the Rabbis take advantage of this opportunity and use these meetings to clarify contemporary halachic questions, particularly those that have been aroused because of the advance of science. Among them: a) the use of many modern machines on Shabbos, b) the place of certain new medical techniques16 within halachah, c) questions involving psychology and other issues concerning the “health of the soul.”

In this context all the Rabbis here (and also, all those who have received Semichah or who are fit to receive Semichah) should say LeChaim. May this be the last LeChaim recited in exile for in the immediate future, G‑d will carry out the decision implied by our Sages’ statement, “All the appointed times for Mashiach’s coming have past” and we will proceed to the complete and ultimate redemption. May it be in the immediate future. {Mashiach’s coming is also related to the gathering of these Rabbis for the term מו"ץ can also be considered an acronym for the words Mashiach Tzidkeinu, “our righteous Mashiach.”}