A discourse given to Kollel students in preparation for the Holiday of Shavuos
Transcribed and translated from previous recordings of
HaRav Eliezer Berland Shlit”a
Matan Torah is coming; on Shavuos we are all going to hear the Aseres Hadibros (The Ten Commandments)! We’re going to hear the sounds! There were Tzaddikim who heard the Aseres Hadibros every minute, especially on Matan Torah, on Shavuos. The Rebbe (Rebbe Nachman) heard all of the sounds of Matan Torah! On the morning of Shavuos, the Rebbe went to immerse in the mikvah and he heard all of the Aseres Hadibros! He heard all of the sounds! He was certain that everyone else heard them too! He was sure they also heard the Aseres Hadibros, the sounds, the thunder of Matan Torah. He kept asking the man accompanying him, “Do you hear that? You hear the sounds? Do you hear sounds? What, you don’t hear it?! How can you not hear? What do you mean, you can’t hear? Here, listen! The Ten Commandments! Sounds! Thunder! The worlds are exploding! Listen to those explosive sounds and thunder throughout the worlds! You don’t hear it?” The Rebbe held himself so humbly and lowly, lower than any other Jew in the world! He was sure that if he himself hears the sounds of Matan Torah, certainly everyone else does as well!
We are now right before Matan Torah and we must prepare the tools with which to enter this holy day and receive the holy Torah. A person must prepare himself for attaining Chochma ilaeh, Chochmah, tataeh, Eden ilaeh, Eden tataeh - supernal wisdom and lower wisdom, supernal paradise and lower paradise. Man must prepare himself to start understanding the holy Gemara and to knowing the fact that aside from the Gemara and aside from the Torah and Sifrei Hakodesh he needs to know nothing else at all in the world. An ear that heard the Ten Commandments at Har Sinai, an ear that is going to listen to the reading of the Ten Commandments on Shavuos in shul, an ear that hears the words, “I am Hashem your G-d… Who took you out from slavery,” – from slavery! Such an ear is now going to become a slave of slaves?! Going to be occupied with radio and media?! He will listen to nonsense?! A person does not need to be occupied with anything besides Gemara and the holy seforim – all of the greatest Tzaddikim never looked up from their Gemaras. They never stopped learning! They never straightened up and raised their heads! That is “naaseh venishma! (We will do and we will hear)” That is Matan Torah!
Learning Torah is greater than serving in the Beis Hamikdash, as it says, “It is more precious than pearls (Mishlei 3;15); greater than the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) who enters the Holy of Holies.” It is taught that a talmid chacham that is a mamzer is greater that a Kohen Gadol am haaretz who knows nothing, even though he is a mamzer he is greater! Even though he was born unlawfully! He was born from terrible sins! Yet, if he learns Torah day and night, he is greater than a Kohen Gadol! For, one cannot escape his Yetzer hara (evil inclination) if he does not study properly. A person must work at this till death! He must work so hard to learn Torah to the point that he would willingly die for it! The verse “A man that passes away in the (study) tent” is taught to mean that a person must die for the Torah. One must toil and work hard for the Torah! He shouldn’t just learn Torah in a daze, out of comfort and pleasure; Studying Torah is not comfort! People have so many worldly desires including a desire for comfort and leisure. All of the lusts and desires are hinted to from the alufim (soldiers in command) of Esav and one of them is called, “aluf nachas - of leisure.” People like to walk leisurely, to be comfortable, to learn with leisure. Yet the true comfort and rest is only the Torah! About Yissochar is says, “He saw a resting place, that it was good, and the land, that it was pleasant, and he bent his shoulder to bear [burdens].” Rashi says these burdens refer to the yoke of Torah.
The real leisure – menucha, is menuchas hanefesh, leisure of the soul. Through studying Torah, one polishes up his soul and cleans it, scraping away all the pollution and then he merits menuchas hanefesh – that his soul is at peace.
