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Kabbolas HaTorah- Mesiras Nefesh

Kabbolas HaTorah- Mesiras Nefesh

Shiur Delivered By Maran Hagaon Rav Ahron Walkin ZT”L

Transcribed by Shlomo Walkin

What is Kabbalah Hatorah, the essence and focal point of the Yom Tov of Shavuot?

Simply, it is our acceptance to learn and keep the Torah and its Mitzvos. However, in reality, this is a very simplified definition and explanation of Kabbalah HaTorah. In truth, Kabbalah HaTorah means much more and, so, our responsibilities of Kabbalah HaTorah are also much more.

Chazal teach us, Klal Yisroel, at Har Sinai, fully and happily accepted, with no reservation, the Torah - Naaseh V'nishma-. However, Chazal further teaches, Klal Yisroel was forced by HaKadosh Baruch to accept the Torah- קפל עליהם הר כגיגית - Hakadosh Boruchu put Har Sinai over them and proclaimed if you accept the Torah fine and if not this will be your burial place. This is an apparent contradiction: was it acceptance or was it forced?

The Midrash Tanchuma in Parshas Noach answers, we accepted the תורה שבכתב - the written Torah, but we needed to be forced to accept the תורה שבעל פה, for תורה שבכתב, unlike תורה שבעל פה is easy and enjoyable, while תורה שבעל פה is difficult. Only someone who truly loves HaShem will learn תורה שבעל פה, toiling over its difficulties and laboring over its understanding

Simply, we can use the above Midrash Tanchumah to interpret the classic words of the Zohar, which so beautifully and with much intensity is sung by B’nai Torah all over the world especially on Shavuot, כד יתבין ישראל..שהם משתכחים בצרותא דלהון. Why do we say בצרותא דלהון? With the above Tanchumah, we can say it refers to the difficulty of the person while he toils in Torah

However, there is a deeper meaning in the words משתכחים בצרותא דלהון. Tosfos in Shabbos, answers the above question of why we needed to be forced if we already willingly accepted the Torah by saying “נעשה ונשמע.” That is, HaKadosh Barchu wanted to ensure that we didn’t go back once we experienced the immense fear of Kaabals HaTorah, which tosfos adds, was so immense that it caused our Neshamos to leave our bodies, to die from fear.

Now, let us analyze the words of tosfos who does not say that we backed out because of this fear that caused the Yidden to die, but rather, HaKadosh Baruchu was preventing us from backing out. Furthermore, it is not found that Klal Yisroel backed out of their promise of נעשה ונשמע, regardless of the fear and the losing of their Neshamah. ( Just possibly, when the Yidden did the egel they forfeited their commitment of נעשה ונשמע. There it says, they lost the crown which was given to them when they said עשה ונשמע - see Gemara further). And so, it must be concluded, the Bnei Yisroel Kept Their Commitment and acceptance regardless of the fear and פרחה נשמתן.

Yet, another point to be made from Tosfos, why would HaKadosh Baruchu allow for the departure of their neshamos if Hashem performed many Nissim? Couldn’t HaShem perform another Nes and able the Yidden to withstand the impact of Kabbals HaTorah? Furthermore, after the Yiden died, Hashem revived them with Techiyas Hamesim. It would seem more appropriate for the Nes to be that the Yidden didn’t die in the first place. On another point, this would seem more appropriate as Chazal teaches us that Matan Torah was compared to a wedding between Hashem and Klal Yisroel and should, therefore, be a happy occasion. Even though the fear at Matan Torah was an essential part of giving over the Torah, should it have been to the extent where the Yidden had to die and resurrected through Techiyas Hamesim?

Simply, the reason Klal Yisroel died by Matan Torah was due to the high level of spirituality when Hashem proclaimed ANOCHI HASHEM. And as Rashi in Parshas Yisro states, the Yidden Asked “רצוננו לראות את מלכנו”- to see our king. This gives us the understanding that The Yiden, at some level, saw HaShem at Matan Torah. The passuk states: “כי לא יראני האדם וחי ” one can not see Hashem and live. This is a fact of nature, so to speak, that one, as a mortal, cant see the Shechinah and live. Therefore, the Yidden had to die. Moreover, the miracle became more advantageous that at the end of Matan Torah that they remained standing, as Moshe says to Klal Yisroel: “השמע עם קול אלהים מדבר מתוך האש כאשר שמעת אתה ויחי .”

