Rabbi Nagen (Genack) on Shavuos

Rabbi Yaakov Nagen (Genack)

*Giving of the Torah

In the Shavuos davening, we describe the Yom Tov as “The time of the giving of the Torah.” However, according to the Zohar every day G-d teaches the Torah anew, implying the Torah is transmitted each day as well, not just on Shavuos. Therefore, how is Shavuos unique and why don’t we hear G-d’s voice talking to us on a daily basis?
The Chasid, Rabbi Yaakov Leiner, answers that G-d keeps the world moving at a constant and gives us the Dibros to us on a daily basis (see Zohar: Siman 71, relating to the words in the verse  “with a great voice, which did not cease” (Deuteronomy 5:19) and see also Berachos (17b)), but because of the noise and dealings that we are preoccupied with, a separation is created between us and G-d and we don’t hear the daily expressions from Heaven. By Matan Torah, G-d himself silenced the outside noise allowing us to hear the Dibros [that are present every day], but after that experience, the regular noise of our lives consistently drowns out G-d’s voice (paraphrased from “Beit Yaakov” by Eliyahu Kitov; Order of Parshios: Book of Exodus: Volume 2, Page 130, 1985).

For years, I took the time to walk from my home to the Beis Medrash, preoccupied with preparing for the daily shiur. However, when I began to live in the present and sensed all the sweetness around me, I was awakened to my immediate surroundings. Already, on the first day, the voices that were hidden from me appeared. The birds sang “all” day, not just in the morning and at sunset.

Soon I realized that life’s journey is not over time, but exists in the present, and should therefore compel one to delve deeper into his current reality. Now, I’m trying to establish the life of the order, “Seek out my face every day.”

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) brings down the story of one who asked, “When will Moshiach come?” and he was answered, “Today.” The

questioner waited until the evening and was disappointed when the redemption didn’t materialize. Then they explained to him, “Indeed it will come today, if you hearken unto the voice of G-d.”

Listening to the present after undergoing spiritual preparation for seven weeks is the purpose of Shavuos. On this day, a person must try to tear down the walls that separate him from the “here and now” so that he may hear the voice of G-d that is speaking to us on a constant basis.
*A Translated Version from the writings of Rabbi Yaakov Nagen (Genack)

The Difference Between Torah Shebechtav And Toral She Bal Pe

Rabbi Menachem Genack

*“This thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it” (Deuteronomy 30:14)

The verse (Deuteronomy 30:14) says, “This thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.” Rashi says on this verse, [this] thing is very close to you: The Torah was given to you in writing and [accompanied by an] oral [explanation]. In the previous verses of the Parsha it says, (ibid. 30:11) “For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away,” and (ibid. 30:12), “It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?”, on which Rashi comments, “It is not in heaven,” for if it were in the heavens, you would have to climb up after it [in order] to learn it (quoting Eruvin 55a). So according to Rashi that which is very close to you in your mouth and heart refers to Torah.

This explanation seems to be going on the simple meaning of the words – (ibid. 30:14), “It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.” With the mouth one can read the Torah Shebichtav and with the heart one can understand Torah she-be-`al peh. Rabbi Genack heard from the Rav zt”l that Torah Shebichtav is different from Torah she-be-`al peh, in that Torah Shebichtav – one has a kiuyim of Talmud Torah by just reading the words even without understanding them whereas Torah she-be-`al peh, if one learns a Halacha or Gemara and doesn’t understand it – one does not fulfill Talmud Torah.

This is further evidenced by the Halacha relating to Megillat Esther that even though we don’t understand the explanation of some of the words, such as האחשתרנים בני הרמכים  (Esther 8:10), we are still yotze.
The notion of differentiation between Torah Shebichtav and Torah she-be-`al peh is further illustrated by the following story. The Griz zt”l was walking with Rav Elchanan Wasserman zt”l and they were discussing Torah. As they were speaking in Torah, Rav Elchanan mentioned that perhaps they should look inside to get reward for otiot machkimos (The letters bring wisdom). The Griz zt”l responded that such a notion only applies to Torah Shebichtav and not Torah she-be-`al peh. In regards to Torah she-be-`al peh, it’s the understanding of the sugya that brings fulfillment of Talmud Torah, not the reading of the letters.
While Rashi understood the above mentioned verses (Deuteronomy 30:11,12,14) to be going on Torah, the Ramban understands the verse (ibid. 30:11), “For this commandment which I command you this day” is going on Teshuva and the verse (ibid. 30:14), “It is in your mouth and in your heart” refers to vidui on sins with the mouth and returning to Hashem with the heart.

There seems to to be a proof to Rashi from the Tanna Dvei Eliyahu Zuta (14:1), where it’s written that Eliyahu encountered a fisherman that didn’t know how to read or learn Torah. The fisherman remarked that he wasn’t given the intelligence nor ability to learn. Eliyahu countered by saying – being that it’s true that you have the ability to weave a net from flax that is then placed in the water to trap fish, certainly you have the ability to learn the Torah, as the verse (ibid. 30:14) says, “This thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.” This seems to be a direct proof for Rashi as Eliyahu uses this verse to reference Torah and not Teshuva.

*Birchat Yitzchak – Deuteronomy – Section 3 – Pages 287-288

The Times We Live In

I heard Rabbi Jungreis speak for Yom Hashoah. He very interestingly said we are living in the time of Moshiach and even had a kind of proof based on the verse in Leviticus 26 – “I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.” In essence the land has now been remembered as we got Israel after Yom Hashoah. He felt the Holocaust was worse than the Tochacha and when he passes Newark, NJ and sees in EL Al Plane he says “Shma Yisroel” acknowledging that Israel is a mere flight away.

