From The Introduction To Tifferes Torah
The following is a translation of the introduction to the
sefer Tifferes Torah by HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus.
It was recently published separately as a pamphlet, upon the
advice of HaRav Yisroel Elia Weintraub, to call attention to
the important message that it contains.
In the first part, HaRav Pincus explained that the
essence of life, its main task that we must not forget for
even a moment, is establishing a relationship with
Hakodosh Boruch Hu. "The essence of
Yiddishkeit is our nation's establishment of a pact,
or an alliance (bris), with Hakodosh Boruch
Hu. . . . the meaning and purpose of each person's life
in this world is to attain closeness to Hashem -- for here
is where the greatest closeness can be attained -- and to
live together with Him. This, and nothing else, is the sum
total of man's life."
HaRav Pincus explains that we should not confuse the goal
of this world with its essence: the goal of this world is
Olom Haboh, but its essence is living and enhancing
our attachment to Hashem, here.
What I Have Done For You
Let us return to the pesukim in parshas Yisro,
which begin, "You have seen what I did to Egypt . . . " The
true explanation of this posuk seems to be as
follows. When entering marriage, the most fundamental thing
that a woman wants to know is, "Does he care about me?
Perhaps I'm not worth anything to him?"
Addressing this point, Hakodosh Boruch Hu said, "The
whole world is Mine. There are plenty of bad things in it
and plenty of misfortunes Rachmono litzlan, all kinds
of illnesses and accidents, but there is a limit. Did it
ever happen that all of a country's water turned into blood?
Whatever else happens, water remains water! In Egypt,
something happened that has never happened before: water
turned into blood!
"Did I ever bring a plague of frogs upon an entire country,
a plague that reached into their ovens and their stomachs?
Or such a plague of lice, says Hashem -- has it ever
happened that all of a country's dust turned into lice? Have
you ever seen hordes of wild animals entering a populated
region? All this is unnatural.
"I simply `went overboard,' as it were, and did things that
I've never done before. Why? What for? Because they harmed
you. And harming you is like harming Heaven's most precious
These were Hashem's opening remarks -- "You can see how much
I care about you." Imagine a sweet and gentle father, who
sees someone touch his only son. He cares so deeply for his
son that he's liable to reach the boiling point and do
things that are really out of character, that he's never
done before in his life.
So it is in Heaven -- "See how much pain I have because of
what happens to you. See how much I care, to the point of
madness," as it were. This was the introduction, so that
we'd never look heavenward and say. "What does He care?"
He cares deeply, to the very depths of His Being, as it
were. This is the alef, the first, most elementary
lesson in Yiddishkeit.
"...And I carried you on eagle's wings and I brought you to
Me." This is the heart of the "deal." It's not about "reward
and punishment," nor is it any kind of "deal" at all. What
it's about is, " `I brought you to Me', so that we should be
close and attached to one another."
A Covenant is Everlasting
The Chasam Sofer (in Teshuvos, Yoreh Dei'ah #356,)
expresses his amazement at the Rambam for counting belief in
the coming of Moshiach among his ikrim, his
thirteen principles of faith. The Chasam Sofer writes, "I
cannot possibly believe that our [future] redemption can be
one of the principles of our religion and that, were `the
wall to collapse,' choliloh, that we would say, that
if our sins chas vesholom led to His divorcing us
forever, like Rabbi Akiva held about the ten tribes -- that
they were banished forever -- would we be allowed to throw
off the yoke of Heaven's rule, or to change even a decree of
the rabbonon by the minutest fraction?
Choliloh, we are not servants of Hashem just in order
`to eat from the fruit of the land and be satisfied by its
goodness." We want to fulfill Hashem's will. Whatever
happens, in whatever circumstances, we are Hashem's
servants. Let Him do with us whatever He wishes and whatever
He wants. [Belief in redemption] is neither a principle, nor
a foundation, upon which the building of an edifice
"However, since the most fundamental thing of all is to
believe in the Torah and the prophets, which speak about our
ultimate redemption in parshas Nitzovim and in
parshas Ha'azinu, as the Ramban writes there, and
about which the prophets spoke a great deal, anyone who
entertains doubts about the redemption denies the principle
of belief in Torah and in the prophets."
What emerges from these words is that we certainly believe
that the future redemption will take place, why does this
make such belief into one of the principles of faith? Were
Moshiach not to come, in what way would the last
generation be different from any of the preceding ones, who
did not merit to see Moshiach, yet who still served
Hashem and entered Gan Eden and Olom Haboh?
Why, without faith in the final redemption, is faith in
Torah undermined to the point where the former becomes one
of the fundamental principles?
