Shavuot: The King's Torah Scroll

While the Torah commands every Jew to write a Torah scroll, there is one individual who is obligated to write an additional Torah scroll. Surprisingly, it is neither the high priest, nor the head of Sanhedrin. It is the king who is commanded to write a second Torah scroll during his reign and keep it with him at all times (Deut. 17:18-19, Sanhedrin 2:4).

chanoch adds: Why did Rav Kook express his assumption that the one person to produce two Scrolls would be connected to the Sanhedrin or the High Priest? Because both need additionally stronger connections to HaShem due nto their responsibilities to the community. Does not the King need this as well? Actually the King needs connection to HaShem more than the other two people. This nbecause then King needs constant reminder nof nhoe small he is relative to HaShem, since he is surrounded by people who constantly build his ego. When the King personnally writes his own Torah Scroll and carries it with him at all times he learns Torah in many ways until he lives Torah always.

What is the significance of these two Torah scrolls, that of the individual and that of the king?

Personal Torah and Communal Torah

The people of Israel accepted the Torah at Sinai on two levels. Each individual consented to follow the Torah’s laws as a member of the Jewish people. And the Jewish people as a nation also accepted the Torah, so that its moral instructions are binding on its national institutions - the judiciary, the government, the army, and so on.

chanoch adds: Please remember any law of morality is an effect of the higher level laws of energy. There are better wordes in Hebrew for the idea I am expressing. If this is unclear to you please call text or write your question to me.

Observing the Torah on the national level is, however, far more complex than the individual’s observance of the Torah. The Torah and its mitzvot were given to refine and elevate humanity. The process of uplifting an entire nation, with its political exigencies and security needs, is far more complicated than the process of elevating the individual.

As individuals, we approach issues of interpersonal morality informed by an innate sense of justice. Mankind, however, has yet to attain a consensus on the ethical issues connected to affairs of state. Furthermore, the propensity for moral lapse - and the severity of such lapses - is far greater on the national level. As a result, all notions of good and evil, propriety and injustice, are frequently lost amidst the raging turmoil of political issues and national concerns.

The greatness of the messianic king lies in his potential to fulfill the Torah’s ethical ideals also in the political realm. We read about the foundation of the messianic dynasty in the book of Ruth, which concludes with the lineage of David, king of Israel. Why is it customary to read the book of Ruth on the holiday of Shavuot? Because the account of the origins of the Davidic dynasty reminds us of the second level of Torah law that we accepted at Sinai, that of the nation as a whole.

Rav Kook cautioned regarding the moral and spiritual dangers inherent in political life:

“We must not allow the tendency toward factionalism, which threatens most strongly at the inception of a political movement, to deter us from seeking justice and truth, from loving all of humanity, both the collective and the individual, from love for the Jewish people, and from the holy obligations that are unique to Israel. We are commanded not only to be holy individuals, but also, and especially, to be ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'”

Silver from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback). Adapted from Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, pp. 173-174.

Ornaments for the Bride

Shavuot is the wedding day between G-d and Israel

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

On Shavuot, marital relations are forbidden both by day and by night, as Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai states in the Zohar: (I:9a) we must stay up the whole night of Shavuot learning Torah. This is because on the night of Shavuot we are preparing ornaments for the Matron.

The Torah was given in the early morning, and the nation of Israel was still sleeping. G‑d had to wake us up to give us the Torah, and this is seen as a sign of disrespect for the divine gift of the Torah. In order to rectify this error, it is customary to stay awake the entire night of Shavuot learning Torah in anticipation of the annually repeated revelation that occurs in the early morning.

The giving of the Torah is the marriage between G‑d and the Jewish people….

A more mystical reason for this custom is the one mentioned here; we must prepare the "ornaments" for the matron, or bride. The giving of the Torah is the marriage between G‑d (the groom) and the Jewish people (the bride); the flow of the Torah's divine insight and wisdom from G‑d to us is analogous to the flow of vital seed from the groom to the bride on the wedding night.

It is stated in the Zohar (3:79a and 1:48b) that G‑d prepared Eve for her wedding with Adam by adorning her with 24 ornaments; illustrating this, the numerical value of the word "and He brought her [in Hebrew, 'vayevi'eha'] to Adam" (Gen. 2:22) is 24. The primordial snake contaminated her with 24 types of venom; this is illustrated by the word "and I shall place enmity between you and her" (Gen. 3:15) in G‑d's curse of the snake being spelled with the same letters as the word for "and He brought her", its numerical value also being 24. When we received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we were purified from the defilement of the snake (often understood as the fallen consciousness of self-orientation), and the 24 ornaments were restored to us, the new Eve. (The same word discussed above appears as the initials of key phrases in the passages describing how these 24 ornaments were restored. (See Megaleh Amukot 206.)) The 24 ornaments are listed in Isaiah (3:18-24).

These 24 ornaments are manifest as the 24 books of the Bible (the 5 books of Moses, the 7 books of the Prophets, and the 9 books of the Writings). (Midrash Tanchuma and Rashi, loc. Cit.) chanoch adds: There are 3 Books in English Books that are split into two so the count of Books in the Tanach is different than in other Bibles. It is therefore customary to spend the night of Shavuot reading selections of these books (chiefly, the beginning and end of each parasha of the Torah and book of the Prophets and Writings) plus selections from the Oral Law as well. This is called the tikun, "rectification" or "restoration" of the 24 ornaments of the bride.

The whole night there is no supernal coupling, for Nukva…must immerse herself the following morning….

