1. This year, Parshas Nasso follows, and is connected with, the holiday of Shavuos. While Parshas Bamidbar is also connected with Shavuos, as the Tur declares: “Bamidbar is always read before Shavuos,” there is an advantage to the connection with Shavuos shared by Parshas Nasso over that of Parshas Bamidbar. The connection between Parshas Bamidbar and Shavuos is not always direct. There is sometimes another Shabbos in between. Nasso, however, can come out either directly before, or directly after, Shavuos but it is always directly connected with Shavuos. If Nasso follows Shavuos then it completes and elevates all the aspects of the holiday, adding to them the element of — “calling Shabbos — pleasure.”1

Parshas Nasso contains a number of paradoxical elements. The beginning and the conclusion of the portion speak about elevated matters. However, the middle of the portion describes the procedure of testing a woman who has gone astray. In regard to this matter our sages commented: “a person will not commit a sin unless a spirit of folly enters into him.”

The general nature of the Parshah, however, is characterized by its name, which means “rise.” Thus it shares a connection with Shavuos, for Torah raises up the nature of a person, as the Talmud comments: “Who are kings? Our sages,” and “Through me (Torah) kings will reign.” The crown of Torah is the source of all royalty. Torah raises a person up when it is thoroughly understood and grasped. The one who studies Torah must be connected with it to the point that it permeates his intellectual soul and even his animal soul.

However, there are two types of elevation caused by Torah — one related to Parshas Nasso when it falls before Shavuos and one related to Parshas Nasso when it falls after Shavuos.

The first level can be described as follows: The very fact that a person can try to understand Torah with his limited intellect is shocking. Torah is G‑d’s Torah. How can it be approached by our minds? However, Torah itself wants that a person should try to understand it with his own mind, develop his theories, etc. Even though reading the letters of the Written Law without understanding their meaning is considered Torah study and requires a Brochah beforehand. Nevertheless, the complete level of Torah study comes through studying the Oral Law with ones own understanding. It is not enough to merely repeat the words of the Torah or even concepts of the Oral Law. One must apply his intellect and try to understand the Torah.

No one can understand the Torah in full, since it is infinite. Furthermore, the Alter Rebbe writes that the ultimate reasons for the Mitzvos have not been revealed. However, this refers to the essence of the Torah. The aspect of Torah which has been revealed must be approached intellectually. At the same time one must not follow one’s own intellect alone. Rather, one’s thinking must be shaped by the general principles of Torah.

Thus, there are two factors that are necessary for the study of the Torah: As a preparation to learning there must be self-negation — “let my soul be as dust to all.” — However, afterwards there must be — as the continuation of the prayer — “open my heart to Your Torah,” which is related to the aspect of elevation. The study of Torah does not destroy his personal identity. On the contrary — it permeates through every aspect of his personality. Unless he remains a personal entity, he will never be able to understand Torah fully.2

The portion of Bamidbar — “in the desert” — is related to the attribute of “self-nullification” — “let my soul be as dust to all.” In fact, the dust of the desert represents a complete level of self-nullification. Dust in general has a positive quality. It causes growth. However, the desert sands do not even possess that quality. Hence, they represent the ultimate level of self-nullification. However, after Bamidbar, we must follow the lesson of Nasso — becoming uplifted.

The above refers to the lesson of Nasso before the giving of the Torah. There is also a lesson to be learned from Parshas Nasso after the giving of the Torah. (The former relates to the uplifted attitude one must have in order to approach the Torah.) The latter refers to the manner in which the study of Torah itself uplifts a person and generates pleasure.3

(The comparison between the first and second levels of Nasso parallels the relationship between the world at the time of creation and the world after the service of the Jewish people. The creation came about because G‑d “desires kindness.” In fact, the first twenty-six generations were sustained due to G‑d’s kindness, enjoying abundance and bounty in all physical things. However, after the giving of the Torah, G‑d desired that “I shall give rain in their seasons,” and the other blessings as well, be related to a Jew’s service, through “walking in My statutes, keeping My commandments.” This brings out a deeper level of kindness than the former.)