The answer seems to be that belief in Moshiach is not
an ikkar on account of its role in the future,
because of the events that will take place at the end of
days. It is a fundamental principle because of its role in
the present! The heart and soul of Yiddishkeit, here
and now, is to understand the meaning of what happens to us
in the present, every single day that the golus
The essence of Yiddishkeit is the covenant of love
which Hakodosh Boruch Hu made with am Yisroel
at Har Sinai, here, in this world. The main
consummation of the covenant takes place in Eretz Yisroel,
in the Beis Hamikdosh. A covenant can only be called
such, if it is everlasting. Were Hakodosh Boruch Hu
to chas vesholom reject Yisroel forever, then Torah
and mitzvos would become a simple matter of reward and
punishment, even though Hashem's will would still be that we
fulfill the mitzvos. A gentile is also not allowed to throw
off the yoke of Heaven's rule or to deviate in the smallest
way from Hashem's word.
When the Chasam Sofer writes, "We want to fulfill Hashem's
will. Whatever happens, in whatever circumstances, we are
Hashem's servants. Let Him do with us whatever He wishes and
whatever He wants," these are very lofty aspirations, but
this is not Yiddishkeit, because Yiddishkeit
means the existence of a covenant of love and attachment to
For example, if a father throws his son out of the house, is
there any difference whether he intended it as an
educational measure, in order to train his son and to teach
him better ways by showing him anger, or whether he threw
him out completely and really doesn't want to see him at
close quarters ever again? There is, of course, all the
difference in the world; not only to the future but to the
Were Moshiach never to come, it would mean that
Hashem had divorced us, that the whole covenant to begin
with had only been for a certain time, and therefore not a
real covenant at all. The most fundamental, the most
essential element would be missing.
Owing or Deserving?
It appears to me, moreover, that the above is not only true
of the foundation of Yiddishkeit, but also of the
fundamental reason for the world's creation. It is well
known that the purpose of creating the world was that there
should be reward and punishment, so that the delights of
Olom Haboh should be earned and not be "the bread of
In Daas Tevunos, the Ramchal writes, "For Hashem,
yisborach Shemo, is certainly the ultimate in
goodness and it is the nature of Goodness to do good and
this is why He, yisborach Shemo, wanted to make
creations, so that He could do good to them. For if there is
no recipient of the good, then there is no doing good.
However, in order that this good should be complete, He
knew, in His exalted wisdom, that those receiving it should
earn it through their own toil. Then they are the true
masters of that good and will have no shame in receiving the
good, as one experiences when receiving charity from
another. Concerning this they said (Yerushalmi Orloh
1:3), `Someone who eats what is not his, is ashamed to
look his benefactor in the face.' " This is a well known
idea that is mentioned by all the commentators.
The question can be asked however, that the Chovos
Halevovos writes (in the fourth chapter of Shaar
Habitochon), in discussing reward and punishment, that
giving anyone reward for his good deeds is, "Kindness and
goodwill and goodness on Hashem's part, as the posuk
(Tehillim 62:13) says, `And to You Hashem, is kindness,
for You repay a man according to his deeds.' The reason for
this [being such a kindness on Hashem's part] is that were a
person to have as many good deeds as the grains of sand on
the seashore, they would not balance a single one of the
good things that the Creator yisborach does for a
person in this world. How much more so [is a person
undeserving] if he has a sin. And if the Creator were to be
particular about demanding thanks, then all a person's deeds
would disappear and be lost in comparison to the smallest of
the Creator's kindnesses towards him."
Chazal's comment in the medrash (Vayikro Rabboh 27),
is also well known: "Rabbi Yirmiyoh the son of Rabbi Elozor
said, `In the future, a bas kol will blast from the
mountaintops and say, "Whoever has acted on Hashem's behalf,
let him come and take his reward." This is the meaning of
the posuk (Bamidbor 23:23), "At that time it will be
said to Yaakov and to Yisroel . . . " Ruach hakodesh
says, "Who preempted Me, [let him come forward] and I will
pay him? Who praised Me before I gave him a soul? Who
performed a circumcision for My sake, before I gave him a
male child? Who built a parapet before I gave him a roof?
Who made me a mezuzoh, before I gave him a house? Who
built a succah before I gave him a place? Who made a
lulav before I gave him money? Who made
tzitzis before I gave him a tallis? Who
separated pei'oh before Me, before I gave him a
field? Who separated terumoh for Me, before I gave
him a granary? Who separated challah before Me,
before I gave him dough? Who set aside an offering before
Me, before I gave him an animal?' "
Simply put, it is clear that no one really deserves reward
for their good deeds. What then, is the meaning of the
system of reward and punishment, by which the world
operates, so that we should not eat "the bread of shame"?
