1. Today is the third night of the celebrations of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah. Even though these celebrations are an established custom dating back to the Temple, the fact that, this year, they are being held for the third time adds further strength to the practice. The performance of a particular matter three times creates a chazakah, i.e., it becomes an accepted fact. Indeed, it is simple human nature that after something has been carried out three times, there is a greater potential for it to continue in the future.

The unique quality connected with the present evening is also reflected in the Ushpizin of the day, the patriarch, Yaakov, and the Alter Rebbe. The common point these two share is the Torah: Psalms 78:5 explicitly connects the Torah to Yaakov, stating: “He established a testimonial in Yaakov and placed Torah in Israel.” Similarly, the Alter Rebbe’s name, Schneur can be divided into the words Shnei Or — “two lights” referring to two aspects of “the light of Torah” — the light of Nigleh (Torah law) and the light of Pnimiyus HaTorah (Torah’s mystical truths). These two qualities are reflected in the manner in which he is referred to frequently — “The author of the Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch.”

The Torah portion connected with the present day also reflects the importance of Torah as it states (33:8-10): “They shall teach Yaakov Your judgments and Yisrael Your Torah.” It also concludes with a verse that alludes to the Temple site, the place where the Sanhedrin, the high Jewish court would meet.

The Torah portion connected with the previous day also emphasized the importance of Torah as it included the verse: “The Torah Moshe commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov.” This emphasizes the essential bond each Jew has with Torah for a person becomes the sole owner of his inheritance from the moment he is born.

However, today’s portion deals with a higher level of study as implied by the use of the term “yoru” for “teach.” “Yoru” is related to the word “Horeah” and refers to providing halachic judgments. Thus, it refers to a person who has progressed immeasurably from his initial connection to the Torah. He has worked and labored, studying with the intent of understanding Torah law, to the extent that he has been granted the Divine inspiration necessary to appreciate the true intent of Torah and deliver a halachic judgment.

This passage does more than describe this elevated realm of Torah study, it also implies a charge for each person who can attain this level to strive to do so. In Hilchos Talmud Torah (5:4), the Rambam writes: “A sage who is worthy of rendering halachic judgments and refrains from doing so holds back [the spread of] Torah.... The verse, ‘How prodigious are those she slew’ applies to him.”

Indeed, he is judged as severely as “a student who is not worthy of rendering halachic judgments and does so” to whom the verse, “She has cast down many corpses,” applies.

The association between the two can be explained as follows: When a person is capable of rendering halachic judgments and fails to do so, he is publicly demonstrating an example of behavior which contradicts Torah law and thus, he is comparable to a person who renders halachic judgments even though he is not capable.

Thus, this Torah portion encourages every Jew who has the potential to work to reach the level at which he can give Torah judgments. Even though the verse is part of the blessing given to the tribe of Levi, it is of relevance to every Jew as the Rambam writes:

Not only the tribe of Levi, but every Jew... who voluntarily desires... to stand before G‑d and serve Him... is sanctified as most holy.

2. There is a further point that can be derived from this Torah portion. The charge to render Torah judgments for others brings to mind the Mishnah’s advise concerning judging one’s own behavior: “Provide yourself with a Rav.”

I made a “personal request” that every individual do what he can in this regard, firstly, to accept a Rav for himself and also to spread this lesson to others to as wide a sphere of influence as possible. Though some have accepted the idea, there are still many people who have not and it is very important that they do. Therefore, it is important to take this opportunity to stress the importance of this advise, with the intent that: a) each person apply it in his own personal life; b) everyone do what he can to make others aware of the matter.

It is very easy to understand the importance of following this advise:

It is necessary to follow all the Torah’s directives whether we understand them or not. On the contrary, even the mitzvos which are intellectually understandable should be fulfilled because they are G‑d’s will, with a commitment above intellect. Nevertheless, as the Rambam writes at the end of Hilchos Meilah: “It is proper for a person to contemplate the judgments of the holy Torah... according to their ability.” Even in regard to the chukim, he writes (end of Hilchos Temurah): “Even though the Torah’s chukim are decrees,... it is proper to meditate upon them and provide an explanation for them to the extent possible.”

Nevertheless, the advise “Provide yourself with a Rav” is not considered a chok, but rather a concept that is easily comprehensible. Even a person who follows the proper path has many areas in which he can improve his behavior, however, he is often blinded by self-interest and, therefore, cannot look at himself objectively.

How can he solve this difficulty? by providing himself with a teacher, i.e., he should find a person greater than himself and seek his advise about all aspects of his behavior.

This is not just a particular matter that must be arranged within one’s order of priorities, but rather, a matter of general importance that effects each and every aspect of one’s behavior. Furthermore, it is applicable to every individual — from those on the lowest level to those on the highest. Even the latter are blinded by their self-interest and thus to evaluate themselves objectively must “provide themselves with a Rav.” Even a person who serves as a Rav within a community must “provide himself with a Rav” in regard to his own behavior.

(The Hebrew word translated as “provide” — Aseh — also has the connotation of forcing or compelling. Even if one has to force oneself against one’s will, one should comply with the mishneh’s advise and provide oneself with a Rav.)

We find the need to divorce oneself from self-interest even in regard to as great a figure as Moshe. When the daughters of Tzelophchad approached him, asking to receive their father’s inheritance, Moshe did not attempt to answer their question himself, but rather, directed it towards G‑d. On the surface, Moshe should have first contemplated the matter in depth and tried to find a solution. Only after he found that he was unable to do so, should he have directed it to G‑d.

