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Shabbos - "Before and After"

The Torah portion Naso is commonly read on the Shabbos following Shavuos. Since the festivals are related to the Torah portions in whose time they fall,1 it is understandable that within Naso there is an allusion to the special qualities of this Shabbos.

What is special about this Shabbos; where is it alluded to in the portion of Naso ?

Before G-d gave the Torah at Mattan Torah , there was a “rift” between Heaven and earth: “Those who were on high could not descend below; those who were below could not ascend on high.”2 Mattan Torah healed this rift; Heaven and earth could then be united. Thus, the mitzvos performed before Mattan Torah lacked the quality of the mitzvos performed afterwards.3

The same holds true for the commandment of Shabbos. Although the Jews observed Shabbos even before Mattan Torah ,4 their observance then could not compare to their observance once the Torah was given.

Since all past events are “reawakened” at the time of year during which they first occurred,5 we understand that the Shabbos following Shavuos is an echo of the first Shabbos after Shavuos , to wit: it is the first complete Shabbos observed as a result of Mattan Torah.

Before Mattan Torah , “on high” had yet to descend “below,” and the performance of mitzvos was limited by a person’s individual capacity. As a result, it was impossible to infuse the objects with which one performed mitzvos with the infinity of holiness.

When G-d gave the Torah to the world, the mitzvos emanated from His essence. “On High descended below” and man became able to perform mitzvos with G-d-given power. Consequently, the physical objects used in the performance of mitzvos themselves become G-dly — “below ascends on High.”

This is particularly germane to Shabbos: The intrinsic quality of Shabbos — even prior to Mattan Torah — is loftier than creation, for Shabbos commemorates the cessation of creative labor. This is why a Jew is granted on Shabbos “a simple love for G-d that transcends intellect.” This love is much loftier than the rational weekday love that grows from toil and labor.6

This higher degree of love transforms a person and his animal soul, so that he ceases to desire those things he desires during the rest of the week.

Thus, Shabbos is intrinsically lofty in two aspects: Shabbos is itself “on high,” i.e., Shabbos is illumined by a degree of holiness that cannot be attained through man’s service alone; and with regard to “below,” on Shabbos even the animal soul is transformed.

These inherent qualities notwithstanding — qualities remarkably similar to the achievement of Mattan Torah — there is still no comparison between the sanctity of Shabbos before Mattan Torah and the sanctity it achieves afterwards.

This unique quality, mirrored every year in the Shabbos following Shavuos, is alluded to in the portion of Naso, which states at the outset: “Count Gershon’s descendants….7

The name Gershon is etymologically related8 both to the bringing out of produce9 — in spiritual terms, revealing one’s latent love for G-d — and to the “chasing away” of evil.10 These two actions bear a remarkable similarity to what transpires on Shabbos.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. VIII pp. 49-60.

G-d Makes Himself Heard

The Torah portion Naso concludes by relating that when Moshe would enter the Mishkan , he would hear G-d’s voice emanating from between the two Keruvim. The portion concludes by stating once again: “Thus would G-d speak to him.”11

Rashi12 explains that the verse reiterates “Thus would G-d speak to him ,” to inform us that although Aharon may have been in the Mishkan at the time, only Moshe would hear G-d’s voice.

This was no ordinary occurrence, for as Rashi goes on to say, G-d’s voice was as powerful then as it was when it spoke at Sinai. Rather, it was a miracle that in the Mishkan only Moshe would hear it.

This gives rise to the following question: Since G-d’s voice was so powerful, why did Moshe have to enter the Mishkan at all? And if G-d desired that only Moshe hear Him, He could have done so, just as within the Mishkan only Moshe heard Him speak.

Rashi concludes by stating that “when the voice reached the entrance of the Mishkan it would cease, and would not emanate outside the Mishkan.” Thus, in order for Moshe to hear G-d speaking, it was necessary that he be within the Mishkan.

But this, too, must be understood: Since by right the voice should have been heard outside the Mishkan , why did it stop at the entrance, thus compelling Moshe to enter in order to hear it?

This will be understood in light of Rashi ’s explanation that G-d’s voice was “the same voice that spoke to him at Sinai.”

We find that “the voice that spoke to him at Sinai” also was subject to cessation, albeit not a cessation in space (as was the case with the voice in the Mishkan), but a cessation in time. For after Mattan Torah , “when the ram’s horn sounded a long blast,”13 the “Divine Presence departed and the voice ceased.”14

The reason for the cessation of the voice is clear: Were it to have continued following Mattan Torah it would have precluded Divine service predicated on man’s freedom of choice; when G-d’s mighty voice in its full glory proclaims “I am G-d your L-rd,”15 there is no room for choosing anything other than G-d’s will.

Just as this is so regarding the cessation of the voice in time, it is true with regard to G-d’s voice ceasing in space — at the entrance of the Mishkan.

Since this voice was “the [very same] voice that spoke to him at Sinai” — with the same degree of revelation and sanctity — it is understandable that were it to have been drawn down on an ongoing basis outside the Mishkan , then the whole world would have automatically been transformed into a Mishkan , and once again the ability to freely choose to serve G-d would have been thwarted.

Moreover, “G-d earnestly desired to have a dwelling place [specifically] in the nethermost level”16 — in the crass physical world. It was in such a world that G-d desired that His voice be drawn down and revealed as man’s service transformed this world into a dwelling for Him.

Were this world to be constantly inundated by G-d’s voice, then it would neither be a lowly world, nor would man be needed to accomplish its transformation, since it would be G-dly in its own right.

There is a lesson here: We should not be satisfied with enclosing ourselves in our own private Mishkan of Torah study, where G-d’s voice is constantly heard, and neglecting the rest of the world. Rather, man’s main service is to let the world outside the Mishkan know that which was revealed, thereby transforming the planet into a dwelling place for G-d.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIII, pp. 20-23.


1. See Shaloh, Cheilek Torah She’Biksav , beginning of the Torah portion Vayeishev.
2. Shmos Rabbah 12:3; Tanchuma, Va’eira 15.
3. See Likkutei Sichos I p. 41; III p. 757ff; V p. 316ff.
4. Sanhedrin 56b.
5. See Ramaz in Tikkun Shovavim , quoted and explained in Lev David of the Chida, ch. 29.
6. Torah Or 87b.
7. Bamidbar 4:22.
8. Likkutei Torah, Naso 24b, c.
9. “U’mimeged geresh yerachim”.
“Vayigarsheihu vayeilech.”
11. Bamidbar 7:89.
12. Ibid.
13. Shmos 19:13.
14. Rashi ibid.
15. Ibid. 20:2.
16. Tanchuma, Naso 16.



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