Man must understand that he is responsible for the maasei breishis (creation); every day we must recreate the world. The world runs according to those who study Torah. Torah learning creates the world, as it says, “all of the innovations of creation which are recreated daily by Hashem Yisborach, is all through Torah… that sometimes there is a lot of rain and sometimes a lot of land and here it is cold and damp, etc. and so on regarding all the changes.” Reb Nosson explains (Likutei Halachos, Yibum 3) that all of the changes that happen throughout the world concur to your Torah study. When a Jew learns Torah, the whole world turns favorable to the Jewish Nation. That’s why with the nations of the world; sometimes they like us and sometimes they hate us. Whoever studies history knows that one year they liked us and another year they hated us and wanted to annihilate us. Everything has always been dependent upon our Torah study; not on the politicians or anything else.
The Gemara says in Nedarim, 1, “Why are there Talmidim chachamim whose sons are not talmidim chachamim… because they did not first bless the Torah.” Sometimes, a man goes to learn Torah and says, “Why not? Why shouldn’t I go learn Torah? It’s fun! What have I got to lose? The Kollel pays me $500! So, what’ve I got to lose? I earn $500, learn a bit, pass the time, what’s wrong with that? What, I should go work in some print shop or woodshop?” Such thoughts and intentions will lead to nothing! Man must study Torah with kavonah (deep intention) and holiness, LeShem Shamyim, for the sake of Heaven. He must believe that every word he studies affects thousands of souls. Every word he says causes people to wake up and do teshuva!
The Rebbe said, in Tora 14, “Why do talmidei chachamim have sons that are not talmidim chachamim? Because they did not bless the Torah first. Every man, particularly a talmid chacham needs to bless and enlighten the shoresh - root of the souls with his Torah learning, because that is where our shoresh is… but when he does not make brachos and enlighten with his learning…. Because of this, his son will not become a talmid chacham.” The person must know that all of the letters he recites correspond to neshamas (souls). Through his learning he must enlighten the shoresh of the neshamas and have the intention in mind of doing so when he’s learning Torah. Before he even opens up his Gemara, his Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah, he must say the following: “I have in mind that with every single letter that will come out of my mouth, each letter will correspond to the specific soul it is connected to and will arouse it to do teshuva. The neshama that is connected to that letter will shine!” That is the meaning of “blessing the Torah first”; the person has the intention that his learning will bless and enlighten all of the neshamas of the Jewish people.
If a man would merit listening to the Tzaddikim and believing in the chachamim who say that through each and every letter people do teshuva, if he would learn Torah not because it’s fun and not because there’s nothing better to do, nor because it’s better than going to work somewhere else or in order to pass the time and not simply because he is charedi and is obligated to learn Torah or because he is Chassidic with a long beard and long peyos and its ‘respectable’ to go out and learn Torah… Nowadays, it is only a materialistic difference, being respectably religious or respectably secular. If the person would learn Torah truly for the sake of Heaven – LeShem Shamayim in order to arouse Jewish souls, through each letter of every word he recites, he intends that it should enlighten shorshei haneshamos, the root of all souls, he would shake the roots of the neshamas to their core! He would shake up the neshamas that have abandoned the Torah altogether and bring them to doing teshuva.
Through every letter he can arouse distant and forgotten neshamas. Through each letter he can truly draw down a new neshama into those long lost neshamas and bring them to repentance.
Why do the secular Jews not keep Shabbos? Why are they not doing teshuva? It is all because they lost their neshamas! They are living like non-Jews! If you were to tell them to keep Shabbos they won’t have a clue what you’re talking about! They’ve lost their neshamas! They’ve lost their neshamas from all their abundance of pgam habris (sinning of the covenant)! Now we have to draw down for them new neshamas; we must draw down for all the left wingers and anti-religious new neshamas! This can be done by learning Torah with the intention that each and every letter we say will go and enlighten that long, lost neshama connected with its corresponding letter (from the Torah) and arouse it to do teshuva. Don’t abandon those lost souls! This is what Rabbenu said, “Why are there talmidim chachamim whose sons are not talmidim chachamim – because they did not bless the Torah first! They are not learning with the proper kavana! They are not learning with the intention that it should enlighten the shoreshei neshamas, the root of all souls! They are not learning bidchilu urechimu, with love and awe! They don’t believe that with every letter spoken people are waking up and doing teshuva!
