Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Sivan 5759 - May 19, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Preparation for Kabolas HaTorah

A compilation of thoughts from the gedolei hadoros zt'l about our yearly kabolas HaTorah on Shavuos and the importance of studying on Shavuos night and day.

Leading Up to Shavuos

The Sefas Emes (parshas HaChodesh) cites the Zohar to the effect that someone who acts properly during the Sefiras HaOmer period will be zoche to a good decree on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Perhaps the reason is that Shavuos is dependent on the spiritual preparation one makes during the sefirah. According to the preparation during the sefirah is one's level on Shavuos. Since Shavuos is the time of "the judgment about man's life for that year," as the Ari z'l writes, therefore everything is dependent on the days of sefirah. Through his efforts during the days of sefirah a person is zoche to an elevated Shavuos, and through that he is zoche to a good year. Perhaps this is included in what the Nehar Sholom of the Rashash (page 32c) wrote: "Pesach and the days of sefirah are the root of the whole year. In the way that a person behaves during that time, so will he be directed [from Heaven] the whole year."

Studying Torah on Shavuos Night

The Mishnah Berurah (494:1) writes that the Zohar in parshas Emor tells us that the early Chassidim remained awake the whole night [of Shavuos] and engaged in Torah study, "and most Torah scholars are accustomed to do so." The Chofetz Chaim later quotes what is cited in the Mogen Avrohom in the name of the Ari z'l (Sha'ar HaKavonos, "Shavuos," page 89): ". . . not only [must he stay awake,] but a person must not sleep on this night at all, even for one moment, and he must be up the whole night and study Torah . . . . It is important to be aware that someone who does not sleep at all on this night for even one moment, who is occupied with Torah the whole night and does not stop studying to engage in idle talk, and what he must say he says in loshon hakodesh, may be sure that he will live out his year and will not be harmed by anything during this year . . . Furthermore, the judgment about man's life for that year is dependent upon this: if he does not sleep he will surely not die during that year . . . and this minhag, to be engaged in studying Torah the entire night of Shavuos, has spread throughout Yisroel."

The Chofetz Chaim also mentions the passage from the Zohar printed in the Tikun Leil Shavuos: "Everyone who takes part in [Torah study] on that night will be guarded for that whole year, [in the worlds] both above and below, and will live out his year peacefully." If he does this he will be zoche to live until the next year's Shavuos without any harm. This, however, demands that he be careful not to sleep, not even a light slumber, as the Ari z'l wrote.

The Ben Ish Chai likewise wrote: "He should brace himself like a lion, be watchful, and drive away sleep. He should not drowse at all, since the Ari z'l was extremely stringent about not sleeping on this night, even more than on Hoshanna Rabba."

He also warned us not to engage at all in idle talk on this night. It is worthwhile to point out what the Keser Shem Tov (when he discusses Shavuos) adds, that "A person must be exceedingly mindful of the tikun that he makes on Shavuos night, not to stop in the middle with idle talk until after Musaf [in the morning]."

The Yesod VeShoresh HoAvodah (Sha'ar HaTzon, chap. 10) wrote: "A person should carefully restrain himself at the night meal as much as he can so that he can study Torah this night. Immediately after bircas hamozone he should go briskly to the beis midrash and not waste even a moment."

One should devote some time to study the Shloh (Maseches Shavuos) who cites a letter from R' Shlomo Alkabetz teaching the significance of studying on this night and how terrible it is to waste even one moment on this holy night. The letter tells the astonishing story of how ruach hakodesh appeared upon R' Alkabetz' group when they studied on Shavuos night in the house of Rabbenu Yosef Karo, the Beis Yosef. He writes; "To show the great blessing of this night, how HaKodosh Boruch Hu cherishes a person who is not silent even one moment [and does not stop] clinging to the Torah, I will tell you an astonishing anecdote." See also Alei Shur (part 1, pg. 58) who copies the whole astounding story.

