1. Everything in the world comprises several aspects. Everything is created by G‑d, Who, while one, also encompasses an infinite number of details. Thus, every one of G‑d’s creations possesses the same two characteristics: it is a single creation in which several concepts and details are encompassed.

If the world, which conceals truth, is thus a mirror of creation, Torah, which illuminates that which is concealed, certainly is. Hence, while it is the “one Torah” given from the “one G‑d” to the “one people on the earth,” each of its concepts embraces a multitude of details. A farbrengen expresses the same phenomenon: It is a gathering of a number of Jews, each different from another; simultaneously, they are gathered together for one purpose.

The day on which this present farbrengen is being held, the fifth of Sivan, also comprises several aspects: 1) It is the day on which Israel said “We shall do and we shall hear”; 2) It is erev Shavuos.

We shall discuss each of these two aspects. We shall discuss the former (“We shall do and we shall hear”) first, for the fact that today is erev Shavuos is connected to the service of preparation for the next day (Shavuos), whereas the idea of “we shall do and we shall hear” is today’s service.

There are three aspects to the Jews’ utterance of “We shall do and we shall hear.” 1) “We shall do” — the actual fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos with the 248 limbs and 365 sinews of the body; 2) “We shall hear” — the study and comprehension of Torah and mitzvos with the soul which is in one’s heart and mind; 3) The two of them together, with “We shall do” preceding “We shall hear.”

Action preceding understanding is the aspect which synthesizes the “We shall do” with the “we shall hear”: The action is done in such a way that it is discernible that study will follow, and the study is done in such a way that it is discernible that it follows action. Simply put, one may perform mitzvos without understanding (study), out of pure faith. “We shall do and we shall hear” teaches that the deed must be performed such that one can see it is a “preface” to understanding. That is, the faith with which one performs mitzvos permeates one’s understanding. On the other hand, one’s comprehension (“we shall hear”) must be based upon and permeated with faith (“we shall do”).

That action precedes understanding emphasizes the unity of Jews. In understanding and comprehension alone (“we shall hear”), there are obviously different degrees; in action alone (“we shall do”), differences exist between priests, levites and Israelites, for there are certain deeds which can be done only by one of these three groups. But in putting action before understanding — i.e., a Jew’s absolute dedication to G‑d — all Jews are equal. Thus the third aspect of “We shall do and we shall hear” — deed before comprehension — emphasizes the unity between Jews.

The unity engendered by uttering “We shall do and we shall hear” on the fifth of Sivan is loftier in certain respects than the unity engendered on Rosh Chodesh Sivan when “Israel encamped opposite the mountain” — which was “as one man with one heart.” The latter unity is great indeed, for, as we say in the Haggadah on the night of Pesach, “Had He brought us before Mt. Sinai and not given us the Torah, it would be enough.” In other words, the unity engendered when “Israel encamped opposite the mountain” (“Had He brought us before Mt. Sinai”) is so great a matter, that even if G‑d had not afterwards given us the Torah, it would be enough.

However, this unity was a feeling in the heart — “as one man with one heart.” The unity engendered by putting deed before understanding permeated even the physical body and the physical world: It was a verbal declaration, and “the movement of one’s lips is a deed;” and as such, even non-Jews could hear it and know that Jews are united.

“These days are remembered and kept,” meaning, that when each year we “remember,” the original events are “kept” anew. Indeed, consonant to the commands, “Rise higher in sanctity” and “go from strength to strength,” the events repeated each successive year are in loftier fashion than the previous year. In our case, the idea of “We shall do and we shall hear” is effected anew each year on the fifth of Sivan, and each year in a fashion loftier than the previous year.

The lesson, then, that we derive from the fifth of Sivan itself (i.e., the lesson from the day itself, even before it acts as the eve and preparation to Shavuos) is that we must put deed before understanding and, as noted above, in greater fashion than in previous years.

