1. Chassidus explains that the festival of Sukkos emphasizes the idea of unity. Since Shemini Atzeres (and Simchas Torah — which is the second day of Shemini Atzeres), although a separate festival, is also a continuation of Sukkos, the idea of unity is also found therein. However, on Shemini Atzeres the ideas of Sukkos are expressed in their inner content, and thus unity is expressed more emphatically on Shemini Atzeres. We find that its offerings are “one bullock” and “one ram,” unlike the seven days of Sukkos when 70 bullocks are offered. The Talmud explains that the 70 bullocks offered on Sukkos correspond to the seventy nations, whereas the one bullock on Shemini Atzeres corresponds to “the one people.”

The idea of unity on Shemini Atzeres expresses the essence of Jews — “one people on the earth.” Although on the “earth” (corresponding to division and separateness), they are still “one people.” Thus, when Jews are on the “earth,” they are as “guests” — for since their true essence is unity, oneness, the “land” (division) is not their true place.

An illustration of this concept is found in a story about the Maggid related by the previous Rebbe. The Maggid had hardly any furniture, and the little he had was simple in the extreme. When a guest commented that the furniture in his (the guest’s) home was much more luxurious, the Maggid agreed and said “In the home it is completely different.” When a person leaves his home on business, he makes do with little, knowing it is not his home, and he is only a “guest” wherever he stays. This is what the Maggid meant when he said “In the home it is completely different.” A Jew must know that he is only a “guest” in this physical world, and therefore he should not chase after and desire material possessions.

In greater clarification: This physical world is not a Jew’s “home;” he is here only as a “guest” who comes to engage in “business.” Just as a businessman spends and invests money to earn more money, so too the soul descends into this world for the purpose of thereby gaining an elevation to a level higher than before its descent. In the future to come, however, there will be no more “business,” and then Jews will be in their true place, their home — and not “guests” who come for business.

This then is what the Maggid meant: Since a Jew is in this physical world as a “guest,” and it is not his true home, he should not yearn after material things — just as a businessman on his travels does not seek the same luxurious accommodations as in his own home — for “in the home it is completely different.”

Although, through Jews’ service, this world is made into a dwelling place for G‑d — and therefore it does become the true home of a Jew — this is only after the completion of the work, when the promise “the glory of the L‑rd will be revealed and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the L‑rd has spoken” will be fulfilled. But before the completion of this service, this physical world is still a “deep pit” — and is therefore not a Jew’s true home. For although even now “the whole earth is full of His glory” and “there is no place devoid of Him,” nevertheless, before Jews make it a dwelling place for G‑d, the world is in the state of a “deep pit” — G‑dliness is not revealed.

Of course, this in no way contradicts the idea of serving G‑d with joy. The Rebbe Maharash explains that all the lofty things that will be revealed in the future come about through man’s service now. Thus a person’s service in the “deep pit” is with great joy, knowing that he is effecting the revelations of the future. Moreover, a Jew has the ability not only to effect the revelations of the future, but to reveal those matters right now. It is recorded in Zohar that if even one tzaddik would do complete teshuvah, Moshiach comes in his generation. Since teshuvah can be done in a moment, it follows that a person can bring Moshiach in a moment — and thereby reveal all the revelations of the future.

Although a Jew is a “guest” in this physical world, G‑d must still give him all his material needs generously. For since a Jew is in this world on G‑d’s mission, G‑d must provide him with everything necessary for its fulfillment.

We see this from a mishnah concerning the obligation to supply food to workers engaged for a job. The mishnah states that “even if you should prepare for them a banquet like Shlomo’s in his glory, you have not fulfilled your obligation to them, for they are children of Avraham, Yitzchok and Ya’akov.” Certainly then, in our case, when we are talking of an agent of G‑d — and even more, a son of G‑d — G‑d certainly must give him all his material needs in ample measure.

This does not contradict the above story of the Maggid. For when the “guest” is the King’s son, then even on a journey he is taken care of more luxuriously than an ordinary person in his home. On the other hand, the Maggid’s answer “In the home it is completely different” still holds true — for in the home of the king everything is supplied in infinitely greater luxury than for the king’s son on a journey.

