Friday, May 30, 2014

Shavuos 5631 First Day (1rst half of the ma'amar)

The Torah refers to Shavuos as Yom HaBikurim/The Day of the First Fruit.[1]  The Torah itself explains that on Shavuos a meal offering is brought from the new wheat harvest.  This new wheat is referred to as the first fruit.  On a deeper level the Sfas Emes associates the name Yom HaBikurim with the giving of the Torah which occurred on Shavuos.  What is the connection between Yom HaBikurim and the giving of the Torah?

The Zohar teaches that God used the Torah to create the world.[2]  If God used the Torah, then the life force that causes every creation to continue to exist comes through the Torah.  Chazal teach that the Torah itself is called, רֵאשִׁית/first.[3]  The first source of power is the Torah.  The Midrash[4] cites a pasuk in Tehillim (111:6), “כֹּח מַעֲשָׂיו הִגִּיד לְעַמּוֹ .../He told his nation the power of His deeds …”  The Midrash explains that this pasuk refers to the accounting of the Creation in the Torah.  The Sfas Emes understands this to mean that the Torah itself is the power of His deeds.

This concept is alluded to in the first bracha of Krias Shma of Shacharis, “הַמְחַדֵשׁ בְּטוּבֹו בְּכָל יוֹם תָּמִיד מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית/In His goodness He renews the workings of the Creation every day continuously.”  Chazal explain that טוֹב/good is an allusion to the Torah.[5]  This bracha can be translated, then, as, “With the Torah He renews the workings of the Creation every day continuously.”

Each day God renews the Creation subtly.  We are not generally aware of the creative force that keeps the entire Creation from ceasing to exist at every moment.  This creative force is within everything.  On Shavuos, the day the Torah was given, every part of the Creation became aware of its spiritual root, the source of the creative force.  God’s creative force was thus revealed.  This is the meaning of Moshe Rabbeinu’s statement, “פָּנִים בְּפָנִים דִּבֵּר ה' עִמָּכֶם בָּהָר .../God spoke with you face to face on the mountain …” (Devarim 5:4)  This is also hinted at by Chazal when they said that with every word that God uttered the Creation was filled with perfume.[6]  Also, every word that God uttered split into the seventy spoken languages of the world.[7]  The concept is the same.  The giving of the Torah resulted in a universal awareness of God’s spiritual life force that comes into the universe through the Torah.

This concept is also alluded to by the Zohar[8].  The Zohar states that the Ten Commandments parallel the ten sayings with which God created the world.  What is the relationship between the ten sayings and the Ten Commandments?  The ten sayings are the mechanism through which God infuses the world with life force, with existence.  Paradoxically, they are also the mechanism by which God’s life force is hidden behind a façade of nature.  Looking around us, it is not apparent that there is a spiritual life force at all.  The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, are a clear revelation of God’s will.  At the giving of the Ten Commandments it was revealed that the Creation receives existence through the Torah.  The difference between the hidden aspect of the ten sayings and the revelation aspect of the Ten Commandments is hinted at by the word for saying and the word for commandment.  מַאֲמַר/Saying is a lighter form whereas דִיבּוּר/speech is a more powerful form.  We find, for example, in Koheles (8:4), “... דְּבַר־מֶלֶךְ שִׁלְטוֹן .../… A king's word is rule …”[9]   

In fact, the primary קַבָּלַת הַתּוֹרָה/acceptance of the Torah is this revelation.  Onkelos alludes to it when he translates, “וַיֵּרֶד ה' עַל־הַר סִינַי .../God descended onto Mount Sinai …” (Shmos 19:20) as, “God revealed Himself on Mount Sinai.”  The literal translation is problematic.  How is it possible to attribute movement to God since His glory fills the entire Creation?  Onkelos understands God’s descending as revelation.

The answer to our first question, then, is that Yom HaBikurim/Day of the First Fruit suggests רֵאשִׁית/first (The Midrash says that Bikurim are also called reishis.[10])  Shavuos is the day on which the entire Creation connected to and became aware of the aspect of “reishis” – the power of life that diffuses throughout the Creation through the Torah.  As the Sfas Emes said before, this revelation is the primary קַבָּלַת הַתּוֹרָה/acceptance of the Torah.  May we merit it!

[1] Bamidbar 28:26
[2] Zohar 1:5a
[3] Breishis R. 1:1
[4] Breishis R. 1:2
[5] Avos 6:3
[6] Shabbos 88b
[7] Ibid.
[8] Zohar 3:11b
[9] See Bo 5631 First Ma’amar where the Sfas Emes notes that דִיבּוּר/speech in Aramaic means leadership, certainly an aspect of revelation.  Also there is a detailed explanation of the relationship between the ten sayings, Ten Commandments and the ten plagues.
[10] Breishis R. 1:4

No comments: