By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Inyanei Chag Ha’Shavuos
The Gemara in Maseches Shabbos says an example of notrikon is the word Anochi. Anochi stands for Anah nafshi kesivas yehavis. Rashiexplains that anah nafshi means ani b’atzmi, that Hashem is saying I myself wrote and gave the Torah. The Chasam Sofer in his drashos for Rosh Ha’Shana says a vort. He brings that the Rokeaich says that the title of seifer should have the author’s name somehow contained therein. This notrikon of Anochi, says the Chasam Sofer, is a kiyum of that inyan. Since Anochi is the beginning of Klal Yisrael getting the Torah, it is as if it is the title of the Torah.
In the sefarim there is another pshat given for anah nafshi, that Hashem is saying, “My nefesh is also part of what is written and given in the Torah.” In the context of speaking about Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu, what does nefesh mean? Like by “im yeish es nafshechem”. Meaning, ratzon. In the Aseres Ha’Dibros, and the Torah as a whole, Hashem gave over, kavayachol, His ratzon. What that means is that the Torah is the way by which we can connect with Hashem. Furthermore, it means that if you want to know about Hashem – what it is that He wants from the briah – the only portal to that knowledge is the Torah. Torah is not just a set of laws. Every word in Torah carries “nafshi”, ratzon Hashem.
כתבם על לוח לבך
When the pasuk says al levavecha, it is talking about the mitzvah of remembering Torah. Yonasan ben Uziel says kesivin al luach libchon. It means that the Torah is supposed to be retained. The Brisker Rov said that it is a shiur in yedias ha’Torah. Something that is written out in front of you, you don’t need to think to recall it; it’s right there!
In Toldos Adam, it is brought down the way Rav Chaim Volozhiner described the Gaon. How he was absolutely phenomenal in every way. The Gaon would have an aliyas neshama every night without engaging in hazkaras Sheimos – the Besh”t had aliyas neshama with hazkaras Sheimos – and during his sleep would be mashlim his yedios. And on and on. Someone asked Rav Chaim Volozhiner, “But your brother Rav Zelmeleh – who was niftar young – also knew kol ha’Torah kulah?!” Rav Chaim responded, “There’s no comparison!” And he explained it. Rav Zelmeleh knew kol ha’Torah kulah the way every Yid knows Ashrei, with total fluency.
But if I ask you what is the word that comes before u’gvurosecha, you have to think about it to get the answer. You have to go back to the beginning of the pasuk in your mind and get to that point in order to remember. But the Gaon, he was on a completely different level. His yedias ha’Torah was so great that he knew it backwards as well as he knew it forwards. That description of the Gaon is the kasveim al luach libecha, as if the text is written down right in front of him.
Even though in the rest of the dinei ha’Torah kesivah does not require chakikah, in order to be mekayeim kasveim al luach libecha, it needs to be a chakikah; engraved. Just writing with ink doesn’t sink in. Halevai we would even write the words of Torah on our hearts! Practically speaking, how does one go about engraving divrei Torah on his heart? There are two aspects to it, and one without the other does not suffice.
The first component is to work to understand the divrei Torah to the best of one’s ability. The more a person understands the sugyah, the deeper in it goes, and he retains it better. When a person really puts all his kochos into a sugyah, it is possible that even ten, twenty, or thirty, or even forty years later he will still remember it. If one just glosses over divrei Torah, though, then the divrei Torah might gloss over him. The second component is ribuy chazaros, lots of review. Both are needed. Hah b’lo hah lo sagyah.
Rabbeinu Chananel brings in Maseches Rosh Ha’Shana (34) a Yerushalmi that says every Yomtov by the sair it says l’chatas, whereas by Shavuos it just says sair izim without the word chatas because “since you accepted upon yourselves ol Torah it is as if you never sinned.”
Every year, there are two paths of mechilas avonos. One is during the Yamim Noraim and the other is on Shavuos. Relative to the concerted effort associated with the avodah of Yamim Noraim, the mechilas avonos that we get on Shavuos is a tremendous gift. Just by dint of the acceptance of ol Torah, it is granted to us.
The Rokeaich says that this is the reason why the Gemara says that on Shavuos there is an extra component of simcha for which reason everyone agrees that we require lachem. Derech agav, the three times of year that the Gemara says everyone agrees that we require lachem are Shavuos, Purim, and Erev Yom Kippur, and the Gaon explains that all of them have to have to do with the quality of Torah that is associated with the day.