As all aspects of Mattan Torah, this lesson is relevant to all Jews, for “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Ya’akov” — and even a newborn inherits the whole inheritance. Also, our Sages say that “everyone who was destined to be created, to the end of all the generations,” was present at Mt. Sinai; and concerning these souls at Mt. Sinai, there are obviously no differences between newborns or adults such differences would occur only later.

The above is emphasized when Jews assemble on the fifth of Sivan to together resolve to put deed before understanding, for then, unity is stressed. It is specially emphasized when the gathering takes place in a “bais knesses” (synagogue), for “bais knesses” literally means a house wherein many people gather together — again, the idea of unity. The purpose of gathering together in a “bais knesses” is to pray to G‑d; and prayer is the idea of self-nullification before G‑d, for one prays “as a servant before his Master” — and all those who pray in a bais knesses have the same “Master.” Also, the halachah is that when one prays, “he should turn his face towards Eretz Yisroel ... and he should have in mind also toward Yerushalayim, and toward the Bais Hamikdosh and toward the Holy of Holies; if he was standing in Eretz Yisroel, he should turn his face toward Yerushalayim ... and have in mind also toward the Bais Hamikdosh and toward the Holy of Holies; if he was standing in Yerushalayim, he should turn his face toward the Bais Hamikdosh and have in mind also toward the Holy of Holies ... As a result, all Israel direct their heart to one place.”

Thus, in prayer, all Jews throughout the world are united by turning their face and heart to one place: the Bais Hamikdosh and the Holy of Holies therein, the place where G‑dliness is most evident. From this we can deduce how great is the unity engendered when Jews assemble in a bais knesses.

The above is associated also with a “beis medrash” (study hall for Torah), for prayer should be in a place where Torah is studied. And the source for the entire Torah is the two tablets which were in the Holy of Holies, and whence revelation went forth to the whole world.

We said above that the fifth of Sivan emphasizes the actual unity between Jews. This is further emphasized when expressed in the mitzvah of tzedakah, through which Jews are united in an actual deed (not just in “movement of the lips” as above). One can perform the mitzvah of tzedakah even to a Jew who does not need anything, by greeting him pleasantly and by being hospitable (deed).

Indeed, it was in just such a fashion that the Jews performed the mitzvah of tzedakah when they left Egypt and were preparing to receive the Torah. Our Sages relate that every Jew was extremely wealthy from the “spoils of Egypt” and the “spoils of the sea” — and there certainly wasn’t enough time from the exodus to the receiving of the Torah, nor was there the opportunity, to fritter away their wealth!

How, then, did they perform the mitzvah of tzedakah, if everyone was so wealthy? They treated each other pleasantly, and were hospitable one to another. This, too, is emphasized at this farbrengen: Guests have left their homes to come to this bais knesses and bais medrash; there is, therefore, a golden opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah by showing them hospitality.

* * *

2. The second aspect to today, as noted above, is that it is the eve of (“erev”) and preparation to the following day, the sixth of Sivan, Shavuos, the “Season of the Giving of our Torah.”

The preparations made on erev Shavuos contribute to the perfection of Shavuos. In the case of erev Shabbos, for example, our Sages say that “He who toils on erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos” — meaning, the eating on Shabbos is according to the preparations made on erev Shabbos: the greater the preparation, the better the eating.

In our case, on the fifth of Sivan, one must make the proper preparations to Shavuos in addition to the service of the fifth of Sivan itself (“We shall do and we shall hear”). Through these preparations, our acceptance of Torah on the sixth of Sivan will be in a loftier manner. And to know what preparation to make on erev Shavuos, we must first understand what is the concept of Shavuos.

