1. The special theme of Rosh Chodesh Sivan, which we bless on this Shabbos Mevarchim, is clearly pointed out in Scripture:

In the third month...on the first of the month, they came to the desert of Sinai. Israel camped (Vayichan — singular) opposite the mountain, (Shmos 19:1-2)

to which Rashi adds:

As one man with one heart. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

It was this unity and unanimity which engendered G‑d’s decision to give us the Torah at that time. As the Midrash says:

The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: Since the Jewish people hate dissension and love peace and became one encampment, this is the propitious time when I will give them My Torah. (cf. Vayikra Rabbah 9:9)

In G‑d’s view the Torah could have been given on the first day of Sivan. It was, however, necessary for the Jews to make certain preparations, which were to take six more days. These details are described for us in the Torah and in other sources.

The experiences of Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah at Sinai), the setting, the preparation, etc., were not one-time events, rather, they must be relived each year when we come to the Season of the Giving of Our Torah. For each year at this time the experience of receiving the Torah takes place again:

These days should be remembered and celebrated (lit. come into being). (Esther 9:28)

Actually, the phenomenon of Matan Torah takes place every day. Our sages tell us:

Every day they should be to you as something new. (Rashi, Devarim 26:16)

This thought is expressed quite clearly in the language of the blessing pronounced before reading the Torah:

..Who has chosen us from among all the nations and given us His Torah...Who gives the Torah. (Siddur)

We conclude the blessing with the present tense, that G‑d gives us the Torah.

This daily Torah giving is, however, not exactly the same as the once-a-year phenomenon of Matan Torah.

This is analogous to the case of remembering the Exodus from Egypt. Everyday, at night and by day, we mention and recall the Exodus, yet, our daily remembrance and recollection of the events of the Exodus does not compare to the experience of commemoration during the Season of Our Freedom, when we celebrate the holiday of Pesach and create the fundamental remembrance of the Exodus, which then trickles down through the year.

The same is true of Shavuos, that in the Season of the Giving of Our Torah the fundamental reliving of Matan Torah takes place and then spreads out to the rest of the year. Therefore, when this time of the year comes around we must effect the proper preparation for this year’s Matan Torah, and thereby properly set the process for the whole year.

On the first day of Sivan each year these preparations begin, just as it was that first time, thousands of years ago. Actually, however, the preparations should begin with this ShabbosMevarchim, for since we set the day of the new moon by the calendar, on the preceding Shabbos we know when Rosh Chodesh will be and we bless the new month. This day, then, transmits blessings to the coming month and especially to the special days of the month, such as Shavuos and Rosh Chodesh. It is therefore appropriate to begin our preparation for Shavuos from Shabbos Mevarchim. Coming as it does one day before Rosh Chodesh, this Shabbos Mevarchim has an even closer connection to the month of Sivan.

Among the many preparations for Matan Torah there was one which assumed major significance. It was the special role of the Jewish children.

The Midrash relates:

When Israel stood before Mount Sinai to receive the Torah the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them: “...bring some good sureties that you will keep it and then I will give it to you.” They replied, “Sovereign of the Universe our ancestors will be our guarantors...our prophets will be our sureties.” (These were not accepted.) They said to Him: “Our children shall be our sureties.” To which G‑d replied: “Verily these are good sureties; for their sake I will give it to you.” Hence it is written: “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have founded strength” (Tehillim 8:3). “Strength” refers to the Torah, as it says, “The L‑rd will give strength to His people” (Ibid. 29:11). (Shir HaShirim Rabbah I,4:1)

Having completed the preparation of the first five days of Sivan, the Holy One, Blessed be He, was evidently still not satisfied and He requested guarantors from the Jewish people who would ensure the future observance and fulfillment of Torah by the Jewish people. The initial candidates for this role of guarantor were rejected by G‑d, and only the children merited His approval, and in their merit He gave the Torah to the Jewish people.

