by Rabbi Nussbaum

May 15, 2020
Iyar 21, 5780
Candlelighting Time 7:49 PM

Hashem guarantees that we will merit many blessings if we ‘walk in the statutes of the Torah’. Rashi quotes the Sages that this means we must toil and extend ourselves to study Torah. As we rapidly approach Shavuos, the time of the revelation of Hashem’s majesty and our reception of the Torah, it is worthwhile to plan how we can best enjoy and enhance our lives from this wonderful Yom Tov.

S’fas Emes points out that this verse concludes that we need to guard the mitzvos and perform them. What does the Torah mean that we must protect the mitzvos? He explains that when we learn about the mitzvos it must be with intent to fulfill them. Just to be intellectually informed about our obligations but not to observe them is not our mission. Therefore, we must have a mindset that knowing the mitzvos will automatically lead us to observe them. Therefore, he posits that there are three levels which will guide us to excellence in our service of Hashem.  

Firstly, our thoughts must be intensely focused on our obligations, the fulfilling of Hashem’s will, keeping the mitzvos properly. That level of processing our obligations mentally is vital in our progression toward total dedication to serve Hashem. If in the depths of our very essence we have not successfully absorbed the concept of an uncompromising commitment to perform all the mitzvos, then we can’t be as intensely involved in execution of our duties as we need to be. In consonance with that we need also to speak about our status as servants of Hashem. When a concept lies dormant only in a mental state but not brought forth, then it is not a completed thought. The seminal work, the Duties of the Heart, writes that speech is the quill of the heart. Although we may be passionate about our obligations and be very driven by our goals, however that is insufficient. A person can reach the apex of his growth coupling his accomplished mind set with actions, setting in to motion his fervent desire to complete his development and reach a level of transformation that can advance the person even further as he continues to evolve and constantly seeks to improve himself.

S’fas Emes now takes us to a higher level of perception of what a person accomplishes when he fulfills the Torah and observes the mitzvos. Each mitzvah corresponds to a specific part of the person. Of course, this is not in a corporeal manner, rather each part of our being has a spiritual basis upon which it functions. The strength of those spiritual ‘muscles’ derives from the mitzvos that we do. Therefore, the greater heights that we ascend to in fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos, the more powerful our passion becomes since that is inherently connected to our spiritual self. The majestic nature of Shavuos derives from our appreciation of the incomparable revelation of Hashem that occurred at Mt. Sinai. That perception and utilization of that opportunity are exponentially increased as we upgrade and empower our inner self, our spiritual side, our soul.

Therefore, we may draw an analogy and state that just as an Olympic contestant will prepare for the upcoming event with tremendous diligence and focus to assure that he is ready to perform to the best of his ability, so too, we must stretch our spiritual muscles as much as we can to prepare for our encounter with Hashem. We are not just commemorating an event that transpired thousands of years ago, rather we are reliving our acceptance of the Torah. Therefore, it behooves us to greet Hashem in the most prominent and salient manner.


This week we will read the portion dealing with the rebuke of Hashem referring to the nation when we are not fulfilling ideally our obligations. Some people prefer to avoid hearing the harsh words of criticism and walk out or the reader of the Torah does not enunciate the words so clearly in order to quickly pass this part of the Torah. However, this is comparable to knowing that one is traveling on a dangerous road and placing a blindfold over his eyes to avoid the obstacles, the analogy is obvious.         CHOFETZ CHAIM