Rabbi Yitzchak Holland
Former Rosh Kollel in Atlanta
The Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 3:14) states:
“Beloved is man, for he was created in the Image; it is an indication of greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in the Image, as it says, ‘For in the Image of God, He made man.’ (Breishit 9:6) Beloved are Israel, for they are called children of the Makom; it is an indication of greater love that it was made known to them that they are called children of God, as it says, ‘You are children of Hashem, your God.’ (Devarim 14:1) Beloved are Israel, for they were given a kli chemdah (literally, ‘a precious tool’); it is an indication of greater love that it was made known to them that they were given a kli chemdah, with which the world was created, as it says, ‘For I have given you a good lesson; My Torah, do not forsake it.’ (Mishlei 4:2)”
Basically, this Mishnah is composed of three elements:
The first part is, “Beloved is man, for he was created in the Image.” Man is different from the animals. As the Chassid Ya’avetz clarifies:
“And for this man stands upright, to show that his root and essence are above. And it is not so for animals; rather, they are bent over, to show that their root is on the earth. And with this advantage, man can leave his soul when he cleaves to intelligence. But this is very rare. Not more than one in a thousand can achieve this intelligence.”
The second part is, “Beloved are Israel, for they are called children of the Makom.” All of mankind was created in God’s Image, but only the Jewish people are referred to as Hashem’s children. The fatherson relationship far exceeds the relationship enjoyed by the rest of mankind.
The third part – “Beloved are Israel, for they were given a kli chemdah” – shows exactly how the fatherson relationship is different. HaKadosh Baruch Hu only gave his sons the “kli chemdah” – i.e. the Torah.
Each of the Mishnah’s three parts includes the phrase, “is an indication of greater love that it was made known.” In his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam writes:
“That You made known how you favored him – this is an additional favor. Because frequently, when a person does a favor for another out of pity, he does not inform him what he has done for him, because he looks down on him.”
HaKadosh Baruch Hu showed benevolence by informing us that He created man in His Image, that we are called “children of the Makom,” and that He gave us a kli chemdah.
Why did Hashem have to inform us about these matters?
We can understand why He let us know about the first and second parts. After all, if HaKadosh Baruch Hu had not told us that man was created in God’s Image, we would be unaware of man’s potential for greatness. Similarly, if Hashem had not informed us that we are called “children of the Makom,” we would be unaware of our special relationship. However, why did we need to be informed that we were given the kli chemdah? We know that the Torah was given to us and that we received it.
The answer is that if HaKadosh Baruch Hu had not told us that He gave us the Torah, we would be unaware of the Torah’s power and strength. Thus, Hashem revealed this to us. “It is an indication of greater love that it was made known to them that they were given a kli chemdah, with which the world was created.”
What is the nature of the Torah’s strength and power?
In his own commentary on the Mishnah, Rabbenu Yonah explains:
“This is the Torah with which the entire world was created, and all of creation was created in order to sustain it. And everything under the Heavens is there to fill the needs of those who serve the Torah. This can be compared to an artisan who has a tool for his trade, and he uses it for his craft. So, too, the Torah is HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s tool, and the entire world was created with it.”
The Chassid Ya’avetz expands on this idea:
“This can be compared to a man who has many assets, which he acquired in his lifetime. And he divided his assets among his sons, but to his most beloved son, he gave the tools with which he acquired all the other assets.”
Although the other sons may receive more in terms of quantity or their gifts may be more beautiful and more imposing, the favorite son receives the mechanism which produces everything else. He continues:
“And so, too, Hashem Yitbarach did when he bequeathed us His Torah, with which He created His world. And we can use it to renew the signs and wonders and to create newness in the world. And the reason is that the world is like clay, and the Torah is like its potter. Just as the clay is subservient to its form, so too the world is subservient to the Torah and to those who observe it.”
HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave us the Torah and informed us that He did so – in order that we not neglect this wondrous mechanism. Instead, we must employ this tool “to renew the signs and wonders and to create newness in the world.”
As we know, Shavuot is Yom Matan Torateinu – the day HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave us the kli chemdah, the Torah.
The Ramchal (Derech Hashem) teaches that the anniversaries of major events “reflect upon us a light which resembles the first light”. Hence, Shavuot is not simply a commemoration of the fact that we received the Torah over 3,500 years ago. Instead, we celebrate Yom Matan Torateinu. Shavuot is the time when we receive the Torah. Moreover, the great light which shone at Har Sinai shines anew during the festival – albeit with “a light which resembles the first light”.
Thus, the kli chemdah which HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave us during Matan Torah once again shines its great light in this world, and we can – and must – use this special time to receive and accept the Torah all over again.