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B"H

Shalom and Bracha!

  This Shabbat we read the portion of Yitro, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Yitro was Moshe’s father in law, who left Midian and joined the Jewish people for the receiving of the Torah. The naming of the portion after Yitro rather than Moshe gives a deep insight into the giving of the Torah. Yitro had served all of the idols in the world and was knowledgeable in their belief systems. Upon hearing the miracles of the Exodus he declared now I know that Hashem is greater than all gods. The Zohar teaches that this praise echoed in all of the spheres of heaven and Hashem responded that now is the time to give the Torah. Why was Yitro’s praise so important? Having served every negative force in the world, his subjugation implied the readiness of every aspect of the world to be perfected by Torah. This teaches us that nothing can stand in the way of our service of hashem and following the commandments of the Torah.

  A deeper translation would be “I appreciate Hashem’s greatness through all other forces,” meaning that every force he worshipped allowed him a deeper understanding of Hashem. This is alluded to in Rashi’s comment that Yitro saw in each of the plagues and punishments Midah Kneged Midah (measure for measure), the correlation to a different negative trait or deed of the Egyptians. The converse thereof is that he perceived that each evil of the Egyptians resulted in an opportunity to reveal Hashem’s greatness. This is very significant to the giving of the Torah, because the Torah allows us to see the light beyond the darkness and through the darkness and transmute the darkness into light.

  The narrative of the giving of the Torah begins “In the third month of the Exodus… they came to the wilderness of Sinai… and Israel camped opposite the mountain.” Throughout the forty years in the desert, every encampment is described in the plural except for this one. The Midrash explains that when Hashem saw the unity among the Jewish people in their desire to receive the Torah, He declared that the time had arrived for the Torah to be given.

  Unity is central to Torah. The portion tells us that the Torah was given in the third month of the Exodus, after three days of preparation. This is because the number three represents unity. One represents uniqueness, two introduces division and three represents the power to combine and unite. The Torah serves as the bond between the Infinite Creator and the finite world. The Talmud tells us that the Torah was only given to bring peace into the world. In order to receive the Torah whose very essence is peace and unity, there had to be pristine unity amongst the Jewish people. This unity is expressed in all of the three pillars of service of Hashem: Torah, prayer and acts of kindness.

  The Ten Commandments contain five commandments between man and G-d and five commandments between man and his fellow man. Our service of Hashem must lead to our betterment as a person, and the way we that treat each other must be directed by the Torah, not simply by good intention. Thus, the Torah unites the mundane and the sacred. When we study the Torah we subjugate ourselves fully to the will of Hashem, but we seek to understand the Torah in our intellect. Thus the Torah unites the human and divine intellect.

  The Ari Zal (a pillar of Kabbalah) taught that before praying, a person must say “I hereby accept upon myself to fulfill the Mitzvah of love your fellow man as yourself. Prayers are said n the plural (Our G-d, Bless us…) because Hashem blesses us as a people. Further, prayer itself is unity. Prayer is not simply beseeching Hashem for our needs, but bonding with Hashem. The word Tefillah (prayer) comes from the Hebrew root of Tofel (to combine). When we are united as a people, we can bond with Hashem. Through bonding with Hashem, our needs become His needs. When our needs are His needs, our prayers are heard.

  Acts of kindness are done in there truest sense when we feel that the needs of the other party are our needs. The act of giving enriches the benefactor more than the recipient.

  The Semak (a famous codifier) explains that the first Commandment includes the faith in Moshiach. When the Torah says “I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of Egypt,” it is a commandment to believe in G-d and that He will redeem us from every exile. Division caused the destruction of the Temple and unity will rebuild it. The Rebbe has informed us that Moshiach is ready to come and is only awaiting an increase in acts of good and kindness. May we merit his coming immediately and hear the new depths in Torah that he will reveal.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Biggs

In reverent memory of the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbitzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson whose Yahrtzeit is this Wednesday. May her merit shield us and her legacy bring tremendous blessings.

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