The Toras Chaim has a wonderful secret to reveal to
us: each and every one of us can have his own personal
Matan Torah! The secret has been right there all along
in the Torah itself, hidden in two little words. "It was a
loud clamor (at Matan Torah) velo yosof"
(Devorim 5:19). The gemora (Sanhedrin
17a) examines the meaning of the words "velo yosof":
either they mean "it did not continue" or else they mean "it
did not cease." The gemora concludes that since this
posuk refers to the Shechina, it makes no sense
to say that the clamor did not continue, so lo yosof
must mean that it did not cease.
What does the posuk teach us? asks the Toras
Chaim. Can it possibly be that the clamor heard at
Matan Torah never ceased, and still goes on today and
It could indeed. In fact, the Torah here discloses an
astounding concept that can change the course of our
The ceaseless clamor of Matan Torah alludes to the
spiritual bounty that descended from Sinai when the Jews
received the Torah. The entire Torah--the Written and Oral
Torah, the Midrash, and the Aggada--was
bestowed by Hashem on Shavuos. It is a limitless bounty that
has not vanished; it can be attained also today.
Anyone who toils over the Torah lesheim Shomayim
receives the same spiritual wealth that descended on Sinai.
This form of ruach hakodesh aids one to delve deeper
into the Torah and to grasp new, profound insights into the
This same concept helps us to understand what the Midrash
says (Vayikra Rabbah 22:1): "Everything [new] that
an experienced student would someday say to his teacher was
already taught to Moshe at Sinai." This does not imply that
the student's novel insight was already known at Sinai, but
rather that even today a student receives the same spiritual
bounty that was present at Sinai.
The Toras Chaim encourages us to open our eyes and
see: everyone has a chance to attain his personal Matan
Torah, for when he learns, he is as if standing at Mount
Sinai. Wells of heavenly aid will be at his disposal,
enabling him to comprehend the intricacies of our Holy Torah.
But of course this will only happen if he fills the condition
required of him: learning Torah lishmoh.
What exactly does this mean: "learning Torah lishmoh?"
Is it a sublime level of deveikus to Hashem which only
great tzaddikim can attain; or is it within reach of
R. Chaim of Volozhin (Nefesh HaChaim III, 3) explains
that lishmoh is the study of the Torah lesheim
HaTorah: for the Torah's own sake, meaning studying the
Torah with a simple desire to understand it.
R. Chaim draws this interpretation from the Rosh's remarks on
Nedarim 62a: "Said R. Eliezer bar R. Tzodok: `One
should do things for the sake of their Creator and speak
about them for their sake.'" The Rosh explains that to "speak
about them for their sake" means that "all of one's talk
about the Torah and acquiring knowledge of it should be for
the sake of the Torah: to know, and understand, and add new
explanations, and to delve deeply in it; not to outsmart
others or to feed one's conceit."
Thus the Rosh determines quite clearly that lishmoh is
a will to understand the Torah and not a form of
The Nefesh HaChaim goes on to explain that when Rashi
writes that "for their sake" is "lesheim Shomayim," he
also means a desire to gain knowledge of the Torah. This
excludes study aimed at finding ways to outsmart others or at
feeding one's ego, but a special level of deveikus is
certainly not required.
But then, should Torah learning lishmoh be a solemn,
perhaps even formal, ritualistic affair?
Certainly not, declares the Eglei Tal in his
introduction. "The main mitzvah of Torah learning is to learn
cheerfully, deriving pleasure from it; and in that way the
words of the Torah are absorbed into one's blood." The
Eglei Tal continues: "One who has pleasure while he is
learning, is learning lishmoh, and all of his study is
holy since the pleasure attained in this learning is itself
also a mitzvah."
Could anyone, then, be so foolish as not to seize this great
opportunity to gain spiritual wealth? The gates of heaven are
wide open for one who learns Torah lishmoh, one who
learns with utmost pleasure and enjoyment, and the great
clamor of Sinai will enrich him with success in his Torah
studies. One who learns lishmoh fulfills the mitzvah
of learning Torah in its highest most, perfect form and
becomes attached to the Torah and merits finding new insights
This should be the aim of anyone engaged in chinuch:
to present the students with interesting logical
concepts, to show them the fascinating inner wisdom of the
Talmudic commentaries, and to guide them to full
understanding and novel insights into the Torah. In this way
the hearts of the students will be full with true joy and
satisfaction; they too will be privileged to hear the
unceasing clamor from Sinai that is reserved for those who
"See, Hashem called upon Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur of the
tribe of Yehuda" (Shemos 35:30). How did the Jews in
the desert "see" that Hashem appointed Betzalel? asks R.
Moshe Feinstein (in Dorash Moshe). He explains that
this posuk has within it a principle for us to learn:
how a person can realize what his aim in life should be. If
Hashem granted a person some special power, it was for a
definite reason; he is meant to use this power to fulfill
Hashem's will and to aid his fellow Jew. This is his
raison d'etre, and if he does not focus his unique
abilities on the right aim he will be chastised by Hashem.
In the following posuk the Torah writes, "And I filled
him with a spirit from the L-rd, with wisdom and
understanding . . ." Moshe told the Jews that they could
"see" for themselves that Hashem wanted Betzalel to build the
Mishkan, since Betzalel was full of wisdom and
understanding. If Hashem filled him with a unique level of
intelligence and skill in building, then that was only
because he was destined to build the Mishkan, for
Hashem does not bestow gifts without a reason.
In the last few years we have seen, boruch Hashem,
many youths blessed with great intelligence who, we hope,
will become prominent Torah figures in the future. But they
must constantly remind themselves of Betzalel and the
principle we learn from him: they must remember that their
talents were granted to them for a purpose. They should
engross themselves in their Torah studies, and by learning
lishmoh, with enjoyment and pleasure, they will attain
their own Matan Torah.