The "matron" is the female principle, the Shechinah, which is the collective soul of the Jewish people. The "bride" we are adorning by learning Torah on Shavuot night is thus essentially our individual selves as well as the collective community of Israel.

Since we are busy with the workings of the supernal coupling on Shavuot night, marital relations, seen as worldly coupling, are forbidden to us.

But [on Shavuot], Zeir Anpin is not rectified by us, but rather by Imma, as it is written, "…with the crown his mother [Imma] crowned him with on the day of his wedding." (Songs, 3:11)

Therefore, marital relations are forbidden [on Shavuot] just as they are on Yom Kippur. This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "[she is my sister, my father's daughter,] but she is not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife." (Gen. 20:12, see Rashi) The whole night there is no supernal coupling, for Nukva of Zeir Anpin must immerse herself the following morning, as is explained in the Zohar there. [See Zohar III:98b]

The verse quoted was Abraham's answer to Abimelech as to why he referred to his wife, Sarah, as his sister. Sarah was Abraham's niece, i.e., his father's granddaughter, but through a different mother. Since granddaughters often call their grandfathers "father", Sarah could loosely be called Abraham's sister.

This alludes to the relationship between Zeir Anpin and Nukva. They are both "offspring" of Abba and Imma, and are therefore brother and sister, in addition to groom and bride.

The mikva in which Nukva immerses is the fiftieth gate of Understanding…

It is explained in the Zohar (3:100b) that Zeir Anpin and Nukva may couple only when Zeir Anpin and Nukva are receiving consciousness ("light") from Abba. For only the extremely intense light of Abba, i.e., the pure light of the original insight, can expel the forces of evil that always seek to intervene and siphon off the flow from Zeir Anpin to Nukva. Therefore, marital relations are chiefly encouraged on Shabbat night, when Abba is shining into Zeir Anpin and Nukva. At such times, they are considered more the offspring of Abba than of Imma ("…not the daughter of my mother, and [therefore] she became my wife").

On Festival nights, however, when Zeir Anpin is receiving consciousness chiefly from Imma, marital relations are not as encouraged. Specifically, on Shavuot they are forbidden, for on Shavuot, Zeir Anpin is receiving chiefly from Imma as the Torah, G‑d's "intellect", is being given over to Israel.

The Zohar explains that the mikva in which Nukva immerses is the fiftieth gate of Understanding (bina, Imma), the level of divine consciousness granted to us on Shavuot by virtue of the 49 levels we achieved on our own by counting the 49 days of the Omer.

Imma escorts Zeir Anpin and Nukva to the bridal chamber…

The second tablets were given on Yom Kippur, so there is an affinity between Yom Kippur and Shavuot. Shavuot is the culmination of the "new year" that began with Pesach, the renewal of the spring, while Yom Kippur is the completion of the new year of Rosh Hashanah. (Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret are seen as the revelation of the consciousness that was already elicited from on high during the ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.) Both Yom Kippur and Shavuot are therefore days of the giving of the Torah.

chanoch adds: The above commentary paragraph requires contemplation to appreciate its depths.

But on the day of Shavuot, Zeir Anpin and Nukva couple solely through the influence of Imma.

Imma escorts Zeir Anpin and Nukva to the bridal chamber, so to speak. The powerful flow of intellect into our consciousness that occurs when the Torah is given on Shavuot serves as sufficient inspiration for the union of the emotions and their means of expression. The excitement over new insights and understanding inspires us both to get emotionally involved with the Torah and to disseminate its message to the world.

This explains the textual differences [in the section about festival offerings in parashat Pinchas] with regard to Shavuot.

The Torah refers to the [additional] sacrifices of Shabbat, the first day of the month, and the festival of matzot [Pesach] as being "beyond [literally "above"] the daily Elevation-offering," implying that [these sacrifices reach] "the highest of the highest [levels of spirituality]," as mentioned in the Zohar. (III:79b)

The daily offering is already called an "elevation" offering, so something "above" an "elevation" offering is called "above the above."

But with regard to Shavuot, [the Torah] refers [to the additional offerings as being] simply "beside the daily Elevation-offering".

It would seem that, contrary to this, it would be appropriate to refer to the day the Torah was given as being "above the daily [offering]", since this day is surely "the highest of the highest", more so than the first day of the month and the festival of matzot.

But since the coupling [of Zeir Anpin and Nukva] occurs because of Imma and not Abba, it is not written, "above the daily offering".

On Shavuot, Zeir Anpin and Nukva do not ascend to the level of Abba, only to the level of Imma. They are thus "above" their normal level (and therefore the musaf offerings are "elevation [olah]-offerings") but not "above the above" ("al olat").

And because we prepare the Matron by night, it is written, "you shall do" [in the active sense], for we effect the rectification.

The supernal union of Shavuot is especially dependent on our active participation…

For this same reason, in the case of all the other festivals, the word "unblemished" is written before [mention of the daily offering], as it is written, "and seven one-year-old sheep, unblemished… [above/beside the daily offering]." But in the case of Shavuot, the word "unblemished" is not written until the end: "…beside the daily sacrifice and its meal offering you shall do them - they will be unblemished for you - with their libations." (Num. 28:31) This is because they are not unblemished and completed until after we rectify the Matron, and she immerses in the morning. Only after this are they perfected and fully rectified. It is therefore written first "you shall do" and only after that "unblemished."

Compared to all the other festivals, the supernal union of Shavuot is especially dependent on our active participation. This is accomplished by "preparing the bride's adornments," when we stay awake the entire night.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaPesukim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."