A Visit From A Gadol

While studying by HaGaon Rav Tzvi Kushelevsky, I contracted mononucleosis which confined me to months of bedtime rest. For two years (and more), I battled the disease with some respite in-between. One afternoon while sitting for lunch, all of a sudden a lot of hissing went around the room. I, nor the people I was sitting with, knew the reason. All of a sudden, I saw Rav Avrohom zt”l and a few others approaching. He came to the yeshiva for a visit. One person with him recommended the drinking of grape juice to gain energy. Though I was honored to receive the visit, I knew a yeshiva not so far away was missing their leader during this time.

The Chasam Sofer (Rebbetzin Genechovsky is an ainekle)

The Chasam Sofer was once asked how he could pasken very complicated shaylos so quickly. He responded that when he learned a Gemara, he first crystallized the principles that emerged from his learning, and then he tried to imagine all the different circumstances to which those principles might apply. Thus when a case involving those principles later arose before the Chasam Sofer, he found that he had usually thought about just such situation previously and how the principles would apply. Unfortunately, few of us learn like the Chasam Sofer in this respect.

Rav Avrohoms zt”l’s “Towering” Bein Hazmanim Shiur

I often escorted Rav Avrohom to shiurim he gave Friday night. He usually spoke in different shuls. On the walk he would always ask my thoughts on a chakirah and that was always the chakirah he discussed in the shiur. However, one shiur, the Bein Hazmanim shiur he gave in Bnei Brak was a standard yearly event and was well known throughout Bnei Brak. He would often go to his son Yossi before he delivered the shiur. The first time I went I was a bit intimidated as the Beis Medrash held hundreds of people and extended far to the back. During the shiur questions would be asked from all four corners of the room and Rav Avrohom would answer them all. It was at one shiur, however, one year that I saw something memorable, something seen done by other Gedolim. Right after he entered the hall, I saw him run, almost sprint to the microphone in the front of the room. Suddenly he appeared to everyone in the front. There was no “few extra seconds of amazement”that the participants could have enjoyed to watch him walk to the stage. Instead, he ran and those present could only stand in amazement of his Torah thoughts but not his physical presence.

By Rabbi Binyomin Adler On Tehillim – Talmid Of HaGaon HaRav Tzvi Kushelevsky Shlita

וַאֲנִי בְּרֹב חַסְדְּךָ אָבוֹא בֵיתֶךָ אֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶה אֶל הֵיכַל קָדְשְׁךָ בְּיִרְאָתֶךָ

But I, through Your abundant kindness I will enter Your house; I will prostrate myself toward Your Holy Sanctuary, in awe of You. In the previous verse it is said אִישׁ דָּמִים וּמִרְמָה יְתָעֵב יְ-ה-וָ-ה, HaShem abhors a bloodthirsty and deceitful man. The Baal HaTurim (Shemos 15:18) teaches us an important rule regarding the placement of HaShem’s Name in Scripture. It is said (Shemos 15:18) יְ-ה-וָֹ-ה יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד, HaShem shall reign for all eternity! In this verse the Name of HaShem precedes the word יִמְלֹךְ, He shall reign. However, in Tehillim (146:9-10) it is said הוָה שֹׁמֵר אֶת גֵּרִים יָתוֹם וְאַלְמָנָה יְעוֹדֵד וְדֶרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים יְעַוֵּת: {י} יִמְלֹךְ יְ-ה-וָ-ה לְעוֹלָם אֱלֹהַיִךְ צִיּוֹן לְדֹר וָדֹר הַלְלוּיָ-הּ, HaShem protects strangers, orphan and widows He encourages; but the way of the wicked He contorts. HaShem shall reign forever; your G-d, O Zion; from generation to generation. Halleluyah! In this verse the word יִמְלֹךְ, He shall reign, precedes the Name HaShem. The Baal HaTurim writes that given that Dovid HaMelech ended his praise with the words וְדֶרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים יְעַוֵּת, but the way of the wicked He contorts, he did not wish to associate HaShem with evil. [This idea is found in the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 3:6) that states that HaShem did not wish to associate His Name with evil, so He did not write in the Torah (Bereishis 1:5) וַיִּקְרָא אֱ-לֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחשֶׁךְ קָרָא אֱ-לֹהִים לַיְלָה, and HaShem called to the light: “Day,” and to the darkness HaShem called: “Night.” Rather, it is said :  וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה, and HaShem called to the light: “Day,” and to the darkness He called: “Night.”]

We can apply the teaching of the Baal Haturim, which is based on the Medrash, to our verses here. אִישׁ דָּמִים וּמִרְמָה יְתָעֵב יְ-ה-וָ-ה, HaShem abhors a bloodthirsty and deceitful man. The Name HaShem is not mentioned next to the words describing the bloodthirsty and deceitful person. Furthermore, the Name HaShem is followed by the word וַאֲנִי , but I.


We can suggest reading the words as follows:יְ-ה-וָ-ה- וַאֲנִי, HaShem and I, implying that when one abhors a bloodthirsty and deceitful person, He attaches himself to HaShem, similar to the verse that states (Tehillim 118:25) אָנָּא יְ-ה-וָ-ה הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא, and the Gemara (Sukkah 45a) interprets the words אָנָּא יְ-ה-וָ-ה to read אני והו, literally translated as He and I. He can then enter the house of HaShem and prostrate himself toward HaShem’s Holy Sanctuary in awe.