When one takes something on, it should be specific, concrete, and practical. Not a migdal poreiach ba’avir. It needs to be something that one truly has the ability to maintain. Our kochos are far, far removed from anything resembling the kochos of the previous generation. The goals we set for ourselves need to be modest in accordance with our modest capabilities. Bear in mind that giving examples of things that are possible to take on carries a danger that the mind will become constricted from thinking creatively.
Really, each individual needs to think for himself what the appropriate goals are for him to set for himself. With that in mind, here are two examples. Establishing a seider, or a certain amount of time for learning, that is chok v’lo yaavor, that no matter what happens that day, this kevius will not move. The second example is to have a concrete goal of something you are going to accomplish in learning. This type of goal may be best to split up according to the natural tekufos by which the year is divided and structured, wherein you set a different goal for each tekufah.
Regarding what to do on Shavuos itself, there are different approaches. Some say that one should go into Shavuos with a cheshbon. Meaning, learn during whatever time will be the most productive, and sleep the other time. Also, don’t wear yourself too thin because there is life after Shavuos too! Isru Chag – right after we are mekabeil the Torah – is the time to start learning, and not to be like a tinok boreiach mi’beis ha’seifer.
My son told me that he prefers to stay up all night motzaei Shavuos. Why? Because we just got the Torah, so what am I going to do with it, go to sleep with it? I want to learn it! Ok. Another tzad – I am not saying that you should do this – but some say, and there certainly is a sevara that it is k’dai, that during the mei’eis l’eis of Shavuos one should put every last ounce of kochos into learning, until one has used up all one’s kochosand even more, because this is the day of Matan Torah, the day to make a chakika b’leiv, just like then when they heard Anochi and it was nechkak b’leiv! And what will be with Isru Chag? You’ll take a nap; it’s not so terrible. Everyone should be zocheh to kabalas ha’Torah b’ahava u’b’simcha!
התחלת תורה שבעל פה
In the very first Mishnah of the entire Torah sheh’b’al peh we find an account of Rabban Gamliel’s sons returning from a party (and asking him if they should recite Shema since it was already after halachik midnight). At first glance, it seems astounding that such a story should be the vehicle for beginning the entire Torah sheh’b’al Peh! A straightforward understanding may be that it is coming to teach us a fundamental point; and that is that, so long as the dawn’s light has not yet risen, it is always possible to disconnect oneself from gashmiyus.
In the third and final paragraph of Shema, we find the pasuk that exhorts us, “v’lo sasuru acharei levavchem v’acharei eineichem asher atem zonim achareihem”. Meaning, do not tie yourself up with the lusts of your heart and eyes. Sometimes, a person is enticed and may even stumble to some degree or other. When such a thing happens, it is so, so much harder than usual to separate yourself; and, not only is it harder to pull oneself away when he has already been sucked into the desire, but he does not even have so much of a drive to separate from it. Nevertheless, the pasuk is telling us, lo sasuru – don’t tie yourself to it, don’t strengthen the connection with it. Even if you’ve fallen into it to some degree or other, the dawn’s light has not yet risen, and you can always disconnect yourself from it and pull away.
Another way of understanding the inclusion of this account is in a more allegorical manner (b’derech remez). Beis ha’mishteh – the party – is hinting at yeinah shel Torah, the wine of Torah. Meaning, even talmidei chachamim – who are completely immersed in the “celebration” and are always drinking thirstily of the wine of Torah – are obligated in the mitzvos that demand physical action. That is, so long as the dawn’s light has not yet risen. The “dawn’s light” being a metaphor for the light of the tzaddikim in Olam Ha’Ba (as we find in Maseches Pesachim 2b that the pasuk which says, “and as the light of morning the sun will shine” is a reference to the light of the tzaddikim in Olam Ha’Ba).
In OIam Ha’Ba, Chazal tell us, there will no longer be a “world of action”, rather tzaddikim will simply bask in the splendor of the shine of the Shechinah. But, so long as that dawn’s light has not yet risen – meaning, in this “world of action” – you are obligated to recite Shema; in other words, fulfill the mitzvos that demand physical action, despite the fact that you are always partaking in the celebration of yeinah shel Torah.
