It was Shavuos morning, and after spending the entire night reciting Tikkun Leil Shavuos, Harav Yisrael, the second Rebbe of Sadigura, went at dawn to immerse himself in the mikveh. In keeping with their custom, a large crowd of chassidim waited outside the building so they could accompany the Rebbe home in jubilant song.
As he left the building, the Rebbe turned to his chassidim and said, “Yes, yes. The Ribbono shel Olam has His 600,000 neshamos in every generation.”
Among those who heard the remark was the Rebbe’s young son, Harav Avraham Yaakov, who would later succeed him as Rebbe in Sadigura. Still a child, he did not understand what his father was referring to. He turned to an elderly Rav and asked for an explanation.
“On the border between Russia and Poland there is a great forest,” said the Rav. “It is so large that there are some parts of it in which no human being has ever walked. If one wanted to illuminate the forest, he would not have to hang a lantern on each tree; it would suffice to hang a lantern in one tree, and that lamp would light up hundreds of trees in its vicinity.
“So it is with Yidden,” the Rav continued, explaining the Rebbe’s words. “In every generation there are 600,000 neshamos who light up the entire generation.”
One of the greatest challenges we face as individuals is our failure to know ourselves.
Thrice daily we recite in Ashrei the verse “L’hodia livnei adam gevurosav — to inform human beings of His mighty deeds.” The literal explanation of this verse refers, of course, to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. The Rebbe of Lechovitch, zy”a, once homiletically explained the verse to refer to the enormous potential that lies within each of us: “To inform a human being of his own mighty deeds.”
“If my yungeleit only recognized their own strengths,” the Rebbe said, “they would be able to break open fortresses…”
In an age when the vast majority of our brethren, through no fault of their own, are estranged from their glorious roots, every Jew who overcomes the challenges he faces and lives a life of Torah and mitzvos is a lantern that beams a powerful spiritual light.
If we only had an inkling of the immeasurable value of a single hour of learning Torah, a single act of chessed, or one Shemoneh Esrei, our lives would be drastically different. We would be spending every moment in an extremely productive way. It is only because we have no notion of what we are accomplishing that we allow ourselves to be sidetracked and distracted.
When Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to Shamayim to receive the Torah, the malachim objected.
“This secret treasure, which You kept hidden for 974 generations before the world was created, You wish to give to flesh and blood?” they asked Hashem.
“Answer them,” Hakadosh Baruch Hu instructed Moshe Rabbeinu.
“Ribbono shel Olam,” he replied, “I am afraid that they will consume me with the [fiery] breath of their mouths.”
“Hold on to the Kisei Hakavod,” Hashem told him, “and answer them!”
The Piaseczna Rebbe, Hy”d, explains that Moshe Rabbeinu feared the malachim because he did not realize that he was actually greater than they.
The Kisei Hakavod is on a higher level than the angels. Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to hold on to His throne as proof that he, a mere mortal, had the capacity to reach a level that the angels cannot.
Chazal tell us that before Hashem gave the Torah, He first offered it to the other nations so that they would not be able to claim later that had they been offered it, they would have accepted it.
When each nation asked what was in the Torah, they were told about a mitzvah that would have been very difficult for them to keep. Yishmael, for instance, was told of the prohibition against stealing.
The Avnei Nezer wonders, if Bnei Yisrael had not been told of a specific commandment that would be difficult for them to keep, wouldn’t the other nations still have had reason to complain?
He explains that the mitzvah of hagbalah — the instruction that Bnei Yisrael were permitted to ascend the mountain only up to a certain point — was a commandment that goes against the very nature of a Jew. Instinctively, a Jew wishes to ascend higher and higher, seeking greater closeness to Hashem. Observing a limit to how high he can go is very difficult for a Jew. Yet Bnei Yisrael complied, earning the eternal, exclusive right to receive the Torah.
As we celebrate a new Mattan Torah, let us recognize that each of us has a set mission; each has a niche on the mountain of avodas Hashem. Each of us is a shining light, and each of us has the ability to reach levels that the angels can only envy.