Tovah was thoroughly enjoying herself. She and her family were touring Eretz Yisrael
, and today their destination was Kever Rochel
- the burial place of Rochel Imeinu
in Beis Lechem. The guide was explaining why Rochel Imeinu
was buried on the roadside and not in Meoras HaMachpeilah
, where the other Avos
are buried. Tovah wasn't really listening. She had learned all about this in school.
At the site, a few Chinese tourists who had been walking around taking pictures stopped to listen. Tovah noticed that they were nodding their heads as the tour guide spoke. "They look as if they really know what he is talking about," Tovah thought to herself, and she was even more surprised when one of the tourists took a book out of his bag and leafed through the pages as if looking for something. Soon he was reading silently to himself.
Tovah was very curious. She walked over and looked at the book. The Chinese tourist smiled and held it up for Tovah to see. "It's the Bible in Chinese," he said with a heavy accent. "I was just following the story your guide was telling."
Tovah was amazed to discover that the Torah had been translated into Chinese. But she really shouldn't have been. In this week's parshah - Devarim - we read that "Moshe explained the entire Torah very clearly." Rashi tells us that this means that Moshe translated the Torah into 70 languages.
Why? Because he knew that a time would come when the Jewish people would be living all over the world, and not everyone would understand Hebrew. And having the Torah in many languages also enables non-Jews to read it and learn about the seven mitzvos that they must keep.
But why was Moshe the one who translated the Torah? In his time, all Jews lived together and everyone understood Hebrew. It was not until hundreds of years later that the Jews would be spread out all over the world and speak other languages.
The reason is that Moshe Rabbeinu was the only person who "spoke face to face with HaShem," and the "Shechinah spoke from his mouth." Even though the translations of the Torah would not be needed until much later, the only person who could put the holy words of HaShem into other languages was Moshe Rabbeinu.
(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 875 ff; Vol. XXIV, p. 1ff)