(From Maamarei Chag Ha’Shavuos)
In Midrash Rabbah on parshas Chukas, as well as in Midrash Tanchuma, we find that there were revelations of Torah that were achieved by Rabi Akiva and his fellow Tannaim that were not revealed to Moshe Rabbeinu. Rav Tzadok Mi’Lublin explains that this does not mean that the conclusions were not known to Moshe Rabbeinu, because Chazal make it clear that there was no Torah knowledge that was withheld from Moshe Rabbeinu. Rather, what it is referring to is the precise source for each and every piece of Torah knowledge.
Moshe Rabbeinu knew the entire body of Torah wisdom, but he did not necessarily know precisely where every single last piece of knowledge is hinted to in the Torah. The Gemara in Maseches Menachos 29b says that Rabi Akiva would darshen every single line of the “crowns” of the letters in the Torah. What this means is not that he was discovering Torah knowledge that Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t know, but that he was discovering the sources for that knowledge. And the ability to pinpoint those sources was something that was not revealed to Moshe Rabbeinu.
In his introduction, the Be’er Sheva says that this was Rabi Akiva’s unique portion in the Torah to teach to others. This statement of the Be’er Sheva brings to light the fact that each individual has a unique share in Torah, not only in terms of learning for himself, but also in terms of teaching to others.
It’s important to realize that “one’s unique share in Torah” does not necessarily mean that one has to propound completely novel Torah ideas that have never been heard of before. Rather, one’s unique share in Torah is the development of one’s own understanding according to one’s unique way of understanding the matter.
How does one go about acquiring one’s unique share in the Torah? The 48 kinyanei ha’Torah! Although Chazal indicated the 48 methods of acquiring Torah as an overall, general approach, there is no question that they are also the mechanism for acquiring one’s unique share in Torah; and, it is possible that it is primarily for acquiring one’s unique share in Torah that one needs the 48 kinyanei ha’Torah.
The acquisition of Torah differs in two ways from the regular rules of acquisitions that we are familiar with from Choshen Mishpat. The first difference pertains to the chalos (taking-effect) of the acquisition. When it comes to regular, monetary acquisitions, the initial act of acquisition takes effect and makes it yours forever. There is nothing you need to do to maintain that state of acquisition. A maaseh kinyan was done and that’s enough. With Torah, though, Chazal tell us that “words of Torah are difficult to acquire like gold and easy to lose like glass”.
It’s not enough to execute a one-time act of acquiring Torah and just leaving it at that. Rather, Torah needs an ongoing act of acquisition to maintain it, through the ongoing application of the 48 mechanisms of Torah-acquisition that Chazal delineated. Within this difference lies another difference in that the acquisition of Torah – when one continuously applies the 48 mechanisms of kinyanei ha’Torah – grows, as Chazal tell us: words of Torah are “fruitful and multiply”.
The second difference pertains to the mechanism of acquisition. When it comes to monetary acquisition, it doesn’t matter who you are, it matters what the object is. If it’s land, it needs one type of acquisition in order to work (kesef, shtar, or chazakah), if it’s heavy, movable property, it needs a meshichah (pulling it), if it’s lightweight it needs hagbahah (lifting it up), and so on.
The specific method of acquisition is not subjective from person to person. With Torah, though, it is subjective. Of course, the 48 mechanisms of Torah acquisition are universal, but how that plays out with each individual can vary greatly.
One person may find, for example, that minimizing sleep and chatter comes naturally to him whereas he has to expend significant effort to achieve a state of being happy with his lot; whereas a different person may find that the opposite is true. For him, being happy with his lot comes naturally and minimizing sleep and chatter may demand a great deal of work for him. Each person has his own, unique avodah that is tailor-made just for him in order for him to acquire his share in the Torah.
If you think about it, practically all of our day-to-day nisyonos relate in some form or another to one of the 48 kinyanei ha’Torah, don’t they? This is a tremendous source of encouragement and empowerment! Why is that? Simple. Of course, we all want to do our best to persevere through our nisyonos and keep away from aveiros. But it’s often easier said than done. However, the knowledge that “if I can just manage to make it through this test, I will have achieved the next level of acquiring my personal share in the Torah” can afford the individual that extra boost of motivation to in fact rise to the occasion.
(From Maamarei Chag Ha’Shavuos)