The yearly preparation for the Season of the Giving of Our Torah should therefore also include a guarantee for the observance of Torah. Which sureties does G‑d accept? the young Jewish children who have not yet reached the age of mitzvos; pre-bar-mitzvah boys and pre-bas-mitzvah girls. Yes, the women also had a part in Matan Torah, and in fact Moshe was commanded to speak to the women first and then to the men.

It therefore follows that during the days of preparation for Matan Torah there should be special effort put into activities geared for children of pre-bar/bas-mitzvah age, over and above the normal yearly activities in this area.

In recent years much has been done to encourage the activities on behalf of Jewish children under the auspices of the unique organization called Tzivos Hashem.

The term “Tzivos Hashem” was first used when the Jews left Egypt and since the purpose of the Exodus was Matan Torah, the name “Tzivos Hashem” applies especially to the Jewish people at the time of Matan Torah.

And although Tzivos Hashem included Jews of all ages, since the guarantee accepted by G‑d for Torah was the young children, it becomes evident that the term “Tzivos Hashem” applies mainly to the small children.

The portion Bamidbar will also have a connection with Tzivos Hashem.

Bamidbar begins with the subject of the census of the Jewish people. In fact, the book of Bamidbar is called “Numbers” because of the censuses recorded in Bamidbar. The Jewish census was geared to count the men over 20 who would be part of the “Tzava” — the Jewish army:

Every male over 20 years old who is fit for (military) service. (Bamidbar 1:3)

It is this Jewish army which is referred to as “Tzivos Hashem.”

So you say that this is a negative connotation, for here we are counting as members of Tzivos Hashem only men over the age of 20 — not children — what do the children have to do with the army?!

But the answer is that when the Jews left Egypt, traversed the wilderness and then went on to conquer the Land of Canaan, there was a need for an actual army, as well as armaments, and it was necessary for the soldiers of that army to be capable of waging physical war. The children, on the other hand, had to study, to be trained in Torah, for in the merit of the Torah study of the children the world exists (cf. Shabbos 119b). And we may not interrupt the children’s study even to build the Beis HaMikdash (Ibid.).

Today, however, we stand on the threshold of the ultimate redemption — of which Scripture states:

In ease and rest shall you be saved. (Yeshayahu 30:15)

When that ultimate day comes there will be no opposition, there will be no more wars; to the contrary:

And they will bring all your kinsmen from all the nations as an offering to G‑d, ...just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to G‑d’s house. (Yeshayahu 66:20)

Therefore, in modern times the need for an army of Hashem — Tzivos Hashem — is purely for spiritual reasons — the King’sLegion, to addhonor and respect to the king.

Consequently, just as the tribe of Levi (the King’s Legion) was counted from the age of one month, so too, we include the children from the age of one month; and it is doubly appropriate, since their motto is “We Want Mashiach Now” for the children are called “Meshichai,” — “My anointed ones,” as the Gemara says:

“Touch not My anointed,” refers to school children. (Shabbos 119b)

I speak of the present and of the practical.

Wherever there are chapters of Tzivos Hashem, the days of preparation for the Season of the Giving of Our Torah should be utilized in an ever-increasing manner to organize programs for children below the age of bar/bas mitzvah and to stress the role of the Jewish children as guarantors for the Torah.

This must come about by increasing all aspects of Torah and mitzvos and especially Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity, which, in addition to being an important rule of Torah, is the foundation upon which G‑d gave us the Torah, as we learned, that Israel camped, “as one man with one heart.”

We must encourage the children to increase their Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity by actually extending a helping hand to a friend in need and by encouraging others to join Tzivos Hashem. Such acts comprise acts of lovingkindness in a corporeal way.

They should also see that all children will attend the Torah reading in the synagogue on Shavuos morning (Thursday) — to hear the Ten Commandments.

Thus, when the Torah is given to us again this year, the guarantors will be present and available.

