January 29, 2022:
Torah from this past Shabbos, Parshas Mishpatim:
Mishpatim Verse 21:1
And these are the laws that you should put before them. Rashi explains אשר תשים לפניהם — God said to Moses: It should not enter your mind to say, “I shall teach them a section of the Torah or a single Halacha twice or three times until it will become current in their mouths exactly according to its wording (i. e. until they know the text verbatim), but I shall not take the trouble to make them understand the reason of each thing and its significance”; therefore Scripture says, אשר תשים לפניהם, “which thou shalt set before them” (cf. Genesis 34:23) — like a table fully laid before a person with everything ready for eating (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 21:1:1).
The Kotzker explains that God is telling Moshe that the Jewish people should understand the Torah with the sources בּמקורו העליון, the heavenly source being the Penimos Hatorah, Kabbalah, Zohar, and Tanya until they understand that the Torah could only be given to the Jews. The Jewish people are one with the Torah. (As we sing Yisroel, Oiriasa, V’Kudsha Brich Hu, Chad Hu.) This is the meaning of Rashi who says, לפניהם. וְלֹא לִפְנֵי גוֹיִם This Kotzker continues that this can only happen if the Jews thoroughly understand the reason for everything, without the laws being a חוקה, a statue with no meaning. Meaning we do not want the people to do Mitzvos just because that is how it is done, like a statute, but through full understanding.
What is this full understanding?
I showed my initial translation to Rabbi Kimmelman, a Lubavitcher, and I explained it as a non-Chassid. Meaning we have to thoroughly explain each Mitzvah so people become attached to the Mitzvah. He told me that the Kotzker is referring to understanding the hidden meaning of the Torah through Kabbalah. I changed my translation to incorporate his thoughts. However, I believe this Kotzker can also be used that we have to explain each MItzvah in a rational way so people connect to the Mitzvah and love the Torah so the Mitzvos are done due to their connection to the Torah and ultimately to God. Take for example, the laws of Tumah. On a rational level this makes zero sense. However, because God created us as a holy nation and God instituted this concept, we accept it because of our specialness.
How do I apply this?
I love to walk six miles Shabbos morning to Daven at Chabad of East Lakeview. There are a number of reasons. Walking is therapy for me. I want to be part of building a community from the inside and I want to see if Rabbi Kotlarski can actually make his Chabad House a community, with all the challenges of being in Lakeview. My friends from Anshei Shalom moved to Chabad and we have a Chumash Shiur. When I attend I give the Shiur. I pour all my feelings and emotions into the Shiur. I want the attendees who have not had an intense Hebrew education connect to a Rashi, an Ibn Ezra, a Ramban so that they feel emotionally connected to these great commentators. I want them to see the greatness of Torah and I want them to feel they were there when Rashi wrote his Parush. After 120, they will go over to Rashi, hug him, and discuss various Rashi’s or the other Reshonim with him. This Is what the Kotzker means, we become one with the Torah and with Hashem.