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12 Sivan 5766 - June 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Who Chooses His People, Israel, With Love

An explanation of the blessing Ahavoh Rabboh, from a talk given by HaRav Moshe Aharon Braverman

Part II

In order for a person to be worthy of Torah, he must know the value of and the reverence due to Torah. Without this, it is impossible for one to absorb Torah. Chazal encapsulated all of those advantages in one single place, and that is in the text of the Ahavoh Rabboh and Ahavas Olom prayers and blessings preceding Krias Shema. It is a custom to evoke great arousal in the Shacharis service of Shavuos, and especially in Ahavoh Rabboh, to fervently beseech that we be granted the privilege of receiving the Torah. Its basic theme is the love which conditions our receiving the Torah.


"Have mercy on us and imbue in our hearts . . . " In order to merit Torah, one must need an initial giving, "Implant — give — in our hearts." The initial Giving of the Torah was also a gift. Our request applies to all the levels and approaches that there are in studying and acquiring Torah. For even the one who has reached the highest level of Torah knowledge still falls short of knowledge in the wisdom that remains beyond his intellectual grasp. He, too, must ask "imbue in our hearts."

This was the prayer of Shlomo Hamelech, "And may You give to Your servant a listening heart . . . to differentiate between good and bad" (Melochim I, 3:19). This is why the prayer includes several levels of study and knowledge of Torah for which we ask.

"To understand (lehovin)" — this is the power to discern one thing from another. "To become wise" (lehaskil) — that the knowledge be integrated to become part of our intellectual process, to be absorbed in our minds. "To hear" (lishmo'a) — this denotes an inner understanding of something that one already knows. "To learn" (lilmod) — to learn again something that he has already understood and integrated, in order to reveal deeper levels of understanding the Torah. "And to teach" (ulelameid) — that he be privileged to teach what he has learned and impart it to others so that he, too, gain.

One of the 48 ways in which the Torah is acquired is by "learning in order to teach and learning in order to do." In addition, one who teaches will grow from his students even more. In the merit of his teaching others, Heaven will increase his knowledge in Torah.

"To guard, to do and to perpetuate" (lishmor vela'asos ulekayeim) — these are included in the 48 acquisitions of Torah, as above. It is written that whoever studies in order to actually carry out what he has learned, who is prepared and willing to toil for days and years to attain even a small thing and to conduct himself according to the Truth, will merit the opportunity of learning, teaching and doing.

The prayer continues, " . . . all the words of Your Torah with love." All of his study in Torah will be perpetuated in all the manners and at all the levels mentioned earlier. And they will be performed with love, the love of one's sweet responsibility in the Torah.

"Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah." Up till here, we asked that Hashem "place in our hearts . . . " which relates to those sections of the Torah that depend on the receptiveness of the heart and one's self-sacrifice and devotion to the words of Torah. Here the text adds that there are parts of the Torah which are hidden from our eyes and our understanding. And even if they do not detract from one's study, they are still beyond him. One needs special Heavenly assistance to illuminate his eyes to understand them. He asks for this illumination through the words, "Enlighten our eyes."

"And make our heart cleave to Your commandments." Just as the Torah has parts and subjects that are hidden from our eyes, so is there a lack in our perpetuation, guarding and execution of the commandments. Sometimes a person feels removed — even estranged — from them, and he does not cling to them. Here, he also needs special siyata deShmaya. This request is the completion of what we previously prayed for: to guard, do and perpetuate.

"And unite our hearts to love and fear Your Name." Up till now we only mentioned avodas Hashem through love, without referring to fear at all. We pray that we achieve perfection, wholeness, and that we can unite in our hearts both love of Hashem and fear, both in study and in the perpetuation of study. The supreme level here is that through one's love of Hashem, he will always be afraid to do anything that is counter to Hashem's will.

"That we not be ashamed ever that we have trusted in Your Holy Name." Siach Yitzchok brings in the name of the Ramchal regarding the verse, "In You, Hashem, I trusted; may I never be ashamed" (Tehillim 31:2), that this is the source for the wording in Shemoneh Esrei " . . . that we not be ashamed that we trusted in You." We are assured that if we place our trust in Hashem, we will not rue it or be abashed and we will be awarded the good we asked for.

When we pray to be worthy of receiving the Torah in all its aspects, we are restating what we said before regarding " . . . our ancestors who trusted in You and You taught them the codes of life." In this same measure, we trust in You and surely we will not be ashamed, neither in this world nor the next.