The Zohar (Parshas Emor) writes: "Tohoroh rests on whoever awaits it on that night." The Sefas Emes (on the Torah) proves from this that "on Shavuos night Heaven sends an abundance of tohoroh into the hearts of bnei Yisroel who are awaiting it." Possibly this is also the root of the principle that the Mekubolim wrote, that "being toveil in a mikveh on Shavuos night in the dark part of night before the morning elevates chesed and great rachamim and brings an abundance of tohoroh for the whole year. This is because rachamim is according to the amount of da'as, and Shavuos is delicate, lofty, extremely high sechel, and this is great chesed and rachamim. The tohoroh of immersing oneself in a mikveh on Shavuos night is of the fiftieth gate and from there kedusha is drawn."

See also the Pele Yo'eitz (entry Atzeres), who writes about the great benefit of being toveil in a mikveh on Shavuos night early in the morning. The Ashkavta DeRebbi tells about how Maran the Steipler Rav, HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky zt'l, took pains to toveil on Shavuos even when he was extremely weak.

The Yearly Kabolas HaTorah

HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal) wrote in Derech Hashem (4:7), "When this period returns, any tikun made at the time and the same enormous brilliance that shone then will once again shine on us and restore in us the effects of that tikun . . . We were therefore commanded during Pesach to do all the things that are a remembrance of our leaving Egypt . . . and similarly on Shavuos for Matan Torah." See also the Ma'amar Hachochmoh of the Ramchal (at the end of the section about Sefiras HaOmer) where he writes, "Shavuos is the day of matan Torah and it is the radiance of the fiftieth of the fifty gates of wisdom and kedusha for Yisroel."

It should be added that this is perhaps why Shavuos must always fall on the fiftieth day of Sefiras HaOmer, as the Torah says, "on the morrow after the seventh Shabbos you shall count fifty days . . . and you shall proclaim on this very same day that it is a mikro kodesh to you, you shall do no melocho of work" (Vayikro 23:16, 21). As the gemora (Rosh Hashanah 6b) writes, "Rav Shemaiyah taught us that Atzeres (Shavuos) is sometimes on the fifth of Sivan, on the sixth, or on the seventh." When the months were sanctified according to witnesses who testified about seeing a new moon, if Iyar and Nisan had thirty days Shavuos would fall on 5 Sivan. If both these months had only twenty-nine days Shavuos would be on 7 Sivan. If it happened that Nisan was of thirty days and Iyar of twenty-nine -- as was actually later made the norm for all generations -- Shavuos falls on 6 Sivan. As the Teshuvos Rivash writes, this is because "the Torah made Shavuos dependent only upon the fiftieth day from the Omer." See what the Pri Chodosh, Chok Yaakov, and the Shulchan Oruch HaRav (in Orach Chaim 494:1) wrote about this.

The Day of Judgment for Growing in Torah

The Shloh (Shavuos) wrote: "Each person should be extremely happy on this yom tov since it is the day on which we were privileged to receive the crown of the Torah . . . and the simcha with which one rejoices on [that day] must be a spiritual simcha of thanking and praising Hashem for His giving us the Torah. We must strongly awaken in our heart the desire to sanctify ourselves, rectify our deeds, and be crowned with the keser HaTorah. By doing so we will fulfill `and you shall meditate in it day and night' (Yehoshua 1:8). We must do this since this holy day is the Yom Hadin, as we see in the explanation of the Tola'as Yaakov about the hidden intention of Shavuos, "Just as on Rosh Hashanah HaKodosh Boruch Hu supervises and examines people's deeds, since it is the day when the world was created and renewed -- as was set forth in our tefillos to say, `this day is the beginning of Your deeds' -- so Hashem, on the day of our Matan Torah, the day that shows the world's renewal, supervises and inquires into what is done in the world and judges the fruit of the trees, as is written in Rosh Hashanah (16a), that on Shavuos the trees' fruits are judged. We have previously explained that the fruits referred to are the neshomos that fly from HaKodosh Boruch Hu's tree. On this day the world is judged in relation to the Torah that was given on it, in relation to people not being engaged in its study."

