1. This farbrengen centers around a number of different elements. 1) To begin with, we blessed the new month this Shabbos. The Previous Rebbe asked that we always mark such occasions (referred to as “Shabbos Mevorchim” in Hebrew) with a farbrengen.1 2) The particular month that we blessed, the month of Sivan, expresses unique G‑dly energies. Actually, every month of the Jewish calendar brings a different G‑dly force. The specific character of each month can be appreciated by looking at the different experiences the Jewish people underwent in those times. (This is true from a mystical perspective, as well. Kabbalah explains that the life-force of the world emanates from G‑d’s name, “Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay” (referred to in Chassidus as “Shaim Havaye2 ). The order of the letters is rearranged each month, thus changing the nature of that life-force.3 ).3) Finally, this Shabbos is “Machar Chodesh,” the day before Rosh Chodesh. The prominence of this event can be seen by the fact that a special Haftorah reading is instituted to mark the occasion. Furthermore, the Haftorah of Machar Chodesh is different from all other Haftorahs. Generally, the Haftorah is related to the Torah reading (or at least, the “Maftir” (concluding) portion). In the case of Machar Chodesh, the Haftorah is not all connected with the Torah portion.4

When all these different elements combine, the effects of one enhances the others. The Talmud explains that two people working together can lift a load heavier than the sum of their individual efforts. In this case, as well, the combined input of all these elements adds to the impact of the day.5

The Alter Rebbe brings out this concept in Tanya. There, he explains that each word contains two different messages: 1) The total of the individual lessons conveyed by each particular letter. 2) An all encompassing general light brought about by their combination into one word. For example, in the word “Bereishis” — the first letter, “Bail,” communicates the concept of “Binah” — understanding; the second letter, “Raish,” communicates another idea, etc. However, their individual lessons are eclipsed by the concept expressed by the combination — the word “Bereishis” — meaning Creation.

2. In our prayers, we say that Torah is “our life and the length of our days.”6 Life is the most fundamental element of our existence. It precedes all of our other activities. A Jew must realize that he can achieve life only through Torah.

This farbrengen occurs on the day of Rosh Chodesh Sivan. This date marks an auspicious occasion for our nation. On this date, the Jewish people “camped before Mt. Sinai.” They were prepared to receive the Torah.7 Their preparation did not only encompass the spiritual realms. They made progress in relation to their fellow man as well. The Hebrew word the Torah uses for “camped” — Vayichan — is structured in the singular, even though its subject, the children of Israel, is plural. The Talmud explains that this misusage was intentional. It serves as a clue alluding to the unity of the Jewish people at that time. There at Mt. Sinai, they were united and shared “one heart.”

The combination of all these factors should instill us with renewed zeal in our approach to Torah. Torah is not given to us as a present, it must be acquired through our own efforts. In fact, Pirkei Avos lists 48 qualities necessary for its acquisition.8 Our progress in Torah will lead us to self-fulfillment, as the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya. There, he explains how every soul is forced to reincarnate until it completely masters all four realms of Torah study: P’shat, Remez, Drush, and Sod.9 In addition to studying Torah ourselves, we must work to spread it to others — extending its influence wherever possible. Through these activities, we will bring about peace in the spiritual realm, and also a lasting peace in the physical realms, including the true and ultimate peace that will be realized with the coming of Moshiach.

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3. The entire period between the camping of the Jewish people before Mt. Sinai on Rosh Chodesh and the giving of the Torah six days later was occupied with preparation for the giving of the Torah. Therefore, it is proper now as well to mark those days with a special increase in Torah study. This will serve as a preparation to receive the Torah.10

Since “Torah study is great because it brings about deed,” it is proper that this addition in Torah study should also bring about an increase in the performance of Mitzvos, particularly the Mitzvah of Tzedakah. The Mitzvah of Tzedakah is singled out because its fulfillment represents the general principle of all the Mitzvos and because it has an intrinsic connection with Torah study. Our Sages stated that anyone who says, “I will seek only Torah knowledge,” — will not achieve that goal. Rather, Torah study must be coupled with “Gemilus Chassadim” — “Deeds of Kindness.” Furthermore, “Torah begins with Gemilus Chassadim,” the creation of the world and “ends with Gemilus Chassadim,” the burial of Moshe. In fact, the very giving of the Torah itself is considered Tzedakah.