Thus, this year when Nasso comes out after the holiday of Shavuos, we must relive the giving of the Torah4 and the following Shabbos must bring us to a higher level. May the above be brought into expression in actual deed, adding spirit and energy in the fulfillment of Torah.5 In order for this to happen everyone must realize that the above is addressed to him and that he is meant to carry out the above service. Then we will experience a “raising of our heads,” we will no longer be embarrassed by those who scorn us and proceed, adding more light, to the kindling of the Menorah.

2. The above refers to the lesson that can be learned from Parshas Nasso every year. This year there is an additional lesson due to the fact that the present year is a Shemitah year. During a Shemitah year, an increase in the study of Torah must be made (note Sephorno, Vayikra 25:2-4). Whenever, a Jew has extra time, he should devote it to Torah study; how much more so if he has been given an entire year of free time.

In general there is a disagreement between R. Yishmael and R. Shimon whether one should work or not. R. Yishmael maintaining one should, while R. Shimon argues that if so, “What will be with Torah?” The Talmud (Berachos 35b) explains that many followed R. Yishmael’s opinion and were successful. On the other hand, there are certain times (and certain individuals who lead their lives in the way of R. Shimon,) when we are freed from work and can devote our time entirely to Torah study. An example of this is the Shemitah year, when G‑d promises to provide for a Jew’s needs and therefore the whole time should be used for the study of Torah.

Thus, the Shemitah year emphasizes that everything that a Jew does must be permeated with Torah. Not only are his actions based on Torah and done “for the sake of heaven,” “knowing Him in all your ways.” Torah governs every aspect of their lives.

In this context, we can appreciate the lesson derived from the connection between Parshas Nasso and Shemitah. Nasso is also related to Torah, for Torah is the epitome of being upraised, from the crown of Torah is derived the crown of royalty and the crown of priesthood. Thus, the manner in which the Torah rules over all things (the crown of royalty and priesthood) must be direct, an outgrowth of Torah itself.

This concept was epitomized by the Rebbe Rashab. [At the age of thirteen] he had taught all the limbs of his body to act in accordance with Torah. Once when he was asked how he could make a decision (in regard to a gathering of communal leaders) based on instinct alone; without any reason to justify his actions. He answered since he had trained his body to conduct itself in accordance to Torah, if he does something instinctively, he is sure that it is done in accordance with Torah. Similarly, the Talmud relates how one sage’s body “bowed on its own,” at the Modim prayer. These examples are not the result of habit, rather they come from the body being totally given over to the Torah.

The above applies to each of us. Every Jew must be a king in his own home, directing his home and educating his wife and children. The manner in which he does so must combine pleasantness and firmness. An example of this concept can be seen from the passage in the Talmud (Shabbos 34a) which requires a man to ask his household three questions before Shabbos. “Did you take care of the Eruv, give tithes from the food, light the Shabbos candles?” However, says the Gemaro, the questions must be asked in a gentle manner, so that the family will respond favorably. Similarly, the Rambam Hil. Ishus (15:17) writes that one is commanded to “warn” — (the preliminary stage before a woman becomes a Sotah) his wife — an act of firmness — nevertheless, since the warning comes as a result of Torah, it must also be done in a pleasant manner. Thus, Torah and royalty are combined. Without the direct influence of Torah, even though one’s activities will be based on Torah, it is possible that one’s personal character will control one’s behavior. Hence, there is a possibility for anger and pride. However, when all the elements of one’s character are permeated by Torah, even one’s forceful behavior will be expressed in a gentle manner.6

Similarly, the crown of priesthood must be permeated with Torah. The mission of a priest is “to stand, to serve in the name of G‑d.” In a figurative sense, the category of priest can be expanded to include every Jew, for every Jew is a servant of G‑d. When one is occupied in a service of G‑d other than learning Torah, such as involvement in public affairs, at which time one is free of the obligation to study Torah (since “one who is involved in one Mitzvah is freed of the obligation of fulfilling other Mitzvos,”) one must be conscious that the reason for not studying is not because it is not the time for Torah study, but rather because the Torah itself frees him from the responsibility. — Torah frees him from the responsibility for it is impossible to do two things at one time. For it would be possible to do both things at once, he would be obligated to fulfill both.

