Awe And Trembling
Sichos in English
Parshas Yisro; 20th Day
of Shvat, 5752
Ten Commandments are recorded twice in the Torah: once in Parshas Yisro and once
in Parshas VaEschanan. Since the Ten Commandments are the foundation for the
entire Torah and include the entire Torah, it is obvious that their repetition
communicates central lessons relevant to the Torah as a whole, i.e., they each
represent an approach that is vital to our observance of the Torah in its
fundamental difference between the narrative of the Ten Commandments in Parshas
Yisro and that of the Ten Commandments in Parshas VaEschanan is that Parshas
Yisro relates how the Ten Commandments were given by G-d. Parshas VaEschanan, by
contrast, presents Moshe Rabbeinuís description of the giving of the Ten
Commandments. They are the words of Moshe, not the direct word of G-d, as it
difference reflects two fundamental dimensions of the Torah: On the one hand,
the Torah is "G-dís will and G-dís wisdom," "The Torah and
the Holy One, blessed be He, are one." From this perspective, the Torah is
a "hidden treasure," beyond the grasp of man.
however, "the Torah has journeyed and descended through hidden stages,
stage after stage through the entire set of the spiritual cosmos until it became
invested in material entities and matters of this world." This process
reached its fullest expression at the giving of the Torah, when the Torah was
given to the Jewish people in this material world. From that time onward,
"the Torah is not in the heavens," but rather it is the possession of
the Jewish people. After the giving of the Torah, the Torah must be studied by
the Jewish people as "souls within bodies," and it is on the basis of
their understanding that Torah law will be decided. Similarly, through their
observance of the mitzvos, they transform the world into a dwelling for
two dimensions should be reflected in the way in which every Jew studies Torah:
The awareness that the Torah transcends human knowledge leads to bittul
(self-nullification). This bittul is reflected in the verse, "My
tongue will repeat Your sayings," which is interpreted as follows:
"The Torah is ĎYour sayings,í and my tongue is merely repeating what
You have said." In this context, we can also interpret the verse "G-d,
open my lips and my mouth will recite Your praise," i.e., although it is a
man who is speaking, what he is saying is "Your praise," G-dís
words, not his own. "The Divine presence speaks from his throat."
this basis, we can understand our Sagesí statement that we should study the
Torah with the same awe, fear, and trembling experienced by the Jewish people at
Mount Sinai. For, although we are lacking all the open miracles of Sinai, the
essence of the experience that a limited human being is perceiving the word of
G-d is the same.
we must also appreciate that the Torah was given to man as he exists within our
material world, a soul within a physical body. Accordingly, a person must
endeavor to understand the Torah with his own mind and faculties. And when he
achieves this, the Torah he studies is considered as his own; he receives a
measure of authority over the Torah which he has studied.
two points are also reflected in the ultimate purpose of our Torah study, which
is to fashion a dwelling for G-d in these lower worlds. Here, too, we see two
dimensions. One is that the world is a dwelling for G-d, a place where He
reveals Himself totally, as a person reveals himself without restraint in his
own home. This relates to the transcendent dimension of the Torah. Since
"the Torah and G-d are one," the Torah can reveal His presence in the
the Torah has undergone a process of descent, investing itself in matters of our
material world. This enables the dwelling to be part and parcel of the lower
world, causing its own framework of reference to serve as a medium to reveal G-dís
this context, we can apply our Sagesí expression, "One who enters a
country should follow its customs," to the Torahís descent into worldly
existence. Since the Torah adapts to the modes of existence of our material
environment, it therefore has the potential to make them into a dwelling for
on these concepts, we can appreciate the significance of the two narratives of
the Ten Commandments in the Torah. The description of the Ten Commandments in
Parshas Yisro reflects G-dís speech, granting the Jewish people the potential
for their Torah study to reflect G-dís speech.
concept is reflected in the introductory verse to the Ten Commandments,
literally translated as, "And G-d related all the following to sayÖ"
The commentaries note that the word "leimor" (to say) appears
frequently in the Torah with the intent that the message communicated should be
conveyed to others. This meaning, however, is not appropriate in this instance,
for the entire Jewish people were present at the giving of the Torah. Nor can
the intent be to communicate the message to the Jewish people of future
generations, for all the souls of the Jewish people, even those yet to be born,
were in attendance at Mount Sinai. Therefore, the intent of the term in this
instance is that G-d gave the Jewish people the power to say the words of Torah
as He said them that the words of the Torah studied by a Jew should be "G-dís
Ten Commandments as they are described in Parshas VaEschanan, by contrast, were
spoken by Moshe Rabbeinu. This grants a Jew the potential to comprehend the
Torah with his limited human intellect, and in a larger sense, to make a
dwelling for G-d within the context of our material world.
