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In The Garden Of The Torah
Insights of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita
on the weekly Torah Readings


Devarim 5754

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Publisher's Foreword

Shabbos Parshas Devarim is always Shabbos Chazon, the Shabbos preceding the fast of Tishah B'Av.

It is a Shabbos of conflicting feelings, for it is situated in the final days of the period of mourning for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

And yet, since it is Shabbos, it is also a day of rejoicing.

Indeed as R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would explain, on this day, every Jew is granted a vision of the Third Beis HaMikdash.

Conflicting feelings of this nature prevail in many sectors of the Lubavitch community at present. And at such a time the message of the essay that follows is particularly relevant.

For it explains that the entry into Eretz Yisrael must be preceded by internalizing the Torah's wisdom, fusing the infinite spiritual truth of the Torah with our mortal intellects.

May studying the Rebbe's teachings, applying them in our lives, and sharing them with others lead to the return of our entire people to Eretz Yisrael in the Era of the Redemption.

5 Menachem-Av, 5754


A Mortal Mouth Speaking G-d's Word

Adapted from:
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1087ff;
Vol. XIX, p. 9ff

The Uniqueness of the Book of Deuteronomy

This week's Torah reading begins: [1] "These are the words that Moshe spoke to the entire Jewish people."

Noting the distinction between this book and the previous four which are all "the word of G-d," our Sages explain [2] that Moshe recited the Book of Deuteronomy "on his own initiative."

This does not, G-d forbid, mean that the Book of Deuteronomy is merely a mortal invention.

Our Rabbis [3] immediately clarify that Moshe delivered his words "inspired by the Holy Spirit."

Similarly, when the Rambam defines the category of "those who deny the Torah," [4] he includes: "a person who says that the Torah - even one verse or one word - does not emanate from G-d. If one would say, 'Moshe made these statements independently,' he is denying the Torah."

And there is no single commentary who posits that there is a difference in this regard between the Book of Deuteronomy and the four preceding books.

Indeed, Moshe's identification with G-dliness was so great that when Moshe states, [5] "I will grant the rain of your land in its season," he speaks in the first person although the pronoun "I" clearly refers to G-d. [For] "The Divine Presence spoke from his mouth." [6]

On the other hand, it is also clear that the Book of Deuteronomy also involves Moshe's own thinking process.

To give an example:

There is a difference of opinion among our Sages whether the proximity (semichus) of two subjects in the Written Torah is significant or not. [7]

One opinion maintains that it is, while the other explains that although when mortals structure their thoughts, order is important. "Since the Torah was, [by contrast,] granted by the Almighty, the order of precedence is not significant." [8]

With regard to Deuteronomy, however, all authorities agree to the significance of the sequence of subjects.

"Moshe arranged it passage after passage for the sole purpose of allowing for extrapolation." [8]

Because Deuteronomy was recited on Moshe's initiative, the comprehension of this book requires that the rules of mortal wisdom must also be taken into consideration.

Above the Limits of Creation
The explanation of the above concepts depend on the appreciation of the relationship between the Torah and our world.

Our Sages state: "The Torah preceded the world." [9]

Here, the concept of precedence is not chronological, for time - like space - is a new creation, relevant only after G-d brought existence into being.

Rather the intent is that the Torah is on a level of spiritual truth which transcends our material framework of reference.

Although the Torah descends and enclothes itself in our world, speaking of ordinary matters such as agricultural laws, codes for fair business practice, and the proper structure for marriage and family relations, this is not the essence of the Torah.

The essence of the Torah is "G-d's will and His wisdom," as united with Him in perfect unity. [10]

Since the Torah is fundamentally above our worldly framework, for the Torah to enclothe itself in the world, it is necessary for it to pass through an intermediary who shares a point of connection to both the Torah's spiritual core and our mortal character traits.

Moshe our teacher possessed these attributes.

On one hand, Moshe represented the ultimate of "bittul" - selfless dedication - to G-d, a commitment which transcended worldly thought.

Simultaneously, he represented perfection in human qualities; his intellect, his emotions, and even his physical strength and stature [11] epitomized the complete expression of our human potential. As such, he was able to receive the Torah and transmit it to others. [12]

He was able to bring the transcendent spiritual truth of the Torah into a form which mortals could comprehend.

Two Contrasting Patterns

In particular, Chassidic thought describes two ways in which an intermediary functions:

  1. derech ma'avir: the intermediary functions merely as a funnel. He does not change or modify the influence he receives; he lowers it without causing it to undergo any fundamental change. As such, even as the influence is brought to a lower plane, it remains transcendent.

  2. derech hislabshus: the intermediary translates the concept into his own words and his own understanding. This changes the form of the concept's presentation, and in doing so, makes it possible for it to be internalized by the recipients and grasped by them on their own level.

To apply these concepts with regard to the Torah:

The first four books of the Torah were transmitted by Moshe without his personal input at all. He conveyed them to the Jewish people as he received them, without making any change. [13]

With regard to the Book of Deuteronomy, by contrast, its source was "the Holy Spirit," G-d's word.