Hence, even one’s involvement in public affairs [when one is freed from studying Torah] is a form of Torah.

The above is applicable in our service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus. Not only is it necessary to have Ahavas Yisroel on the level of thought, but also to express it on the level of deed. Furthermore, the love must be expressed in a manner in which the recipient will also be conscious of it. When one hears “the cry of a child” one must close the Sefer or the Ma’amar and go to help, giving him everything he needs. No matter how old the child is, one must lower oneself to his level7 playing with things that the child enjoys. To do so we must go beyond ourselves, no matter how high our level is.

The Shemitah year teaches us that even when one goes beyond oneself and lowers oneself to deal with others, one must still be connected with Torah. Furthermore, this concept must be internalized to the point that, as emphasized by the story of the Rebbe Rashab mentioned before, the body itself is governed by Torah.

On a practical level, it is necessary to become involved in all the Ten Mivtzoyim and also make efforts to amend the law of Mihu Yehudi. In this manner, we will attain “the crown of Torah” — and the other crowns that come through Torah, as aforementioned — and also attain “the crown of a good name;” which is related to the concept of Teshuvah. This will hasten the coming of Moshiach “who will cause Tzaddikim to do Teshuvah;” bringing about the time when we will see Aharon light the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdosh.

3. The above should also be connected with the campaign to “return the hearts of the fathers through the children.” The hearts of the Jewish people are awake to G‑d, Torah, and Mitzvos. Jewish children must speak to their parents’ — their hearts — and tell them ‘they must feel uplifted.’8 Since it is after the giving of the Torah they must be conscious that G‑d “chose them from all the nations, raised them above all tongues.”

Being the guarantors upon whom the giving of the Torah depends forever; the children should arouse their parents, and tell them to be proud of their Yiddishkeit and not be held back by any obstacles. They must realize that it is the Torah which uplifts them, not their “own strength and the power of their hand,” not their money or their honor.

May the efforts to “turn the hearts of the parents through the children” bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy of the previous verse in Malachi (3:23) “Behold, I will send you, Eliyahu Hanavi...”, the herald of the redemption, speedily in our days.

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4. [Trans. note: The Rebbe Shlita asked a number of questions on Rashi’s commentary on the verse (5:28) “then she (a Sotah) shall be cleared, and shall conceive seed.” Rashi comments on the words ‘then she shall be cleared’: “from the ‘water that brings a curse.’ And not only this, but ‘she shall conceive seed,’ if she used to give birth in pain she will give birth in comfort, if she used to give birth to dark children, she will give birth to light children.” The Rebbe asked many complex questions on this verse and answered them all with a simple explanation. The explanation was as follows:] Rashi’s commentary was motivated by a question: Why didn’t the priest tell the woman that if she was pure, she would have the blessing of “She shall conceive seed”? The priest gave a long rebuke to the woman. He was not trying to spare words but on the contrary, he intended to tire her and make her lose her self-control so that she would confess. If so, why didn’t he mention this fact?

Because of this question, Rashi maintains that “she shall conceive...” is not a separate blessing, but a natural result of drinking the “waters that bring a curse.” This concept can be seen through carefully reading his commentary. On the surface there is no reason for Rashi to include in his comment the words “from the waters...” However, he wants to emphasize that the waters are the medium that brings about the blessing. This explains why Rashi adds “if she used to give birth in pain.. if she used to give birth to dark children...” If the waters had brought a curse to the woman, she would have suffered two things: pain and a loss of beauty. Therefore, the blessing created the opposite of these factors in her children.9

5. There is a point in this portion which seemingly requires an explanation, yet Rashi does not comment on it. In regard to the donations of the princes to the sanctuary, the portion relates that each one brought a bull, while in the case of the wagons, they were brought jointly by two princes. It is difficult to understand why they didn’t each bring a wagon? This question is particularly strong in view of the fact that their gifts were intended to make up for their lack of participation in the donations for the construction of the sanctuary. Furthermore, the family of Merari were given 4 wagons in which they had to carry 48 boards; each board being 10 cubits long and 1 1/2 cubits wide! If each prince would had brought one wagon, the family of Merari would have received eight wagons; making the load a lot easier. Thus the question arises, why did the princes only bring six wagons and not twelve wagons; one for each prince?10

However, the reasoning behind their gift is as follows: The gifts of the princes were donated as compensation for, and were therefore parallel to, the donations for the construction of the sanctuary. Those donations were of two types — complete things and also the half-shekel. Therefore, the princes brought half a wagon, in lieu of the latter; and a whole bull in lieu of the first.