It is fitting that at this time and place all the boys who are here, and all the girls in the women’s section, should carry out an act of tzedakah — kindness. Each boy should extend to his neighbor a cup of wine for “LeChaim” and each girl should give her friend a piece of cake.

By exchanging portions of wine and cake each child will have the mitzvah of tzedakah and acts of kindness, in which will be expressed, very definitely, Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish Unity.

They should also sing a lively song which expresses the inner desire of every Jew and especially Jewish children — “We Want Mashiach Now.”

And for their sake also the parents, teachers and counselors should also say LeChaim, for they have merited to raise them and educate them in a fitting manner for Tzivos Hashem, and also all the participants of this farbrengen should say LeChaim.

May all these good acts speed the coming of Mashiach, and by adding joy through wine and song, we will pierce the diaspora and immediately see the true and complete redemption in our Holy Land. Then, automatically we will celebrate the Season of the Giving of Our Torah with Mashiach in our Holy Land in the Beis HaMikdash.

Then Matan Torah will be perfected for we will study Torah from Mashiach — and the promise will be fulfilled:

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor...for they shall all know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them.” (Yirmeyahu 31:33)

So may it be speedily and truly in our days.

2. Having previously designated this Shabbos afternoon as a time for gatherings of unity and love [see essay: Unity & Love], now that we are gathered, we can discern deeper meaning and greater significance in this universal expression of Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish Unity.

We will find this unity enhanced by various aspects, such as the fact that this year is a leap year which unifies the solar year and lunar year.

The solar year is usually about eleven days longer than the regular lunar year, therefore when the gap reaches approximately 30 days, a leap year is pronounced and the 13th month is added to the year. Following this system, it sometimes occurs that the leap year will have more days than necessary to make up the accrued deficit of the moon years to that point, and will be longer then the usual sun year. Nevertheless, in such a case the extra days are added in advance of the deficit.

The leap year thus provides a unification of the “great luminary” with the “small luminary” in a manner that equalizes both of them.

In our Divine service we may also find an example of this unification of great and small.

Among the Jewish people there are also divisions between great and small which might cause jealousy or competition. Sometimes there are situations where this jealousy could bring a positive outcome. As the Talmud states:

The jealousy of scribes (scholars) increases wisdom. (B. Basra 22a)

The lesser also contributes to the greater one, as in the case of a student and teacher. The true teacher is really in a loftier league than his student, yet the teacher may also benefit from the student more than from his colleague and teacher (cf. Taanis 7a).

The student, on the other hand, must aspire to raise his talents and intellect to reach the level of his teacher and actually be like the teacher, thus forging a unity between giver and receiver. Then there will be no need for one to absorb and nullify the other, rather they both combine and fuse together as one.

There is another aspect of unity as a result of the proximity of Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh. Shabbos leads directly into Rosh Chodesh with no interruption, and under certain conditions it would be permissible to pray the evening service before sunset while it is still Shabbos, and at the same time you would recite the portion of Ya’aleh Veyavo, for Rosh Chodesh, while it is still Shabbos. In that case you have united Shabbos with Rosh Chodesh.

Yet another aspect of unity on this Shabbos is the setting of Rosh Chodesh on Sunday.

Chassidus explains that every Sunday is symbolic of the first day of creation, which was called “one day” (not the “first day”), for G‑d was one and alone in His world; even the angels were not created till the second day of creation. So that on the first day G‑d was truly alone and one. We, too, are referred to as “one nation in the land,” and this gives us the power to reveal G‑d’s uniqueness in the land, and this also brings to unity among the Jewish people as well as Ahavas Yisrael.

In today’s Chumash portion we find reference to this unity and our discussion and involvement in the subject will increase the Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish Unity.

Practically speaking, may our discussion bring to Jewish Unity and to Ahavas Yisrael — “Love your neighbor as yourself”; as two limbs of the same body.

Coming before Shavuos this Shabbos is associated with the verse “Israel camped opposite the mountain,” on the first day of Sivan. Why? Because when they came to the mountain where the Torah would be given they camped in perfect unity.

