1. This Shabbos follows the days of compensation for the holiday of Shavuos. It shares a connection with them and also the previous Shabbos on which the second day of Shavuos holiday was celebrated.

The six days of the week are considered days of preparation for Shabbos. Our Sages explained — “All those who work Erev Shabbos (which in a broad sense refers to the entire week) will eat on Shabbos.” This quote applies not only to the work a Jew undertakes in a material sense, but also to his service to G‑d.1 Shabbos elevates and brings to perfection all the elements of a Jew’s service. Our efforts in the previous week, including the study of Torah, are considered work in comparison to the higher level of refinement induced by Shabbos.

Two questions arise: How are the spiritual heights to which Shabbos brings our service described by the activity of eating? Also how can the expression “work be used in reference to Torah study?

What happens when we eat? The food loses its particular existence. It no longer exists independently, rather it becomes assimilated into our system. Before eating we may have owned the food. But then a difference existed between the food and ourselves. Only through eating is a complete unity effected. The food is transformed into flesh and blood.

The Shabbos affects our service in the preceding days in a similar manner. The different elements lose their particular identity.2 They become involved in a greater, more encompassing sense of oneness. Then the Jew, his service, and G‑d become fused in a total all encompassing unity.

The answer to the second question is based on a statement of our Sages “The Torah of the present day is empty in comparison to the Torah of the Messianic Age.” Even though the Torah will not be given again, the level that will be revealed then will totally surpass all previous rungs to the point that they will be considered emptiness.3 Shabbos is a reflection of Messianic times. On Shabbos, we receive some perception of the level of Torah study that will be revealed by Moshiach. In comparison to that level, our study during the week is considered empty and “work.”

This statement is connected with another Talmudic reference. Concerning the verse in Proverbs “A man was born to work,” the Talmud asks, what type of work does the verse refer to? The Talmud’s conclusion is that the verse implies not only physical work, but primarily deals with work in Torah study. Even though Torah study brings about pleasure (since the greatest pleasure a wise man can experience is the appreciation of a genuine intellectual concept) nevertheless, it can be termed “work” when compared to the study of Messianic times.

What is the basic difference between then and now? In both cases, we experience pleasure. However, the study of Torah now — even its highest level, the study of Torah L’Shma, for no other reason than to carry out G‑d’s will — produces only limited pleasure, the pleasure of man. G‑d’s pleasure, the pleasure He receives when “I spoke and My will was fulfilled,” is totally infinite. This infinite pleasure can be experienced by man as well. Through totally dedicating ourselves to the will of G‑d, the pleasure of the Master (G‑d) becomes the pleasure of the servant (the Jew).

During the six days of the week, we operate from the perspective of the servant. Then we are involved in work, the task of transforming the world, making “a dwelling place in the lower worlds,” for G‑d. On Shabbos “all your work is finished.” It is a day dedicated to spiritual pleasure.4 That pleasure elevates the service of all the preceding days.5 Likewise, Shabbos “blesses all the ensuing days.”

The above has to be brought down in the practical realm. This Shabbos elevates the holiday of Shavuos and the days of compensation that followed it. During those days, we were involved in the campaign to intensify our study of Torah and add to our gifts of Tzedakah.6 From now on we must increase our efforts in those areas. No matter how great our achievements were until now, it is necessary to proceed even further.7

This effort should also include the spreading of the Wellsprings of Torah into the outer reaches. This was the approach of the Baal Shem Tov and his students throughout the generations (including the Previous Rebbe who translated Chassidus into many different languages making it accessible to all Jews).

Through this increase in our activities we will bring about an increase in G‑d’s blessing, and also the ultimate blessing — the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

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2. Each year, the different days on which the holidays fall and the changes in the sequence of Torah portions provide important lessons. This year was marked by a very unusual happening. The entire holiday period including the days of preparation for Shavuos, the holiday itself, and its days of compensation were included in one Parshah — Nasso. Since the second day of Shavuos came out on Shabbos (outside of Israel), two weeks were connected with the same Parshah. The connection with Parshas Nasso began with Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the day when the Jews were prepared8 to receive the Torah and continued until after the completion of the days of compensation.

This chain of events is very significant. Our Sages prescribed a careful offer for the Torah portions read on the Shabbos surrounding the Shavuos holiday. Parshas Bechukosai which contains G‑d’s warning and curse is always read close to Shavuos. However, there is always another Parshah, Bamidbar, read between it and Shavuos. Parshas Behaalos’cha, which describes the kindling of the Menorah, (the shining of the Jewish soul) always comes after Shavuos (implying that this light can be achieved through the power of Torah). Nasso is sometimes read before Shavuos and sometimes afterwards.

To appreciate the reason why Nasso can be read both before and after the holiday and also to understand the lesson from this year when both full weeks were connected with Nasso we have to analyze the entire order of progression more closely. We have to discover the intrinsic connection each of the Parshiyos share with Shavuos.