Shavuos is the “Season of the Giving of our Torah.” What was special about Mattan Torah? Even before the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, “Avraham kept the whole Torah” — observance of mitzvos, and “Avraham our father was old and sat in Yeshivah” — study of Torah. So did Yitzchok and Ya’akov, so did the tribes, and so did the Jews in Egypt, as our Sages say, “A Yeshivah never left our fathers; when they were in Egypt, they had a Yeshivah.” Certainly under Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership, the Jews learned Torah from him — even before Mattan Torah. And particularly in the months preceding the exodus, when they had stopped working as slaves, all Jews could devote themselves to Torah study. And after the exodus, when they were removed from all worldly concerns and were totally preoccupied in going to “serve G‑d on this mountain,” they surely learned Torah from Moshe Rabbeinu.

If, then, the Jews learned Torah even before Mattan Torah, what did Mattan Torah achieve? Further, the Ten Commandments given at Sinai with thunder and lightning concern very simple things, some of which were even kept by the nations of the world before Mattan Torah.

The unique nature of Mattan Torah was that then “G‑d spoke all these words”: The Jews received and learned the Torah from G‑d Himself. Before Mattan Torah, they had learned Torah from Moshe, Ya’akov, Yitzchok and Avraham; and great as these men were, learning Torah from them cannot compare to learning it from G‑d Himself! In the terminology of the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 12:3): Before Mattan Torah, a decree existed that “the upper [regions] shall not descend to the lower [regions].” Thus, when Jews studied Torah before Mattan Torah, it was purely on their own initiative, on the initiative of the “lower [regions].” At Mattan Torah, this decree was abolished, with G‑d making the first step toward joining the upper and lower regions, as written, “The L‑rd descended upon Mt. Sinai.”

This makes a difference in the actual observance of mitzvos. When a Jew knows that G‑d Himself in all His glory stands by him and commands him to accept His kingship and His decrees — the Jew’s service will be in a manner entirely different than otherwise.

A Jew can perform the mitzvah of tzedakah, for example, because he is good natured, or was taught to do so by his parents. But no matter how enthusiastically he will do so, it cannot compare to the way he will fulfill mitzvos when the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One blessed be He, descends on Mt. Sinai in all His glory with His retinue of angels, and tells him: Give tzedakah! In such a situation, a person doesn’t worry about having less money for himself through giving tzedakah; such a thought doesn’t even enter his mind when G‑d Himself tells him to perform the mitzvah of tzedakah. Indeed, he is extremely happy that he has been given the great merit to fulfill G‑d’s command.

Now we can understand the special nature of the fifth of Sivan, which is the eve of and preparation to Mattan Torah. The giving and receiving of the Torah is repeated each year on the sixth of Sivan. On the fifth, one prepares on this day for the wondrous event that will take place tomorrow — receiving and learning the Torah from G‑d Himself. And, as noted above, “He who toils on erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos” — through the preparation on the eve of Mattan Torah, “eating” on the “Season of the Giving of our Torah” is that much loftier: the Torah is received in an inner manner (“Your Torah is in my innards”).

Another lesson derived from the fifth of Sivan has to do with the fact that on the fifth, we complete the service of Sefiras HaOmer, making it a count of “seven full weeks.” That is, from Pesach to Shavuos we count 49 days of Omer, and the 49th day is the fifth of Sivan, erev Shavuos. This teaches that a Jew must make all aspects of his service as full and complete as possible. Even after performing service properly, one can always add to that service and make it yet more complete.

3. All of the above applies to the fifth of Sivan every year. In addition, there is a lesson to be learned from this year’s calendar. On most years, parshas Bamidbar is read on the Shabbos before Shavuos, and parshas Nasso after Shavuos; this year, also parshas Nasso is read before Shavuos.

The beginning of parshas Nasso states: “Lift up (nasso) the head of the children of Gershon.” This teaches that all the concepts of Mattan Torah this year should be carried out with an uplifted head. Moreover, one should rise (“lift up the head”) even to the level of “the children of Gershon” — of the tribe of Levi, who are “given to Me” — a lofty level indeed.