From this we see that there are certain things that have to be done alone for them to be in a complete manner, and other things have to be done with other people for them to be done in a complete manner. In a thing that a person does himself he is more energetic than in something that he does together with someone else. To do something with another person requires Kabbalas 01. It was for this reason that each prince brought a whole bull, — not a half of a bull —; and a half of a wagon — not a whole wagon. A animal is a living thing; thus bringing out the energy a person has by doing something himself — each prince giving a animal. A wagon is an inanimate object; bringing out the concept of Kabbalas 01 necessary when doing something with other people. (There is however an advantage to a wagon in that it represents a complete Reshus — area of property.)

Even a child can understand this concept. As in the sanctuary where there were two types of offerings — whole and half, — similarly in the small sanctuary of the Jewish home there are services that must be carried out alone and services that should be carried out jointly.

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6. Parshas Nasso is specifically connected to Jewish children. The last verse of the portion reads: “And when Moshe went into the tent of meeting that he might speak with Him, then he heard the voice speaking to him from above the Kapores (ark-cover) that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two Cherubim; and He spoke to him.” Our sages (note Sukkah 5b, Chagigah 13b) explained that the Cherubim had faces of young children, and in general were representative of the service of the Jewish people, as the Talmud (B. Basra 99a) explains “When Israel obeyed the will of the Omnipresent [then the Cherubim faced each other]...” This concept further emphasizes the need to become involved with children at this time.

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7. In the Siddur, the Alter Rebbe writes that there are those who maintain the custom of studying Pirkei Avos throughout the summer. According to that custom, this week is connected with the first Perek. In connection with the great excitement about the campaign to “turn the hearts of the parents through the children,” it is appropriate to focus on a Mishnah that is related to students. The first Mishnah of the Perek does so, stating: “raise up many disciples.” It presents a number of questions, among them: 1) Pirkei Avos intends to teach behavior that is beyond the measure of the law. On the surface, the admonition “raise up many disciples” is not beyond the measure of the law. It is the law, as the Alter Rebbe writes that “it is a positive commandment for each and every wise man to teach all the students ... as it is written ‘you shall teach them to your children’... referring to the students.” 2) What is the connection between this statement and the other two admonitions; “be deliberate in judgment” and “make a fence around the Torah”?

The lesson that is beyond the measure of the law in the above Mishnah is that not only should one teach students, one should raise them up and prepare them to stand independently, so that they will not later shake or fall. It is possible to thoroughly explain a subject matter to the point that it is “like a set table before the students,” yet after the lessons the students’ own understanding will be shaky. Based on this concept, we can answer the above question: One is obligated to teach students, one is not obligated to prepare them to stand on their feet.11 Thisis beyond the measure of the law.

Furthermore, one must raise up as many students as possible. No matter how many students one has, one should always desire more. A Mashpia shouldn’t wait for a student to come to him. He should go to the students, — the many students — and give them over a word of one of the Rebbeim, a ma’amar, a word from Tanya, etc. In addition by using the word ‘Talmidim’ — students — the Mishnah emphasizes that it is not enough to have “listeners” who merely listen to what they are thought, rather a teacher must “raise students;” someone who has a close connection with their teacher.

In order to raise students in a manner that they will not later shake or fall, a teacher must be “deliberate in judgment,” carefully evaluating the proper approach with which to deal with each student. One must think deeply, reflecting for more than a moment or two. Also, it is necessary to “make a fence around the Torah.” Just as later on in the chapter, the Mishnah (11) declares, “Sages, be careful with your words,” it is necessary here as well to take care (“making a fence”) lest undesirable aspects arise later on.

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8. Continuing the storm of activities which has been generated over the past few weeks in regard to children, and of the gatherings for children, — before and during Shavuos — that they listen to the reading of the Ten Commandments; efforts must be made to gather children, boys and girls, together in the days of completion at least once, and preferably twice. This suggestion is made with the intention that it be publicized.