Therefore the punishment is that “their sons are not talmidim chachamim.” They get sons who don’t want to learn, don’t want to daven, don’t want to go to Cheider, don’t want to go learn in yeshiva, they run away from the yeshiva! They just pass the time. The Rebbe says in Tora 14 that these sons are given sleeping neshamas, in the aspect of “I am asleep, but my heart is awake”. The boy wants to sleep a lot, eat a lot, he’s slow to get going, can’t wake up early in the morning, thinks he’s doing a favor by even keeping shabbos, his father has to go through extensive suffering to get him married, tons of suffering! Tons of specialists! Endless suffering! All this the father must endure because he did not first make brachos of the Torah before learning; he did not have the kavanah with each and every letter that his learning should enlighten the shorshei neshamos. Particularly Talmidim Chachamim must be more careful and be sure to enlighten the shorshei neshamos. Contrarily, he who has the proper kavanah with the letters of the Torah, he who has the kavanah to enlighten the shorshei neshamos most certainly merits bringing down a pure and gentle neshama for his son and that is middah keneged middah, measure for measure! Just as he learned the letters of the Torah with the kavanah of drawing down neshamas into all the long lost neshamas, so does Hashem give him a gift of embedding his son with a gentle and pure neshama that will want nothing else but to learn Torah, to get up early in the morning - wake up even before his father does! The father will wake up at 5 am and this neshama will wake up at 3 am! His son will receive such a pure neshama that is drawn only to holiness.
The Rebbe says in Tora 101 that if a man doesn’t learn Torah be’iyun, in depth, and doesn’t study Gemara then the torah for him is considered “sam hamaves”, the drug of death. It is anpin chashuchin, as it says, “he has placed me in the dark like the dead ones of the world.” He goes around with a dark face; his smile has no meaning, it’s just there, a smile of a gentile not the smile of a Yid. The smile of a Yid is one full of Torah and tefilla as it says, “The wisdom of the person lightens up his face.” He enters his house full of light and joy, he brings peace to the home; he fills his house with holy light. His wife sees him how calm he his, his children see how happy he is, so they are also calm and happy. And once home he opens up a sefer, he takes the Gemara, learns Gemara, reads from the Rambam or the Shulchan Aruch, the Tur, etc., then his wife sees how hard he’s working, she watches him learn! She’ll stand at his side watching in awe; she won’t demand anything else of him. If she would see how holy he is, learning Torah, burning with a fire for the Torah, learning Gemara, working hard at it, his face is lit up and the Shechina dwells in him, then she’ll stand firmly at his side! They will have peace in home. She’ll get her entire satisfaction from just watching him! She’ll be able to witness the Shechina Hakedosha (Divine Presence) resting upon him.
Some people mistakenly think that it is hard for them to learn Torah and they prefer to go drive big trucks all over, schlepping heavy boxes from place to place, travelling from one end of the country to the other; from Metulah to Eilat. They’re prepared to spend hours in traveling, just so they don’t have to learn! If a man would sit and learn he would receive all of the abundance in the world! For, every letter is a goldmine! Every letter is wells filled with oil from millions of barrels! Sit and learn and you’ll see what abundance you will have! You won’t even need to go out and work! However, the Yetzer Hara is so strong he literally drives the person to madness. The person becomes a madman like one who constantly bangs his head against the wall. Why do you insist on banging your head against the wall? Schlepping truckloads of merchandise; why are you torturing yourself? Why schlep anything? Sit in Kollel, learn Torah and enjoy life. When the man learns Torah b’iyun, learns Gemara, focusing his mind completely on the Torah, he is creating new worlds! He is creating a new reality! All of a sudden he has made new laws! Suddenly he has abundance in ruchnius and even abundance in gashmius (materialistic needs). Why does he have all this? Through his learning he has created a new world! Until now he was in a world that lacks abundance and money but now he is in a new world where now he has money! It became a whole new world! Every moment man is creating new worlds. If a person is learning Torah he is creating new worlds by the second.