Another lesson derives from today’s portion of this week’s parshah, the third section of parshas Beha’aloscho, which talks of Pesach Sheni. If a person could not bring Pesach in its proper time (14th of Nissan) because he was unclean or on a distant journey, he is given the opportunity to do so on Pesach Sheni, the fourteenth of Iyar. The previous Rebbe explains that the idea of Pesach Sheni is that “nothing is irretrievable”: Even one who is unclean or an a distant journey — even if through his own fault — can rectify his omission. Indeed, not only is his service no longer deficient, but through him, a new section in Torah was added for all Jews. Because these Jews who were unable to bring the Pesach offering in its proper time cried out “Why should we be deprived,” an extra mitzvah (Pesach Sheni) was given for all Jewry.

The lesson from Pesach Sheni applies to all aspects of Torah and mitzvos throughout the year. A Jew may be on “a distant journey” from Judaism — meaning, that although a Jew can never be totally removed from Judaism because his soul, which is his life, is “part of G‑d Above” — he can be distant from the level on which he should be. In our case, a Jew may have begun his service of Sefiras HaOmer immediately after Pesach, and on each successive day goes “from strength to strength.” Yet, compared to his level, he should have performed the service of Sefiras HaOmer in a yet loftier manner. Compared to what he should have done, he is on “a distant journey.”

Today’s portion of parshas Beha’aloscho teaches that a person can rectify and complete omissions of the past, and make his service full and whole. In other words, a Jew has the ability to not only engage in all aspects of service of the fifth of Sivan, but also to rectify service of the past.

May it be G‑d’s will that each person undertake good resolutions in all of the above. In particular, when Jews gather together, there is special strength given to undertake good resolutions.

* * *

4. We recently proposed that all Jews learn a daily “shiur” in Rambam’s work, Mishneh Torah. Accordingly, we shall now analyze a point in today’s portion of Rambam — the beginning of “Sefer Zemanim” (Book of Seasons) which deals with the laws of Shabbos.

Rambam writes in his Introduction to Mishneh Torah that he wrote his work in “clear language and terse style ... so that all the laws be accessible to small and great.” Now, there are fourteen books in Mishneh Torah, and Rambam opens each work with a verse. This verse is relevant to the contents of that book specifically, and not (so much) to the previous or following books. And since Rambam wrote his work so that it be “accessible to small and great,” the connection between the book and the verse which begins that book must be simply understood to all Jews (“small and great”).

Rambam begins Sefer Zemanim — Books of Seasons, with the verse “I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.” Not only does this verse not seem to have any specific connection to the Book of Seasons, but is seems to contradict the contents of this Book.

In his Introduction to Mishneh Torah, Rambam explains the arrangement of his work into fourteen sections, and writes: “The third book: I include in it the mitzvos which [are to be fulfilled] at stated times, such as Shabbos and festivals. I have called this book ‘The Book of Seasons.’” That is, this book explains those mitzvos and laws the obligation of which is not a constant one, but applies only at certain times. For example: the laws of Shabbos, Yom Tov, shofar, sukkah, lulav, megillah and Chanukah.

The verse “I have inherited Your testimonies forever” seems to be a direct contradiction to the contents of this book, for this verse talks of something which is constant and eternal. An inheritance (“I have inherited Your testimonies”), the Talmud says (B. Basra 129b), “cannot be terminated.” [I.e., an estate, once bequeathed by a father to one of his heirs, becomes the absolute property of that heir forever, from whom it is transmitted to his own heirs. The father cannot interrupt this succession by appointing any other person as second heir in the event of the death of the first.] And “forever” certainly implies constancy and eternality. Why, then, does Rambam open the Book of Seasons, which deals with mitzvos and obligations which are not constant, with the verse, “I have inherited Your testimonies forever” which emphasizes constancy and eternality?

This verse would be more appropriate to the first book of Mishneh Torah, the Book of Knowledge, which talks about mitzvos which a person is constantly obligated to fulfill — the mitzvos of unity of G‑d, love of G‑d, fear of G‑d, etc. Likewise, this verse would also be appropriate to the second book, the Book of Love, which also talks of mitzvos which a person must continually perform: e.g., recital of Shema and prayer.