One way or the other, everything is a gift and whatever we
achieve, our reward will remain "the bread of shame." What
then, was the purpose of creating this world?
The answer seems to be that the world is certainly here so
that we should not eat "the bread of shame." But the reason
why our recompense will not be "bread of shame" is not
because we deserve the pleasure of Olom Haboh.
Of course, everything is kindness and a free gift. However,
if a son is supported by his father, and the father fixes up
everything in his son's life, buying him an expensive
apartment and equipping it with fine furniture -- is that
the bread of shame? If a millionaire takes a wife from a
poor but fine family and places a hundred servants at her
disposal, gives her a life of luxury, and brings her
expensive gifts and jewelry -- is that the bread of shame?
Where there is a close relationship, where there is love and
belonging, there is no shame in receiving.
This is what we have come to this world for. Not to earn
Olom Haboh as our wages but to attain closeness and
attachment to Hashem to the point where Hashem calls us, "My
daughter, my sister, my mother . . . " Then, when we take
our place at the great, infinite banquet, we will not feel
that we are eating "the bread of shame." It will be our
rightful portion, on account of the closeness and the love
which we attained while in this world.
This is the meaning of the mishnah (Ovos perek 6),
"Whoever learns Torah for its own sake is called a friend,
beloved . . . " for this is the purpose of everything.
Hashem said about Avrohom Ovinu (Bereishis 18:19),
"for I have known him," which Rashi explains as, "an
expression of endearment like, `an acquaintance of her
husband' (Ruth 2:1), `for Boaz is our acquaintance'
(3:2), and `and I will know you by name' (Shemos
33:17)" [in each case, the knowledge implies
It seems that Yirmiyohu Hanovi's outcry can be understood in
the same way (2:8): "And those who hold onto the Torah have
not known Me!" The nation's finest, those who cling to
Torah, were lacking in regard to the entire purpose of
creation -- attaining love, endearment and closeness to
I Want to Cleave to You
All this is stated explicitly in parshas Lech Lecho,
where the Torah writes (Bereishis 15:1), " . . . Do not
be afraid Avrohom, I am protecting you, your reward is very
great. And Avrohom said to Hashem . . . `What will You give
me, and I am going childless . . . ' "
The posuk's language seems very strange. How could
Avrohom Ovinu ask Hashem yisborach, "What will You
give me?" Hashem is unlimited, as the posuk says
(Iyov 42:2), "I know that You can do anything, and
that no plan is beyond You." Hashem is able to give better
things than children, without any limit. Is there any limit
to what He can do?
The commentators on this posuk were aware of this
difficulty and they explain Avrohom's question as referring
to reward in this world. However, the problem remains, for
Hashem is able to give anything at all in this world as well
as the next. The explanation however is, that Hakodosh
Boruch Hu told Avrohom explicitly that his "reward"
would be very great i.e. it would be a reward for serving
Hashem. It was to this that Avrohom referred in his
His meaning was, "Hashem, if it is to be a reward, then the
whole content is lacking. Does a father give his son a
"reward?" Does a husband tell his wife, `If you prepare a
good meal, you'll be paid well?' What will You give me? The
whole meaning of such a gift is not what I want. The essence
of Yiddishkeit is missing. I don't want reward. I
want closeness, attachment. I want a son from whom Klal
Yisroel will issue. They will make a covenant of love
with You, because this is the meaning of life and its
ultimate purpose. Nothing has value besides this. Whatever
You give me, even eternal pleasures, are worthless. They are
the portion of the nations. Pious gentiles who receive a
portion in Olom Haboh can have eternal pleasure but
for a Jew, there is only cleaving to Hashem, closeness and a
covenant of love with Hashem Himself."
This was what Avrohom Ovinu, and the other holy ovos,
wanted and this is the desire and the essence of every
Torah Makes the Connection
For there to be a connection and an attachment between two
parties, there must be something in the middle that holds
onto both of them and through which they are connected. This
is the Torah. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is joined, as it
were, to the Torah and to the degree that Yisroel are
connected to Torah, they are connected to Hakodosh Boruch
Torah is thus the ultimate purpose and the heart of
everything. This characteristic of Torah is primarily that
of Yaakov Ovinu. It is known as tifferes, splendor,
for splendor is only recognized when a multitude of shades
and hues unite to form a harmonious whole. The posuk
(Bereishis 37:2) says, "These are the generations of
Yaakov, Yosef . . . " for Yosef was the bearer of the
characteristic known as "for all in Heaven and earth"
(Divrei Hayomim I 29:11), which unites Heaven and
earth and which brings the attachment to Hashem
yisborach through learning and involvement with Torah.
When this attachment exists, we are referred to as "Yisroel,
[it is] in you that I attain splendor."