May the increase in Ahavas Yisrael nullify the causes of the galus and when the cause disappears the galus will dissipate and immediately we will merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach quickly and speedily in our days.

3. Today we read the portion of Bamidbar which is also the name of the fourth book of the Pentateuch. In the word “Bamidbar” we find a symbolic reference to Jewish unity and Ahavas Yisrael. A “midbar” is a wasteland, a destitute desert, a place where people cannot normally live. When one must travel through a “midbar” to reach another place of civilization the trip itself is very hazardous and dangerous.

Travel through the desert is therefore only undertaken by caravan; when many people travel together they afford each other protection and insurance against the perils of the wilderness. For that reason Halachah recognizes that certain rules may be applied differently when one is traveling as part of a caravan — for if he is left behind, G‑d forbid, he would be in mortal danger.

Thus, we see that the “midbar” symbolizes the importance of unity, cooperation and mutual love.

In the first verse of Bamidbar, Rashi tells us:

G‑d spoke...In the Sinai desert...on the first day of the second month...because they were dear to Him, He counts them every now and then. (Rashi, Bamidbar 1:1)

Here we have a clear indication of G‑d’s love for the Jewish people, which of course is closely connected to the love which one Jew shows for another. The Alter Rebbe explained that when we know of G‑d’s love for Jews we naturally come to love our fellow Jews — for “one will love him who his beloved loves.”

On this Rashi a basic question presents itself. Rashi cites the words from v. 1, “G‑d spoke...,” Rashi then goes on to discuss the census of the people, “Because they were dear...He counts....” However, in the scriptural context the count of the Jewish people is not mentioned until the second verse! “Take a census of the entire Israelite community....” In the first verse no mention of counting is made! Why does Rashi give us his commentary on the first verse? Rashi’s rule is not to explain a problematic verse until he comes to the verse which needs explanation.

Some of the annotators of Rashi raise this question and answer that Rashi was actually concerned with the date: “the first day of the second month.” And his emphasis tells us that because G‑d loves the Jews He counted them three times in one year.

However: (1) Because of the varying conclusions of the annotators it appears that this is not the plain meaning of the verse, or, of the Rashi.

(2) If we assume that the emphasis here is on the timing of the census then why are there no dates mentioned in the case of the two previous censuses — so that we would see their proximity and deduce that G‑d loves us so He counts us often? The truth, however, is that in the two previous counts the Torah does not mention the dates!

(3) Why does not Rashi also include the year: “In the second year of the Exodus,” so that we will see the correct timing of the census.

Another similar question was raised concerning the first Rashi in the portion Behar, where Rashi cites the words “on Mount Sinai” and goes on to ask “Why are the laws of Shemitah connected to Mount Sinai?” The laws of Shemitah are not mentioned until v. 2! Why did Rashi refer to it before it is mentioned?

Although there are times when Rashi cites one or two words that introduce a topic and he then goes on to explain all the later details under the first verse, this only holds true when he actually cites the very first words of the chapter and no others. Here and in Behar this is not the case! Why then does Rashi quote v. 1 and talk about v. 2?

Let us go back for a moment to the first verse.

G‑d spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert in the Communion Tent on the first day of the second month in the second year of the Exodus, saying.... (Ibid.)

When the five-year-old Chumash student studies this verse he is faced with problems: Why tell us that G‑d spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert? We know that the Jewish people were still in the Sinai Desert. On the first of Sivan in the first year they had camped at Sinai and until Behaaloscha we do not find that they moved. There it says:

In the second year of the Exodus on the 20th of the second month the cloud rose.... The Israelites thus began their travels moving on from the Sinai Desert until the cloud came to rest in the Paran Desert. (Bamidbar 10:11-12)

It is important to note that from the time they had camped near Sinai, a year before, they still had not moved. It is self-evident that all the conversations between G‑d and Moshe had taken place in the Sinai Desert and all the commandments of G‑d to Moshe during this time had been in the Sinai Desert.