Yet Rambam does not open these books with this verse, but opens the Book of Seasons with it, a book which deals with mitzvos which apply only at certain times!

However, precisely because the laws in the Books of Knowledge and Love deal with mitzvos which one must perform continuously, Rambam need not cite a verse to show that these are eternal concepts: The laws themselves show that. In the Book of Seasons, however, which deals with mitzvos which do not apply all the time but only at certain times — e.g. Shabbos, once a week; Pesach, 7 days a year — it is necessary to ensure that one will not think that these mitzvos in any way contradict the concept that Torah is eternal. At the very least, it is necessary to ensure that one does not learn the laws in the Book of Seasons with less enthusiasm and vitality (since they apply only at certain times) than one learns other laws.

Rambam therefore begins this book specifically with the verse “I have inherited Your testimonies forever.” The mitzvos in the Book of Seasons are “testimonies,” testifying to certain events Shabbos, for example, is a testimony that G‑d created the world; Pesach is a testimony (and remembrance) to the exodus from Egypt; Shabbos is a testimony that G‑d made Jews dwell in Sukkos when they left Egypt. Similarly, the other mitzvos in this book are testimonies to events that took place at certain times — and therefore they are kept only at stated times.

Nevertheless, these mitzvos must be kept in the manner of “I have inherited Your testimonies forever.” These mitzvos are part of the Torah, and the “Torah which Moshe commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Ya’akov.” They are also “forever,” meaning their influence affects the whole year. Shabbos is an example: The command, “Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it” is an obligation which applies to all the days of the week. Pesach is another example: One must remember the exodus from Egypt every day of the year.

The rest of the verse then explains the reason for this: “for they are the rejoicing of my heart.” When the mitzvah of Shabbos, for example, is considered as “the rejoicing of my heart,” then, although Shabbos is actually kept but one day a week, it nevertheless transcends time for the person. A person lives with the idea of Shabbos on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, until the next Shabbos, when one rises yet higher in his appreciation of Shabbos. Similarly, the concepts of every other festival in the Book of Seasons, because they are the “rejoicing of my heart,” permeate the rest of the year until the celebration of the festival next year.

Rambam begins the Book of Seasons with this verse, then, as an introduction to the study of the whole book. Although one will be learning about mitzvos which are fulfilled only at certain times, they are nevertheless, in the category of “I have inherited Your testimonies forever” — for “they are the rejoicing of my heart.”

We shall now analyze one of the laws of Shabbos itself — the first law in today’s portion (ch. 3, law 1). It states: “It is permitted to begin a ‘melochoh’ (work which is prohibited on Shabbos) on erev Shabbos although it will be completed of itself on Shabbos. For we are forbidden to do work only on the day [of Shabbos] itself; but when the ‘melochoh’ is done of itself on Shabbos, we are permitted to benefit from what was done on Shabbos of itself.”

Rambam is saying that although the ‘melochoh’ in question was not finished before Shabbos, but was only begun then and will be finished of itself on Shabbos, nevertheless, “we are permitted to benefit from what was done on Shabbos of itself.” [Later on, Rambam cites certain cases where it is forbidden.]

This law may be interpreted in terms of one’s spiritual service. Melochoh” — “work” refers to our service during exile, which consists of transforming mundane things (weekday) into holy things (Shabbos). The ultimate perfection of this “melochoh,” when it is finished, is on Shabbos, “the day which is all Shabbos and rest for life everlasting” (the future era).

In spiritual terms, this law in Rambam is saying that “it is permitted to begin our service to G‑d on erev Shabbos (the latter days of exile) although it will be completed of itself on Shabbos.” For we cannot complete the work of exile (the actual redemption) but instead, the “melochoh” must be completed by G‑d — as written, “The L‑rd your G‑d will return your captives” — He will take out all Jews from exile in the manner of “You shall be gathered one by one O children of Israel.”