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2. It is a custom of the Rebbeim to explain the verses of “Ata Horaysa” that are said before Hakofos. The first verse is “You have shown to know that the L‑rd is G‑d, there is none else aside from Him.” We have explained this verse in previous years in different ways, and this year, since it is the 100th year of the Rebbe Maharash’s Yartzeit, we will explain it consonant to his famous dictum “lechatchilah ariber” — one must always aim directly for the top, transcending all difficulties (as opposed to starting from the bottom and working one’s way up, encountering and disposing of difficulties).

The Alter Rebbe explains that “You” (in our verse “You have shown”) is direct tense, referring to the Essence of G‑d. “You” implies direct revelation, such that a person can turn to the subject and speak directly to him. This term cannot be applied to the different levels of G‑dliness, for since there are differences in the amount of revelation and concealment of G‑d, even the revelation that does exist is not in such full strength that one can say of it “You.” Only of the Essence of G‑d, in which there are no differences in regard to revelation and concealment, one can say “You.” In other words, the revelations of G‑dliness will be different corresponding to the level on which a person stands — the higher the level, the less the concealments, and therefore the higher the revelation; and the lower the level, the greater the concealments, and therefore the lower the revelation. It is only the Essence of G‑d which is equal on all levels, for there are no concealments in the Essence.

This corresponds to the saying “The Name of heaven is fluent in everyone’s mouth” — even in the lowest levels. “The Name of heaven” refers to G‑d’s Essence, for simple people (“everyone’s mouth”) do not know of the different “sefiros” and revelations: they know only of G‑d Himself — His Essence. And that “the Name of heaven is fluent in everyone’s mouth” means a Jew does not need deep knowledge of Torah to know this, but, since Jews are “believers the sons of believers,” it is simply “fluent” in their mouths — they know it instinctively.

That is why the word “You,” the beginning of the 17 verses of Ata Horaysa, is the idea of “lechatchilah ariber.” We do not start the verses from the lowest level and work up, but from the top — “You,” G‑d’s Essence, the highest level.

Even the revelation of G‑d’s Essence is in the manner of “lechatchilah ariber” — “You have shown to know. G‑d’s Essence could have been revealed in various ways — through contemplation, faith etc. This verse teaches that it is revealed through seeing — “You have shown.” That is, G‑d has shown His Essence to us. And this revelation through seeing affects all of man’s other faculties — the ten soul powers, thought, speech and deed, his limbs etc. Thus the verse states “You have shown to know.” “Knowledge” (“daas” — as opposed to “chochmah” and “binah”) means knowing something with absolute firmness; and since knowledge is the key to all of the other soul powers, the revelation of G‑d’s Essence reaches them too.

Thus the idea of “lechatchilah ariber” is also present in the revelation of G‑d’s Essence. Not only do we start with “You” — G‑d’s Essence, but the revelation of this “You” starts from the top -actual seeing, from which it permeates to the other soul powers — “You have shown to know.”

The verse then continues “that the L‑rd is G‑d.” “L‑rd” (“Havayah”) and “G‑d” (“Elokim”) are two different levels in the revelation of G‑dliness. “L‑rd” refers to G‑dliness transcending nature, and “G‑d” to G‑dliness as it is immanent in nature.

These too are in the manner of “lechat’chilah ariber.” The levels of L‑rd and G‑d are revealed (“You have shown to know”) to be one thing — “the L‑rd is G‑d.” This verse does not talk of L‑rd and G‑d as two different methods of revealing G‑dliness, but starts from the top — they are one. The level of L‑rd is seen in G‑d, and the level of G‑d is seen in L‑rd. The reason for this is that there is a revelation of G‑d’s Essence, in which great and small are alike — nature and transcending nature are one.

Not only does the idea of “lechatchilah ariber” apply to the revelation of G‑dliness in the world (“the L‑rd is G‑d”), but also to the world itself -as alluded in the continuation of the verse “there is none else.” “There is none else” is paradoxical. The very fact that we find it necessary to say “there is none else” indicates there could be something else — and simultaneously we say “there is none else.” It is only the revelation of “You have shown to know” (“lechatchilah ariber”) which tells us that there is no possibility of anything else.

