Written by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Rosh Yeshivas TT”L Cincinnati
Thursday, the seventeenth of Tammuz, we finished the 39th cycle of the Rebbe’s Takanna of learning Rambam and began the 40th. We are all familiar with the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:0) that “Ben arba’im l’binah — we become wise at 40”. What does it mean to receive “Bina-Wisdom”?
Rashi (Devarim 1:13) writes: “Who understands [and derive] one thing from another. This is what Arius asked Rabbi Yose: “What is the difference between wise men and understanding men?” [Rabbi Yose said] “A wise man is like a rich money changer: When people bring him dinars to examine, he examines them. When they do not bring [money] to him, he sits doing nothing. An understanding man, however, is like a merchant money changer: When they bring him money to examine, he examines it, and when they do not bring it to him, he goes out and brings his own [money-i.e., he does not wait for people to come to him-he goes to them] “. In other words: It is time to begin actively internalizing, and deriving, lessons that we can learn from the daily Rambam.
This is consistent with the famous directive of the Alter Rebbe that we all need to “live with the times” as described in the Hayom Yom (2 Cheshvan): From a sicha of my father, after the conclusion of Shabbat Lech L’cha 5651 (1890): In the early years of his leadership the Alter Rebbe declared publicly, “One must live with the time.” From his brother, R. Yehuda Leib, the elder chassidim discovered that the Rebbe meant one must live with the sedra of the week and the particular parsha of the day. One should not only learn the weekly parsha every day, but live with it.”
From when the Rebbe initiated the daily learning of the Rambam (Nissan 5744), the Rebbe would consistently give explanations, and share lessons, from the daily portion of the Rambam that was being learned. Many of these sichos have been compiled in a special set of sefarim called “Yain Malchus – Royal wine”. It is these special lessons that I wish to share with you on a weekly basis. Part of the Takanna of the Rebbe, in regards to learning the daily Rambam, is that – at least – one of the daily Halachos should be learned in depth. For a chassid, this includes learning the sichos of the Rebbe on that Halacha. While we may not be able to write an article for each day of the week, it is our hope that this weekly column will give everyone a taste of the vast depth of the Torah of our Rebbe on the Rambam.
Learning the Rambam, and its life messages, is not enough. The Rebbe wants us to “live with Moshiach”. This means, on a very simple level, that everything that we see or learn must help us in our Avoda and shlichus of getting ourselves and the world ready “Lekabel Pnei Moshiach Tzikeinu”. Thus, we will be putting extra emphasis in trying to connect and channel the general life messages and lessons of the Sichos to our above-mentioned shlichus.
The Rambam begins his magnum-opus with the words “Yesod Hayesodos V’Amud Hachachmos – The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence.” Every observer will notice that these four words have the Rashei Teivos of the name of Hashem. This is, not just a nice observation, but an important glimpse into a hidden part of the life of the Rambam. While to many, the Rambam is known as a pragmatic realist, a doctor who wrote the academic “guide to the perplexed ”, the Rambam secretly studied Kabbalah and he leaves kabbalistic hints throughout the Yad Hachazaka.
In the words of the Frierdike Rebbe (Sefer Hasichos 5700 page 41): “At one of the sessions in which my grandfather (the Rebbe Maharash) taught my father [i.e., the Rebbe Rashab] Moreh Nevuchim, he told him that he had received a tradition, handed down from Rebbe to Rebbe all the way back to the Baal Shem Tov, that Rambam was a great Kabbalist. The reason that Rambam, like Rashi, went to great lengths to conceal this, even by allusion, is that at that time it was dangerous to reveal its secrets, or even to hint at them.”
While at the beginning of the Rambam, i.e. the beginning of our Avoda, the immense revelation of the name of Hashem is hidden, at the end of the Rambam – when we finish our Avoda in the times of Moshiach – it will be revealed. This is hinted in the final words of the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 12:5): “In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know God.Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential, as Isaiah 11:9 states: ‘The world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the ocean bed.”
Learning the daily Rambam really helps us get ready for Moshiach. Chazal (Vayika Rabba, 7:3) tell us that Moshiach will come in the merit of Mishnayos. The Rebbe tells us (Toras Menachem 5752, page 179 in footnote 17) that the same applies to the learning of the daily Rambam. Let’s all get more people involved in the Rebbe’s initiative of the learning Rambam and bring Moshiach now!