1. Today’s date, the fifth of Sivan, is the day on which the Jewish people made the commitment, “Na’aseh V’nishmah; we will do and we will listen.” The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) declares: “When the Jews declared ‘We will do’ before ‘we will listen,’ six hundred thousand angles came and set two crowns upon each man of Israel.” Furthermore, according to Chassidus, it was that declaration that brought about the giving of the Torah. From then on, each year on the occasion of the 5th of Sivan, those days are “recalled and celebrated.” In a spiritual sense, the same effects that were actualized then are revealed now.1

The relevancy of the commitment, “Na’aseh V’nishmah” is not limited to one day a year. Rather, it applies to a Jew’s entire approach to Torah and Mitzvos. This concept is expressed in the Talmud (Ibid.) The Talmud relates that there was a certain Sadducee (someone who accepts only the Written Law) who saw Rabba engrossed in his studies while the fingers of his hand were under his feet, and (unconsciously), he ground them down , so that his fingers spurted blood. “‘You rash people,’ the Sadducee exclaimed. ‘You gave precedence to your mouth (we will do) over your ears (we will listen)’; you still persist in your rashness. First you should have listened, if within your powers, accept; if not, you should not have accepted.” Rabba answered him, “We who walked in integrity (commitment to fulfill whatever G‑d would command), of us it is written, ‘The integrity of the upright shall guide them’.” (Proverbs 11:3)

Rabba2 lived in Golus, yet even in such circumstances he was able to learn Torah with the great commitment evidenced in this story.3 His behavior serves as a lesson for us, showing how in all times our study of Torah can reveal the power of “Na’aseh V’nishmah.”

In addition to the commitment of “Na’aseh V’nishmah,” another element was necessary before the giving of the Torah. The Midrash (Shir HaShirim Ch. 1 Posuk 4) says, “When Israel stood before Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah, G‑d said to them... ‘Bring Me good sureties that you will keep it (the Torah); and then I will give it to you.’ The Jews proposed various sureties but G‑d rejected them all. Then they offered, ‘Our children will be our sureties,’ to which G‑d replied: ‘Truly these are good sureties; for their sake I will give it to you’.”

Since we are now preparing to receive the Torah on Shavuos, it is proper to devote a farbrengen stressing how “our children will be our sureties,” the emphasis being placed on children under Bar and Bas Mitzvah ages. Especially, since we have surely seen to it, that the children add in learning Torah and performing Mitzvos (particularly the Mitzvah of Tzedakah) in the preceding days, and how much more so will they continue that increase in the forthcoming days; in accordance with the command, “Always proceed higher in holy matters.” Therefore, the farbrengen will be devoted towards “our children” who are “our sureties.” They are the “sureties” that each one of us (including themselves) will receive the Torah from Hashem.

Since the beginning of every event must be in a manner of joy and happiness; the children should start a joyous song and the assembled will help out. And since “a song of praise is sung only over wine,” (Berachos 35a) the children should say “L’Chaim” on wine. Thus, in addition to the singing and blessing (over the wine) which are matters of speech, there will also be the drinking of wine — which is a matter of action.4

Also since, the aspect of holiness is not that evident in the action of saying L’Chaim, it would be proper to connect the above to Torah and Tzedakah. Every child will be given money, and that money becomes theirs, from which they give to Tzedakah; and a Siddur (which contains passages from the Torah and also Pirkei Avos5 which is selections from the oral law). The choice of a Siddur also includes the element of prayer.6

Also, the giving of the Torah has a connection to the Jewish women. In fact, G‑d told Moshe to approach the women before the men (note Rashi Exodus 19:3). Therefore, it is proper that the girls under Bas Mitzvah age should also say L’Chaim on soda and join in the niggun by clapping. Afterwards they will also be given a Siddur and a dollar for Tzedakah. And may these actions show that “our children are our sureties” and prove to be the proper preparation for the acceptance of the Torah.

2. The Alter Rebbe told his followers, “We must live with the times, i.e. adapt our lives to the Torah portion of the week.” Since the Zohar (Part II, p. 63b) teaches, ‘All the days of the week are blessed from it (the Shabbos),’ it follows that the above can be connected to the Torah read on Shabbos, Parshas Bamidbar. That portion (and also a substantial part of this week’s Sedra, Parshas Nasso) speaks about the census of the Jewish people.

The census was broken up into two categories: 1) the tribe of Levi, the “legion of the King,” who were included in the census from one month up, and 2) the rest of the Jewish people who were not counted until the age of twenty.

On the surface, the reason for this difference is difficult to understand. The term, “legion of the King” implies a connection with an army. A one-month-old baby is not capable of serving in the army. In fact, at age twenty, when all the other Jews became eligible for the army, a Levi cannot yet serve in the sanctuary, and yet at the age of one month he is counted in the census.7 However, we see that the Torah does not consider these factors. It views the child as a full member of the tribe with all the holiness and virtues involved.

The Rambam writes that all the special qualities connected to the Levi’im do not refer to them alone, but to “all...whose spirit moves them...to stand before G‑d and to serve Him...Behold, they become sanctified as holy of holies; G‑d will be their portion...”

Therefore, in regard to our children, “our sureties,” because “their spirit moved them” that they should devote themselves to Torah and Mitzvos; they have a unique connection with the tribe of Levi. For the characteristic of Levi “They shall teach Your ordinances to Ya’akov and Your law to Israel,” applies to them as well. It is therefore understood that our children, who are “our sureties” (and even the sureties of the tribe of Levi) are included in the tribe of Levi; and are counted from one month.

