We read the Ten Commandments on Shavuot (be there!), when we celebrate G‑d giving the Torah to the Jews on Mt. Sinai. Shavuot and G‑d's giving of the Ten Commandments have a special significance that affects our entire year. The Ten Commandments begin with the words "G‑d spoke all of these things to say". Many commentaries ask the same question: The words used in the beginning and end of the verse, "spoke" and "to say" are used throughout the Torah when G‑d requires that the information be transmitted to people who were not present at that specific time. And yet it is a basic tenet of Judaism that all the Jewish people were present at Mt. Sinai, even the souls of those yet to live; they all heard the Ten Commandments. If so, why do we need the word "to say"?

Rabbi Dov Ber, known as the "Magid of Mezrich", was the main student of the Baal Shem Tov. He answers by explaining that the whole purpose of giving the Torah on Mt. Sinai was to infuse the Ten Commandments of the Torah (as hinted by the word "spoke"), into the Ten Utterances with which G‑d created the world - "Let there be light", "Let there be a firmament", etc. (hinted at in the verse by the word "to say"). The Ten Commandments were spoken to the entire world in order to link and arrange them in relation to the Ten Utterances. This is the reason these two words are used here.

It is our job to cause the light of the Torah…to illuminate the physical aspects of the world….

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains how we can apply this teaching in our relationship to the world and to better serve G‑d. It is our job to cause the light of the Torah, as embodied in the Ten Commandments and Jewish tradition, to illuminate the physical aspects of the world, as exemplified by the Ten Utterances. Religion and the world are not separate (contrary to the belief that when you are in synagogue you act one way, and in the "real" world you act differently).

A Jew is not only required, he or she is actually empowered, to act according to rules and standards of the Torah in all aspects of life. Clearly, the focus here is not about those things that the Torah forbids, like eating pork or stealing, but rather specifically about things that the Torah permits. We have to infuse those areas with Jewish energy, not to get lost in the physical. For example, when we eat, to remind ourselves that since the destruction of the Temple, the kitchen table is like the altar. When we pray, we are like the High Priest in his intimate relationship to G‑d. Even sleep is so our soul can ascend to heaven, to be refreshed, so we can again awake and serve G‑d with all of our strength. As Shavuot approaches, let each of us make a resolution to take some part of our lives in which until now the world dictated how we were to behave, and imbue it with the light of Torah, allowing us to elevate it and make it holy.

This directive to take initiative is also found in this week's Torah portion. "Naso" hints to the essence of the entire portion and therefore indicates what is expected of us during the week. "Naso" means "to carry" or "to raise up". This week we are commanded to see ourselves on an elevated level - that we are not just followers, but also leaders. No matter what a person's current situation, in some area they have the ability to lead, to influence someone else for the good. Just as the poorest person is also required to fulfill giving charity to help another, even a person poor in knowledge can still direct someone else, who is on a lower level, in a positive way.

Similarly, the word "naso", "to raise", is telling us that when faced with an obstacle, we have the strength of "Naso" - to rise above and overcome this difficulty. Everything we do this week is with this ability. With this knowledge nothing can stop us from fulfilling our goals!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach, Shaul