1. There are three aspects to this Shabbos: 1) It is the Shabbos following Rosh Chodesh Sivan, when all the concepts of Rosh Chodesh are elevated; 2) It is the Shabbos from which Shavuos, the “Season of the Giving of our Torah,” is blessed; 3) It is the second of Sivan. In these three aspects themselves, there are concepts related to Shabbos as it is “sanctified of itself,” and aspects which are added through man’s service, when he infuses extra sanctity into Shabbos. And when a Jew understands the greatness of this Shabbos, he will utilize it to perform service in these matters to perfection.

The service of this Shabbos associated with Rosh Chodesh Sivan and Mattan Torah is a special one that is additional to the general service of Shabbos. Every Shabbos has two main aspects: 1) the common theme of all Shabbosim — that it completes and elevates the matters of the preceding week, and blesses the following week; 2) the unique aspect of each Shabbos that is not present in the other Shabbosim (in our case, the elevation of Rosh Chodesh Sivan, and the blessing for Mattan Torah).

In slightly different words: In their external aspect, all Shabbosim are the same. In their inner aspect, however, each Shabbos is different, with its own unique concepts. By rights, we should start with the common theme of all Shabbosim, since this is present every Shabbos. However, because we have already spoken about it on past occasions, and it has been printed in Chassidic works, we will therefore explain the unique aspect of this Shabbos — that it completes and elevates Rosh Chodesh Sivan, and blesses “the Season of the Giving of our Torah” (Mattan Torah).

Mattan Torah was the most important event in the life of Jewry, to the extent that Jews then became a nation. Thus, the Shabbos from which Mattan Torah is blessed is lofty indeed — and its service must be correspondingly lofty.

Rosh Chodesh Sivan was the day the Jews “came to the Sinai desert,” to Mt. Sinai, the place where they received the Torah. Indeed, the Haggadah says that “if He had brought us before Mt. Sinai ... it is enough,” meaning that this alone, even before the actual receiving of the Torah, is a very lofty thing.

In addition, Scripture states, “Yisrael camped there.” “Camped” in Hebrew is “vayichan,” which is singular tense, indicating they camped there “as one man with one heart.” Just as the limbs of a person are united together through the heart, so, too, all Jews were united together at Mt. Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Thus, this Shabbos which elevates and completes Rosh Chodesh Sivan, is lofty indeed.

In addition to these two aspects of Shabbos — which affects matters beforehand (Rosh Chodesh Sivan) and afterwards (Mattan Torah) — there is a special distinction attached to the day itself, the second of Sivan. This distinction too, as the previous explanations, must be comprehensible even to a simple, unlearned Jew.

The explanation must, first and foremost, be in the exoteric realm of Torah (nigleh), for so is the order of study first understanding a subject in the simple, exoteric sense, and then learning its deeper, esoteric meaning. We study in this particular order (first the exoteric and then the esoteric) not because we can’t do it any other way, but because this is how G‑d wanted it. Since G‑d is omnipotent, He could have laid down the order in reverse: first the esoteric, then the exoteric.

Indeed, at Mattan Torah, the esoteric, mystical aspects of Torah were revealed, while the exoteric aspects were concealed. At Mattan Torah, “G‑d came down on Mt. Sinai,” together with the heavenly “chariot” and myriads of angels, etc. G‑dliness, the esoteric, was openly revealed, to the extent that the Jews saw it with their physical eyes. The exoteric, the laws of the Oral Torah, on the other hand, was given in a concealed way, only encompassed in the Ten Commandments (which alone were openly said at Mt. Sinai).

We see, then, that G‑d can make the study of the esoteric precede that of the exoteric (as at Mattan Torah) — but He wanted the order to be the other way around: first people should study the exoteric, and then the esoteric. The reason why the order was reversed at Mattan Torah is because Mattan Torah was the start of Torah study — and the start of something is done in a special way. We see, for instance, that we give a small child an extra present when starting to train him to learn Torah. The beginning of Torah was given with an “extra present” — the revelation of the esoteric. Afterwards, however, the order of study is first the exoteric, followed by the esoteric.