"Shavuos is the Yom Hadin for Torah" is what Maran HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer used to say in the name of the Ran. It is indeed to be inferred from the Shloh that this judgment for the coming year is according to one's diligence or, chas vesholom, neglect about studying Torah. Just as on Rosh Hashanah a person is zoche to life and the provision of all his needs, depending on what he deserves to receive according to how he has acted during the past year, likewise when Hashem decides on Shavuos how many perceptions in the Torah should be given to a person, he is judged according to how he acted the last year -- to what degree he utilized the powers he had for studying Torah (see the Tosafos on Megilla 31b, s.v. kelolos, to the effect that the reason we always read parshas Bamidbar before Shavuos and not parshas Bechukosai is so as not to mention the kelolos in Bechukosai near Shavuos, since that is a Yom Din).

The Renewal of the Revelation of Mount Sinai

The Me'or Einayim (parshas Mikeitz) writes: "Regarding all mitzvos that occur at fixed times, when [the mitzvah's] time arrives, [the state prevailing at its origin] awakens as it was the first time . . Shavuos is the time when we received the Torah in order to observe it during the whole year and serve HaKodosh Boruch Hu with it. Similarly, [again today] at that time each person receives the Torah -- i.e., [he receives] the amount of intellect with which he will serve HaKodosh Boruch Hu during that year." It is decreed on this day how much erudition and comprehensive capacity one will possess during the whole year. This regards both Torah study and avodas Hashem because on this day the kabolas HaTorah -- our receiving the Torah -- is renewed.

The Rokei'ach (297) cites from Chazal (Pesikta DeRav Cahana) that "HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to Yisroel, `My son! Read this parsha every year and I will consider it as if you are standing before Me on Mount Sinai and are receiving the Torah.'"

Explains the Rokei'ach, "This refers to the reading of the Ten Commandments on Shavuos. Others say that even the unique levels reached at the Revelation on Mount Sinai renew themselves when we read the Ten Commandments on Shavuos morning. People can be zoche to some aspect of `their contamination ceasing' and `at Matan Torah all the sick were cured,' which especially pertains to those having respiratory sickness. A person must depict for himself when he hears the Ten Commandments that it is as if he is now standing and hearing the voice of Hashem from the midst of the fire."

The Kedushas Levi (parshas Yisro) writes: "If a person is zoche, on every Shavuos he hears the voice that announces `I am Hashem your Elokim.'"

The kadmonim have likewise written that on Shavuos sparks of tohoroh light up in the hearts of am Yisroel, almost as it was at the time of Matan Torah. The Kedushas Levi (on the subject of Shavuos) writes: "We say [in our tefillos] on Pesach `it is the time of our freedom' and on Shavuos `it is the time of receiving our Torah' (in the present tense) although much time has passed (and it would have been more proper to say `the time when we went out to freedom' or `the time that Hashem gave us our Torah' [in the past tense] and not something implying that today too is our time of freedom and receiving the Torah). This shows us that when we fulfill the mitzvos of the yom tov every year . . . a great brilliance awakens upon us, just as it was with our forefathers. We therefore say on Pesach, in the present tense, `the time of our freedom' and also on Shavuos [`the time of receiving our Torah']." (See also Michtav MeEliahu, part I, in his discourse about Kabolas HaTorah, concerning this point).