Man has apikorsus (heresy) in his heart; he doesn’t believe that Hashem is right in front of him every second. When a person does not have kavanah in Tefilla, pure intention in prayer, when he doesn’t sense that Hashem is right in front of him it is because he has apikorsus in his heart. He doesn’t believe that Hashem is here. When a person speaks to his friends he is very careful about every word that leaves his mouth. If he speaks to a king he’s even more careful! He is constantly on guard making sure not to say the wrong thing or something that makes no sense. When he talks with a friend he doesn’t talk pointlessly. He can talk for 10 hours straight because he sees the person in front of him; he sees a person with a face, hands and feet. Hashem is chay vekayam (alive)! He’s right in front of us! Yet we don’t feel that He is here. That just proves that we have no sechel! When a person does not sense Hashem’s presence and does not daven with kavanah it is only because he has no sechel! Just as there are illnesses that cause the person to lose his mind and suddenly he doesn’t even recognize his own parents, so it is with the person who doesn’t have Torah and doesn’t have sechel; he doesn’t recognize his mother and father who is Hakadosh Baruch Hu, The Blessed Holy One. If the person could, he would implant a new sechel into his head but no one has yet discovered how to transplant a new sechel. Rabbenu Hakadosh says that in order to gain sechel, man must learn Sha”s; he must learn Torah. A person cannot pray with pure intentions, feeling Hashem right in front of him, if he doesn’t learn Torah.
A person must realize that Breslov and Gemara are one! The essence of the Breslov chassidus is that you do everything that is written in the Torah! You don’t just go according to your own feelings and opinions or whatever’s comfortable. “Go out in the footsteps of the cattle and herd your goats by the dwellings of the shepherds.” We must heed the shepherds! We must heed the Tzaddikim! We must heed the Likutei Moharan! In the first Tora of Likutei Moharan it says that a person needs sechel! A man must study Gemara! That alone is called temimus (wholeheartedness). You must know that the Breslov Chassidus does not nullify even the tiniest little detail (in the Torah) chas vehsalom, G-d forbid! No minhag of Am Yisrael! It only comes to add! It comes to add more Yiras Shamayim, more tefilla with kavanah and more shmiras einayim, etc.
The Rebbe said “I want my ideas to spread into litvish hearts” (siach sarfei kodesh 2:257). The Rebbe said ‘Be Litvaks’! Start to learn! With the Rebbe there is nothing new! The Rebbe says “My way is the old way yet it is completely new”. In Tora 101 the Rebbe explains “Whoever accepts upon himself the yolk of Torah” – that is the study of torah in depth, b’iyun. The “yolk of Torah” is in depth study - torah b’iyun, gemara and poskim. We have nothing other than what the Rebbe tells us. If a person wants something new let him compose a new Likutei Moharan! Let him create a new Breslov! We go, however, according to the original Breslov – what is written! The original Breslov is to learn torah in depth, to learn gemara and poskim. The Rebbe says “the yolk of Torah is torah b’iyun”. If a person comes and says that he has a new Likutei Moharan, has created a new system, then he may have certainly received some kind of new revelation. But the Rebbe says “there are no new revelations!” The Rebbes way is the completely old way while simultaneously it is completely new! People come and distribute segulot charms and coins with “spiritual powers”, or blessed Matza. So many new ideas. May the new ideas continue! But it has nothing to do with Breslov! The Rebbe says, by me there is nothing new! My way is the old way, the original way. We need to follow the herd. Look at how the Chazon Ish studied Torah! Look at how the Steipler studied Torah! Be a Breslover! There is nothing new here!
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