each account of the Ten Commandments possesses an advantage lacking in the
other. The account in Parshas Yisro reflects the advantage of direct revelation
from G-d, without intermediaries. All the Jewish people heard the commandments
from G-d Himself.
contrast, the description of the Ten Commandments in Parshas VaEschanan reflects
how they are related by Moshe. Although Moshe was "a medium who
connects," and "the Divine presence spoke from his throat," this
still represents a descent. And therefore, the giving of the Ten Commandments at
Mount Sinai represents the pinnacle of manís connection with G-d.
receiving G-dís word in this manner negates our individual existence. (And
thus our Sages relate that after each of the commandments were spoken, the souls
of the Jewish people expired.) Conversely, the second description of the giving
of the Ten Commandments reflects the ultimate expression of a personís
individual existence that a Jew, like Moshe, can be a medium for the expression
of G-dís speech.
advantages can be explained within the context of the expression, "a
dwelling for G-d in the lower worlds." The description of the Ten
Commandments in Parshas VaEschanan reflects how even the lower worlds become a
dwelling for G-d. There is, however, a limitation. Although they serve as a
dwelling for G-d, there is a difference between G-d and His dwelling. To refer
to the analogy mentioned above, in a personís own home, he expresses himself
most freely. Although this is true, his home is merely the place where he
expresses himself. There is a clear difference between the person and his home.
in the analogue, although the description of the Ten Commandments in Parshas
VaEschanan reflect how the Jewish people Ė within the framework of worldly
existence Ė become a dwelling for G-d, there remains a difference between G-d
and His dwelling. The description of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Yisro, by
contrast, reflect how nothing exists aside from G-d Himself.
ultimate level of fulfillment is when there is a fusion of both approaches. Then
G-dís essence is revealed within our material world with no limitation
whatsoever and this revelation is internalized within the Jewish people (as
opposed to causing their self-nullification). In this manner, a Jew repeats
"G-dís word" and becomes a channel for the revelation of G-dliness
in the world at large.
this context, the two narratives of the giving of the Ten Commandments can be
seen as two stages in a single process. The narrative in Parshas Yisro reflects
the potential for the revelation of essential G-dliness. And the narrative in
Parshas VaEschanan reveals how this essential G-dliness becomes internalized
within Moshe, within the Jewish people, and within the world at large. In this
manner, the revelation at Mount Sinai, becomes relevant to our divine service at
all places and in all places.
There is a connection between the above concepts and the date on which Parshas
Yisro is read this year, the 20th of Shvat, ten days after the hilula of
the Rebbe Rayatz, and two days before the hilula of the Rebbe Rayatzís
daughter, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka.
is the eleventh month in the year. As mentioned on previous occasions, all
existence is structured in a framework of reference of ten. Eleven refers to a
level of transcendence above that framework. These two levels are also reflected
in the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments themselves reflect a set of ten.
The first commandment, "Anochi," reflects a level of
transcendence: "You are One and not in a numerical sense."
Rebbe Rayatzís hilula falls on the tenth day of the eleventh month,
referring to the transcendent quality associated with eleven being drawn down
into the limited framework of ten. And this is the ultimate goal of the giving
of the Torah Ė that G-dís essence be drawn down every day by the Jewish
people in their Torah study.
the above is relevant to our generation, the last generation of the exile and
the first generation of the Redemption, for it is in the Era of the Redemption
when we will witness the completion of the above process, seeing how G-dís
essence permeates every dimension of existence.
the Redemption can come immediately. Indeed, "miyad," the
Hebrew for "immediately," is intrinsically connected with the
Redemption, for its letters serve as an acronym for the names Moshe, Yisroel,
David, the three Jewish leaders associated with the Redemption. Moshe redeemed
the Jewish people from Egypt, and our Sages declare, "He was the first
redeemer and he will be the ultimate redeemer." It is the spreading outward
of the wellsprings of the teachings of Yisroel, the Baal Shem Tov, which will
bring the Redemption. Similarly, Moshiach will be a descendant of David, the
first anointed king.
miyad can reflect the continuity between generations as reflected in the
acronym Moshe, Yehoshua, doram: "Moshe, Yehoshua, and their
generations." This emphasizes how the concepts symbolized by the three
letters are not distant from each other, but rather in direct connection.