With this, we can answer that it wasn’t a solution to protect the Yidden from dying being that it was against the Metzeus of the Torah, “כי לא יראני האדם וחי.” However, Tosfos does not mention that the Yidden died from seeing HaShem but from the fear itself? To explain, we may be able to say that the fear was from seeing and hearing HaShem, and it is this fear which causes “כי לא יראני האדם וחי.” Yet, we see, most Reshinoim attribute the intense fear as a result of the “kolos ubrakim,” and if this is so, why would Klal Yisroel need to die, Hashem should Have protected them from dying at such a happy occasion?

Therefore, it must be that “parcha Neshmasam”, the leaving of the neshama, was an integral part of Matan Torah as Chazal phrase this “נפשי יצאה בדברו.” Indeed, this can be explained as the foundation of kabalas HaTorah is the sacrifice. Which means, they would give up their life for the Torah. The study of Torah requires a great commitment, which is a “Mesaras Nefesh” (this would be explained further on) this is symbolized with the leaving of the neshama which accrued by Matan Torah

Sacrifice can be done in multiple ways. The passuk states “ ואהבת את יהוה אלהיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך.” It is from this passuk which is the basis and reminisces for Kiddush HaShem. Being, that one must love HaShem in entirety with all your heart and soul- bechol levovchah ubchol nafshecha.

Yet it is more interesting, that the Torah commands us to love Hashem with all one’s money- Bechol Meodecha. On this, the Gemara asks if one must love Hashem more than one’s life, mustn’t one love HaShem more than his money? Indeed, the Gemara responds, to some people money is cherished more than life. However, the Meforshim question, why does the Gemara respond to those who are absurd and foolish that they respect money more than life?

The following may answer the above question. The Torah is telling us that one should show Mesiras Nefesh through the love of Hashem, as Mesiras Nefesh comes in many forms. It may appear as “אפילו נוטל נפשך” or it may appear as “אפילו נוטל ממונך.” Throughout history, there were generations that would have to show our love to HaShem With Mesiras Nefesh when our lives were being taken away (ie. concentration camps) and in other generations, like today, we have to show our love for HaShem with Mesiras Nefesh, despite the many Nisyonos and difficulties we are facing. Yet, in both types of Mesiras Nefesh, they are both considered kiddush Shem Shomayim through mesiras Nefesh.

At kabbalas Hatorah, we were transformed into a Yid- Am Yisroel. The essence of a yid is rooted in Mesiras Nefesh for the Torah and Mitzvos. Interestingly, the above tanchumah, which is about toiling in the oral Torah, and how it is only possible to be done if one has ahavas HaShem, put it back into the pasuk of “ואהבת את יהוה” and explains that veahavta is a loshon of Talmud-learning. Moreover, this is understandable, as toiling in learning is also “ Mesiras Nefesh” and so it is included in Veahavta, Kiddush Shem Shomaim.

Chazal teach, Matan Torah was a wedding where Hashem is the chassan and Klal Yisroel is the Kallah. “כה אמר יהוה זכרתי לך חסד נעוריך אהבת כלולתיך” the root word Klila is a canopy (as some Rishonim explain that the mountain acted as an actual chuppah)

What does it mean to be Married to Hashem? Obviously this is a Mashul, however, it can be an expression of love for HaShem and, vice versa, HaShem’s love for us, in the same fashion that a married couple loves each other. In addition, it also resembles a strong, unbreakable bond between the Yidden and Hashem as is in a marriage. But with the above explanation of mesiras Nefesh, we can explain the marriage of Matan Torah as is with mesiras Nefesh. To explain, the wife is selfless with her commitment and devotion to her husband. The real true Isha Kashera and eishes Chayil is someone who is selflessly committed to the will of her husband. Cazal states “איזוהי אשה כשרה? עושה רצון בעלה” we find, we too are asked to be mevatel our rotzon of Hashem.

It is this selflessness of the wife which is meant and intended when we say האישה נקנית- the husband acquires, with the act of kinyan, a wife. For the wife becomes not herself, but almost as if the property of her husband. The idea behind this is the state of the mind of the women to become selfless.

