Torah Reading: Parshat Shemini Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47

Haftora: Shmuel II 6:1 - 19


Shabbat Candle Lighting: 7:20 p.m.  
Shabbat Ends: 8:22 p.m.










Why Sinai?

It is customary to recite and study Avos-Ethics of the Fathers beginning with the first Shabbos after Pesach.

The first Mishnah discusses Moses’ role in receiving the Torah, which commentators point out was due to his humility. This echoes the narrative in this week’s parsha where Moses admits to his brother Aaron that he was wrong.

The following is an adaptation of a talk delivered by the Rebbe on this Mishnah which expounds on this point.

On the words “Moses received the Torah from Sinai,” there is a well-known question. Why does it describe Moses’ role as the recipient rather than
G‑d’s role as the giver of the Torah? It could have said, “G‑d gave the Torah to Moses...”

Second why does the Mishnah state that “Moses received the Torah from Sinai” instead of “from G‑d.” Why emphasize Sinai?

Commentators explain that Sinai, the lowest of the mountains, symbolizes the trait of humility that serves as a prerequisite to Torah study. This idea echoes our prayer “And my soul shall be like the dust for all, followed by the words, “Open my heart for your Torah.”


Directed to Judges, Rabbis and Teachers

From the very first directives mentioned in the first Mishnah, such as “Be deliberate in judgment,” “Raise up many students,” it is evident that the Mishnah is directed primarily to teachers, judges and heads of Yeshivas. 

For these intellectual elite the first pertinent lesson is humility, encapsulated in the words “Moses received the Torah from Sinai.” On the one hand, Torah scholars, rabbis and judges must be able to assert their authority. They must be firm and regal in their demeanor. A judge is enjoined by the Torah to, “not fear any person.” This strength is needed in order to ensure the Torah directives are implemented. They cannot afford to be influenced or intimidated by anyone.

And since these individuals must project a tough and assertive demeanor, they need extra special protection not to lose their humility and self-effacement. 

We can now explain why the Mishnah says, “Moses received the Torah from Sinai” rather than “at Sinai.”  Mount Sinai epitomized the lesson for Moses and all subsequent leaders and teachers of Torah. Moses received the moral instruction from Sinai itself. After G‑d had bestowed the singular honor of descending onto Mount Sinai and giving the Torah upon her, it remained the “lowest of all the mountains.” Sinai was not elevated.

Not only was Sinai the mountain of choice because it was the lowest and humblest of all the mountains prior to the giving of the Torah, but, moreover, even after
G‑d selected Sinai and gave the Torah on its peaks, it did not alter its sense of humility; it remained “the lowest of all the mountains.”

And it was this phenomenon—that Sinai did not become elevated even after it was the mountain upon which G‑d descended and gave the Torah—that guided Moses. Moses, despite all of his greatness and virtue, would remain “the most humble man on the face of the earth,” because of what he learned from Sinai.

Thus, the very first lesson for judges, Roshei Yeshivos (heads of higher academies of learning) and the like is that they must combine their sense of authority and assertiveness in matters of Torah and Mitzvos with humility and self-effacement—just like Sinai.

Not only will this spirit of self-effacement not compromise their authority, it will enhance it. Without humility, one could easily suspect that the tough stance that a rabbi takes is self-serving and for ulterior motives. How could the judge or rabbi be confident that his ruling represents the objective and unadulterated truth of Torah? After all even they are human and all humans are fallible. However, when one is self-effacing, he has no separate identity other than Torah. It is thus clear to all that the aura of authority he exudes emanates from Torah and not an expression of some personal agenda.


         Raising Many Students

This theme of duality—assertiveness on the one hand and humility on the other hand—is a theme that runs through the continuation of the Mishnah: “Raise up many students.”

The Hebrew term for “many” is undefined as to how many students one should teach. The message this conveys is that there is no limit. No matter how many students one already has, one must seek to increase their number. Whoever exhibits some potential to become your student, the Mishnah exhorts you to take him under your wing and grow your pool of students.