Further still, the verse states: “There is none else aside from Him.” “There is none else” says that there is only G‑d — the world is not a (true) existence. “There is none else aside from Him” means there is no (true) existence “aside from Him” — but together with Him there is the existence of the world. That is, the existence of the world is G‑dliness. The world is not just an illusion, for the fact that mitzvos are performed with physical objects proves the world truly exists. That existence, however, is G‑dliness.

It follows then that “There is none else aside from Him” is a greater paradox than “There is none else.” The paradox in the latter is that on the one hand we say the world could be an independent existence. and simultaneously we say it is not an existence. After the fact that “There is none else,” the world is no longer an independent entity. The paradox in “There is none else aside from Him” is that on the one hand the world is an existence (not just could be), and on the other hand, its existence is G‑dliness. Even after the fact that “There is none else aside from Him,” the world is still an entity — but it is G‑dliness.

This paradox is the idea of “lechatchilah ariber.” That two opposites can simultaneously co-exist is a very novel concept. Their synthesis is only possible because of G‑d’s Essence. It is only when we start from G‑d’s Essence “lechatchilah ariber,” — that its revelation can be in the manner of “there is none else aside from Him” — the synthesis of two opposites.


3. Simchas Torah is an appropriate time to once again remind and urge everyone to participate in the Torah campaign — to increase, both qualitatively and quantitively, in Torah study. On Simchas Torah every Jew is given the strength to learn more than before.

It is likewise the appropriate time to urge everyone to ensure that all Jews acquire a letter in one of the Sifrei Torah being written to unite all Jewry. Through this all Jews are united into one entity, similar to the “one Torah.” Since a Sefer Torah is kosher only when all its letters are present, a Jew, when influencing another to acquire a letter, is helping to make his letter in the Torah complete.

Since “study is great for it leads to deed,” an increase in the Torah campaign leads to an increase in the other mitzvah campaigns. This starts with the tefillin campaign, as our Sages said: “The entire Torah is compared to tefillin.” Especially since our “hunger” to perform this mitzvah has increased over the days of Yom Tov when we do not put on tefillin. Then follow the other campaigns: education, mezuzah, tzedakah, house full of Jewish books, and the three campaigns special to Jewish women and girls: Shabbos and Yom Tov lights, kashrus, and family purity.

Special emphasis is given on Simchas Torah to these three campaigns special to women. The joy of Simchas Torah is associated with the giving of the second set of tablets on Yom Kippur. The second set are a continuation of the first set. And the special quality of Jewish women is emphasized as the introduction to Mattan Torah (both first and second tablets) — Moshe Rabbeinu was told to speak first to the women, and then the men.

The above three campaigns (Shabbos lights, kashrus, family purity) are emphasized in the portion of the weekly parshah of “Isru Chag” (the day after Yom Tov) — the second portion of parshas Bereishis. It talks of the creation of Adam; and Adam, our Sages say, was “the blood of the world,” “the challah of the world,” and “the light of the world.” Chava (Eve) caused Adam to sin and thus was the cause of all the troublesome consequences. Women were therefore given the three mitzvos of niddah, challah, and lights (family purity, kashrus, and Shabbos lights) to atone for and rectify Chava’s misdoing.

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4. On Simchas Torah, after we finish reading the conclusion of the entire Torah, we start reading from the beginning — “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth.” There does not seem to be any connection between Simchas Torah and the creation of the world. If we wish to emphasize that G‑d is continually renewing the creation, this is applicable every day, not just Simchas Torah. If we are referring to the original day of creation — it is not Simchas Torah, but the 25th of Elul (or Rosh Hashanah, when Adam, who was the purpose of creation, was created.

However, the purpose of a soul’s descent into this world is to elevate the world through the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos. We can therefore not allow any break of our Torah study. Hence, when we finish reading (and learning) the Torah on Simchas Torah, we immediately begin it again.

Tzaddikim are like their Creator.” G‑d created the world through the Torah, as stated: “He looked into the Torah and created the world.” Jews, too, through learning the verse “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth,” effect the creation of the world anew. This is especially so since “Whoever reads and learns (Torah), G‑d reads and learns opposite him.” Hence, when a Jew reads that “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth,” G‑d reads the same thing “opposite him” — and since G‑d’s words are as deeds, the world is created anew. And since to G‑d there is no difference between one time and a thousand times, the creation anew of the world now is exactly as the original act of creation — although thousands of years have passed since then. Indeed, since “one rises in holiness,” the creation is in loftier fashion.

