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Parshas Yisro: “Bachodesh Hashlishi…”
“Bachodesh Hashlishi…”

[Torah Or, p. 132]

The Maamar of this week’s Parsha discusses the greatest event in the history of the Jewish people-the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai. Hashem told Moshe that the reason why he was taking us out of Egypt and performing nature-defying miracles on our behalf was because He planned to give us the Torah on Har Sinai. Hence Yetzias Mitzrayim and all of the events associated with it finally reached their climax in this week’s Parsha.

The Rishonim[1] mention a tradition that when we were told in Egypt that we would receive the Torah, we were so excited that we began counting down the days until Matan Torah. This eventually became known as the Mitzvah of Sefiras Haomer.[2]

After slight contemplation, however, the above matter seems puzzling. Chazal state that since the times of Avraham Avinu, people were learning Torah and keeping Mitzvos. Even Adam Harishon, Chanoch, and Mesushelach learned Torah.[3]

In fact, Avraham observed all of the Torah laws, including the future Rabbinical decrees that would be enacted.[4] His son Yitzchak followed the same path, and so did Yaakov and the Twelve Tribes.

This therefore begs the question: “What was so novel and significant about Matan Torah that we make it the greatest experience of our nation?” We already had the Torah and we already observed Mitzvos. What happened at Matan Torah that suddenly changed our relationship with Hashem and His Torah, magnifying the experience to the point that we consider it as if the Torah and Mitzvos did not exist prior?

Before Matan Torah, the Torah and Mitzvos were not obligatory upon our nation, but rather voluntary, and hence the great novelty of Matan Torah was the fact that the Torah and Mitzvos now became an obligation.

Nevertheless, this in itself requires clarification. Why do we need the Torah and Mitzvos to be obligatory? What was wrong with the voluntary Mitzvos performed by our forefathers, and why did this obligation excite us to the point of counting down the days until it came into force? This Mamar leads us to a new fundamental understanding of the purpose of Matan Torah, its novel effect on the Jewish soul, and its novel effect on the world. In general, Chassidus emphasizes two great innovations that came into being as a result of Matan Torah.

One is that our learning of Torah is no longer simply the recitation of our own personal words, but is rather the repetition of the words of Hashem, which we merit to recite through uniting with Him.

The second is the effect that our Mitzvos have on this world, now having the ability to permeate the physical creations with G-dliness and making the world a dwelling place for Hashem.

This Maamar mainly focuses on the first aspect, the novelty of Torah learning that resulted from Matan Torah.

The Rebbe[5] talks extensively about the second aspect, the novelty of the Mitzvos, and how they can now fulfill the purpose of the world within a Dirah Betachtonim.

This Maamar of the Alter Rebbe was requested by the Rebbe to be learned by every individual prior to the festival of Shavuos, which commemorates Matan Torah.

Click here for the complete Maamar in English

23 Shevat 5777