Shavuot: Receiving Your Torah
Rebbe Natan teaches that any person can receive his personal Torah any day he wishes, even every day! Like Moses, he ascends his own mountain...
by Rabbi Shalom Arush
Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
The period between Passover and Shavuot, when we count the Omer, is a countdown to the exalted day when we receive the Torah anew. Yet, every person can merit in receiving his or her personal Torah any day he wishes or even every day; let me explain:
When a whirlpool of negative thoughts inundate a person's mind; when distractions and lusts overcome him with doubt yet he does not despair and calls out to Hashem instead; he ascends to the highest place in the spiritual realm and draws Torah down from there. This is called, “receiving of the Torah.” Such a person literally receives a very special portion of the Torah in accordance to the trial he withstood without falling into despair.
We can now understand what Rebbe Natan calls “receiving the Torah in the desert.” The desert represents the abode of challenging spiritual forces. The Nation of Israel endured many trials that were the spiritual manifestation of the “desert.” They were engulfed by all sorts of difficulties from negative spiritual forces. They were challenged in body and spirit with snakes, fiery angels, scorpions, windstorms, thirst, scorching heat and hail. They overcame it all and called out to Hashem, as the Torah says: "And the Children of Israel called out to Hashem." They then merited redemption in the place of negative and impure spiritual forces.
When they searched for Hashem in a place that seemed distant from Him, they merited receiving the Torah, as explained above. This is the concept called "descending for the purpose of ascent." A specific aspect of the Torah is attainable only when one seeks Hashem while encased in his own spiritual desert – where outer spiritual forces abide. A person who manages to overcome these negative spiritual forces and connect to Hashem reveals Hashem's glory in the world.
Our Sages say that Hashem created the world with ten utterances. In other words, with every detail that Hashem was creating, it says, "And Hashem said." For example, "And Hashem said, 'Let there be light' and there was light." "And Hashem said, 'Let there be a sky within the water,'" etc. These are the utterances. A close look at the first verses in the book of Genesis reveals that there are only nine explicit utterances. Where is the tenth utterance? The tenth utterance is, "In the beginning, Hashem created." This is called the concealed utterance, because Hashem is not explicitly mentioned as uttering anything. Rather, the utterance is hidden in the words "In the beginning, Hashem created."
This first concealed utterance is the root of all the other utterances and the root of the entire Torah. Within it is cloaked the highest level of Torah that exists. When a person calls out, "Where Are You, Hashem?" he ascends to the level of the concealed utterance, to the root of all the utterances and the root of the entire Torah, bringing the Torah down to this world from the loftiest spiritual heights! It is specifically when a person is experiencing difficulties and he can't find Hashem – there, in the difficult tailspins – that he can attain Torah.
There is a stipulation, though; a person turns a setback into a marvelous triumph only if he does not fall into despair during trying times. This is not easy because one’s Evil Inclination takes advantage of hardships and dark periods to break a person’s spirit with messages like, "There’s no hope for you - you’ll never overcome your lusts. Why bother with the whole faith deal? Have a good time and the heck with your spiritual fantasies…” These are propaganda broadcasts from a dire enemy that’s out to destroy you - the Evil Inclination. Its purpose is to plunge a person into despair.
When a person ignores and overcomes the Evil Inclination’s messages and continues to seek and hope for Hashem's presence, he reveals the diamond-like sparks of holiness that are concealed even in those dark and lowly places. This is a most laudable spiritual achievement.
Rabbi Shalom Arush is an Israeli Breslov rabbi and founder of the Chut Shel Chessed Institutions. He spreads the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov among Sephardic and Ashkenazic baalei teshuva around the world through his books and speaking appearances. Rabbi Arush is considered one of today's leading Hasidic spiritual guides, inspiring hundreds of thousands through his books, audio CDs and online presence.