one of us Ė man, woman, and child Ė must take a lesson from the above
concepts. Since the Ten Commandments were associated with the unity of the
Jewish people (at Mount Sinai they camped "as one man, with one
heart"), our application of the lessons they teach should also involve a
community, i.e., ten other people. Every individual should seek to convey the
totality of the Torah and its mitzvos (for they are all reflected within
the Ten Commandments) to at least ten other Jews.
the above directive applies to every member of our generation, it is
particularly relevant to those present in this "sanctuary in
microcosm," the house of prayer, house of study, and house of good deeds of
the Rebbe Rayatz. Since the Nasi represents the entire generation, this
building is Beis Chayeinu, "the source of our life," for every
person in this generation.
all the Jewish people here will serve as a living example of how the Rebbe
Rayatzís directives should be fulfilled, the influence from this house will
reach Jews throughout the world. And this will hasten the coming of the time
when the synagogues and houses of study in the Diaspora will all be taken to
Eretz Yisroel together with the entire Jewish people. May this take place in the
eve of the 22nd of Shvat, 5752
The Yahrtzeit of the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, o.b.m.
Tonight is the eve of the twenty-second of Shvat. Twenty-two is numerically
equivalent to "becha" in the verse, "Through you (becha),
Israel will be blessed." This verse indicates that "through you,"
blessing will be drawn down to each and every Jew, generating positive
activities, which in turn, will lead to further activities of blessing in a
pattern that will continue endlessly.
these activities will lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy, "And G-d
will wipe tears away from every face..." Tears, (dimía) in Hebrew,
is numerically equivalent to 119. G-dís act, as it were, of wiping away tears
represents an increase, causing the sum to reach 120, the number of years that
represent a complete human life. Thus, when Moshe reached 120 years, he stated,
"today my days and my years are completed."
above relates to every Jew, for every Jew possesses a spark of Moshe Rabbeinu
within him. This spark of Moshe generates positive activity, which, as explained
above, initiates a pattern that continues to generate further positive activity
Hebrew word for "forever," olam, also means world," and
also relates to the Hebrew word "helem," which means
concealment. Indeed, our world is characterized by concealment, the concealment
G-dliness, allowing for a soul, "an actual part of G-d," to be
concealed, i.e., to depart from this world after its "days and years are
completed," i.e., after they have been endowed with fullness and completion
through good deeds. And in this context as well, the pattern mentioned above
applies. Each good deed leads to more good deeds, in a never-ending sequence.
above also shares a connection to the Torah reading of the previous Shabbos
which describes the giving of the Torah. Our Sages relate that after each of the
Ten Commandments, "the souls of the Jewish people departed," a
phenomenon parallel to death, and G-d revived them with the dew which He will
use to resurrect the dead in the Era of the Redemption.
in the present context, four years ago today, an "actual part of G-d,"
a Jewish soul ascended from this world. Each year, on the day of the yahrtzeit,
that soul ascends to a higher level, indeed, a level immeasurably higher than
the heights the soul had reached previously. This is reflected in the recitation
of Kaddish on that day.
the soul reach the ultimate level of ascent, the level to be reached at the time
of the Resurrection. And may this take place in the immediate future. For ours
is the last generation of the exile and the first generation of the Redemption.
And the potential for the Redemption is particularly emphasized this year,
"a year imbued with wonders" and "a year of wonders in all
the final word of the latter phrase, relates to the threefold expression of
blessing associated with our Patriarchs, "baíkol miíkol kol."
That expression, in turn, is numerically equivalent to the Hebrew word "kabetz"
(192), meaning gather, and alludes to the ultimate ingathering of our exiles.
Together with all the Jewish people of the present generation who will proceed
to Eretz Yisroel amidst health and joy, they will be joined by "those who
lie in the dust," the souls of the previous generations, who "will
arise and sing."
particular, this applies to a soul who has merited that many Jewish girls be
named after her and educated in the spirit in which she lived, which came as a
result of the education she was given by the Rebbe Rayatz.
will be hastened by the distribution of money to be given Ė with each person
making an addition from their own funds Ė to tzedaka. This will speed
the coming of the Redemption, when "the Holy One, blessed be He, will make
a dance for the righteous," a dance that will be joined by each member of
the Jewish people Ė man, woman and child. And they will point to G-d and say,
"Behold this is the G-d in Whom we put our trust."
will take place in the immediate future "With our youth and our elders...
with our sons and our daughters," we will proceed to Eretz Yisroel "on
the clouds of heaven." And "those that lie in the dust will arise and