"We will rejoice and be gladdened in Your victory." The Gaon explains that the joy is a result of the showering of renewed goodness that comes in the present, while the gladness is the ongoing influence that has been always present, from the distant past.

Torah is our heritage from the times of our ancestors. This causes us ongoing joy, while the Torah itself is renewed by each new generation with its respective revelations in it. And so should it be, "Every day, they [the words of Torah] should be like new." And in them shall we always find happiness in that we have found Your victory and liberation in Torah.

"And gather us up in peace from the four corners of the earth." Chazal say in Chagigah 5b, "The fact that they went into exile is the ultimate cause of bittul Torah." The wholeness and excellence at the Giving of the Torah was because the entire body of Israel stood at Sinai in unity. In later generations, a perfect and complete revelation in Torah can only take place when all of Israel is gathered and unified in Eretz Yisroel and not scattered in the diaspora.

"And lead us erect to our land." "Kommemiyus, explains Rashi (Vayikra 26:13) means with upright posture. The advantage of this, as explained by the ancient sages (see Radak Bereishis 2.7.) refers to man as being the only creature who walks erect on two feet and whose head is always up. This indicates that his goal is to look ever upwards, to strive upwards to reach the heavens, to be above corporal things, removed from material things, from the earth upon which he stands. All other creatures face downwards, toward the earth, because their essence and connection is to the material world, the earth upon which they stand. Thus did Shlomo Hamelech teach in Koheles 3:21, "for the spirit of man rises upwards, and the spirit of animal descends downwards."

We pray to be worthy, prepared and fit to receive Torah at a level where we will adhere to the above, that we stand spiritually erect, striving ever upwards.

"For You are a G-d Who effects salvations." The word yeshuo denotes a salvation without any help on the part of the one being saved. The meaning here is that even if the person is not worthy of being saved vis-a-vis his own deeds still, in the merit of his ancestors and the great love which You have always loved us, You shower us with the richness of Your Torah even if we are not worthy thereof.

The name `Keil' (denoting Powerful), shows that Hashem is capable of carrying out salvations at every level and against every adversary or impediment. Thus, we are able to make all the previous requests we mentioned.

"And You have chosen us from every nation and tongue." Hashem's choice is eternal; it is immutable.

"And drawn us close to Your great Name. Seloh. Truly." Ever since we were brought close to Hashem at Sinai, we have enjoyed an ongoing sense of belonging, of affinity to Hashem's great Name. Hashem prepared us for it and made us receptive in order "to thank and praise You, and to unify You in love." Hashem chose us, drew us near to Him, and revealed to us His uniqueness at Har Sinai, as is written, "You have taught and shown us to know that Hashem is Elokim; there is nothing beside Him." The realization that everything is Yours and everything given to us originates from Your hand, including our material and spiritual existence — prepares us and makes us capable of thanking, praising and unifying You through love.

"Who chooses His people Israel with love." The closing compares to the opening, showing the advantage of Hashem's love towards His chosen people, as is written, "For it is not due to your increased numbers among the nations that Hashem has chosen you . . . but because of Hashem's love for you" (Devorim 7:7). Based on this, we ask Hashem to continue to make us worthy of His Torah. This is the blessing of Krias Shema, where we find the command to "Love Hashem your G-d with all your heart."

It has been asked how this can be commanded, if love is something one feels in one's heart. The answer is that when a person contemplates Hashem's great love towards us, his heart will reflect that love and he will feel welling up within it a responsive, mutual love. This will enable a person to keep the commandment of, "You shall love Hashem your G-d will all your heart." This is why it was preceded with the words, "Who chooses His people, Israel, with love" (Gra).


HaGaon R' Chaim of Volozhin ztvk'l wrote about the wealth and extent of kavonos which the Anshei Knesses Hagedoloh incorporated in the words of all the prayers which they instituted. We cannot begin to arrive at an iota of them, and all we have written is merely to rouse us to try to direct our hearts and emotions as we stand in prayer before Hashem. We must inspire ourselves with thoughts of the great advantages of Torah, as delineated by Chazal.

"Whoever comes to be purified is assisted therein." May it be the heavenly will that we merit receiving from the great light and spiritual bounty that is channeled down in this season, which is exemplified through a cleaving to the Torah, since "Hashem and His Torah are one."

(Said in the Beis Medrash of Ponovezher graduates, Ohel Tomor, on Wednesday of Parshas Behar, 5765.)

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