Parshat Vayelech, Rosh Hashana, Shabbat Shuva
By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
Write This Song
“Blessed are You HaShem Who teaches Torah to His People Israel.”
Just as Hashem teaches us Torah, so too we are commanded to study and teach Torah. The primary source to study Torah in the Rambam is actually “veshinantam” which means to teach. Furthermore, the Rambam doesn’t even begin the laws of Torah study with the obligation to study Torah, but rather with the obligation to teach it. In addition, the blessing for Torah study is said when speaking Torah, a matter which may also show that the Torah is meant to be outwardly spoken as if teaching. The Zohar, when discussing the commandment to study Torah, links this commandment to the verse “you shall take a contribution” (parshat Teruma) meaning that “contributing” Torah to others is a primary goal of Torah study. Obviously, one cannot teach Torah without first studying it himself, but nevertheless we see from these sources how teaching Torah to others is such an important part of Torah study. In regard to the blessing for Torah study, some poskim hold that also writing Torah requires that this blessing be said first. Again, in this context we see how writing Torah is similar to the outward speaking of it, as both are methods of teaching and “contributing” Torah to others. In this way we can also understand the Torah’s commandment in this parsha to write a Torah scroll.
The Torah, in context of this commandment, is called a “Song” – “Shir” (see Ralbag and Netziv on our title quote who interpret this verse in this way). The Mishna in Shabbat chapter five says, “all the animals that have a “sheir” can be pulled by a “sheir”.” Some commentators interpret this “sheir” to be similar to the word “sharsheret” (as also mentioned in parshat Tetzaveh in context of the Hoshen) which means a “chain.” The similarity between “shair”, chain, and “shir”, a song, point to a fascinating correlation between these concepts. A song connects the reader or listener to the more internal consciousness of the singer, and as such is like an internal “chain” or connection to the singer/poet. This “chain” is also performed through an internal “chain” within the song itself, making all parts of the song inter-connected in a unique way. Similarly, the Torah “chains” us to its Giver, Hashem, and is therefore also called a “testimony” in this parsha, as it is a testimony of the covenant, the connection and “chain”, between Hashem and us. In addition the Torah is an inter-connected whole, and therefore even one letter missing in a Torah scroll invalidates the Torah scroll, for by missing this letter the Torah scroll is lacking its “inter-connected wholeness.”
Now, we also understand why writing and teaching Torah are part of the commandment to “write the song” of the Torah. The “chain” we described also implies that just as we are “chained” and linked to Hashem by His giving us the Torah, so too we must continue on Hashem’s Will for this “chain” to continue, thereby obligating us also to give the Torah onto others.
On Rosh HaShana, Hashem “writes” in His book. As we just described “writing” in a book is an outward gesture that communicates with the potential reader or listener. Let us all be these “potential listeners” by imbibing the call of the shofar, which was also sounded at the Giving of the Torah. Let us all be “potential readers” by taking upon ourselves to continue the “chain of Hashem’s book – the Torah,” and may we thereby be written for life to continue this “chain” in our very lives.
Last week we mentioned that the Land of Israel is called the “Land of the Living.” This also means that the imprint of life is marked upon this Land, a matter that is called “Zion”, which means a “mark,” (tziun) for this “mark” is made by raising the power of the Holy Presence in this Land (we discussed this concept at length in a previous issue). Similarly, the names of the living are “imprinted” so-to-speak in the book of Hashem, in an outward way as we have just described. Also, Hebron, which means “connected” (hibur), hints to the “chained” connection with Hashem through this outward “communication” we have just described. May it be Hashem’s Will that through the merit of continuing the “chain” of Torah, especially in regard to “Zion” and in regard to “Hebron,” that we may all merit to be written in the Book of Life.
Our Sages say that “everything that happened to Yosef happened to Zion.” Commentators also explain that Yosef and Zion have the same numerical value (156). One of Hebron’s leading Rabbis who endeared Zion and was also named Yosef was Rabbi Yosef Mosayov (who we began to describe last week). Rabbi Yosef was a great and pious Torah scholar who also possessed excellent personal traits. Rabbi Yosef was also gifted in his worldly wisdom, and he was not only very highly esteemed among the Jews of Hebron, but also among Hebron’s Arab population as well. One story that depicts Rabbi Yosef’s cleverness was his dealing with an Arab robber who constantly robbed Jews, and who even threatened rape unless he received large sums. Only under Rabbi Yosef’s influence did this robber gradually take on Rabbi Yosef’s authority till he agreed to stop robbing entirely in exchange for receiving the regular stipend of the Jews that was customary to give in those days to the Jewish inhabitants of Hebron. After this, this Arab received the nickname “the black Rabbi,” as can be seen in the lists of the Jewish recipients of stipends in Hebron in those days…
Real Stories from the Holy Land #280
“Two days after writing last week’s dvar Torah for Nitzavim I heard someone, who doesn’t read my divrei Torah, reiterating the exact train of thought, mentioned in dvar Torah of Nitzavim, about shifting between “two hemispheres”… Moshe Goodman
Sources: Sefer Hebron pp. 155-156
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