1. In connection with the holiday of Shavuos we find strong emphasis on the theme of Jewish unity.

At the time of Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai), a precondition for the giving of the Torah was that all the Jewish people had to gather at the foot of Mount Sinai; as the Midrash states:

If Israel had been short even of one man the Divine Presence would not have revealed itself to them. For it is written, “For on the third day, the L‑rd will come down, in the sight of all the people, upon Mount Sinai” (Shmos 19:11). (Devarim Rabbah 7:8)

Matan Torah could only take place if all the Jews were gathered together and were present at the foot of the mountain.

Moreover, in the period of preparation for Matan Torah we also find Jewish unity as an important factor:

In the third month...on the first day of the month...and there Israel encamped (singular) before the mountain. (Shmos 19:1-2)

The power of the “One Torah,” which they were about to receive, already united the people as one:

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

This unity and unanimity continues after Shavuos through the “days of completion,” which have the potential to complement and complete whatever was lacking during the holiday of Shavuos. So that on this last day of the “days of completion” the aspect of unity may be enhanced and made complete.

What is meant by “days of completion”? It means the potential to complete what might be lacking, but it also conveys the idea of perfecting that which is already whole.

In the days of the Temple if one had not offered his sacrifice on the day of Shavuos he was given time to bring it until the 12th of the month — “days of completion.” When he eventually brought the offering he no longer had any obligation and the following “days of completion” had no meaning for him.

But these “days of completion” really convey a more profound theme, which will express itself specifically when we do not have the Temple. In contemporary times the days of completion offer us an opportunity to complete, upgrade and perfect all aspects of our Divine service of Shavuos. Anything which was not up to par can be corrected, and even our good performance may also be upgraded and perfected, during all of the days of completion.

Being that during the experience of Matan Torah the aspect of Jewish unity was so strongly emphasized, it follows that every year on Shavuos we relive those experiences, and consequently, the 12th of Sivan, the concluding day of the days of completion, is an apropos time to gather many Jews, who might otherwise be dispersed, and conduct a farbrengen.

Even those emissaries whose distant missions are engendered by the genuine need to spread the fountains of Chassidus to the distant Jewish communities, should also gather together and be strengthened and encouraged in all areas of Yiddishkeit. They too need to be perfected and to shine as illuminating luminaries.

This place where we gather is also a great house of Torah and prayer. Consequently, we will merit to see the blessings of G‑d, and the emerging potential for great success — spiritually and materially.

In the merit of our good actions during the “days of completion” of Shavuos, G‑d will give the Third Beis HaMikdash to the “threefold nation” in the “third month,” and then we will reach still higher perfection during these days following Shavuos, till the 12th of Sivan. For then everything will be better, more revealed and perfect.

Our good actions will speed that coming, for everyone’s good action, or word, or thought can move the whole world to the side of merit. Certainly a farbrengen, which effects great joy Above, when it is connected to the time of Matan Torah, will have even greater good effects. It all depends on our good actions, which serve as the “key” to open the treasure chest of blessings from G‑d.

In discussing the term Tzivos Hashem, the “hosts (legions) of G‑d” used at the time of the Exodus, the Previous Rebbe expounds, in his series of Chassidic discourses, Basi LeGani, that when a king longs for victory he will:

Squander the rare treasures...wealth that has been collected over a number of years ...treasures that were kept hidden and sealed from all eyes.... The treasure-stores are opened and put in the hands of the officers...that they should reach the simple soldiers.... (Basi LeGani, ch. 11, pp. 52,53 — S.I.E., 1980)

All Jewish men, women and children are referred to as the “soldiers — hosts — of G‑d” and will receive G‑d’s bountiful blessings at the time of deliverance.

So may it be — we will do what is necessary to complete and perfect our Divine service, and G‑d will bring us the true and complete redemption, with our youth and elders, sons and daughters, and lead us to our Holy Land of which the Torah declares:

The eyes of G‑d your L‑rd are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year. (Devarim 11:12)

Speedily and truly in our time.

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2. The Rambam concludes the last chapter of the Book of Holiness (today’s study section) with a general observation of the respect which we must show for mitzvos.

He writes:

For reverence is due not to the commandments themselves, but to Him who had issued them, blessed be He, and had delivered us up from groping in the darkness by making the commandments a lamp to straighten out the crooked places and a light to teach us the paths of uprightness. And so indeed Scripture says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Tehillim 119:105). (Laws of Shechitah 14:16)

The Rambam brings this general thought about mitzvos after telling us a specific rule in the law of covering the blood:

When one performs the commandment of covering up the blood, he should not do it with his foot, but with his hand, or with a knife or utensil, so as not to conduct the performance of the commandment in a contemptuous manner, thus treating G‑d’s commandments with scorn. (Ibid.)

This principle is gleaned from the Talmud, which discusses the rules of covering up the blood and states that it must be done in a respectful way: “...so that precepts be not treated with contempt by him” (Chullin 87a).