Each Person Receives His Portion in the Torah on Shavuos

The Sefas Emes (in the section where he discusses Shavuos) writes: ". . . as Chazal have written, all the nevi'im received their nevu'ah from Mount Sinai. Likewise, each year every Jew receives on this yom tov all that he will later understand and be mechadeish in Torah. This is what Rav Yosef said: `If not for this day, how many Yosefs would be in the marketplace?' "This day" is the day of Shavuos, on which the Torah is annually given. This is the [source of] the minhag to engage oneself in Torah study on Shavuos night. For the Torah is called the `tree of life,' and just as a tree produces fruits annually, so the Torah renews its fruits each year. Therefore `on Atzeres the fruits of the trees are judged,' which signifies the renewal of Torah, which is called the `tree of life'; and therefore Shavuos is called the `Chag of the first fruits.' On every Shavuos bnei Yisroel receive their new yearly portion in the Torah, and throughout the following year they realize their potential, each one in his proper place and time. This renewal of Torah depends on each individual's preparation . . . that is, that each one of us prepares himself to receive his portion in the Torah for the whole year, since the source of [one's success in Torah during] the whole year is this day."

It should be added that this may be why, in the Tikun Leil Shavuos, we study briefly all the different parts of Torah (Written and Oral Torah and Zohar) and name all the 613 mitzvos. On this day we want to have some connection with all the mitzvos and all the parts of the Torah. We study them in short, so that at least their potential will be internally present within us so that afterwards we can realize this potential.

Chidushei Torah on Shavuos

The Chida writes (in Avodas Hakodesh 22:7): "A person should make a real effort to study the kabolo part of the Torah, since the day of our receiving the Torah is great and holy. Even while eating the yom tov meal he should meditate on the Torah and try to say some chidush in Torah. It is a good sign for the whole year to say a chidush on the day of Matan Torah. If one is not used to saying his own chidushim, he should at least try to understand a chidush in the Torah that he had not previously understood."

Rabbenu Chaim of Volozhin in Keser Rosh (section 56) writes, "Chidushei Torah means any time that a person has studied, clarified, or illuminated something. `As long as a child sucks it he finds more milk, so as long as a person meditates in Torah he finds taste in it' (Eruvin 42b). After more reviewing one reaches new understanding, reasoning and interpretations. This is called chidushei Torah, no matter whether he was mechadeish them or someone else. The main thing is that they surface."

The Yesod VeShoresh HoAvodah (Sha'ar HaElyon, chap. 12) writes: "Surely HaKodosh Boruch Hu will not criticize people's not having innovated a marvelous chidush. `A man is to be commended according to his intelligence' (Mishlei 12:8) . . . both in reference to truthfully clarifying any halocho in the gemora according to the Tosafos and other commentaries, or to innovating a true explanation of a posuk in the Torah, Nevi'im, or Kesuvim. It seems obvious, too that if a person . . . is mechadeish in his mind some correct way of behavior in the avoda of our Creator, or the correct kavono in tefilla or bircas hanehenin, and the like, this will be considered Torah. In His palace the Creator will enjoy even this chidush."

Tefilla and Imploring Hashem on Shavuos for Success in Torah

The Binyan Olom (chap. 16) cites in the name of the Tzror HaChaim (Sha'ar Tar'o Bei Dina LeChag HaShavuos): "This day is especially suited for an understanding man to request and implore for his soul's sake that it find its portion which was given to him on Sinai (as is written `And give us our portion in Your Torah,' that is, that each person has his individual part in the Torah conferred to him on Sinai). For this reason the date when the Torah was given is not written in the Torah, since its time is every day (as it says in the Zohar cited in the Nefesh HaChaim [4:14], `Someone who toils over Torah is as if he stands the whole day on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah'). Just as Moshe Rabbenu and Bnei Yisroel made efforts to receive the Torah and it was given to them, so too now, if someone who exerts himself to realize his portion [in Torah], Heaven awards it to him. This day of Shavuos is most appropriate for [receiving one's portion in Torah], and one should therefore try to hold himself apart [from material matters] and be in a state of kedusha for all three days preceding Shavuos. He should spend a lot of time alone so that he will fear Hashem.

"Understanding chidushei Torah is somewhat like a nevu'ah and it needs similar preparation. Without separating himself from worldly affairs and refraining from superfluous speech he will not attain his proper part in the Torah and will only be looking through the Torah as if through a clouded window." (About the understanding of divrei Torah being like a nevu'ah, Rashi writes (Bovo Basra 12b, s.v. velav ta'ama) about "the heart's reasoning coming in a nevu'ah.")