In this instance, however, G-d's word became part and parcel of Moshe's own thought.

Based on this explanation, we can explain why all authorities agree that it is possible to derive points of Torah law from the order of subjects in the Book of Deuteronomy.

With regard to the first four books of the Torah, although the order is not accidental, it is structured by Divine wisdom, according to a pattern higher than of mortal thought. [14]

As such, since the determination of Torah law is "not in the heavens," [15] but rather given over to mortal intellect, there are opinions which maintain that the order of proximity in those books cannot serve as a source.

The Book of Deuteronomy, by contrast, was filtered through the medium of Moshe's intellect, and the order of its verses corresponds to that of mortal thought. Therefore, the proximity of subjects in this text can serve as a basis for the derivation of points of Torah law.

Internalized Knowledge

The question arises, however, why is the Book of Devarim necessary?

Seemingly, enclothing the Torah in human intellect does nothing but lower the Torah's spiritual content.

What purpose is served by G-d's enclothing the Torah in mortal thought?

Nevertheless, precisely this is G-d's intent in giving the Torah: that it permeate the realm of mortal thought and thus elevate man's understanding.

Whenever a person studies Torah, regardless of his spiritual level, he is internalizing G-dly truth, making the infinite truth of the Torah part of his personal nature.

Were there to have remained only four books in the Torah, it would have been impossible for our powers of understanding to unite completely with the Torah.

This was the goal accomplished by having the Book of Deuteronomy pass through the medium of Moshe's intellect. And Moshe's review of the Torah in this book gives us the capacity to understand the previous four books of the Torah in a similar fashion.

Elevating the Torah

Enclothing the Torah in mortal intellect does not merely grant man the opportunity for advancement, it also introduces a higher quality to the Torah itself as it were.

For clothing the limitless spirituality of the Torah in the confines of mortal intellect represents a fusion of opposites, a meeting of conflicting movements that is possible only through the influence of G-d's essence. [16]

Because G-d's essence transcends both finiteness and infinity, it can fuse the two together, and bring the spiritual truth of the Torah into the grasp of mortal intellect.

On the Banks of the Jordan

Moshe recited the Book of Deuteronomy as the Jews stood on the banks on the Jordan, preparing to enter Eretz Yisrael.

The crossing of the Jordan was to be a spiritual as well as a geographic transition.

During their journeys through the desert, the Jews depended on the miraculous expression of Divine favor: they ate manna, their water came from the well of Miriam, and the clouds of glory preserved their garments.

After entering Eretz Yisrael, by contrast, the Jewish people were to live within the context of the natural order, working the land and eating the fruits of their labor.

To make this transition possible, they required an approach to the Torah that would relate to man as he functions within his worldly environment. And for this purpose, Moshe taught them the Book of Deuteronomy.

Herein lies a connection to the present day, because we are also "on the banks of the Jordan" preparing to enter Eretz Yisrael together with Mashiach.

It is through the approach to the Torah emphasized by the Book of Deuteronomy - fusing the word of G-d with mortal wisdom [17] - that we will merit the age when - "the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d," [18] the Era of the Redemption.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Deuteronomy 1:1.

  2. (Back to text) Megillah 31b.

  3. (Back to text) Tosafos, op. cit.

  4. (Back to text) Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 3:8.

  5. (Back to text) Deuteronomy 11:13.

  6. (Back to text) See Zohar III, p. 232a; Shmos Rabbah 3:15.

  7. (Back to text) Berachos 21b, Yevamos 4a.

  8. (Back to text) Raaban (Rabbi Eleazar ben Nasan), sec. 34.

  9. (Back to text) Midrash Tehillim to 90:3, Bereishis Rabbah 88:2. See also the explanation of this concept in the maamar Issa B'Midrash Tehillim, 5653 (the maamar recited by both the Rebbe Rashab and the Previous Rebbe at their Bar-Mitzvah celebrations).

  10. (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 4.

  11. (Back to text) See Shabbos 92a, Nedarim 38a. See also the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1), which describes Moshe as "the most perfect of all mankind."

  12. (Back to text) See Avos 1:1.

  13. (Back to text) See the eighth of the Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Faith (Commentary to the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:1).

  14. (Back to text) See Sheloh 402b.

  15. (Back to text) Deuturonomy 30:12; c.f. B. Metzia 59b.

  16. (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, p. 117-118 which explains that the number five reflects a connection to G-d's essence. It is Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah, which expresses this dimension in the most comprehensive manner.

  17. (Back to text) This also relates to the unique contribution of Chabad Chassidus. Chabad is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning "wisdom, understanding, and knowledge." As implied by that name, the teachings of Chabad endeavor to convey the deepest mystical truths of our Torah in a form that can be grasped by mortal intellect.

    As the Baal Shem Tov taught (see the celebrated letter sent to his brother-in-law, Reb Gershon Kitover, published in Ben Poras Yosef), when the wellsprings of these teachings spread outward, Mashiach will come. See the essay entitled "Bridging the Gap," (Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. I, p. 101).

  18. (Back to text) Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 12:5.


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