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B”H

 

Wednesday is the 22nd of Shevat, the Yahrtzeit of the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, the Rebbe's wife of Blessed memory


YITRO: UNITY AND COMPLETENESS
By Rabbi Yonassan Biggs

-----

Shalom and Bracha!
This Shabbat is the pinnacle of the Torah to this point. We studied the creation, the forefathers, the exile and the Exodus. This week we read the portion of Yitro, the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Torah on Mount Sinai, the goal of all that we have learned before. In the Shema we say “These words that I command you today shall be upon your heart.” The Talmud explains that every day we should feel like the Torah was given that day. This is echoed in the blessing that we make upon learning Torah, Baruch… Notain Hatorah. (Blessed are You… who gives the Torah). The word Notain is in the present, which teaches us that we must experience the study of Torah as though we were receiving the Torah that moment on Mount Sinai. As we look more deeply into the lessons of this week’s portion, we can relive the giving of the Torah in a more meaningful manner.


The Ten Commandments begin “I am Hashem your G-d who has brought you out from Egypt” and conclude with the prohibition of coveting your neighbor’s property. Generally, the beginning and end have an intense connection. What is the continual thread here?


When Hashem informed us I am Hashem your G-d, he wasn’t informing us that He exists. He told each of us in the singular tense that He is our G-d. That means He is our provider, guide and mentor. We have what we have because G-d gave it to us. Others have what they have because G-d gave it to them. We don’t always know why he does what He does, but when dealing with Hashem, that comes with the territory. Often, what we perceive as someone’s blessings is no blessing at all. Wealth ruins many lives, as do other objects of envy. Only Hashem knows what we can handle and what we deserve. If someone else has something, he is supposed to have it at this time. This is the true meaning of knowing that Hashem is our G-d.


The section describing the giving of the Torah begins “In the third month of the Exodus… they came to the wilderness of Sinai… and he camped opposite the mountain.” Throughout the forty years in the desert, every encampment is described in the plural except for this one. The Midrash explains that when Hashem saw the unity among the Jewish people in their desire to receive the Torah, He declared that the time had arrived.


Unity is central to Torah. The portion tells us that the Torah was given in the third month of the Exodus, after three days of preparation. This is because the number three represents unity. One represents uniqueness, two introduces conflict and three represents the power to combine and unite. The Torah serves as the bond between the Infinite Creator and the finite world. The Talmud tells us that the Torah was only given to bring peace into the world. In order to receive the Torah whose very essence is peace and unity, there had to be pristine unity amongst the Jewish people.


This unity is expressed in all of the three pillars of service of Hashem: Torah, prayer and acts of kindness.

The Ten Commandments contain five commandments between man and G-d and five commandments between man and his fellow man. Our service of Hashem must lead to our betterment as a person, and the way we that treat each other must be directed by the Torah, not simply by good intention. Thus, the Torah unites the mundane and the sacred. When we study the Torah we subjugate ourselves fully to the will of Hashem, but we seek to understand the Torah in our intellect. Thus the Torah unites the human and divine intellect.


The Ari Zal (a pillar of Kabbalah) taught that before praying, a person must say “I hereby accept upon myself to fulfill the Mitzvah of love your fellow man as yourself. Prayers are said n the plural because Hashem blesses us as a people. Prayer itself is not simply beseeching Hashem for our needs, but bonding with Hashem. The word Tefillah (prayer) comes from the Hebrew root of Tofel (to combine). When we are united, we can bond with Hashem. Through bonding with Hashem, our needs become His needs.


Acts of kindness are done in their truest sense when we feel that the needs of the other party are our needs.

The Semak (a famous codifier) explains that the first Commandment includes the faith in Moshiach. When the Torah says “I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of Egypt,” it is a commandment to believe in G-d and that he will redeem us from every exile. Division caused the destruction of the Temple. The Rebbe has informed us that Moshiach is ready to come and is only awaiting an increase in acts of good and kindness. May we merit his coming immediately and the new depths in Torah that he will reveal.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Biggs

Dedicated in memory of Rachamim Ben Nissan Nobandegani. May his soul be bound in the eternal bond of life with Hashem and may Hashem grant only Simcha to his family

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