See also Chesed LeAvrohom (Ma'ayan Sheini, Ayin HaKorei, Nahar 27) by R' Avrohom Azulai, the grandfather of the Chida, who wrote: "The Torah is the essence of higher spiritual nobility that extends into the lower world. It is a Divine perception, which makes it impossible for those living in the lower world to have any concept of it except through nevu'ah. Such perception cannot be acquired through the power of physical wisdom. The Torah is Divine and it begins from nevu'ah."

In the introduction to his Nefesh HaChaim, R' Chaim Faladji wrote: "The Rashak wrote something even more significant in his introduction (3a). He wrote that a person must write down chidushei Torah and if he refrains from doing so he is like a novi who refrains from saying his nevu'ah, chas vesholom." One should study what the gemora (Niddah 70b) writes on the posuk, "For Hashem gives wisdom, out of His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Mishlei 2:6), and what the gemora (Megilla 6b) comments about Torah knowledge: "if someone claims he has exerted himself and has found (umotzosi) it, you should believe him." It is said in the name of the Vilna Gaon that we see from the gemora that studying Torah is unlike any other wisdom, since when you exert yourself to know it you must succeed. Comprehending Torah knowledge even after much effort is only a metzi'ah -- a special gift from Heaven.

The gemora (Nedorim 55a) writes on the posuk "And from Matonoh to Nachaliel" (Bamidbar 21:18) that the matonoh of understanding Torah is only given when one toils over his Torah study, as Chazal say, "If someone claims he has not exerted himself yet has found [knowledge of Torah], do not believe him."

See also the Tiferes Yisroel (chap. 16) of the Maharal of Prague, who considers the precise wording of the brochos, "Who teaches Torah to His nation Yisroel" and "Blessed are You Hashem Who gives the Torah" and "Who teaches mortals understanding." All these, he points out, are in the present tense and not in the past, teaching us that every day presents a new aspect of HaKodosh Boruch Hu's teaching of the Torah to bnei Yisroel. See also the Kovetz Igros of Maran the Chazon Ish (1:15 and 33).

Studying Torah During the Day of Shavuos

The Binyan Olom (chap. 16) cites the Seder Hayom (Seder Chag Shavuos) about the significance of studying Torah on Shavuos night, but adds the comment that a person should nevertheless not be, chas vesholom, idle and refrain from studying Torah during the day too. The nighttime study should not cause a significant lack of studying Torah during the day.

It is possible to study much during the day if one is careful to conduct himself properly. Although the gemora (Pesochim 68b) writes that "all agree that on Atzeres, lochem (physical enjoyment) is needed too," there is plenty of chance to study during the day for someone who does not waste his time.

The Chida, in his Simchas Haregel (Limud Echod LeChag HaShavuos), likewise writes: "Someone who has pure hands should exert himself more on this holy day. After he rests a little and cheerfully eats this holy yom tov meal he should find a place to study for a few hours during the day. If he was zoche to sanctify himself during the night, he should not cast away this day of awe with his hands empty of toil over the Torah. This day has unique qualities for delving into wisdom and engaging oneself in the perfect Torah of Hashem which, through His abundant mercy, He gave us on this day. The same as at night, he should not draw away during the day from being fruitful [in Torah]."

The Chida wrote similarly in his Lev Dovid (chap. 31). "I have heard that there is an additional importance in studying during the daytime: the entire aim of studying during Shavuos night and the objective of kabolas HaTorah is to continue being engrossed in Torah study during the whole year. If, chas vesholom, immediately on the next day, on Shavuos itself, one is negligent about studying Torah, it seems as if all his avoda at night and his kabolas HaTorah did not bring about this objective and goal.