In our case, then, the distinction of the second of Sivan must first be understood in the exoteric realm of Torah. The Alter Rebbe writes in his Shulchan Aruch: “Immediately after Rosh Chodesh [Sivan], Moshe began to engage with them in the matter of receiving the Torah, for Rosh Chodesh was on Monday, and on Tuesday (the second of Sivan), he said to them, ‘You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests, etc.’” That is, although the Jews reached Mt. Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, Moshe began to discuss Mattan Torah with the Jews only the next day, on the second of Sivan. And this is the distinction of this Shabbos (in addition to it being the Shabbos after Rosh Chodesh and the Shabbos preceding Mattan Torah) — that it is the second of Sivan, the day “Moshe began to engage with them in the matter of receiving the Torah.”

2. The source for the Alter Rebbe’s words is the Talmud Shabbos (86b), which explains why Moshe did not immediately begin discussing Mattan Torah on Rosh Chodesh, when they arrived at Mt. Sinai, but rather waited until the next day, the second of Sivan. It states: “On Monday (Rosh Chodesh), he did not say anything to them, because of the weakness induced by the journey.” The Jews were weak and fatigued from the journey they had just undertaken to reach Mt. Sinai, and therefore on Rosh Chodesh, the day of their arrival, Moshe did not say anything to them but waited until the second of Sivan.

But not all is clear: As soon as the Jews left Egypt, they longed and yearned to receive the Torah, to the extent they counted every day until they reached the time of Giving the Torah. And their desire grew stronger as the time came nearer. How can we say, then, that after such longing, when they finally reached the place they would receive the Torah, Moshe did not say anything to them “because of the weakness induced by the journey.” They should have demanded that Moshe speak to them about receiving the Torah: how could they defer it simply because they were fatigued?

Moreover, the journey to Mt. Sinai from Refidim was not that long, and the “cloud” that preceded the Jews smoothed the path for them. There thus does not seem to be that much “weakness” that should prevent Moshe from speaking about receiving the Torah.

Furthermore, even a simple Jew knows that when traveling, he engages in Torah. Certainly, then, after reaching their destination, the “weakness” induced by the journey does not seem sufficient reason to prevent Moshe from speaking to the Jews.

However, just as one travels from place to place in its physical sense, so one travels in a spiritual sense. One must “travel” from a lower level to reach a higher level — which takes time.

In our case, besides the actual journey to Mt. Sinai, there was also a spiritual journey — from a previous level to a higher level, until they were fit to reach the place where they would receive the Torah (Mt. Sinai). Moreover, at Mt. Sinai they were “as one man with one heart,” united together. Obviously, there was a very great difference between Moshe Rabbeinu, for example, and the simplest of the Jews — and a corresponding great spiritual distance that Moshe had to travel to truly unite with the simplest Jew, and which the simplest Jew had to travel to unite with Moshe.

This spiritual journeying is much more difficult than its physical counterpart. Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the day they arrived at Mt. Sinai and united together, was the day this vast spiritual journey between Moshe and the simplest Jew took place — and because of this “weakness,” Moshe did not speak to them on this day.

The above is emphasized by our Sages’ explanation that it was only at this encampment (at Mt. Sinai) that the Jews were “as one man with one heart,” whereas “all the other encampments were with complaints and strife.” It is obvious that in the desert, removed from all worldly concerns, with “bread from heaven” (manna), water from Miriam’s well, and surrounded by the clouds of glory, such “complaints and strife” were not over worldly matters, but were “controversies for the sake of heaven.”

For example: The clouds of glory which surrounded the Jews on all sides were not different parts of the same cloud, but were comprised of a number of separate clouds — one on each of the four sides, one above, one below, etc. It was over this that the Jews argued. Those encamped on the east side, for example, perceived the distinction of the cloud on the east — the direction in which the sun rises, corresponding to the beginning of service; those on the west perceived the distinction of the west — the direction in which the sun sets, corresponding to the completion of service.

A controversy which is “for the sake of heaven” is more difficult to abolish than an ordinary argument. Thus, the spiritual “journey” which the Jews had to undertake to reach the level of “as one man with one heart” — abolishment of the controversy for “the sake of heaven” — was a very difficult one, and therefore caused “weakness.”

