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Every Friday night before making Kiddush we bless our children, “May Hashem bless you and safeguard you. May Hashem illuminate his countenance for you and be gracious to you. May Hashem lift His countenance to you and establish peace for you.” (Chapter 6, Verses 24-26) In this week’s parsha Hashem gave Aharon and his sons the special mitzvah of blessing the Jewish people. Regarding the verse of the priestly blessing, “may Hashem illuminate his countenance”, Rebbe Noson teaches that the main avodah (service) of a person is to draw down into the world and to illuminate Hashem’s countenance, just as it says in Tehillim (Psalms), “Search out Hashem and his might, seek His presence always.” (Chapter 105, Verse 4) The main way that we can seek His countenance is by sitting with a friend and speaking together with יראת שמיים, the awe of Heaven. Speaking about our lives and serving Hashem, with respect and love for each other. What is the connection? When friends sit together and seek to shine to one another from the special good points in their heart, this is the aspect of Hashem’s countenance. They are revealing Hashem in the world. Because the good points which each person has are the aspect of being a tsaddik. A person’s good points come from their neshama, from their Godly soul. Therefore, when friends sit together and try to share from their good points, from their good qualities and from their understanding of faith and Torah, by way of this they merit that Hashem shines his countenance upon them with love. The more that people try to engage in this, to connect as friends and share from each other’s good points, so to their good is illuminated more and more. By way of this, the splendor and the grace of the Jewish people as a whole are revealed more in the world, and this is the aspect of “May Hashem illuminate his countenance for you and be gracious to you.” (Likutei Halachot, Laws of the Priestly Blessing, 5th teaching)
It is customary in many communities to read each Shabbos during this time period of the counting of the Omer a chapter each week from Pirkei Avos, the Ethics of our Fathers, as we prepare to receive the Torah anew on the holiday of Shavuos. There is a Mishna in the last chapter of Pirkei Avos (Chapter 6, 6th Mishna), which lists forty eight ways in which the Torah is acquired. One of them is דיבוק חברים, clinging to friends, having close friends in life to learn Torah with. Another attribute is נושא בעול עם חברו, carrying the burden with a friend, helping them in times of need. We see from Rebbe Noson’s teaching above and from this Mishna the importance of seeking out friends to learn Torah with, to learn together and receive an illumination from their good qualities and from their unique perspective. Many times your study partner has a different understanding and a different way of learning which helps you to comprehend the Torah better.
As I reflected this week about the upcoming holiday of Shavuos, I realized how much it has been a blessing and a gift for me to have good mentors and good friends to learn Torah with during my life in Israel since making Aliyah. I had friendships also before I made Aliyah and began learning Torah, but they were not much deeper than a surface level social relationship. There was no soul connection which bound us together. My experience has been that learning Torah together and sharing our thoughts and experiences with each other helps create a much deeper connection than just ‘hanging out’ together.
With several friends we have maintained a strong connection by learning together once a week on the phone. With one friend we were able to finish learning one of Rebbe Nachman’s books together after five years, learning a little bit each week over the phone! Many times it is difficult to be consistent learning on our own, due to different challenges in life. However, when we have a friend to study with it can help us stay consistent and committed to the learning.
In the very first teaching in Likutei Mohoran Rebbe Nachman talks about the Torah, about how it helps a person see Hashem in their life in every situation, and how it helps them to overcome the evil inclination. He says that the grace and the importance of the Jewish people are elevated when they learn Torah. By way of the Torah all of our prayers and requests which we pray before Hashem are answered. This experience of learning Torah and trying to grow in our knowledge and closeness to Hashem is even more powerful when we learn together. We should all merit to receive more of the light of the Torah this Shavuos, and in the merit of connecting to the Torah all of our prayers should be answered. Chag Sameach!
(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)