There is a lesson in this for us: When a Jew engages in worldly matters after Simchas Torah, he must know it is not the same world as yesterday; it is a new world. Therefore, even if his previous service was perfectly correct, the creation anew of the world in a loftier fashion demands loftier service. This is achieved through a new increase in Torah study and performance of mitzvos.

A Jew need not fear to work to elevate the world, despairing of success, for the world was created “for the sake of Torah and for the sake of Israel.” Moreover, we have just read parshas “V’Zos Haberachah” — “This is the blessing,” which relates all the blessings given to Jews, thereby helping them fulfill their mission.

5. Simchas Torah, as its name indicates, is the rejoicing with the Torah. However, the Torah was given to Jews on the festival of Shavuos. Why then is not Simchas Torah on Shavuos?

Chassidus explains that the joy of Simchas Torah is associated with Yom Kippur, when the second set of tablets were given; Shavuos is associated with the first set of tablets. The first set correspond to the service of tzaddikim, the perfectly righteous; the second to the service of baalei teshuvah, penitents (for the second tablets were given after Moshe had obtained forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf — the reason why he broke the first set — which was after the Jews had repented).

It is because the second set of tablets is associated with teshuvah that it has many things not present in the first tablets. The Talmud states that “If not for the fact that the Jews sinned, they would have been given only the five books of the Torah and the book of Yehoshua.” Likewise, the Mid-rash states that when Moshe Rabbeinu was distressed over the breaking of the first tablets, “G‑d said to him, do not be distressed over the first tablets, for they only contained the Ten Commandments; but the second tablets I shall give you will contain Halachos, Midrash and Aggados — double strength.”

Because of the greatness of the second tablets -the extra strength of the service of teshuvah — Simchas Torah is celebrated specifically in the month of Tishrei, as a continuation of Yom Kippur when the second tablets were given.

But all is not clear: Simchas Torah is the rejoicing on the “conclusion of the Torah” — not on the service of teshuvah. Why then is the joy associated with the giving of the Torah on Shavuos deferred until we also have the distinction of the service of teshuvah (second tablets)? Moreover, we see that Simchas Torah is associated with the conclusion of the Written Torah specifically. These were present also in the first tablets (“the five books of the Torah and the book of Yehoshua”). It is not associated with the conclusion of the Oral Torah, which was the extra greatness of the latter tablets (“Halachos, Midrash and Aggadah”). If, then, Simchas Torah has nothing to do with the greatness of the latter tablets — why isn’t it celebrated on Shavuos?

We can answer this by understanding a general principle in Torah. Cause and effect occur, by definition, at different times: First the cause, then the effect. If two things happen simultaneously, it is proof they are not cause and effect.

For example: A slave is freed by his master giving a freedom document to another person, who accepts it on behalf of the slave. The slave cannot himself accept the document, for whatever he acquires belongs automatically to his master. If the document would be given directly to the slave directly, it would be a case of cause and effect happening simultaneously. The effect: the slave becomes a free man. The cause: the slave accepts the document. These must happen simultaneously, for the very fact that the slave is able to accept the document is because he is a free man (for a slave — as a slave — cannot accept a document of freedom on his own behalf). In other words, he becomes a free man when he accepts the document — and he can only accept the document when he becomes a free man! Because of this paradox, authorities explain there are specific rules as to when we can say things occur simultaneously.

Another example: The Yom Kippur service must be performed by the Kohen Gadol (high priest). In case a disqualifying mishap occurs to the kohen gadol, another kohen is prepared. Although a kohen gadol needs initiation before service, the substitute kohen gadol, when he replaces the original one (if he was disqualified), does not need special initiation, for his service initiates him. This again is a case where the cause and effect seemingly occur simultaneously. The effect: the substitute becomes the kohen gadol and can therefore perform the Yom Kippur service. The cause: his service which serves as initiation. In other words, he becomes kohen gadol only because he serves (which is his initiation) — and he can serve only because he is kohen gadol!