This teaches us how vital love and unity between Jews is as a preparation to Mattan Torah. Our Sages say that when G‑d saw that the Jews were united, He said that they are now fit to receive the Torah. This unity can be effected in a moment, as we see that prior to coming to Mt. Sinai they were in “strife,” and with the arrival at Mt. Sinai, they were “as one man with one heart.” Today, after Mattan Torah, when we have received the command and strength to “love your fellow as yourself,” the above certainly applies.

“Weakness of the way” indicates a deficiency, for the hard work involved in “journeying” from one state of affairs to another is a result of man’s limitations. However, that Moshe did not say anything to the Jews on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, also indicates the greatness of Jews.

When the Jews became united “as one man with one heart” on Rosh Chodesh, they thereby became united with G‑d. They were on the same level on this earth below as their root and source is Above — in complete unity with G‑d. In their root and source, Jews are on a level higher than Torah; and, since on Rosh Chodesh the Jews were openly illuminated by their root and source, it follows that the Torah at that point was lower than they. Mattan Torah was, so to speak, a descent for them. Therefore, on Rosh Chodesh Moshe did not speak to them about Mattan Torah.

Nevertheless, the ultimate aim is the service of Jews in fulfilling Torah and mitzvos (the idea of Mattan Torah) on this earth, on a level below their root and service — which is why Mattan Torah was necessary.

* * *

3. Parshas Bamidbar talks of the census of the Jewish people and their order of encampment in the desert. Ch. 3, verse 38 states: “Camping in front of the Mishkan, towards the east before the Ohel Moed, ... shall be Moshe and Aharon and his sons.” Rashi, quoting the words, “Moshe and Aharon and his sons,” comments: “And next to them was the banner of the camp of Yehudah, and those that encamped with him [i.e. under Yehudah’s banner], Yissachar and Zevulun. ‘It is well with the righteous and well with his neighbor’ — since they [the tribes of Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulun] were neighbors of Moshe, who engaged in [the study of] Torah, they became great in Torah, as it is said, ‘Yehudah is My scepter’; ‘And of the children of Yissachar, men that had understanding, etc., two hundred were heads of the Sanhedrin’; ‘And out of Zevulun they that handle the pen of the writer.’”

Rashi is explaining that since these three tribes — Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulun, encamped near Moshe, they became great in Torah study, as evidenced by the proof-texts quoted by Rashi. This is a continuation of a previous comment by Rashi, on the verse: (3:29) “The families of the sons of Kehos shall encamp on the side of the Mishkan towards the east.” Rashi comments: “Next to them was the banner of Reuven who was encamped on the south. ‘Woe to the wicked and woe to his neighbor.’ Therefore Doson and Avirom and two hundred and fifty men of them were smitten together with Korach and his congregation, for they followed after them in their dispute.”

Again, Rashi is saying that because the tribe of Reuven was camped next to Korach (of the families of Kehos), they were influenced by them, and followed Korach in his dispute with Moshe — “Woe to the wicked and woe to his neighbor.”

There are several perplexing points here:

1) Rashi only makes a comment when there is a difficulty in the plain meaning of the verse. In these verses, however, there do not seem to be any problems. What, then, forces Rashi to make the comments he does?

The Maharal of Prague explains, “that Rashi comes to resolve the differences in texts. In every other place [where it speaks of the encampments] it is written, (3:35) ‘On the side of the Mishkan they shall camp towards the north,’ and likewise previously (3:23) ‘Behind the Mishkan they shall camp towards the west.’ Yet here [regarding Kehos] it is written, ‘they shall camp on the side of the Mishkan towards the south,’ whereas it should have written [to be uniform with the above two verses] ‘on the side of the Mishkan they shall camp towards the south.’ However, the reason it does not write the words ‘they shall camp’ next to the words ‘towards the south,’ is because Scripture in this case does not come to tell the command they shall camp on the south side.... It comes instead to teach that since they were on the south side, the children of Reuven [who were on the same side] followed after them in their dispute.” The Maharal gives the same explanation concerning the verse, “Moshe and Aharon and his sons” — Also here, he [Rashi] comes to resolve the textual usage, for it should have written, ‘Moshe and Aharon and his sons shall camp before the Ohel Moed towards the east.’ But [it does not do so] for Scripture does not come to tell us the commandment [regarding where Moshe should camp], but only to inform you that those encamping in the east were these worthy ones [Moshe, Aharon and his sons]; and therefore those that camped next to them were like them.”