"The Beis Yisroel has written that the reason this yom tov is called Atzeres is to imply that we must retain the kedusha of Shavuos within us so that it will remain for the whole year. The same point is likewise hinted to us in the fact that if someone did not bring the korbonos for Shavuos on yom tov he can bring it during the seven following days -- hashlomoh -- and it will be considered as if he has brought it at the correct time although the following days are weekdays and not yom tov. This implies that we can and must continue the radiance of this holy yom tov for the rest of the mundane year, much the way Hashem told us at Matan Torah, `Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow' (Shemos 18:10).

"Chazal (Tanchuma Bo, chap. 13) say, `There is also a tomorrow that is much later' -- the day's kedusha should remain afterwards. The reason why Shavuos is more amenable to doing this is because all other yomim tovim draw their kedusha from the mitzvos that we do on them: Pesach -- eating matzo, Succos -- sitting in a succah. Since Chazal write that `an aveira extinguishes a mitzvah' (Sotah 21a), we are afraid that perhaps, chas vesholom, after those yomim tovim are finished, their radiance will dim.

"Shavuos is different. Its strength is that of the Torah, and `an aveira cannot extinguish Torah' (ibid.). The Torah `protects and saves both when one delves into it and when he [temporarily] does not' (ibid.). In addition, the Zohar (III, 81a) writes that the kedusha of the Torah is a higher kedusha than all other kedushos. The power of this kedusha can be extended to the whole year."

Forgiveness of Sins on Shavuos

The Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah 4:8) writes: "R' Mesharshiya said in the name of R' Idi: `Concerning all the korbonos is written cheit ("a kid goat for a sin offering (chattos)" (Vayikro 23:19), but concerning [the korbon for] Atzeres the word cheit is not written. The Torah writes only `One kid goat to make atonement for you' (Bamidbar 28:30) without mentioning it being for a chattos. HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to them: `Since you have accepted the yoke of Torah upon yourselves, I will consider it as if you had never sinned.'"

The Korbon Ho'eidah on the Yerushalmi (ibid.) explains, "every year Atzeres is like the day we stood before Mount Sinai, and we accept the Torah anew." This Chazal is cited both in the commentary of Rabbenu Chananel on Rosh Hashanah (32b) and in the Midrash Rabba Shir HaShirim (chap. 4).

See also the Chidushei Radal on the Midrash Rabba (bid., 10), who cites in the name of the Rokei'ach (chap. 285) an additional reason for forbidding fasting on Shavuos. "We only find shelomim offered by the tzibbur on Shavuos, therefore it is forbidden to fast then even if one fasts every day . . . and therefore Yisroel must rejoice, since HaKodosh Boruch Hu atones for their sins, as the Yerushalmi says . . . `I will consider it as if you had never sinned.'"

See also the Gilyonei HaShas of HaRav Yosef Engel (Pesach 68b), who writes that according to the above commentary of the Rokei'ach, perhaps he can explain the gemora's statement that "all agree that on Atzeres lochem is also needed, because it is the day the Torah is given." Rashi (ibid.) explains that the gemora means to say that through our rejoicing on Shavuos, our eating and drinking, we show that "this day is pleasant and well-accepted for Yisroel, since the Torah was given on it." The Rokei'ach, however, proposes to explain that since it is the day the Torah was given, it is a day that sins were atoned for, as the Yerushalmi writes, and it is therefore prohibited to fast on it, and that is the lochem that is meant.

We see from this that our annual receiving of the Torah on Shavuos is a time very suited to atoning for sin "as if you had never sinned."

Mi ya'amod in the posuk "If You, Hashem, should mark iniquities, Hashem, who could stand (mi ya'amod)?" (Tehillim 130:3) hints at Shavuos. The gematria of mi, mem and yud, is fifty, and Shavuos is on the fiftieth day of Sefiras HaOmer and has the brilliance of the fiftieth gate of kedusha. If, chas vesholom, we are still considered in the category of "If You, Hashem, should mark iniquities" -- if HaKodosh Boruch Hu considers us sinners -- then "who could stand" before You? Only through mem yud can we stand -- through Shavuos, when our sins are forgiven. That enables us to stand and exist before Hashem. Through the power of Shavuos we can be zoche "as if you had never sinned."