The assemblies should be held first in the schools where the children study Torah (since no extra effort is then necessary to gather them together; all that is necessary is to add to their normal activities.) Also, once, an assembly should be held in a synagogue, “a place where prayer is magnified” (Megillah 27a).

A similar effort should be carried out in Israel, in the schools and synagogues. Furthermore, children should be assembled at the holy places, at the Kosel (for “the Shechinah has never moved from the Kosel HaMa’aravi”), Ma’aras HeMachpeilah, and also at the grave of Rachel, thus completing the four matriarchs of our people. The grave of Rachel is a particularly appropriate place to arouse G‑d’s mercies in the time of Golus.

Although similar assemblies were held with children before and during Shavuos, nevertheless since another day has passed, and we have become wiser and “frummer,” the state of fulfillment which we reached in those previous days is insufficient, and a higher state must be attained. Therefore, it is appropriate to call for gatherings in the “days of completion.”

Gathering children together for the purpose of Torah and Mitzvos is always a good thing, even during a normal weekday, how much more so in the days that complete the holiday of Shavuos. Furthermore, there is a particularly unique quality in the days of completion this year. They are completed on Tuesday, the day when the expression “and G‑d saw it was good” was repeated — thus implying a two-fold good — “good to the heavens and good to the creatures.” If an assembly cannot be arranged before the 12th of Sivan, the children should be gathered on the 13th of Sivan which according to some Halachic authorities, though not according to the Alter Rebbe, is considered one of the days of compensation.

At these assemblies the children should be told that just as in preparation for the giving of the Torah the children accepted upon themselves the love of G‑d, the love of their fellow-Jew, the love of Torah, the love of Mitzvos, they should increase their commitment also now in the days of compensation. Since we have celebrated the giving of the Torah, the day on which G‑d “chose us from among all the nations... You have raised us above all tongues,” it is therefore self-understood that more can be accomplished in the days after Shavuos, than in the days before Shavuos.

Also, the children should be told about the preparation the Jewish people had for the giving of the Torah, their declaration of “Na’aseh V’Nishmah — we will do and we will listen,” the descent of G‑d on Mt. Sinai and the ascent of Moshe on Mt. Sinai. The children should be told that all this came about because of them, for they were the “guarantors” of the Jewish people for all generations. Therefore, they must accept upon themselves the Torah in a renewed manner, studying Torah and fulfilling Mitzvos, beginning with the Mitzvah of Tzedakah and Tefillah.

The assembly should include the three pillars upon which the world stands — Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chassodim. The children should recite a verse from the written law, a statement from the oral law, give Tzedakah, and pray.

The above must be done in an organized manner. Therefore, it is appropriate that the committee that organized the assemblies on Lag B’Omer should undertake this program as well.

May these activities be carried out with great joy and great success and thus bring about abundant blessings in children, life, and sustenance; and the greatest blessing — the coming of Moshiach.

9. The Torah Outlook On Family Planning

This week’s Parshah touches on one of the most disturbing issues facing our generation. The portion mentions the testing of a Sotah, a woman suspected of adultery. At the conclusion of that section the Torah12 declares: “And if the woman not be defiled, but be clean, then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.” It is self understood that this blessing applies even to those women who already have children, for it is clear to all that no matter how many children one already has, it is added blessing if another child is born. This attitude was personified by Leah13 who had many children and considered each additional one to be a blessing.

Today, however, there are those “that put darkness for light, and light for darkness,”14 maintaining that one adds light and blessing to the world by not having children or by restricting the amount of children a family will have. They offer a number of arguments; the reasoning behind each one however, is contrary to Torah.

One of the arguments is based on concern about economics. After all, maintaining a large family costs more. A Jew cannot accept such an argument, for he is “a believer, the descendent of a believer”15 who declares his faith each day (in the grace after meals) that G‑d “In His kindness, provides sustenance for the entire world with grace.” Perhaps, they have mercy on G‑d and wish to lighten His burden. Maybe they are afraid that since He has to provide for the mother and father, it is unfair to ask Him to provide for the children. They should not worry about how they are going to balance their budgets, but should leave that to G‑d. G‑d has no lack of funds, as the verse16 declares, “The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine.” There is no question that if He can provide for four billion people, He will manage to provide for another small boy or girl. Parents should lead normal family lives, according to Taharas HaMishpochah, granting each woman her conjugal rights,17 and leave the rest up to G‑d. If He wants to bless them with more children, with many children, with even more than a Minyan, they should gladly accept these blessings and even pray to G‑d for more.