Also, the portion of Chumash connected with today (the fifth Aliyah in Parshas Nasso) begins with a verse that shares a connection with the giving of the Torah. On the verse, “And it came to pass on the day Moshe concluded setting up the sanctuary,” Rashi notes the relationship between the word, ‘Kalos’ (meaning conclusion) and ‘Kallah,’ meaning bride. He comments, “‘Kalos’ is written (i.e. instead of the simple form ‘Kilos;’ to teach) that on the day the sanctuary was set up, the Jewish people were like a bride entering a bridal canopy.” We find the concept of marriage also used in relationship to the giving of the Torah. On the verse, “Go forth, daughters of Zion, and behold King Shlomo (a reference to G‑d) with the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding and on the day of the gladness of heart.” The Midrash (Shir HaShirim Ch. 3 Posuk 11, also see Rashi on that Posuk) comments, “‘the day of his wedding’ — Mt Sinai; ‘the day of the gladness of his heart’ — the giving of the Torah.” Likewise, the section of the Zohar recited in the Tikkun on Shavuos8 night, explains how the study of Torah prepares the bride (the Jewish people) and her handmaidens with the 24 traditional bridal ornaments. This further emphasizes the connection between Shavuos and this week’s Torah portion — with all the above being brought about by the children, for they are “our sureties — .

3. The concept mentioned above, “Our children are our sureties” relates to our present situation. When we choose someone as a “surety” for a loan, we do not forego the obligation to repay the loan ourselves. On the contrary, the lender must make every effort to himself pay back the loan without depending on the surety.

This principle is relevant in regard to our choice of our children as “our sureties.” That choice does not absolve us of the responsibilities of Torah and Mitzvos. Someone who has broken his own nature and enrolled his children in a program of Torah education cannot consider himself free from the obligation of taking part in Torah and Mitzvos. He also must make the commitment of “Na’aseh V’nishmah,” and then proceed to the study of Torah and the fulfillment of Mitzvos and then hasten the coming of the Messianic redemption. May it come speedily in our days.

4. Each year there are those who undertake a long journey to be able to celebrate Shavuos here. They should be well-received, as our sages declared, “The reception of guests is greater than receiving the Shechinah (G‑d’s presence) itself.” May they also join in saying L’Chaim and singing a happy niggun. May their song wake up the local residents from their sleep and rouse them so they will be able to greet Moshiach. Otherwise, when Moshiach comes, they will have to hurry. They will dress to greet him, putting on a tie, but in their hurry they will forget to wear any other clothes.9 Moshiach won’t mind. He will accept them as they are, but they will themselves be embarrassed. To avoid that situation, they should awake now and become whole. When the Jews prepared to receive the Torah, the entire nation was healed. Even those who were missing a limb become whole. Similarly, now is the time to awake and become whole, in both a physical and spiritual sense. And may these efforts prepare us to greet the great guest, Moshiach, and with him proceed to the true and complete redemption.

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5. It is customary on Erev Shavuos to make a Siyum (concluding discourse) on the tractate of Sotah. There are 49 pages10 in that tractate which correspond to the 49 days of the Omer.

The Mishnah and the Gemara of that tractate coincide by listing many positive qualities that ceased when various sages passed away: “When R. Meir died, the composers of fables ceased. When Ben Azzai died, the assiduous students (of Torah) ceased. When Ben Zoma died, the expositors ceased. When R. Akiva died, the glory of the Torah [he would prove how there was not an extra word, letter„ or even a single stroke (on top of the letters) that couldn’t be explained. Thus he brought out the honor and glory of the Torah] ceased. When R. Chanina ben Dosa died, men of deed ceased. When R. Yosi Ketanta died, the pious man ceased ...When R. Yochanan ben Zakkai died, the luster of wisdom ceased. When Rabban Gamliel the Elder died, the glory of the Torah [while he was alive there was strength in the world and they would learn Torah standing. When he died they started learning sitting] ceased, and purity and abnegation died...” The question arises: Why does the Mishnah tell us these negative points?

That question can be answered by a closer analysis of the Mishna’s terminology. In most of the cases the Mishnah uses the expression, “ceased.” However, when describing the virtues of purity and self-abnegation, the Mishnah uses the word, “died.” What is the difference between the two terms?

Death implies that the total entity remains but that it no longer lives. The word “cease” implies that the entity no longer exists at all.

These two concepts have their parallels in our service to G‑d. One may fulfill Mitzvos as a matter of routine without any energy or feeling. In such an instance, the body of the study and of the Mitzvah is present but the soul is lacking.11

However, once something ceases to be, both the body and the soul are lacking. In such a case, it is more difficult to help someone. When the body is there, but the soul is lacking i.e. when someone studies Torah and fulfills Mitzvos, it is not so hard to help him develop proper intentions. However, when both elements are lacking, the task presents greater challenges.

To return to the Mishnah: regarding the qualities of purity and self-abnegation; the Mishnah teaches us that they died: i.e. the body is still here; only the soul — the energy — is lacking.12 However, the other qualities have entirely ceased to exist. The Mishnah does not intend to depress us by telling us these qualities have ceased. Rather, in doing so it spurs us to add more effort and energy to our service since we understand that we have to bring these qualities back, completely, regenerating them in their totality. Furthermore, we should draw strength from this Mishnah. The fact that it provides us with a challenging task is also a sign that we have the potential to carry it out and fulfill it.

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6. Trans. note: Afterwards the Rebbe Shlita gave each child a Siddur and a dollar. He stressed that the child’s name should be written in the Siddur and above it should be written (in Hebrew) “To G‑d, is the world and its fullness.” In this manner the child will know that “G‑d has given him (her) this Siddur, so that they may pray to Him from it, and study Torah from it.” Likewise, concerning the dollar, they will realize that G‑d has given them the money so that they will be able to give Tzedakah. [On the inside cover of the Siddur was attached a. letter, explaining the importance of prayer.]