Simcha on Shavuos -- More Than All Other Yomim Tovim

In conclusion it seems good to cite what the Yesod VeShoresh HoAvodah (Sha'ar HaTzon, chap. 10) writes: "How appropriate is it on this holy yom tov -- the time of receiving our Torah -- for man . . . to rejoice more than on all other yomim tovim."

R' Yaakov Emden writes in his siddur, "The mitzvah of simcha on this sacred yom tov is outstanding, and it is more than the simcha of all the holy days." There are several reasons for this.

First, it is the day of our receiving the Torah. As the Yesod VeShoresh HoAvodah and the Shloh wrote, as we mentioned above, our receiving the Torah is the reason for our increased simcha on this yom tov. This is because kabolas haTorah was the objective of the entire creation: "Bereishis -- for Yisroel, who are called reishis, and for the Torah, which is called reishis." Likewise the Torah is the root of all simcha, as Dovid Hamelech wrote, "The statutes of Hashem are right, rejoicing the heart" (Tehillim 10:9).

Another reason is that this is a day of forgiveness for our aveiros, which brings about simcha, as the gemora (Menochos 20a) writes, that korbonos include the factors of kaporo and simcha; Rashi explains that someone whose sin has been atoned is joyful.

The Midrash Rabba (Shemos 36) writes on the posuk, "Beautiful in its vista, the joy of all the earth' (Tehillim 48:3) that "no one in Yisroel felt any sorrow while the Beis Hamikdash existed. Why? This is because a person would enter full of aveiros, offer a korbon, and achieve atonement, and there is no greater joy than that."

The gemora (Rosh Hashanah 31b) writes that when the tuft of red wool would whiten on Yom Kippur, the Jews would immediately rejoice.

An additional reason is that the great kedusha of this yom tov is more than the other yomim tovim. The Seder Hayom writes, "All agree that its kedusha is greater than the kedusha of the other yomim tovim." The Sha'ar Hakavonos (Derush LeChag Shavuos pg. 88b) writes about the significance of Shavuos: "On this yom tov we experience more elevation than on Shabbos and other yomim tovim." Rabbenu Chaim Vital wrote in his notes on the Zohar (III, pg. 96a), "Shavuos is the most exemplary yom tov."

The Mo'eid LeChol Chai, by HaRav Chaim Faladji (Seder Chodesh Sivan) tells us that there is a special inyan to distribute food to poor people for the Shavuos meals more than on any other yom tov. In fact, there are those who make a particular point to invite needy guests for Shavuos in order to fulfill this inyan. See the relevant chapter for some reasons cited by the author.

Perhaps the reason for this inyan is because the mitzvah of simcha of yom tov for Shavuos is more than other yomim tovim, and on every yom tov we are obliged to gladden the hearts of the poor. With this we fulfill the mitzvah of rejoicing on yom tov; as the Rambam (Hilchos Yom Tov 6:18) writes, real simcha lies in giving to others: "When one eats and drinks he is obligated to give food to the ger, the orphan, and the widow, along with all other unfortunate poor people. When someone closes his door and courtyard and eats and drinks together with his wife and children, and does not give food and drink to the poor and embittered, this is not a simcha of a mitzvah but rather a simcha of his stomach . . . and this simcha is a disgrace for them, as is written `I will spread dung upon your faces' (Mal'achi 2:3)."

The Shev Shemaitesah (in his introduction, section 60), and the Beis HaLevi (Parshas Terumah) in the name of the Zohar Parshas Yisro, write, "Come and see. At all other times and holidays a person needs to rejoice and gladden the poor. If he alone rejoices and does not give to the poor he is greatly punished . . . and it is written, `I will spread dung upon your faces.'" See also the Rambam (Hilchos Megilla 2:17), to the effect that "there is no greater and more glorious simcha than to gladden the hearts of the poor, orphans, widows and geirim. Making these unfortunate people happy is similar to [how the] Shechina [acts], as it is written, "to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the broken ones" (Yeshaya 57:15).