Similarly, in the tractate Shabbos the Talmud discusses this principle of not treating the objects with which mitzvos are performed slightingly and the Gemara declares:

The father of all is blood! (The basis of all rules that require respect for mitzvos is the law relating to covering the blood.) (Shabbos 22a)

Clearly, the Rambam had this Talmudic dictum in mind when he concluded the laws of covering up the blood with the general rule about respect for mitzvos.

The question comes to mind why the sages of the Talmud used the rule of covering the blood as the basis of reverence for all other commandments? What is so important about the rule of covering the blood that makes it the basis for the whole Torah? In studying this mitzvah we do not find that it is considered one of the stricter prohibitions of Torah. In fact, it is not a prohibition at all, it is a positive commandment to cover the blood!

Moreover, the law of covering the blood seems to have a lenient aspect, in that anyone may cover up the blood, if the shochet (ritual slaughterer) did not. Why then is it singled out as the paradigm from which the rule of honoring a mitzvah is derived?

Furthermore, why does the Talmud use the expression “The father of all is blood”; why “father” (basis) and why “blood”? It is not the blood that makes the rule, but “covering” of the blood that sets the rule for honoring other mitzvos!

Let us therefore analyze the commandment of covering up the blood.

It is a positive commandment to cover up the blood which issues from the shechitah of a kosher beast or bird, as it is said “and whatsoever man...that takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten he shall pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust” (Vayikra 17:13). (Rambam, Laws of Shechitah 14:1)

Thus, the law of covering the blood applies only on kosher beasts (chayos) and birds and not on domestic animals (behemos).


Furthermore, it has been explained that one of the reasons for covering the blood is that it will help curtail the human attribute of viciousness:

We would develop more viciousness if we were to eat the meat while the blood (life-force) still lay before us...we must therefore cover the blood and remove it from sight before we may eat the meat. (Chinuch, Pos. Commandment 187)

So, why not do the same in the case of domestic animals?

In fact, since behemos have more blood than the wild beasts and birds, if the blood of a domestic animal is in front of us while eating, it surely would exacerbate the feeling of viciousness.

The following explanation for this disparity has been proposed. The mitzvah of covering the blood applied only to animals slaughtered for secular use and not for animals offered as sacrifices. Since the blood of the sacrifices had to be sprinkled on the altar, obviously it could not be covered with dust. Sacrifices may be brought only from domestic animals and not from free-roaming beasts. So, in order not to differentiate between the domestic animals used as sacrifices and those used for secular purposes the Torah excluded all domestic animals from the mitzvah of covering the blood.

In the case of birds only two species may be presented as sacrifices, the vast majority of kosher birds may only be used for secular use. Therefore, Torah made a general rule that all birds require the covering of the blood when slaughtered for non-sacrificial use.

It should also be noted that at the time the mitzvah was commanded the Jewish people were in the wilderness, where secular slaughtering was completely prohibited, so that all domestic animals were sacrificial and all the blood was sprinkled on the altar.

With this understanding of the basic principle of the mitzvah we can approach a moral and symbolic explanation of the commandment and then find an answer to our ponderations.

It has been explained that the verse “The blood is the life-force” symbolizes the enthusiasm and motivation of life. It is the mission of man in his service to G‑d to sacrifice his “fat and blood”; his enthusiasm and “life” must be dedicated to holy matters, just as the blood was sprinkled and poured on the holy altar.

The “fat” represents the pleasure and delight of life. Here too, a person must modify his attributes so that he finds pleasure and delight in G‑dly matters and holy occupations. His desire must be G‑d’s desire.

So, when the Gemara says the “father” of all the precepts is “blood,” it is referring to the basic premise of all mitzvos. The fervor and momentum generated by the “blood” must permeate all the mitzvos — and all mitzvos must be performed with enthusiasm, excitement and exuberance.

Now, what about covering the blood? Well, in the case of domestic animals, their blood was sanctified on the altar which represents the enthusiasm of Torah and mitzvos, wholly holy. For this reason it is not to be covered, on the contrary it must be revealed and its symbolic holiness must be publicized.

On the other hand, the blood of beasts and birds represents the enthusiasm in secular matters. Here, these attributes must be subdued, and the “blood” must be covered. How? exercise your power of self-control and self-abnegation; “My soul is like dust....”

This humility will also help to temper the enthusiasm in holy matters, not to get out of hand and lead to haughtiness — for if he trains himself in humility he will not fall into the trap of pride when he gives vent to his enthusiasm for mitzvos.

Now, when the shochet himself forgets, or neglects, to “cover” the blood it becomes the responsibility of any other Jew — because he is responsible for his fellow Jew — that if he sees uncovered blood slaughtered by another, he must cover the blood and thereby “help” the shochet.

Having indicated the proper perspective on which to view the rule that “the father of all is blood,” we can now better understand why the Rambam taught us the general rule about all mitzvos at the close of the Laws of Shechitah after teaching the rules of covering the blood.

Sanctity comes to the Jewish people through observance of mitzvos, as we say in the blessing, “Who has sanctified us with His commandments.” Therefore Rambam closes the Book of Holiness with a general rule pertaining to all mitzvos.

