"`And you shall make them known to your children and to your
children's children.' Afterwards it is written: `the day you
stood before Hashem your G-d at Horeiv' (Devorim 4:9-
10). Just as at Mount Sinai there was awe and fear, shaking
and trembling (as it is written `the people saw and trembled'
— Rashi), so too regarding learning Torah there should
be awe and fear, shaking and trembling.
From here the Sages said: "Zovim and metzoro'im
(those who are impure due to a zov discharge or
tzora'as) are permitted to learn Torah, but baalei
keri (those who are impure due to a seminal discharge)
are prohibited" (Brochos 22a).
Rashi comments: "All those who are ritually impure are
permitted to learn Torah, because they can do so in awe and
shaking. But the ba'al keri became impure because of
lightheadedness and arrogance" (Ibid.).
The end of the blessing on the Torah is, "Blessed are You,
Hashem, Giver of the Torah," which is in the present tense
and not the past tense. This teaches us that Matan
Torah, the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, is a new
reality which is renewed every day when we learn Torah, and
not just an ancient historical event.
Similarly, in bircas Yotzeir Ohr, the blessing on the
luminaries that precedes the Shema, the brochoh
concludes: "In His goodness He renews daily, perpetually, the
work of creation. As it is said: `[Give thanks] to Him Who
makes the great luminaries, for His kindness endures
forever.'" The use of the present tense—"Who
makes"—even though the creation of the luminaries was
long ago, teaches us that Hashem renews the creation
perpetually. Creation is not a reality that just continues
automatically as a result of an original act of creation.
Similarly, learning Torah is akin to Matan Torah on
Mount Sinai, and not an act of study alone. Matan
Torah is renewed every time the Jewish people learn the
This is the reason why we must learn the Torah in the way it
was accepted on Mount Sinai: in awe, fear, shaking, and
trembling. This isn't a particular halochoh in
Hilchos Talmud Torah, but rather it applies to the
entire generality of learning Torah. The form of learning
Torah is that it should be learned in awe and fear, as was
Matan Torah on Mount Sinai.
Eimoh, awe, refers to the fear itself. Yir'oh,
fear, is the fear of something beyond one's understanding,
whose reality is higher than man's comprehension.
Resses, shaking, is a fear to such an extent that
one's whole body shakes, to the point where he has no other
concern and all his desires are null and void due to his
When one learns with lightheadedness, or with arrogance, his
Torah learning is blemished, because such a way of learning
is a contradiction to awe and fear. Since Matan Torah
is only with awe and fear, Torah learned with lightheadedness
is lacking in its worth. The more his learning resembles the
way the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the more he'll
acquire and comprehend the Torah.
We find this principle in another ma'mar Chazal:
"Whoever teaches Torah to his son's son is considered as if
he received it on Mount Sinai, as it is said (Devorim
4:9-10): `And you shall make them known to your children and
to your children's children . . . the day you stood before
Hashem your G-d at Horeiv' " (Kiddushin 30a).
This demonstrates that passing the Torah to the next
generation is an aspect of Matan Torah. The
grandfather who teaches his grandson Torah has the strongest
resemblance to Matan Torah, and therefore even the
Torah he learns himself is as if he received it from Mount
In this way, learning Torah is different from any other
aspect of avodas Hashem or keeping mitzvos, because
they don't require awe and fear. Observance of mitzvos isn't
connected to ma'amad Har Sinai, but the mitzvah of
learning Torah is akin to ma'amad Har Sinai, which
requires awe and fear.
"Ten who sit together and occupy themselves with Torah, the
Shechinah rests amongst them . . . And from where do
we know that such is the case even with a single individual?
From the verse (Shemos 20:21): `Every place where I
mention My name, I shall come to you and bless you'
"(Pirkei Ovos 3:6).
When we learn Torah it's as if we are pronouncing the Divine
Name, because the entire Torah is the Names of HaKodosh
Boruch Hu. (Similarly, we find that the Torah source for
the blessings recited upon learning Torah is the verse: "When
I call out the Name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our G-d"
[Devorim 32:3].) When we pronounce His Name there is a
promise: "I shall come to you and bless you," and from this
verse we derive that when a single individual learns Torah
the Shechinah rests with him.