So, why suddenly here, at the beginning of Bamidbar, does the Torah tell us that G‑d spoke to Moshe in the “midbar” of Sinai — where else?! This question comes to mind as soon as the verse is mentioned, even before the date!

Similarly in Behar, where no date is mentioned, the question begs to be asked: why mention that these laws were taught on Mount Sinai, all the mitzvos were given at Sinai?!

In our portion Rashi explains: “Because they were dear to Him,” in other words — there is no halachic reason for mentioning the Sinai Desert, rather it reminds us that G‑d loves the Jewish people. The five-year-old Chumash student remembers that in the portion of Bo, Rashi had written:

To tell how praiseworthy Israel was: that they did not say, “How can we go forth into the wilderness without provisions,” but they had faith, and set forth. This it is that is referred to in the Prophets: “I remember for you the affection of your youth, the love of your espousal, how you went after Me in the wilderness in a land that was not sown.” (Yirmeyahu 2:2)

Here we are going to show the preciousness of the Jewish people through counting, so the Torah also mentions another word, “Bamidbar,” which emphasizes the preciousness of the Jewish people, that they followed G‑d into the desert.

For this reason too the Torah mentions when the count took place (although not the year), to show that even though a long period of time had gone by since leaving Egypt and they were still in the desert — the patience and loyalty of the Jewish people (hence then preciousness) had not waned.

In the portion Behar, Rashi was faced with the same question — why mention Mount Sinai, all the mitzvos were given on Sinai? So Rashi answers: Yes! indeed, it is from the mitzvah of Shemitah that, in fact, we deduce that all the mitzvos, with all their details were taught to Moshe at Sinai!

One question remains on Rashi, why does he add the words — “Thus is it taught in Toras Kohanim,” at the conclusion of his commentary? (Rashi, Vayikra 25:1)

Normally, when Rashi accepts a commentary as representing the plain meaning of the verse, he does not give us the reference, but leaves it anonymous. If so, why mention Toras Kohanim here? The answer is that Shemitah might really not be a good example to extrapolate from for all other mitzvos, because it is very important and fundamental. The Torah tells us that the punishment for not observing Shemitah would be exile! If so, one might say only Shemitah was taught with all its details at Sinai. Therefore Rashi says, this commentary was taught in Toras Kohanim — we have found no reason to reject it as plain meaning, but it does lack some simplicity, so take it as is.

This commentary emphasizes the love of the Holy One, Blessed be He, for the Jewish people and the importance of Jewish unity and Ahavas Yisrael.

4. In the sixth chapter of Avos which we learn this week we will find a lesson which stresses the themes of Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity.

The first Mishnah states:

R. Meir says: Whoever occupies himself with the study of the Torah for its own sake merits many things. (Avos 6:1)

The “many things,” being a true expression of Torah, must really include everything, although the finite human could probably not absorb infinite blessings.

The Mishnah then goes on to list:

He loves created beings...he brings joy to men. (Ibid.)

“He loves created beings” clearly is a reference to Ahavas Yisrael, even as it is expressed in relation to those who may only be classified as “creatures,” nevertheless there is a feeling of brotherly love. The trait of “brings joy to men” goes a step further. Since joy nullifies the restrictions, it creates a unification of the “creatures” in love and joy — it penetrates and permeates the individual from head to toe — so that the feet begin to dance and the result is true unity.

R. Meir’s intention is to tell us that we must love our fellow created beings and we must bring joy to their lives.

Loving your neighbor as yourself is not sufficient, if the friend remains a separate entity to whom you show your love. There must be a unity which unites all Jews to be part of one great body; when each limb views the other as part of itself. After all, there must still be the emotions of Ahavas Yisrael to the other Jew, not to be satisfied with the minimum as you do for yourself, but to show real love which wants the best for the others.