To facilitate this expansion of students, one must possess a healthy sense of self-esteem and confidence. Without this assertive nature, one would not be driven to bring yet one more student into his sphere of influence.

Yet, the very same message of “raising many students,” demands that one accept not only as large a number of students that are available, but it also dictates that one should accept any type of student, even one who, qualitatively speaking, lacks the assets and strengths that would enhance the teacher’s position. On the contrary, the student seems to be on a very low level.

To accept a student of that caliber one must be imbued with a spirit of humility. If one were to deny access to this student on the grounds that he is not qualified to be a student, one could always challenge that conclusion and argue that it was the teacher’s personal ego that did not want to have an inferior student. Acceptance of every student—implied by the words “Raise many students”—is a clear demonstration that the teacher has inculcated the lesson of Sinai in his own personality: combining assertiveness and humility.


Moshiach’s Duality

Moshiach, too, is the embodiment of these two paradoxical characteristics of assertiveness and humility.

There is a well-known discussion in the Talmud about the two scenarios for Moshiach’s arrival. The first scenario, taken from the Book of Daniel is that Moshiach will arrive in a majestic manner, “on the clouds of heaven.” Conversely, the Talmud cites a second, more humbling, scenario based on the verse “poor man riding on a donkey.”

One could raise the question, how is it possible that Moshiach should arrive in such degradation, as “poor man riding on a donkey?” Aren’t we at a rather advanced stage of readiness for the Redemption in light of the Talmudic declaration that “all deadlines have passed, and the matter depends solely on Teshuvah (repentance, return)?” And since Teshuvah is a process that can occur instantaneously, Moshiach’s coming will thus be immediate, a process that is metaphorically consistent with coming “on a heavenly cloud.” How does one account for the Talmud entertaining the scenario of Moshiach “riding on a donkey?”

In truth, there is no question that Moshiach will arrive “On a heavenly cloud.” Most certainly, the Redemption will materialize in the most exalted and magnificent fashion.

When our Sages discuss Moshiach’s coming in the Daniel scenario as a “poor man riding on a donkey,” it was not meant literally. Rather it reflects the mindset of Moshiach himself. Moshiach, even as he stands high, assertive and regal—“On the heavenly clouds”—he will simultaneously be imbued with humility and self-abnegation—“A poor man riding on a donkey.”

Moshiach’s “riding on a donkey” is reminiscent of Moses, the first Redeemer, whose journey to redeem the Jewish people was on a donkey, underscoring the extreme humility and self-effacement of Moses, by virtue of which he earned the privilege of being their redeemer. This attitude of humility that facilitated the first Redemption applies to Moshiach, the “Final Redeemer” as well.


Receive and Give

The practical application of all of the above is the manner each of us must endeavor to incorporate and combine the two disparate attitudes of assertiveness and humility in the way we educate others.

On the one hand, we must follow the Mishnaic dictum, “Who is a wise man? One who learns from every person.” This conveys the message that one must possess the requisite humility to appreciate that he can learn from every person. The mindset that makes one receptive to learn from all is one that derives from humility.

Conversely, as our opening Mishnah states, one must also “raise up many students.” This is similar to the process of giving Tzedakah. Even a poor person is obliged to give something to another poor individual. Similarly, spiritual tzedakah to those who are spiritually impoverished is an imperative for all. Even one, in his humility, who considers himself spiritually poor, as indeed one ought to, must desire to impart the scant knowledge of Torah and Mitzvos to others who are less fortunate.

Teaching others will bring not only brings light and enlightenment into the student’s life, it also brings light to the teacher. As Daniel states: “And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn the many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”     This introduction of light will usher in the state of “and for all of the Children of Israel there was light in their dwelling places” even in the last days of exile. Promptly and imminently, this state of light shall lead to the true and complete Redemption at which time “G‑d shall be unto you a light to the world.”