This explanation, however, holds good only for the verse concerning Kehos, for there Rashi quotes the words, “The families of the sons of Kehos shall camp, etc., towards the south” — and it is these words which provide the difficulty Rashi is answering. In the verse concerning Moshe, however, Rashi does not quote the words, “Camping in front of the Mishkan towards the east ... was Moshe and Aharon and his sons,” as the subject on which he is commenting. It is thus impossible to say that Rashi is resolving a textual difficulty when he doesn’t even quote the text which he is supposed to be resolving!

2) Rashi, in his commentary on the verse concerning the encampment of Moshe, Aharon and his sons, says that the tribes of Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulun became great in Torah “since they were neighbors of Moshe who engaged in Torah.” He makes no mention of Aharon and his sons. Why, then, when quoting the words from the verse on which he is making his comment, does Rashi quote, “Moshe and Aharon and his sons”? He should only have quoted the word, “Moshe.”

3) In this same comment, Rashi writes, “And next to them was the banner of the camp of Yehudah, and those that encamped with him, Yissachar and Zevulun.” Yet, in his comment on the verse concerning Kehos, Rashi writes only, “Next to them was the banner of Reuven who was encamped on the south,” and makes no mention of those that encamped with him, the tribes of Shimon and Gad.

The explanation:

The verse concerning Kehos, because of its textual difference from the other verses, forces Rashi to make his comment (as the Maharal of Prague explains). Once Rashi has explained this, it is self-understood that if the influence of a neighbor can work for the bad (“Woe to the wicked, and woe to his neighbor) it certainly works for the good. Rashi therefore must explain that this indeed applies in regard to “Moshe and Aharon and his sons” — that “next to them was the banner of Yehudah ... it is well for the righteous and well with his neighbor.”

Thus, even if there were no textual difference (from other verses) in the verse concerning Moshe’s encampment, Rashi would still have to make the same comment (about the good influence of a neighbor), as a natural continuation of his comment regarding the bad influence of a neighbor — for neighbors certainly influence also for the good.

Therefore, Rashi does not quote the words, “Camping in front of the Mishkan towards the east” — the textual difference from other verses which forces his comment (as the Maharal explains) — for even without this textual difference, Rashi must still make his comment about the good influence of a neighbor, in counterpart to the bad influence of a neighbor.

The reason why Rashi quotes, “Moshe and Aharon and his sons,” although in his comment he mentions that Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulun were neighbors only of Moshe, is because they too exerted a good influence on their neighbors. Even if Moshe was camped in a different place than Aharon and his sons, each would have had a good influence on their neighbors. Thus Rashi quotes also the words, “Aharon and his sons,” for in the respect of exerting a good influence, they were like Moshe.

However, a righteous person’s influence is not just a general one, but in the particular sphere in which the righteous person excels. Thus, although Aharon and his sons also exerted a good influence, it was in a different area of conduct than Moshe. Rashi, in relating the influence exerted on those who were neighbors of Moshe, Aharon and his sons, tells of them becoming “great in Torah” — and greatness in Torah is specifically connected to Moshe, Torah being Moshe’s principal characteristic. Therefore Rashi says, “since they were neighbors of Moshe who engaged in Torah, they became great in Torah” — and does not mention Aharon and his sons, for their influence in the sphere of Torah was negligible compared to Moshe’s influence. The influence of Aharon and his sons would have expressed itself in their principal characteristic — the priestly service. But because we are talking about Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulun becoming “great in Torah,” Rashi only mentions Moshe, compared to whom Aharon’s influence was negligible (in the sphere of Torah).

The reason why Rashi does not write about those who were encamped with Reuven (Shimon and Gad), whereas he does write who was encamped with Yehudah (Yissachar and Zevulun), is simply because Shimon and Gad did not follow Korach in his dispute. Korach’s influence affected only Reuven, and did not extend to those encamped with him. Moshe’s influence, on the other hand, extended also to those encamped with Yehudah (Yissachar and Zevulun), because “the measure of good exceeds the measure of punishment.”