A third example: The vessels used in the service of the Bais Hamikdosh had to be specially sanctified. “The vessels which Moshe made were sanctified by being anointed; from then on, vessels were initiated by their use.” The cause — sanctification; the effect — they can be used. In other words, the vessels can be used only because they are initiated — and they are initiated because they are being used!

Because, as stated above, cause and effect by definition cannot occur simultaneously, authorities explain that the case of the “serving vessels” are not really cause and effect occurring simultaneously. Note it does not state “from then on, vessels were sanctified by their use” but rather “vessels were initiated by their use.” It is not talking of the cause — the actual sanctity — but the beginning (“initiation”) of service.

So too in the case of a mitzvah and the joy of a mitzvah. The effect is the joy; the cause is the performance of the mitzvah which brings joy. Since cause and effect cannot occur simultaneously, we must say there is no such thing as joy of a mitzvah in relation to the commandment to have joy in a mitzvah.

Now we can understand why Simchas Torah is not celebrated on the festival of Shavuos. Shavuos is the concept of the Giving of the Torah, when G‑d’s commandments were given to the Jews (in the Torah). This includes the commandment to fulfill mitzvos, and the commandment to have joy in the commandments. Simchas Torah (joy in the commandments) can thus not be celebrated on Shavuos. The joy of Simchas Torah is the effect; the cause is the giving of the commandments in the Torah, including the commandment to have joy. Since cause and effect cannot occur simultaneously, Simchas Torah (the effect) cannot be celebrated on Shavuos (the cause).

In other words, one cannot have joy in the commandments until he has been commanded to have joy. The effect is the joy in the commandments; the cause is the commandment to have joy. And if one were to rejoice at the time the commandments were given — including the commandment to have joy (Simchas Torah on Shavuos) — the cause and effect would be happening simultaneously.

However, this answer is rather weak. For although cause and effect cannot be simultaneous, Simchas Torah could still be on Shavuos — some time after the giving of the Torah (during the same day). First would be the cause — giving of the Torah; then the effect — the rejoicing in the Torah.

In truth, the entire question of why Simchas Torah is not celebrated because of the first tablets is not really valid. Moshe broke the first tablets immediately when he brought them down. Thus we cannot celebrate Simchas Torah because of the giving of the first tablets, for there is no joy in such a case — they were immediately broken!

Yet all is still not clear: Why don’t we have Simchas Torah on the 6th of Sivan, when the Ten Commandments were given (before the first tablets were even written)?

The reason is similar to the reason we don’t say “Hallel” on Rosh Hashanah. Hallel is the idea of “song.” On Rosh Hashanah, Jews are judged for life, and the service then is one of awe. And there is no place for “song” in such a situation.

So too in our case: The Jews at Mt. Sinai were in a state of awe and fear. We therefore cannot have Simchas Torah in association with the hearing of the Ten Commandments, for open rejoicing is not possible when one is in a state of awe and fear.

Although in the exoteric realm of Torah (“niglah”) this answer suffices, it is not enough in the esoteric (Chassidus)-. For we could still ask: According to the above answer, Simchas Torah should by rights be at the time of the giving of the first tablets. It is only because humans sinned that it wasn’t. Since, however, G‑d is all-powerful, He should have arranged matters to ensure that the breaking of the tablets do not interfere with the joy of the giving of the tablets. For example, if the tablets were broken the next day, or some other time.

That is why we need also the explanation of Chassidus. The reason for not having Simchas Torah at the time of the giving of the first tablets is not because there is a reason that prevents it (the breaking of the tablets), but rather because the ultimate in the giving of the Torah was through the second tablets. Thus, even if the first tablets were not broken, Simchas Torah would still be associated with the second tablets.

The advantage of the second tablets, Chassidus says, is because they correspond to the service of teshuvah (as explained earlier). The Torah was given so that this low world could be elevated and made into a dwelling place for G‑d — which is the service of teshuvah. This is achieved through man’s work (in addition to the Torah given from G‑d), for through toil in Torah, a Jew reaches the loftiest levels. And this is the distinction of the second tablets — “Halachos, Midrash and Aggadah ... double strength.” It includes all aspects of the Torah: not just the general rules given to Moshe at Sinai, but everything that will be deduced in all generations through Jews’ toil in the Torah.