Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Devarim 5631 First & Second Ma'amarim

All languages originate in the physical world, define it and are constrained by it. They are removed from the spiritual and connected to the physical. The single exception is the language of the Torah. The Torah came before the physical world. According to the Zohar, God looked into the Torah and created the universe. The Torah is the mechanism through which God imparts life and existence to the Creation. The very letters of the Torah give existence to the Creation. The language of the Torah is different than all other languages.

The Torah, because it is the source of life and our connection to God, can free all languages from their constraints. The Torah can be explained in any language. Although we may intuitively think that this is obvious, it is not. Moshe Rabbeinu, for example, was unable to formulate God’s message in a way that Pharaoh would understand. Before the Torah was given Moshe Rabbeinu told God, “לֹא אִישׁ דְּבָרִים אָנֹכִי/I am not a man of words.” Yet, after the Torah was given, “אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה .../These are the words that Moshe spoke …” and “…הוֹאִיל מֹשֶׁה בֵּאֵר אֶת-הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת/… Moshe began to explain this Torah.” Chazal teach us that Moshe Rabbeinu explained the Torah in seventy languages. We see that before the Torah was revealed in this world, God’s message could not be explained in any language. However, after the Torah was revealed, it could.

The Midrash Tanchuma brings a pasuk in Yeshayah to explain this idea, “אָז יְדַלֵּג כָּאַיָל פִּסֵּחַ וְתָרֹן לְשׁוֹן אִלֵּם .../Then the lame shall skip like a hart and the tongue of the mute shall sing …” At the final redemption the lame and the mute will be healed. The Sfas Emes explains that because all life will connect to its source there will be no sickness. All will be healed. The Torah, as we’ve said is the source of existence. It therefore has the power to heal the tongue.

The first Midrash in this week’s parsha develops this concept further. A pasuk in Mishlei states, “מַרְפֵּא לָשׁוֹן עֵץ חַיִּים .../A soothing tongue is a tree of life …” The simple meaning is that a person who speaks in a soothing manner to someone, gives that person life. However, the word marpei/soothing also means healing. Chazal tell us that eitz chayim/tree of life represents the Torah. The Midrash understands this pasuk homiletically as, “The Torah heals the tongue.” Language which is used to explain Torah is healed of its gross physicality becoming sublime and holy. This is why Chazal teach us that the Torah may be written in any language. By using language to understand Torah, the light of Torah informs the language and makes it holy. Any language, in essence, can be a tool for revealing the light of the Torah in the world.

The Chiddushei HaRim takes this idea a step further. He asks, “Why did Moshe Rabbeinu explain the Torah in seventy languages? Why was this necessary?” He explains that each of the world’s seventy nations has its own particular resistance to holiness. When Moshe Rabbeinu explained the Torah in a specific language, he enabled that language to be used to connect to the Torah. He activated the language, in a sense, for Torah. Thus, even in exile we are able to connect to the Torah notwithstanding the host nation’s resistance to holiness.

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