Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yisro 5634 Second Ma'amar

Chazal[1] understand the following pasuk as referring to Moshe Rabbeinu receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, the subject of this week’s parsha, “עָלִיתָ לַמָּרוֹם שָׁבִיתָ שֶּׁבִי לָקַחְתָּ מַתָּנוֹת .../You ascended on high, you took a captive, you acquired gifts …” (Tehillim 68:19) Chazal explain that Moshe Rabbeinu “captured” the Torah from the angels. Capturing implies that he took it for free. The pasuk corrects this assumption by telling us that Moshe acquired the Torah. Acquiring something implies working to get it. Although he worked to get it, the pasuk calls the Torah a gift.

If Moshe Rabbeinu worked to get it, why is it considered a gift? The Chiddushei HaRim explains that it is not possible to receive the Torah through sheer hard work. The Torah is God’s message to us and is much large and deeper than our ability to receive it no matter how hard we try. There is only one way to receive the Torah; God must give it to us. God will only give the Torah, though, to one who exhibits a strong desire for it. The way to exhibit a strong desire is by working hard to receive it.

This is the meaning of the pasuk in Tehillim according to Chazal. “...לָקַחְתָּ מַתָּנוֹת .../… you acquired gifts …” Moshe Rabbeinu worked hard to receive the Torah. He spent forty days and nights on Mount Sinai without food or water. He was awake the entire time as well. He certainly exhibited a strong desire for it and this was necessary, albeit it was not enough. Ultimately, the Torah was given to him as a gift.

Chazal[2] elsewhere allude to this concept. “Rebbi Yitzchak said, If one says to you, ‘I worked hard (learning Torah – Rashi) but did not find (the answer)’, do not believe him. (If he says,) ‘I did not work hard, yet I found (the answer),’ do not believe him. (If he says,) ‘I worked hard and found (the answer)’, believe him.” In Hebrew the word for “find” connotes an object found with no exertion of effort. For example, a person finds a $100 bill while walking down the street. In English as well, we call it “found money”. Accordingly, there is an apparent difficulty here. Finding the answer implies no exertion of effort. Yet, Rebbi Yitzchak exhorts us to believe him only if he says that he worked hard.

The answer to this quandary is the Chiddushei HaRim’s concept. Although generally a found object is not the result of hard work, “finding” Torah is different. Rebbi Yitzchak is teaching us the same thing as the Chiddushei HaRim. When it comes to learning Torah, the only way to receive it is through hard work. However, success cannot be the direct result of the hard work because the Torah is too vast and too deep for our minds to grasp. Rather, as a result of our hard work, God gives us the Torah as gift.

The Sfas Emes goes a step further and teaches that while we are required to give our all for the Torah, we do not need to pay to learn it. The main attribute that is needed is desire. In fact, the Torah “pays” us. Whomsoever has a true desire to receive Torah receives life from the Torah in this world and the next.

[1] Shmos R. 28:1
[2] Megillah 6b

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