The commentaries explain that since Tzelophchad’s daughters told Moshe, “Our father was not among Korach’s company,” that implied that he was one of Moshe’s supporters. Hence, since this implied a certain vested interest for Moshe in the case, he felt unable to judge it himself.

Consider this matter: We are talking about Moshe, who received the entire Torah and began the chain of transmission which has brought the Torah to us. Furthermore, this was in the fortieth year of Moshe’s life after he had received the entire Torah and the question dealt with a matter of central importance, the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael. What constituted Moses’ vested interest? The statement that the person involved was not involved in a controversy with him that occurred 39 years previously. Nevertheless, this was considered grounds enough for Moshe not to desire to judge the case himself!

Based on the above, we can surely understand how much self-interest is involved in judging one’s own behavior and therefore, how necessary it is for every individual, even a person who is himself a Rav to fulfill the Mishnah’s advise: “Provide yourself with a Rav.”

There is a further point regarding the above: A person might think: “It is not necessary to consult a Rav about all matters, nor is it necessary to run to consult him.” In this way, he can rationalize, “I fulfilled the Mishnah’s directive, I have a Rav,” and yet, there are many points which he does not share with him.

This is obviously against the Mishnah’s intent. Rather, one must consult one’s Rav about all matters. Priority should be given to those issues about which one knows are improper, about which one has doubts or about which others have questioned one’s behavior.

May each person take this matter seriously and carry out the Mishnah’s advise himself and spread the matter to others and may this lead to further good deeds. This will hasten the coming of the Messianic redemption for as the Rambam states: “A person should always view himself... and the entire world as equally balanced and with one good deed, he can tip the balance for him and for the entire world to good and bring about salvation,” including the ultimate salvation, the Messianic redemption. May it be speedily in our days.

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3. It is also important to dwell on the lesson derived from today’s portion of Psalms. Indeed, these lessons share a deeper connection with the holiday of Sukkos than those derived from the weekly Torah portion. The portion of Psalms is associated with the date of the month and thus, remains the same each year. In contrast, the section of Torah studied each day changes from year to year.

The connection shared by the daily portion of Psalms is reflected in the frequent mention of the Patriarch Yaakov, the Ushpiza of the present day: Psalms 84:9 states: “Lend ear, G‑d of Yaakov;” Psalms 85:2 states: “You have returned the captivity of Yaakov;” and Psalm 87:2 states: “G‑d loves the gates of Zion more than all the habitations of Yaakov.”

Similarly, this portion of Psalms also relates to the Torah. On the latter verse, our Sages explained that the “gates of Zion” refer to “those who excel in the study of Halachah,” the highest realm of Torah study. Also, our Sages also emphasized the connection of Torah study with the verse (Psalms 84:8): “They shall go from strength to strength; they shall appear before G‑d in Zion,” commenting: “Whoever leaves a synagogue and enters a house of study will merit to receive the Divine Presence as [implied by the verse]: ‘They shall go from strength to strength; they shall appear before G‑d in Zion.’“

In particular, that statement alludes to the three “pillars on which the world stands”: Torah (the house of study), the service of G‑d (prayer, the synagogue), and deeds of kindness (since before prayer, it is customary to give to charity).

Also, the idea of “strength to strength” can be conceived of within the realm of Torah study alone; i.e., a reference to the study of both Nigleh (the revealed aspects of Torah) and Pnimiyus HaTorah (Torah’s inner secrets). Indeed, Torah which is studied after prayer is infused with Yiras Shamayim, the fear of heaven. This refers to the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah. This is also alluded to by the conclusion of the verse, “they shall appear before G‑d in Zion.” Standing before G‑d produces Yiras Shamayim as implied by our Sages’ statement: “Know before whom you stand.”

May this bring us to the actual fulfillment of the verse, “appearing before G‑d in Zion,” in the Temple. This is also connected with the festivals, and in particular, the festival of Sukkos, when pilgrimages to the Temple were made to present oneself before G‑d. It is also connected to another verse in the daily portion of Psalms, 85:10: “that glory may dwell in our land,” which is interpreted as a reference to the third Temple. To complete the theme, the concluding verse of the day’s Torah portion also refers to the Temple.

Another aspect of today’s portion of Psalms relates to a concept mentioned yesterday. It was explained that the seventy bulls offered during Sukkos alluded to the seventy gentile nations, and their reduction in number from day to day referred to the need to reduce their “goyishe” tendencies through spreading the observance of the seven commandments given to Noach.

It was explained how celebrating Simchas Beis HaShoeivah in the street would help refine the gentiles by allowing them the chance to share in Jewish happiness. In this manner, we could appreciate a positive connotation to the verse, “G‑d, gentiles have entered Your inheritance.”

Today’s portion of Psalms continues this theme. It mentions a multitude of gentile nations (83:7-9): Edom, Yishmael, Moav, Ammon, the Philistines, Amalek, Assyria. This reflects the elevation of these nations as implied by the Psalm’s concluding verse: “And they shall know that You alone, whose Name is the L‑rd, is the most high over all earth.”

“Deed is most essential.” Today, this refers to the celebrations of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah. These celebrations should “proceed from strength to strength,” and thus, surpass those of the previous nights. They should involve all Jews, men, women (in a modest manner), and children. May our celebrations lead to the ultimate joy, when “we will present ourselves before G‑d in Zion.”