Yitro: Receiving the Torah throughout our lives

The highlight of Parshat Yitro is the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.  The Beit Aharon teaches that HaShem actually gives the Torah to Am Yisrael every Shabbat. In fact, he states, if we prepare ourselves properly on Shabbat, the Torah is given to us every day.

The Torah tells us: In the third month after the Israelites had left the land of Egypt, on that very day they entered the wilderness of Sinai. They journeyed from Refidim and encamped in the wilderness … in front of the mountain. 

Rebbe Elimelech of Grodzisk explains in Imrei Elimelech how these verses guide us in our personal preparations to receive the Torah.  In order to understand this we must first grasp some basic definitions.  “Good” is whatever brings us closer to HaShem. “Bad” is whatever takes us away from Him. “Humility” brings us closer to HaShem, while “arrogance” takes us away. Based upon this, Rebbe Elimelech delineates several stages in the process. Firstly, we must become like the desert, which is a place of utter desolation. This is the ultimate humility, which is necessary to nullify the ego that prevents us from opening ourselves up to HaShem.

Once we have achieved this level of bittul, ego nullification, we need to make ourselves into a vessel that will be capable of receiving the light of Divinity. We can achieve this by becoming like an ani, a poor personwho is always ready to receive sustenance. In fact, the word ani has the same numerical equivalent as the word Sinai. So, too, the true servant of God, while always feeling inadequate, is nonetheless always ready to receive the Divine influx. But how is this accomplished? The Imrei Elimelech tells us that we need to contemplate just how much HaShem loves every single Jew. He informs us that the numerical equivalent of the acrostic of the ten sefirot is equal to the word Yisrael, which reminds us of the august origins of the Jewish soul. This realization leads us to a state of devekut, cleaving to HaShem, making us ready to receive the Torah.

The Imrei Elimelech also gives us another important tip. When we are traveling from Refidim to get the Torah, we need to think quickly about teshuva and then run away from the evil inclination in order to receive it! This is not the time to get bogged down in fixing all of our sins; there will be time for that later. If we worry too much about the past at this point, the yetzer hara will have time to catch us and we will have a hard time moving on.

The Grodzisker’s son, the Piaseczner Rebbe, writes in Derech Hamelech that our acceptance of the Torah must become perpetual, for we always need to find newness within it. By integrating his father’s advice into our lives we will be able to accomplish this holy task. Instead of celebrating kabbalat haTorah once a year on Shavuot, we will experience this on a weekly or even a daily basis. Then we will have accomplished the ultimate good: bringing ourselves ever closer to HaShem. Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Zvi Leshem directs the Gershom Scholem Collection for Kabbalah and Hasidism at the National Library of Israel. He is the author of 'Redemptions: Contemporary Chassidic Essays on the Parsha and the Festivals'. Many of his articles can be accessed at https://nli.academia.edu/zvileshem
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