A troubling element remains, though. The verse stated: "Every
place where I mention My Name," which implies that
HaKodosh Boruch Hu mentions His Name. How did the
Sages learn from this verse about an individual who learns
Torah that the Shechinah rests with him — when
he is the one mentioning the Name and not HaKodosh Boruch
Maran HaRav Chaim Volozhiner wrote (Nefesh HaChaim
4:6) that when a man learns Torah, HaKodosh Boruch Hu
pronounces simultaneously (to the extent that we can express
this idea) every word of Torah that comes out of the man's
We find in the gemora that Rebbe Evyosor and Rebbe
Yonoson were discussing the sin of the concubine of Giv'oh.
"Rebbe Evyosor met Eliyahu Hanovi; he asked him, `What is
HaKodosh Boruch Hu doing now?'
"Eliyahu said, `He's learning the matter of the concubine of
"`And what is He saying?' asked Rebbe Evyosor.
"Eliyahu answered, `He is saying: Evyosor my son says this,
Yonoson my son says that'" (Gittin 6b).
Rav Chaim concludes that at the very moment Rebbe Evyosor and
Rebbe Yonoson discussed the matter of the concubine of
Giv'oh, HaKodosh Boruch Hu also reviewed their words
in Heaven, word for word.
We saw that when one learns Torah he is mentioning the Names
of G-d, and from Rav Chaim's principle we can conclude that
at the same moment Hashem repeats the words the man is
learning. Therefore, this brings the Shechinah to rest
with him, as it is said: "Every place where I mention My
Name, I shall come to you and bless you."
The Shechinah's resting on the one learning Torah
isn't a reward for the mitzvah. Rather, it's the way to
fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah. Success in Torah isn't
achieved the way material success is achieved. All success
comes only from Divine Providence. However, the chain of
events that brings the success involves natural means.
So we find in the gemora: "Shmuel HaKotton decreed a
fast day and it began to rain before sunrise. The people
thought this was proof of the praiseworthiness of the
congregation. Shmuel said to them: `I'll bring you a parable.
What is this comparable to? A servant requested a prize from
his master. The master said: Give it to him so I won't have
to listen to him anymore'" (Taanis 25b).
Sometimes HaKodosh Boruch Hu may give success to a man
because He doesn't want to hear his voice; He doesn't desire
his closeness. The good He bestows will come in a natural
means; it seems as if another power caused it and it didn't
come from Hashem's hand.
In contradistinction, Torah can never come into the world in
such a fashion. "For Hashem gives wisdom; from His mouth
[come] knowledge and discernment" (Mishlei 2:6). Our
Sages refer to this in Pirkei Ovos as "the
Shechinah rests with him." This is why bircas
HaTorah, the blessing on the Torah, concludes with the
words, "Blessed are You, Hashem, Who teaches Torah to His
people Yisroel." The blessing stresses that Hashem "teaches,"
in the present tense and not the past.
For this reason, one who learns only for the sake of argument
is not learning properly, nor does he find favor in the eyes
of his Creator. It would have been preferable that he'd never
been born, said the gemora. He's like the servant who
was rejected by his master.
This is the basis for Rav Chaim's principle that learning
Torah is in essence closeness to HaKodosh Boruch Hu.
One doesn't need to think about cleaving to Hashem while
learning. Rather, the very essence of learning is closeness
to Hashem. For He, Blessed be His Name, and His will are One
and the same (Nefesh HaChaim 4:6).
"The instruction of Your mouth is better for me than
thousands of gold and silver" (Tehillim 119:72). Rav
Chaim explains: "Dovid Hamelech was exceedingly joyous in
toiling in Torah, because every word he uttered was spoken
simultaneously by HaKodosh Boruch Hu. When he learned
Torah he cleaved to Hashem's will and His word; for He,
Blessed be His Name, His will, and His words are One and the
As we explained, Ma'amad Har Sinai is a new reality
that is renewed every day and every hour when Jews learn, and
not just an ancient historical event. "From His mouth [come]
knowledge and discernment:" we receive the Torah from His
According to this insight, we can understand beautifully and
simply the gemora which states that Torah must be
learnt with awe and fear, shaking and trembling, in the way
it was given at Mount Sinai. All the Torah we succeed in
learning is from the mouth of HaKodosh Boruch Hu. Our
learning is the "second edition" of Matan Torah, and
by necessity it must be learned in the way it was received:
with awe and fear, shaking and trembling.
The 44th yahrtzeit of HaRav Aharon Kotler, zt"l, was on 2