In the Rambam’s dictum we will discern three stages and levels in a person’s Divine service through observance of Torah and mitzvos:

A — “He has delivered us from groping in the darkness”;

B — “by making the commandments a lamp to straighten out the crooked places,” and;

C — “a light to teach us the path of uprightness.”

And so, indeed, Scripture says: “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

He has delivered us from groping in the darkness.”

Before a Jew can fulfill mitzvos and carry out his mission in the world, he must first eliminate the darkness. For so long as one is surrounded by darkness even if all his faculties and powers are perfect, he cannot see, and he will not know what to do: “A fool walks in darkness” (Koheles 2:14).

G‑d is the essence of goodness and generates goodness by His nature. He does not allow us to grope in the darkness.

By giving us the Torah of light and the mitzvos which shine like candles, the whole world is illuminated and the Jew sees and perceives what he has to do, and he can go about carrying out his responsibilities. He sees that the world needs to be refined and that it is his mission to improve and repair the problems. The world was created for him, and when all his actions are according to Torah the world will be rehabilitated.

There is a Master to the world and our mission is to serve our Master through Torah and mitzvos.

A lamp to straighten out the crooked places.”

When he sees the light, a Jew wants to fulfill a mitzvah, he then realizes that he cannot do a good deed with a medium that is evil or with something that is found in a place of wickedness:

If a man of greed says a blessing, he has mocked the L‑rd. (Tehillim 10:3)

So what to do about all the evil, negative, prohibited things in the world? He cannot ignore them and let them be, they must be rejected and eliminated, and it is the mission of the Jew to accomplish this, to “...straighten out the crooked places”!

Here, however, there will be two approaches: direct or indirect.

Generally, the prohibited aspects of existence are included among the negative injunction of Torah. When you come in contact with evil you reject it, and this act of negation rectifies this world and builds the world to come. This is the indirect approach.

When, however, one has transgressed and committed a sin, then, through the power of teshuvah (repentance) he can convert that negative force into a positive power. His power of teshuvah can refine the negative forces in a direct way.

And a light to teach us the path of uprightness.”

A Jew cannot be complacent with only “turning away from evil.” For it is through observance of the main body of positive precepts that a Jew draws G‑dliness into the world and creates a dwelling place for the Holy One, Blessed be He, in the world.

Positive commandments entail all the specific details of Torah and mitzvos, which are alluded in the term “path(s) of uprightness”; not just the broad “way” but also the individual “paths.” All the multifarious paths of Torah and mitzvos bring more G‑dliness into the world.

So the order of Divine service is first to illuminate the scene, then to turn away evil and then to radiate the good.

The Rambam concludes with the verse:

“Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Torah and mitzvos are not simply a just path, they must be seen as the path of the Jew — “mypath.” For, what a Jew can do an angel cannot do! The Holy One, Blessed be He, Himself, does not do what a Jew does, and, as it were, G‑d “longs” for our good deeds.

Why is this verse written in the singular? Because every mitzvah and every requirement of Torah was given to each and every Jew, and a Jew must realize that no one else can do what he has to do, as the Talmud expresses it:

Therefore every single person is obliged to say: “The world was created for my sake.” (Sanhedrin 37a)

May it be the will of the Almighty that each and everyone will strengthen himself in the study of Rambam and in all areas of Torah study, with enthusiasm, exuberance and pleasure. To present to G‑d the “fat and blood” and to reach the state of the “trusted servant” whose whole delight is only his master’s delight.

And may it speedily be revealed that the true delight and pleasure of every Jew is the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

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3. In the reading section of this week’s Torah portion which we study today, we learn of the first day of the offerings of the tribal princes. In this story the aspect of unity and Ahavas Yisrael is greatly emphasized, for on that day all the princes came together, in one format, with the same offerings, etc.

On this day they also brought the six wagons in which two princes united to present one wagon. Each one realized that he had to unite and combine with another in order to give a complete thing.

The question, however, comes to mind, since we already studied this section last week, why go over it again?

The answer may be found in our practice to say the blessing on Torah every day: “Who gives the Torah” — we then go on to read the verses of the Kohanic blessings and the Mishnah of Peah and then other chapters of Mishnah — even though we studied these sections of Torah yesterday! Why do we study these sections every day? But the answer is that each day we rise higher in holiness and all our studies are on a higher plane than they were the day before.

Similarly, in the offerings of the princes: although they all brought the same gift to the inauguration of the Tabernacle, still, the Torah describes each one individually — for each prince had special spiritual intentions and esoteric connotations.

So, even though we have studied this section last week and tried to “live with the portion of the week,” nevertheless, (since the holiday of Shavuos occurred on Shabbos and we did not read the regular Shabbos Torah portion) when we learn it again this week all aspects are raised to a loftier plane.

This is also the connotation of “take up the count” (lit. lift the head). All aspects of the Jewish people must be raised, even the “head,” which is the highest, can rise to the level of the “crown,” which transcends the head.