Simhat Torah 5771 – Gilayon #670


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Simhat Tora

The Torah that Moses

commanded us is a legacy for the congregation of Jacob.

(Devarim 33:4)

 

And it can be said

that the word moreshet – "legacy" – refers

to the Land of Israel, and then the verse's meaning will be that it is thanks

to the Torah commanded to us by Moses that the Land of which the Torah writes, and

I will give it to you as a legacy, I am the Lord (Shemot 6:8) will be a legacy for the

congregation of Jacob. By observing the Torah we merit receiving it as an

inheritance; when we transgress against the Torah we are exiled and driven out

from it. And that is the meaning of morasha;

it is like the verse morish uma'ashirimpoverishes and makes wealthy (I Samuel 2:7); it contains two opposites

within itself, like vedashnu et hamizbe'ahThey shall remove the ashes from the altar (Bamidbar

4:13). When the congregation inherits [yoreshet]

or is made impoverished [yerushe] is entirely

dependent upon [whether they observe] the Torah.

(Rabbeinu

Behayeiy Devarim 33:4)

 

The Torah that Moses commanded us is a legacy for the

congregation of Jacob. The Sages said: He gave us 613

commandments, which can be calculated from the numerical value of the letters

in [the word] Torah [=611] [plus the 2 commandments] I am and You shall have no other gods, which were heard

directly from God. But see – it is impossible for each individual to observe

the entire Torah, because some commandments apply only to priests and not to

Israelites, and vice-versa, and so it is with other commandments which only apply

to the Levite or to the king. Rather, [the Torah] is only upheld by them all

together as one body, and see the SheLaH

at the beginning of his book. And see how it is written in the Torah, and all the people answered together and said,

"Everything the Lord has spoken we shall do" (Shemot 19:8). This

means that all of them together will uphold everything the Lord said,

for it is impossible for each individual to uphold

them, but rather only all of the people together. That is why [the Torah] was

not given until they were all joined together in one unit, as it is written, and

he camped (verse 2) [the verb appears

in the singular even though it applies to the entire people]. And that is what

R. Akiva said: "Love you neighbor as yourself

– that is the great principle of the Torah" (J.

Nedarim 9:4), for when they all form one unit

and love one another as described, the deeds of all of them will be counted as

if each individual had performed all of the commandments. And that is [the

meaning of] The Torah that Moses commanded us is a

legacy for the congregation of Jacob – only as a community

they will be able to observe it completely.

(Ketav Sofer Devarim 33:4)

 

Between the Torah's Completion and Its

Beginning

Ronen Ahituv

It is customary for Jews

to read the beginning of parashat Bereishit

immediately after completing the reading of the Torah on Simhat

Torah. This ensures that it will never be said that we have finished the Torah;

rather, we are always awaiting the coming Sabbath's reading. On a regular

Sabbath the Torah reading in the Minha service serves

this purpose; on Simhat Torah, it is done by reading

from Bereishit.

The expected comparison

between the Torah's conclusion and its beginning – which are read on the same

day – reveals great differences between them. Perhaps we are fortunate that the

two readings are separated by the lengthy announcement inviting the Hatan Bereishit

that obscures those differences to some extent.

The Torah opens with

God standing alone by the depths, creating the world and the system in which

history will take place. The beginning expresses loneliness and anxiety with

the phrases darkness on the face of the deep and spirit hovers over

the surface of the water, but later we repeatedly hear the optimistic

assessment was good and as things gradually take shape our hearts fill with

confidence and joy. The first chapter of Bereishit

has one perfect hero who can never fail, and therefore there are no doubts

accompanying the joy of Creation.

The Torah concludes

with a summary of the life of Moses, the foremost of prophets. With his death

comes a short obituary which emphasizes his great ability to perform miracles

before Pharaoh and Egypt

and to impress his own people with his mighty hand and great awe.

Moses was alone,

singular and unique, just as God was when creating the world. However, Moses,

in contrast to God, died. The mourning for Moses is emphasized – we know that

there will be no replacement of his stature. No other person will ever be so

close to God, and therefore his death leaves us orphaned.

The Torah does conclude

in a celebratory mood, but the joy of the Creation story is long gone. Moses

died in the wilderness without completing his mission; he cannot say of his

life's work that it "was good." The people still has a long and bumpy

road to travel and we are all too aware of the failures awaiting it.

All in all the Torah's

story, which begins with God's voice over the waters, seems to end in a

disappointing way.

We can already see in

the book of Bereishit how time after time God withdraws

Himself from His world. Having completed the work of Creation, He takes off on

a Sabbath holiday. That day is never completed, and in contrast to military

custom, God's Sabbath has no Saturday night – even when he returns to action He

does not continue creating the world, but rather acts in the world. As R. Yossi told the matron: "He sits and matches up couples…"

According to the Sages,

even before the sun set and the Sabbath began man managed to sin by

transgressing God's command, ending the human dream of living under the wings

of the Divine Presence in the Garden of Eden. It was not only the humans who

suffer in that story; God also had to distance Himself from humanity, the crown

of His Creation.