Maran HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, in Michtav MeEliahu, writes at length to explain why real simcha lies only in giving to others and not in taking. If so, since we see that the simcha on Shavuos is more than other yomim tovim, therefore the obligation of giving to the poor in honor of Shavuos is also more than on other yomim tovim.

Still another reason is that Chazal (Sotah 14a) write, "The Torah starts with chesed and ends with chesed." Through chesed we are zoche to Torah. (The reason is that the root of the whole Torah and the reason for its being given to Yisroel is because of the attribute of HaKodosh Boruch Hu's chesed, which is the aim of the creation, as is written (Tehillim 89:3) "The world is built [through] chesed").

HaKodosh Boruch Hu wanted to bring merit to Yisroel, and therefore He gave them much Torah and many mitzvos, so that their reward would not be pure chesed, nahamo dekisufa that they would be ashamed to receive.

This is as the Sha'arei Yosher cites in his introduction, in the name of the Ramchal from the Pischei Chochmah, that the reason for the creation is so that am Yisroel will come into the world, receive the Torah, withstand all Divine trials, and choose life. Through this they will be zoche to reward because of their deeds. This is an absolute benefit for them, and it is HaKodosh Boruch Hu's will, "Since the way of the good is to benefit others." Therefore a person is zoche to Torah through chesed, too, since chesed is the root and foundation of the Torah. As a preparation for Shavuos, the time of kabolas HaTorah, we should do chesed. Perhaps this is the reason for the minhag to give more to the poor in honor of Shavuos.

The Chida writes something similar to this in his introduction to Megilas Ruth: "People say that the reason for reading Megilas Ruth on Atzeres is because the whole Torah is gemilus chassodim and Ruth was zoche to all material and spiritual honor because of the gemilus chassodim she did for her mother-in- law. The Yalkut Shimoni on Megilas Ruth -- 601 - - writes: `Hashem will do chesed for you' (Ruth 1:8). R' Zeira said: `This Megilla has no [halochos of] tumah or tohoroh, no [halochos of] heter and issur; why was it written, then? To teach us the reward of those who do chesed for others.'

"It is proper for Yisroel, who have today received the holy Torah, to rouse themselves to engage in Torah and deeds of chesed. This will bring abundant reward for their efforts. Many ma'alos are listed in the Shas for those who are engaged in both Torah and gemilus chassodim done in the proper degree."

It should be added to the above that if people are motivated to do chesed by hearing the Megilla read they will be zoche to Torah. I also heard that the reason we first read the Megilas Ruth and then afterwards krias HaTorah and the Aseres Hadibros might be since "the Torah begins with chesed." Chazal (Midrash Rabba Vayikro 9:3) write: "Derech Eretz came before Torah," and Rabbenu Yonah, in his commentary on Ovos (3:17), writes that "derech eretz means middos tovos and chesed." The Chidushei HaRim on the Torah writes that the reason Sefiras HaOmer comes before Kabolas HaTorah is because the days of sefirah are intended to improve one's character traits, "and the preparation for Kabolas HaTorah is improving one's middos."

We will conclude with Chazal's dictum (Sanhedrin 98b): "What should a person do to be saved from the chevlei Moshiach? He should engage in Torah and gemilus chassodim."

May it be His will that this very year we will fulfill what the Tikunei Zohar (21) writes: "On Shavuos we will emerge from the golus." On this day of Shavuos, which is also the day of Dovid Hamelech's petirah, may we be zoche to see the fulfillment of the request -- speedily, in our days -- "May You speedily cause the offspring of Your servant David to sprout forth" (Shemoneh Esrei). And may the promise be fulfilled, "Our eyes will see Your kingdom, as is said in the songs of Your might by Dovid, Your righteous anointed one" (Kedusha Shabbos Shacharis).


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.