The Ra”Mah says, regarding Simchas Torah, that we should increase in happiness and eat and drink to the completion of the Torah. Simchas Torah is connected to Sukkos, but Simchas Torah has a special toichen (purpose) of its own, not just a connection to Shemini Atzeres. It has the toichen of connecting Torah with simcha. Why is Simchas Torah part of Sukkos, and not Shavuos, when the first set of luchos (Ten Commandments) was given on Shavuos? The first set of luchos was given to perfect Tzaddikim (righteous people), but the second set of luchos, were given on Yom Kippur to Baalei Teshuva and that is a bigger simcha. After fasting and praying on Yom Kippur, each Jew is a new person, therefore all of the Torah he learns this year will also be new.
The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn, once gave an explanation regarding the blessing of shehechyanu on Simchas Torah. “The blessing shehechyanu on Simchas Torah is not only on the holiday, but also on the Torah.” The blessing of shehechyanu is not connected to the essence of reading and studying the Torah, but is actually a “thank-you” to Hashem for the Simcha Chadasha, the new joy, that B’nei Yisroel has from completing the Torah.
In the shehechyanu, we are thanking Hashem for two things: for our essential existence (etzem kiyum v’kimanu) and for our strength (chayus shehechyanu). The three main words of the shehechyanu blessing – shehechyanu, v’kimanu, v’higyanu – are compared to a verse in Tehillim,
“Halleli nafshi es Hashem, ahal’lah Hashem b’chay’yai, azamerah l’Elokai b’yodi. Praise Hashem, O my soul. I will sing to Hashem with my soul; I will chant praises to my G-d with my entire being.”
The shehechyanu is usually over something new, so why do we make this blessing on the joy of completing the Torah? After studying Torah the entire year, and completing the Torah on Simchas Torah, a “new radiance” is added to our learning. The Torah is renewed. As we start learning Torah again, it is a “new” Torah, a higher Torah. Each Jew expresses this “new” Torah in a different way – the full-time scholar strives for new, deeper understanding and the businessman strives for a new vitality in learning and doing mitzvos.
The minhag Yisroel is to complete the reading of Parshas V’zos HaBrocha and go directly into reading Bereishis, because the simcha of completing the Torah is that we have the gift of starting it anew. As we begin the cycle again, and start reading Parshas Bereishis, we will all be making an effort to add that “new-ness” to our learning. The world-renowned Gutnick Chumash, published by Kol Menachem, features elucidation and insights from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, and provides that “new radiance” and makes it available to every Jew, the scholar, the layman, and even children.
Since the publication of the first volume in 2003, the Gutnick Chumash has enabled hundreds of thousands of people to study Torah in ways they never thought possible. Rabbi Chaim Miller, Editor-in-Chief of the Gutnick Chumash, uses the most up-to-date technology and computer innovations to search the largest archive of Torah literature, including all sefarim containing the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Open the Chumash to any parsha and you will see a beautiful explanation on the name of the parsha.
Then, as you turn the page, a clearly laid-out page combines the original text of the Chumash in Hebrew and a critically acclaimed English translation, along with Targum and Rashi in their original languages. Below the Rashi, the Chumash features “Classic Questions” of the foremost Torah commentators, including Rashi, Bartenura and the Tur, along with their answers, written in plain English in order to be understood by all.
Below the “Classic Questions” is the highlight of the Gutnick Chumash – Toras Menachem, the commentaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. While there were thousands upon thousands of the Rebbe’s discourses to choose from, Rabbi Miller excerpted from over 1000 dialogues that addressed and analyzed the questions of the classic commentators. The Rebbe took these questions and explained the conclusions given by the original commentators, as well as arriving at chiddushim and Chassidic insights to the questions. This section is so invaluable because it provides an introduction to Chassidus through sources that most people are already familiar with.
Another beautiful feature of the Gutnick Chumash is the sidebar, called “Sparks of Chassidus.” This sidebar presents an excerpt from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Chassidic insights to Rashi’s commentary on the particular parsha.
According to Rabbi Gutnick, this section is perfect for those who are learning Chassidus for the first time, or who have never been exposed to formal Torah study. The “Sparks of Chassidus” is written in easy to understand English, making it understandable by people of all ages and backgrounds.
Finally, the Gutnick Chumash features an additional sidebar entitled “The Last Word,” which excerpts a lesson that integrates the ideas from the parsha into daily life. This section is one of the most accessible ways to accomplish the essence of Simchas Torah – learning Torah in a new way and adding a new joy to Torah and mitzvos! Not only does it provide a new insight, it enables us to actually live with the Torah and integrate its lessons into our lives.
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…The fact that the Torah begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, beis, indicates that reading the text is actually the second phase of Torah study. Before a person even looks at the first verse of the Torah, he needs to prepare himself for the experience that he is about to undergo. Basically, the Torah is somewhat of a paradox. On the one hand, it is a mitzvah that connects a person to G-d and – as with any mitzvah – the person needs to be aware of this fact to achieve a full “connection.” On the other hand, if a person actually thinks about G-d while he is studying Torah, he will not be able to concentrate on the subject at hand…
Why was the world created? (v.1)
Rashi: The word Bereishis is crying out for a Midrashic interpretation: Bereishis means “two beginnings” (,hatr wc), suggesting that G-d created the world for the sake of the Torah which is called, “the beginning of His way” (Prov. 8:22), and for the sake of the Jewish people who are called, “the first of His grain” (Jer. 2:3).
Maskil LeDavid: Since the verse employs the singular (“in the beginning”) from where did Rashi conclude that there are two beginnings, the Torah and the Jewish people? However, Rashi is referring to the Jewish people as they are learning and observing the Torah, i.e. as they form two parts of one greater whole.
Rashi was troubled why the verse states, “G-d said, ‘Let there be light!’ – and there was light. G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d separated…” The term “the light” appears to be superfluous here, as the verse could have stated more simply, “G-d saw that it was good.” This led Rashi to the conclusion that, here in verse 4, G-d must have perceived some additional “good” quality within the light which was not yet apparent in verse 3.
Why did G-d create light first of all, only then to hide it? Because the ultimate purpose of Creation is that G-d’s presence should be revealed in the lowest realms (Midrash Tanchumah, Naso 16), therefore, at the very outset of Creation G-d made a “mission statement” declaring what the ultimate purpose of the world should be – revelation; like an architect (so to speak) who draws up plans before constructing a building. -Based on Likkutei Sichos vol. 10, p. 7ff
Why did G-d deem it necessary to continue working all the way up to Shabbos, and even to extend His work by a hairsbreadth into Shabbos? What was gained by this feat of precision? G-d was teaching a lesson to mankind about the preciousness of time. So long as a person has the opportunity to carry out his Divinely ordained mission in this world, he should utilize every moment in order to realize its fullest potential, pushing every allocation of time to its utmost limits.