Bamidbar — means ‘in the desert,’ the lowest aspect of this world. The desert does not contribute anything to the world. Nothing can grow there. All that is found are “snakes, scorpions, and thirst from lack of water.”

Parshas Bamidbar teaches us that as long as we have not experienced Mattan Torah, we are in a desert. If our lives are not filled with Torah, they will become desolate, void of any positive factors. a dwelling for snakes and scorpions. [The interrelation of the two factors is emphasized throughout Torah literature. The Talmud comments on the verse describing Yosef in the pit “‘and the pit was empty, it contained no water (a metaphor for Torah),’ it did not contain water, but it did contain snakes and scorpions.”] This is an important lesson for each of us in our learning process9 and for a child who is first beginning his Torah education. We must realize that everything outside of Torah, even that which appears pleasurable, even that which is permitted by Halachah, is a desert without Torah.

Generally, people divide life into three categories: Mitzvos, sin, and the permitted realm, actions that are not either forbidden or commanded. In the third realm, it is natural for a person to let himself go and seek enjoyment. He will indulge himself in food, drink, business, anything that makes him happy.10 At this point spiritual things, even the ultimate pleasure of the world to come do not interest him. He is content with this world. He enjoys his pleasures.

He may even try to justify himself by bringing a proof from the Talmud. The Talmud quotes Hillel as saying that eating is like doing Tzedakah, giving charity to one’s body.., Charity is a great Mitzvah he will claim. In fact, if it was another person, Torah would obligate him to give charity, food, clothing, etc. beyond his bare needs. The Mitzvah of charity includes bringing the poor man pleasure. So, why shouldn’t he indulge himself in a similar fashion. Torah demands that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Why should it make us treat him better than ourselves?

This is a fallacious argument. In truth the entire reason for the existence of this realm of behavior is for the Jew to prove himself. It serves as a trial allowing us to see if we can reach the service of “all your deeds shall be for the sake of Heaven” and “Know G‑d in all your ways.”11

The above-mentioned example of Hillel serves as a model. Hillel considered eating “giving Tzedakah to a poor man.” He didn’t identify with his physical desires. His attention was focused on his soul. When his body felt a need, he satisfied it, but his purpose was not physical pleasure. He ate for the sake of Heaven.

It is precisely in those areas where a Jew sees he is in a desert, where he is conscious of Bamidbar, that Mattan Torah is necessary. After Bamidbar, we proceed to Nasso — Nasso means uplifted. It teaches a Jew that he must elevate and refine himself. Furthermore, the verse continues “Lift up the heads,” teaching that this process is not only relevant to our lower powers, but also to our minds, our highest faculty. We must rise higher in these areas as well. This elevation is effected by the holiday of Shavuos. When we relive the experience of Mattan Torah, that experience raises and changes our level of study of Torah giving us more desire, diligence, and dedication.

These feelings of elevation can occur at several different levels. In the beginning a child is forced to learn Torah through fear of punishment.12 Later he comes to a level where he enjoys learning. In either case, the experience of Mattan Torah lifts him higher. Even if his feelings were elevated before Shavuos (as emphasized by those years when Parshas Nasso is read before Shavuos), the experience of Mattan Torah opens up a new dimension of Torah to him. Torah cannot be regarded as something old, a thing of the past. Rather “every day it must be considered a new thing.” Through reliving Mattan Torah on Shavuos, we generate a new awareness of Torah which raises us to even higher levels than we had previously reached.

Mattan Torah also brings about Behaalos’cha, the lighting of the Menorah. Each Jew has a fire in his heart but in order for that fire to burn steadily and for it to be directed to G‑d (to achieve “bitul” — self annulment — )we must experience Mattan Torah. Then the two movements contribute to each other. Behaalos’cha reveals the service of “bitul” of going beyond oneself. Nasso teaches that such an approach has a positive effect. Our heads become uplifted.13 An example of the fusion of the two services can be seen in the case of Rav Zeira who fasted one hundred days in order to forget (the approach of Behaalos’cha, ‘bitul’) the Babylonian Talmud so that he could progress to a higher level (Nasso), the study of the Jerusalem Talmud.

May this service bring us true success including material blessings.14 May the last days of Golus be lived in a manner where “Kings will be your governors and queens your nursemaids.” May this be the proper preparation to the ultimate redemption lead by Moshiach, speedily in our days.

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3. Rashi, in his commentary on Bamidbar (7:19) explains the number 930 is equal to the years of Adom. When describing the significance of the other offerings brought by the princes, Rashi not only explains the allusion implied in the gift, but also elaborates on how it brought about the perpetuation of the world, how it was a merit for the Jewish people. In the commentary cited above, he does not offer an explanation of that type. Furthermore, precisely in this instance an explanation would seem necessary. Why did Adom live 930 years? — because he sinned. In the beginning of creation, he was destined to live forever. Only after eating from the Tree of Knowledge was his death ordained. On the surface, by mentioning the number of years Adom lived, the Torah is not emphasizing a merit of the Jewish people, in fact the very opposite. Why didn’t Rashi comment on this point?