The Chinuch writes, a woman wears a ring on her finger in order to remind her that she is property of her husband, “selfless subordination,” furthermore, the Ran explains the mechanics of kiddushin, being that the woman is “Mafker herself,” so that her husband can obtain her. Moreover, the woman takes on the husband's name to the point that one says she is the Mrs. of Mr. At Kabbalas Hatorah, we accepted the same type of kinyan of Ishus to selflessly become a nation for our husband and master, Hakadosh Baruchu.

Chazal tells us, Hashem offered the Torah to all other nations and they declined. This was so, for the Torah and mitzvot did not match their lifestyle. To whom did Hashem ask this too? On this, the Gra answers that the “neshamos” of the nations were approached. Despite this, we don’t know who approached the Neshomes. Was it HaShem or the malachim?

In Tami Haminhagim, it is brought down a very interesting explanation in the name (r . mbelz). Levi who was sent to approach the nations in order to negotiate the acceptance of the torah.

Why lavei in particular? In accordance with what was explained earlier, it is understandable why levi was chosen. The Rambam says, Levi did not get a portion in Eretz Yisroel, therefore, “Hashem was their portion of inheritance” ויהיה ה' חלקו ונחלתו (Rambam shemitah 13:11). Levi was Hashem just as a wife is the husband. The wife has no personal ownership. Whatever the woman acquires the husband acquires. Levi accepted the Torah with mesiras nefesh as The passuk says “Am chesef Nafsho Lamus.'' We see how Levi went to war with klal yisroel when they made the Eagle, despite being a great danger, and cried out mi Lhasem Ali. This is Ish Baviv. Levy went to war for the honor of Hashem. Moreover, we see Levi did Bris Milah with Mesiras Nefesh in the Midbar (rashi). And the Khorim from shevet Levi waged war against the yevanim, Rabim Byad Matim.

Levi symbolizes and stands for Meseria, devotion, and dedication to the point of “mesiras nefesh” ממש. This exemplifies Kabbalah Hatorah. Furthermore, because Levi understood “Kabbalah,” they were sent to the other nations to seek if the other nations were truly interested in the Torah or not. This was a task only lavi was able to fill.

Kabalas Hatorah is complete acceptance, selfless, and to the end. We read on Shavuos about how Rus converted to judaism. We can learn from Rus what true kabalas Hatorah means. As explained earlier, Rus showed this meserias Nefesh. She could have chosen an easier life and follow her sister, yet, she chose this difficult and lonely life of becoming a G’yores

Where does a gentile woman get such strength, conviction, and Ahavas Hashem and his Torah to be moser nefesh like this? The answer can be based on the Gra Mentioned earlier. The Gra Explains that Geyrim are the neshoma from the other nation which did in fact want to accept the Torah. Those neshomos were picked out and brought to Harsinai, only to later become geyrim and join Klal Yisroel in another generation.

In light of the above, we can explain the mesiras nefesh of a proselyte comes from kabalas Hatorah at Har Sinai, where the kabbalah of “Nafshi Yatza Bedobroai” took place.

My father, R’ Moshe, having experience in gairus, said that most geyrim we push away and refuse to accept. However, we know if a ger really wants to convert if the person says “I have to become a yid and if I dont I can't continue to live”. It cannot come from philosophical or ethical reasons. It once happened, a woman came to my father and said if you don't make a jewess I will end my life. This neshama had to be by matan Torah in order to have such mesiras Nefesh. With the above, we can explain the words of Rus, who after being turned away and pushed off by Naomi (As the halacha requires To do when a Gur talks of joining Klal Yisroel) stated Ameich Ami etc. “Beshar Tumasi amus.”What is meant when Rus says “as you die, so shall I”? Moreover, her next statement is Vshom Ekvor, There I shall be buried. (see rashi-different mesiras beis din different Kvorim). Based on the above, we can say that Rus was telling Naomi, “the things you will die for”, being HaShem and his Torah, “I too will die for”. For my neshamah screams out Nafshi Yatza B’dabro. For my Nefesh was at har Sinai And joined in at Kabalas Hatorah.

With this, we can explain the continuation of Rus’s words “veshom Ekvor.” Being that she was at KAbalas Hatorah and was exposed to “Kafa Aleihem Har Kigigus”, Where we were warned and informed “Shom Tehae kvuraschem.” Either we accept Yaddus Hatorah or we will be buried

Mesiras Nefesh Takes on Many forms and situations in life. Being, living with Mesiras Nefesh might even be greater than dying with Mesiras Nefesh.

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