This increase in the study of Torah and gifts to charity should begin now in the days before Shavuos and be intensified on the holiday itself (giving charity then in forms other than money) and continued afterwards until Yud-Bais Sivan (the end of the period of compensation11 for the Shavuos holiday).12

These activities will bring about abundant blessings13 even in material things including the ultimate blessing, the coming of Moshiach — speedily in our days.

4. The Midrash relates that “when the Jews stood before Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah, G‑d told them...’Bring Me good guarantors and I will give it to you.’“ The Jews proposed certain guarantors and they were not accepted. Finally, they answered “Our children will be our guarantors.”14 From this, we see how important education is to receiving the Torah. With that in mind, it is appropriate to stress that not only adults but also children should be involved in the previously mentioned preparations for Shavuos.

This concept is reinforced by the Talmud’s statement that the quote “Do not touch my anointed ones” (“Mishiechoi” in Hebrew) refers to young children studying Torah. The word Moshiach denotes a high spiritual level. For example, the High Priest,” was referred to as “Kohen Moshiach” — the “Anointed Priest,” Saul — Israel’s first king was called “Moshiach Hashem” — “G‑d’s anointed.” The Messiah, whose spiritual level will transcend that of all humans before him,15 is called Moshiach. Every Jew possesses within him a spark of Moshiach.16 In the case of adults this potential is not revealed. Children, however, still have the potential to reach the level of Moshiach.

5. The Rebbe explained that the above mentioned activities of Torah study and gifts to charity are particularly relevant at this time. He quoted the Talmud’s statement “What should a person do to avoid “Chevlai Moshiach?”17 Busy oneself with Torah and Charity.” The Rebbe quoted Rashi, who explains that “Chevlai Moshiach” has a more specific meaning: “The fears and straits that we will suffer at the hands of the Gentile armies.” The Rebbe continued to dwell on the concept of fear, explaining that this was the critical mistake of the present Israeli government. They have lost their self-respect and pride and are therefore always forced to take a retreating, conciliating attitude in relation to the Arabs and to the U.S. He attacked the return of the territories, emphasizing that there is no way that the treaty can be considered peace. Peace comes when both sides make concessions. In this case, one side made all the concessions and received only paper guarantees in return. He likewise criticized the festive air, with which the Israeli government greeted the treaty. Even if the concessions were necessary, the Rebbe added, they should not have been celebrated and treated as a holiday.

The Rebbe also attacked the recent exchange of prisoners: over 70 Arabs, including over 30 convicted terrorists, for one Israeli soldier. Though a Jewish life has infinite worth — “surely more than that of seventy Arabs,” — the Rebbe said “the exchange should not have been made.” They could have obtained the same soldier for many fewer Arabs. Furthermore, the terrorists said they would continue their activities, making the exchange wrong, even if no better arrangement could have been made. He stated that the exchange was made for one reason only — because the Israeli government has so thoroughly lost its pride that it is willing to do anything to try to win the favor of the Americans and the Arabs.

The Rebbe reiterated his demands that rather than give up the territories they should be settled (noting that the few new settlements opened on the West Bank were only a token gesture that did not solve the problem) and a firm show of Israeli military strength be made. He explained that this was the opinion of Israeli’s military experts who according to Torah are the authorities who must decide policy at this time. He related that there are those who maintained that diplomatic considerations should also be taken into consideration, but brought proof to discount their opinion. He cited the example of the Yom Kippur War where all the military leaders had wanted to call up the reserves and prepare for war. These defensive steps were vetoed by the political leaders of the time who feared antagonizing the U.S.18 Those political actions brought about the early Arab success and many casualties among the Israeli forces.

The Rebbe also mentioned that the government authorities are taking certain steps to pressure him into silence including withholding government aid from Lubavitch teachers and educational institutions. He promised that he would not cease his protest even in the face of these actions.

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6. It is customary at every farbrengen connected with Shabbos to discuss one section from Rashi’s commentary on the weekly portion. Chapter I, Verses 51 and 53 of this week’s portion read “and when the Tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up and the common man who draws near will die... the Levites shall pitch their tents around the Tabernacle so there will be no wrath (of G‑d) on the children of Israel. And the Levites shall guard the Tabernacle,” Rashi brings down the words “there will be no wrath” and explains “If you will follow my commandments there will be no wrath, but if not, if common men will enter into their work, there will be wrath ‘as we find in the matter of Korach’ “for wrath has gone out from G‑d.”

This commentary raises a number of questions: What is the need for Rashi’s commentary? What problems does his explanation solve? In general, the Torah sages, particular giants of Rashi’s stature, were very careful not to write unnecessary words. However, in this case, it seems that Rashi’s commentary is not teaching any new information. Even without his comments, it appears that a student would understand the verse correctly. Especially in consideration of the preeminence of Rashi’s commentary, it is hard to believe that it would contain an explanation, that at least to surface perusal is unnecessary.

Furthermore, Rashi does not content himself with a brief comment like, “from a negative statement, the positive can be inferred,” as he does in many places, but explains the concept at length. He even feels it necessary to bring a proof — the matter of Korach — to support his commentary. Why is this necessary, when the preceding verse itself states, “the common man who comes close will die?”19

The difficulty that provoked Rashi’s commentary was, in fact, that very verse, “and the common man who comes close will die.” After this statement, why did the Torah feel it necessary to reiterate “and there will be no wrath?” What greater wrath can there be than death? Once the Jewish people have been warned so severely, why was it necessary to repeat the admonition?

The difficulty might cause us to use a different approach to the entire portion. It is possible to think that the transgression that would arouse “G‑d’s wrath” would be the failure of the Levites to obey the command to camp around the Tabernacle. In fact, this explanation has certain advantages — according to this interpretation “and there will be no wrath” is not a reiteration of the warning “the common man who comes close will die.” Rather, it relates to a separate command with a separate punishment — arousal of “G‑d’s wrath” — which does not necessarily imply the death penalty.

Rashi does not accept this opinion. He maintains that the punishment applies to the common man entering the service. Because the other explanation is reasonable and in certain ways more acceptable than his own, Rashi must elaborate in explanation of his position and bring a proof — the matter of Korach.

How is the matter of Korach a proof? There, two sins took place. Firstly, Korach was a Levite and when he rebelled against Moshe, he violated G‑d’s command to “camp around the Tabernacle.” Then he caused “the common man to enter the service” by bringing the incense offerings, etc. At the first stage of his revolt, the Torah does not mention that G‑d’s wrath was aroused. Only at the end, after Korach brought the incense offerings, causing the common man to enter the service, do we find such a statement. (We also see a difference there between G‑d’s wrath being aroused and “the common man who comes close will surely die.” All those who brought the incense offerings were killed. However, besides that punishment, G‑d’s wrath was aroused. A plague broke out that killed many thousands more. Thus the example of Korach serves as a proof for Rashi’s interpretation.

7. The third Mishnah of the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos describes how King David honored Achitophel, even though he taught him “only two things.” The question arises, why does the Mishnah use the word “only?” In its previous clause, when it describes someone who teaches another person “one thing, or one letter,” it does not use the word “only.” Why is this case different?

Rav Ya’akov Yosef of Polnoah, one of the Baal Shem Tov’s foremost students, explained that generally when we learn a Torah concept, it motivates us to learn others. Even one letter can start a long process of growth as can be seen in many cases throughout the Talmud. There, many profound concepts are derived from the addition or deletion of a letter from the Torah’s text. Achitophel’s teachings, however, lacked this quality of growth. They did not bring about other knowledge.

At this point, a question arises: The Talmud relates how Achitophel’s teachings helped David save the entire world. If so, how can we say they lacked the power to bring about growth? However, this power of life and growth was Dovid’s contribution, not Achitiphel’s. From his perspective, they were “only” two things, they could not stimulate life. However, Dovid intermingled them and made them his own.20 In doing so, he dynamized them and gave them vitality and living power. What distinguished David’s approach to study from Achitophel’s? Why was his able to bring about life? The answer can be seen from a parallel to our life experience. The Talmud says there are “three partners in the birth of a child: a man, a woman, and G‑d.” Birth represents a new creation, the closest we can approach to bringing into being an entity from absolute nothingness. To achieve this, the presence of the third partner, G‑d, is an absolute necessity. In many cases, healthy men and women have not given birth to children. Why, because they lacked the contribution of the third partner. Only G‑d’s infinity, can bring into being a new creation.

The same concept applies to Torah study. To grow in Torah, it is necessary to connect ourselves with the infinite G‑dliness contained in Torah.21 Then, learning even one letter of Torah, can bring about a process of infinite growth.