This question can be answered through the understanding of another difficulty. Concerning the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, the Torah describes how before Adom ate from the tree, G‑d warned him “on the day you eat from it, you will die.” However, we find that Adom did not die immediately after the sin of the Tree of Knowledge but lived for 930 years. Why did G‑d choose not to execute the punishment He had ordained? Why does Rashi fail to explain this question?15

Rashi does not have to answer that question, the answer is apparent from the Biblical narrative itself. Adom answered G‑d “the woman you gave me offered it to me.” G‑d gave Chava to Adom to be his helper, and charged her with a mission to assist Adom. He was aware of her mission and thought that everything she would give him was intended for his good. He relied on her as we rely on women today in all matters of Kashrus.16 G‑d considered this argument a valid justification.

Of greater importance, Adom was motivated to Teshuvah (repentance). He was ashamed before G‑d. For that reason, he hid when he sensed G‑d’s presence. Because of this Teshuvah, G‑d forgave him and made his punishment less severe. Rather than die immediately, Adom lived 930 years. In light of the above, the mention of the number in connection with the dedication of the sanctuary is very significant. One of the main objectives of the sacrifices was Teshuvah, repentance for sin. By mentioning the number of years Adom lived, the Torah teaches us the power of a Jew, the great effects his Teshuvah can have.

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4. There is another question on Rashi’s commentary on this week’s portion. The Torah explains that wagons were given to the Levites for the families of Merari and Gershon, but not to the families of Kehos. Why? Because “they were charged with holy work, they should carry on their shoulders.” On the words “holy work,” Rashi comments “the ark and the table, etc.” In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe gives a lengthy explanation of this concept. However, he focuses only on the ark without mentioning the other objects. Similarly, the Rambam writes that it is a positive command to carry the ark on one’s shoulders. Like the Alter Rebbe he leaves out the other objects. How can these statements be reconciled with Rashi’s commentary that other objects were carried on the shoulders. This is definitely so for the family of Kehos was not given any wagons. The Tzemach Tzedek in fact raises this point and writes that the matter requires more study to solve it.17

One of the Rambam’s basic principles in the classification of Mitzvos helps us understand the answer to the above question. The Rambam writes that the 613 Mitzvos refer only to Mitzvos that are constant commands, not to those commands that were given for only one specific instance or time period. (He explains that principle using the analogy of Mitzvos and the human body. If one of the 613 Mitzvos was limited to a specific time, it would mean that at other times our service would be incomplete, like a body that is missing a limb).

In the desert, the family of Kehos carried everything on their shoulders. However, that was only a temporary command. Afterwards, only the ark had to be carried in that fashion. Support for this statement can be found in Tanach in the description of the burying of the ark. At that time Yoshiahu HaMelech told the Levites that they no longer have the mitzvah of “carrying on the shoulders.” At that time the table and the Menorah and the other vessels carried by the family of Kehos still existed (only the ark was buried). However, they were no longer included in the Mitzvah of carrying on the shoulder. Likewise, in the story of King David, punishment was meted out specifically for carrying the ark on wagons.

The above suggests an interesting concept. There is no specific mention of a Mitzvah to carry the ark on the shoulders. Rather, it is included in the general command given to the family of Kehos. That command can be divided into two aspects: 1) a Mitzvah that lasts forever, 2) a temporary command applicable only in the desert.

We can see an example of this principle in Torah law. The Talmud describes the case of “Gilgul Shavua,” where the plaintiff has various complaints against the defendant. Some of these complaints may not be strong enough to require the defendant to take an oath proving his innocence. However, if even one of them is strong enough, the plaintiff has the right to demand an oath on all questioned points.

Similarly, because the family of Kehos had the Mitzvah of carrying the Ark on their shoulders this Mitzvah was transferred to the other objects they had to carry.

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5. Translator’s note: During tie Rebbe Shlita’s explanation of his father’s commentary on the Zohar, he brought up the following question:

The Zohar states “G‑d swears not to enter Jerusalem above until they have entered the Jerusalem below.”18 In the Talmud, a similar statement can be found, but there the verb “declares” is used instead of “swears.” Why the change in terminology?

The Talmud states that if “they (the Jews) merit (the Geulah) (G‑d) will hasten it, if they do not, (it will come) ‘in its time’.” G‑d is waiting to enter the Jerusalem of above. However, He will not do so until the Jews enter Jerusalem. If their redemption comes before the appointed time, He does not have to delay His entry. However, if the redemption has to wait, then G‑d has to restrain Himself by an oath. The oath establishes a bond above reason and causes Him to wait until the Jewish people have been redeemed.

6. Translator’s note: At the close of the farbrengen, the Rebbe Shlita asked that efforts be intensified in the campaign to enroll children in Torah camps. He also asked efforts be made to plan now for the registration of children in day schools in the fall.