After the Generation of

the Flood sins and God destroys the world, He decides to lower His expectations

of humanity and makes due with our Father Abraham and his family – at least as

a first stage. Of course, this plan would also bring many disappointments,

wanderings and exile, repentance and additional sin…and the road is still

long.

Moses' death marks a

further stage: with the passing of the greatest of prophets – the one who God

knew face to face – God distances Himself yet another step away from the world.

From now on prophecy will be a rare and incomplete phenomenon as God moves

further and further away from the world He created.

With Moses' death, the

period of God's regular intervention in the daily life of the people comes to

an end. The manna will soon cease (Joshua 5)

and after a few years at war, Moses' successor, Joshua, will also walk off the

stage. Later in Scripture God may occasionally punish the people and speak to

prophets, but His influence on the life of the people – mot to mention His

influence on the rest of the world – wanes.

As we see in the parshiyot VaYelekh and VeZot HaBerakha, Moses entertains

no illusions; he knows very well that the people will become corrupt after his

death and earn severe punishment. Punishment will not help draw God closer to

His world; in fact, it will only push Him further away.

As in human life, the

biblical story expresses the gap between the joy of birth, the optimism of

receiving the commandments, and the day to day difficulties and the corruption

and breakdown that come in their wake.

The sins of humanity

recounted in the first two parshiyot and after them Israel's sins

in the wilderness and in the Land leave a bad taste in our mouths. We are left

wondering how the plan failed, why are there so many fiascoes in a world

created with such wisdom? And if it weren't enough that man sins and is

punished, why does God remove Himself from the world He so loves?

The Sages seem to have

given the best available answer to this question (in

J. Rosh HaShana 1:3; 57b).

There we find the following drasha on the verse, You have done great

things, You, O Lord my God. Your wonders and Your thoughts are for us (Psalms 40:6):

In the past You did much, from here

on in your wonders and thoughts are for us.

R. Levi said: [It is like the parable of] a king who had a

clock; when his son grew up he gave it to him.

R. Yosa bar Hanina

said: Like a king who had a watch-tower; when his son grew up he gave it to him

R. Aha said: Like a king who had a ring; when his son grew up

he gave it to him.

R. Hiyya said: Like a carpenter who

had carpentry tools; when his son grew up he gave them to him.

R. Yitzhak said: Like a king who had treasures; when his son

grew up he gave them to him.

And the Rabbis said: Like a physician who had a case full of

medicines; when his son grew up he gave it to him.

The clock, watchtower, ring, carpentry tools, and medicines

are the means through which the king ruled the world. The recurring reprise in

these drashot is "when his son grew up he gave

them to him." The king is not at all interested in ruling over and

controlling the world. All he wants is for his son to take on that

responsibility. True, the inexperienced son will repeatedly err and inflict

great harms on the kingdom, but the king continues to give him more chances,

since he is an adult. The son has no choice but to accept responsibility as the

king moves farther away; there is no one else to bear the burden of the son's

failures, save the son himself.

According to this beautiful parable, God did not create the

world in order to rule over it, but rather in order to hand it over to us; and

so at the very beginning of our journey it is written: and rule the fish of

the sea, etc. (Bereishit 1:28).

God's withdrawal from the world is simply the transmission of

responsibility into our human hands. This is not a process of loss or failure,

but rather a planned process of transmission of responsibility and power to

human beings. Seen from this point of view, the Torah is telling us a success

story in which man and the people are being weaned of the need for a direct

link with God as they mature. They do make quite a few mistakes, but they are

the ones who bear the consequences of those errors.

The laws of the Torah no longer appear to be a divine whim

which tries to take control of us but rather a set of instructions from a king

to his beloved son, meant to lessen the son's suffering and to guide his rulership over the world. We must remember that among the

items given the son was the ring – the authority to legislate and make

improvements – and the king's own laws are merely the starting point of a

journey which continues throughout the generations.

R. Isaac Luria refered to this

divine process as tzimtzum ["contraction"]. Tzimtzum is not an expression of

weakness, and certainly not of dishonor, but rather of faith in humanity. Even

when man disappoints and makes the process difficult God does not give up – He

continues to withdraw Himself yet further.

As far as humanity is concerned, this is not merely a gain in

power and ability, but first and foremost the taking up of responsibility and

the understanding that we possess only one world and if we spoil it, there will

be no one else to clean up after us.

Ronen Ahituv lives in Mitzpe Netufa. He is a teacher and a darshan.

 

"Rejoice and Be

Happy on Simhat Torah" – On the Difference Between Joy (Sasson)

and Happiness (Simha)

Simha

is present on the occasion of the beginning or the renewal of something

which makes man happy; sasson is

present when that something reaches positive completion, as in [the verse from

the liturgical poem, El Adon], "Happy in

their going out, and rejoicing upon arrival" – when they [celestial

sources of light] go out to shed light upon the earth, they are happy; when

they reach the west, having completed their beneficial activity, they are

joyful… This being the case, why, in reference to Simhat

Torah, do we first say "Rejoice" and afterwards "Be happy"?