Many claim that by having fewer children, the parents will have more time, more energy, etc. to devote to worthy causes. They will be able to spread Yiddishkeit and Chassidus, and devote more time to the Mivtzoyim — the ten point Mitzvah campaign. Some are worried about losing time, health, or beauty by caring for their children. For still others, the reason is even more superficial. They are worried about what the neighbors will think! What will they say when they find out that there is a family with more than two children?

Others try to rationalize their behavior with arguments from Jewish law,18 arguing that since the Mitzvah to “Be fruitful and multiply19 can be fulfilled by having only two children; a son and a daughter, there is no need to have more. They may even support their positions with Kabbalistic sources explaining that the AriZa120 writes that a father and mother allude to the first two letters (Yud and Hay) of G‑d’s name and a son and a daughter to the second two (Vav and Hay). After they have completed G‑d’s name, why should they have more children?

These rationalizations are not even acceptable according to Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and surely not according to Chassidus. The second half of the command “Be fruitful and multiply” is “fill the earth and subdue it.” We must have as many children as necessary to “fill the earth.” Furthermore, the order with which things are mentioned in the Torah is significant.21 The fact that this Mitzvah is the first Mitzvah, commanded at the very beginning of the Torah, emphasizes its importance.

Children are one of the greatest blessings an individual can have. However, G‑d has given man free choice22 and it is possible for him to deny these blessings.

If one has doubts about this issue, let him examine Jewish history and see how our ancestors lived in the past, before the spiritual darkness that challenges our generation descended. In all previous generations, Torah Jews believed that having a large family constituted the greatest possible blessing. However, the spiritual darkness of the present generation which allows darkness to be called light, and light darkness, has caused the prevailing attitude to change.

We can all see what a great blessing having children is. The greatest pleasure a man or woman can have is watching his children grow up and live according to Torah and Mitzvos. Our capacity for pleasure is not satisfied by only one child for, as our sages23 have said regarding desires: “Whoever has one hundred (coins), wants two hundred.” The pleasure and satisfaction we have from one child will make us desire even more. Furthermore, by having many children we can see a variety of qualities expressed by our offspring: one child may be devoted to Torah study, a second to prayer, a third to deeds of kindness.

If a family limits the amount of children they have, they will regret it later on.24 Eventually children grow up and leave home, building their own families. Naturally, their parents will want to visit them, but, they cannot remain constant guests in one place. No matter how close the relationship, the advice of the Book of Proverbs,25 “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,” applies to some degree. The children will have their own affairs and will not appreciate constant visits by their parents. If parents have many children there is no problem, for they are able to divide their visits between them. However, if they have only one child, they will have to spend much of their time alone, with no one to speak with.

The most disturbing factor is that birth control has become acceptable and no one argues or protests against it. This matter is of great importance, but is often ignored at conventions and meetings at which Torah conscious men or women gather to discuss various issues. Without minimizing the value and importance of the other topics they discuss, proper attention should be given to this fundamental matter.

This matter is also related to Behaalosecha, the portion of the Torah, which we will soon read in our Minchah prayers; which describes the lighting of the Menorah. Each Jew is a candle.26 A candle’s purpose is not to remain stored away in a box, but to be kindled in order to spread light throughout the world. As soon as a Jewish child is born, he is a candle who can shed light and thus influence his environment and the world at large.

This is also connected to the holiday of Shavuos which we recently celebrated. Our sages27 explain that if even one Jew had been absent from Mt. Sinai, the Torah could not have been given, thus, teaching us the importance of every Jew and the possible consequences which result if a Jew is prevented from being born into the world.

Our sages28 also explain that Moshiach will not come until all the souls have descended into this world. Through having children the time of his coming is hastened. May it be speedily in our days.