Rav Moshe Twersky zt”l On the Parsha


Parshas Yisro – Ba’yom Ha’zeh

ביום הזה     יט:א     שיהיו דברי תורה חדשים עליך כאילו היום ניתנו רש”י

The day that Klal Yisrael arrived in Midbar Sinai was Rosh Chodesh, as Rashi explains on the spot.  Matan Torah was not until the sixth of Sivan.  So why are we being taught about “this day” – that Torah should have fresh newness every day just as on the day it was given – on a day that was not the day of Matan Torah?

Klal Yisrael’s arrival to Midbar Sinai was not merely a chronological technicality.  In terms of the preparation on their part, leading up to the day of kabbalas ha’Torah, it was their first approach.  That is when they began their preparations.  This is evident from the fact that they left Refidim in a state of teshuva and arrived at Midbar Sinai in a state of teshuva, as Rashi brings from Chazal.  The Mishna teaches, haskein atzmecha lilmod Torah – there is a need for one to prepare himself to learn Torah.

What we see from the derasha of ba’yom ha’zeh – that Torah should have fresh newness every day – is that even the preliminary preparation should be with an attitude of fresh newness.  The truth is, that the learning itself really doesn’t need this encouragement.  If it’s a new masechta or a new sugya that you’ve never learned before, who doesn’t get excited?  Of course it’s exciting.  And if it’s a masechta you’ve already learned before, then you know it already!  It’s like reuniting with an old, beloved friend.  But the preliminaries, that needs special prodding that we should do it with excitement.

This matter is like an alyah v’kotz bah.  On the one hand, everyone has a strong desire and ambition to learn a lot of Torah and become a talmid chacham.  There isn’t a Yid who is not struck by this drive.  But the urge alone is not enough.  One needs to capitalize on it, to immediately grab it with both hands.  Open the Gemara right away and start learning.  Then you’re already on the way.  But you have to sit down and do it.  And it is against this that the sitrah acharah works very hard.

Rashi also brings the yesod of kol haschalos kashos, all beginnings are difficult.  But, mi’kan v’eilach ye’erav lachem – once you get past the beginning, it’s exhilarating and sweet.  Really, we are always fluctuating between the state of “difficult beginnings” and “sweet continuum”.  To get yourself into the Beis Ha’Medrash, that’s hard.  That’s the difficult beginning.  A lot of times, one can become distracted by this and that that he feels he has to do, or he remembers that he needs to take care of such-and-such, or that a certain thing needs to be done better.  We don’t even realize sometimes how much the sitrah acharah distracts us from getting past this beginning point.  That is why it is critical to try as much as possible to incorporate excitement – the yihiyu chadashim alecha k’ilu ha’yom nitnu – even into the avodah of the preliminary of getting oneself to the Gemara.

Even once a person has gotten himself into the Beis Ha’Medrash, there is still a flux from “difficult beginnings” to “sweet continuum” from hour to hour.  Of course, it is easier than the stage of actually getting yourself into the Beis Ha’Medrash, but the challenge is still there.  At least until one gets to the point of learning six hours without interruption.  At the point, says the Chazon Ish, the ecstatic pleasure is so great that the doors of Gan Eiden open up.  He is as if in Gan Eiden in this world and the material world becomes completely and utterly irrelevant to him.  He could go on forever.

(Audio recording available here)


ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר   יט:ב

Vayichan sham Yisrael neged ha’har — and Yisrael encamped there opposite the mountain.” What exactly is the gadlus of the fact that Klal Yisrael camped opposite Har Sinai?  After all, in anticipation of receiving the Torah on Har Sinai, where else would Klal Yisrael have pitched camp?!  Neged ha’har almost seems superfluous.

The Chiddushei Ha’Rim explained that the pasuk isn’t coming to tell us where the Jewish People were facing as much as it is coming to tell us where they were not facing.  The real gadlus of neged ha’har is that their backs were to the Midbar.  Meaning that they turned away from the rest of the world.  To properly receive the Torah, one has to have his back turned to the rest of the world; to forgo interest and involvement with material pursuit.

Neged ha’har doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  Every little bit that one turns his back to the rest of the world and removes himself from mundane pursuit, that’s how much stronger of a kabbalas ha’Torah he can have.

(From Reb Yehuda Eisenstein)