It is because these commands are said after the reading of the Torah; we

complete the Torah cycle, and immediately begin again from Bereishit.

Therefore we say "Rejoice" upon the completion and "Be

happy" on the new beginning.

(Brought in Taamei Haminhagim (Mekore Ha'dinim) attributed to the Gaon of Vilna)

 

For in

the image of God did He create man

In the matter of this image the righteous and the wicked are equal. This

is a man and this is a man.

(Rav

Saadia Gaon, Bereishit 9:6)

 

But this is true only of the superior man, as he was prior to the sin.

(NaTziV,

HaAmek Davar,

Bereishit 1, 27)


For you

are dust, and to dust you will return

We have already explained that this is not a punishment. On the

contrary, God explained to him that He is not punishing him with death because

he did not eat intentionally; death is a part of nature, for you are dust,

and to dust you shall return. You will not be eligible for reward unless

the soul is separated from the corpus, and the earth regains its earlier

strength, and then will the soul return to be bound up with life, to receive

its reward and to delight in the light of the face of the living God [Compare with RaMBaM, Hilkhot Teshuva 8].

(HaNaTziV,

HaAmek Davar,

Bereishit 3:19)


The

voice of your brother's blood cries out to me from the adama

[earth]

In verses 10-12 the word adama is

replaced by the word eretz with sharp

contrast in meaning. Earth is betrothed to Man [Trans. Note – the name Adam,

the generic term for Man, derives from adama]

in order that he live upon it a life of sanctity, and therefore she is called adama. But the eretz

[earth] cannot be adama for Man unless he

respects the rights of his fellow man. There can be no adama

for the murderer. The earth – as adama – demands

that justice be meted out to the murderer.

(From Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch's commentary on Bereishit

4:10)

 

Midrashei

Tzafon

From the pen of

our member, Ronen Ahituv

Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and

bore Cain, and she said, "I have acquired a man with the Lord."

Earlier the woman

was created from Adam's rib, and he said of her, for this one is taken from

a man.

And she was his

property, for it is said, When a man takes a woman.

Now a man is created

from a woman, and the fetus is "its mother's thigh."

Regarding the child

Eve said, I have acquired a man, inasmuch as he

derives from her rib and he is her property.

And what does with

the Lord signify? That God agreed with her.

 

Shabbat Shalom

Celebrates Its Bar Mitzva

The illustration

found on the first page of this issue first appeared in issue number 51 (Simhat Torah 5759) of Shabbat Shalom. There is

something symbolic in a return to earlier days, just as the reading of VeZot HaBrakha is followed

immediately by Bereishit on Simhat

Torah.

We have travelled a

long road since we began publishing Shabbat Shalom and distributing it

in synagogues and via email and the Internet. Now, as we celebrate its "Bar

Mitzva," we should look back upon our journey

and contemplate the significance of this parashat hashavu'a sheet, which deliberately and frequently allows

other voices to be heard.

When our member

Prof. Gerald Cromer z"l initiated publication of

the sheet and its distribution in synagogues towards the end of 5757, it was

important for us to broaden the spectrum of opinions to which worshippers were

exposed; at that time it was clear that all the parashat

hashavu'a sheets spoke in a single voice and

emphasized one side of the triangle: the Land of Israel, the People Israel, and

the Torah of Israel.

We wanted to

supplement this reading of our sources with concern for human dignity (that all

human beings are created in the divine image), the proper treatment of

strangers and aliens, peace, and social justice as important Torah values which

are relevant for the sovereign Jewish society of the independent State of

Israel.

To that end we drew

a huge collection of sources from the Torah, the Talmuds,

Midrashim, and philosophical literature to present

another facet of Judaism. We also mobilized many writers to suggest original

readings based on earlier interpretations; I hope that we have contributed our

share to the "seventy faces of the Torah," have managed to open a

window to the Torah's complexity, and perhaps have offered an example of

"the Torah of Life."

We are pleased to

see that the materials we publish have aroused responses, including those from

readers who have criticized our messages.

We are pleased by

the evolving discussion and we occasionally publish readers' reactions, since

we hold open and dignified discourse to be of the upmost importance.

A few months ago the

book Derishat Shalom, which is based

upon articles taken from Shabbat Shalom, made its appearance. That book,

which is edited topically, constitutes a further stage in spreading the Torah

of love as against the Torah of hate which has unfortunately enjoyed some

resonance in recent months.

As in every year, I

would like to thank my faithful partners who make possible the publication and

distribution of Shabbat Shalom. My thanks to Dov

Abramson and Harry Langbeheim, whose original pictorial

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and yours, we shall continue to spread the Torah of peace and justice in the

future as well.

Hazak

hazak ve'nit'hazeik

Pinchas

LeiserEditor

 

Good

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