Friday, September 14, 2012

Big Things, Little Things


"לא בשמים היא לאמור, מי יעלה לנו השמימה, ויקחה לנו וישמיענו אותה ונעשינה" [דברים ל:יב]
"It [this mitzvah / or torah] is not in the heavens, that you should say 'who will go up to the heavens and bring it to us, and teach it to us, that we may do it"
[Devarim 30:12]

The Torah tells us that it is all within reach. The Torah is not an esoteric wisdom that is totally inaccessible. Rather, Hashem has brought it down to earth (double meaning intended) for us to be able to perform it. As a further passuk proclaims "… it is within [the abilities of] your mouth and your heart to accomplish it…".

Rashi, when explaining this passuk, tells us that if the Torah were in the heavens, we would be obligated to go up and get it. This hints at a tremendous reality. We have the ability to ascend to the highest spheres and live a life of Torah – even if it were in the heavens ! If the Torah was "up there" we should be able ( and be obligated ! ) to live a heavenly life, divorced from the lower parts of the flesh and blood world.

But Hashem doesn't want that. He brought the Torah down into the little, daily details. Hashem wants us to wash our hands in the morning, He wants us to smile when we say thank you. He wants us to thank Him whenever we have a tasty bite of chocolate and He wants us to notice the table settings and their sparkle.

Why ? Why would Hashem, who gave us the highest, loftiest, wisdom and the deepest, holiest concepts, want us to busy ourselves with the mundanities and trivialities of daily existence ? because it is no trick for something huge and powerful to perform a huge and powerful action. It is no great feat for an enormously strong man to carry out an act of great strength, it is simply in his nature. But, when a powerful man gently takes a fragile flower in his hand – that is an incredible act.

It is insufficient for us, who are powerful and gifted enough to be able to reach the very heavens with our actions, to simply dedicate our "big acts" to Hashem. We should also realize, and accordingly, perform, our "little acts" for Hashem too. After all, it isn't in the heavens – it is close to our hearts and within reach of our mouth.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, September 07, 2012

White It Out


When the Jewish people cross the Jordan and enter into the promised Land of Israel, they perform an interesting rite. They are instructed (by G-d) to take twelve obelisks (large stones) and plaster them white. Once they have plastered them, the Jews must write the words of the Torah in "…a very through explanation" [Devarim 27:8]. Rashi explains this thorough explanation to be a translation into all seventy languages.

Why would the Jews have to record the Torah into languages they are not conversant in and why does G-d make a point of telling them to white out the stones first ?

When the Jews receive the Torah it is not just something for that generation. It is for ALL generations. This is expressed in many ways. Firstly, at mount Sinai, the souls of all Jews – current and future – were present, to show that they all received the Torah straight from G-d. Secondly, since there would be a time when the children of Israel would wander through the globe, the Torah was "given" in all seventy languages.

This also helps us understand the whiteout. When the Torah is given at Sinai – it was done in the Torah's own language. Every concept presented was fresh since it hadn't been said before. In other languages, this may not always be the case. Whichever term or Torah concept you refer to, there may be an alternate idea that has already been said – that you must differentiate from the Torah idea if you are to understand it properly. ( The irony of writing this specific Dvar Torah in English is not lost on me …) That is why the stones of translation needed to be whited out, to provide for as smooth as possible a beginning for our journey into understanding the word of G-d.

Before we undertake the next journey – the one into our new year – let us "white out" any baggage we may be carrying. Forgiveness and sincerity can go a long way towards accomplishing that goal.

Hatzlacha !!