From Droshos Chasam Sofer, Drush for the Seventh of Teves
7-9 Teves, Three Days Of Darkness -- The Torah's Translation
Into Greek: The Chasam Sofer On The Septuagint
In this extract from one of his annual Teves discourses,
which included hespedim for prominent tzadikim
who had passed away during the course of the past year, the
Chasam Sofer pinpoints the rapport with gentile ideas that is
facilitated by the Torah's translation into their language,
as one of the major causes of misunderstanding Torah,
abandonment of mitzvos and loss of faith, Rachmono
. . . I would also like to explain what is mentioned in
Shulchan Oruch (siman 580) -- that when the Torah was
translated into Greek for King Ptolemy, there were three days
of darkness in the world, the eight, ninth and tenth of
Teves. What was the cause of this darkness?
The history books tell us that the Jews were highly respected
for this [achievement] and that they won the favor and
respect of the king and his ministers, who praised the
Torah's beauty and wisdom. From then on, they sent sacrifices
and gifts to the Beis Hamikdosh.
The matter can be explained with the parable of a king who
possessed a wonderful piece of royal clothing. While the
garment itself was tailored of scarlet cloth, with
refinements, the fabric and its color were scarcely visible
through the precious stones and pearls that studded it.
Besides the jewels' [intrinsic] worth and importance, each
one embodied some allusion to the king's rule, to the wars he
had fought, to his honor, or to the glory of his ancestors.
Whenever he donned this garment in the company of his
ministers and servants who dwelt in his palace, he was
esteemed and exalted in their eyes because they understood
its full significance. At the same time, the king's stature
and power also grew and his mighty rule extended across the
One day, the king's subjects expressed a strong desire to see
their ruler in person. The king travelled through his entire
kingdom, passing through each of his lands. As he was making
his way wearing his royal garment, he heard all the people
saying, "How beautiful and pleasant this precious garment is.
The likes of this scarlet hue have never been seen before.
What a pity it is and what a great waste, that it is covered
with those worthless stones. They conceal the garment's true
beauty, which everyone longs to see."
When the king heard what they were saying [and realized] that
they were unanimous in their opinion, he was influenced by
them. He gave orders for the precious stones and pearls to be
removed so that the surface of the garment itself could be
seen, with its scarlet embroidery and fine details. His
subjects then praised and lauded him even more, extolling him
and his glorious standing.
One of the king's highly distinguished ministers was there,
wearing an expression of extreme displeasure. The king asked,
"Why are you upset? You must bear me malice if it pains you
so deeply to see my honor and great glory."
The minister replied, "It upsets me to see the people ruling
you and to see how you have been swayed by what they say. The
more they acclaim you for the scarlet garment, the more you
will spurn the precious stones, which are the glory of your
father's house. In the end you will neglect them. The dust
will gather on them and they will no longer shine and
glitter. Your own honor and that of your family will be
forgotten and you will spend all your time on having large
numbers of scarlet garments made throughout your country. In
the end, even the country folk will dress like you and there
will be no discernible difference between rich and poor.
"If it pleases Your Majesty, in view of the fact that you do
wish to indulge the people's wishes, give instructions for
the stones to be attached to the garment in such a way that
they can be removed at any time you so wish and then
immediately returned. When you go to view your lands, reveal
a little of the garment at a time, sometimes on this side,
sometimes on that, so that the people will also enjoy
whatever they can but you never lose sight of who you are and
the home that you come from. Then you will rule over them and
not vice versa."
The king followed this advice and was successful.
The meaning of this parable is as follows: Hakodosh Boruch
Hu, Himself, made His nation, Yisroel, honorable rulers
of the world. He bedecked them in garments of light, namely
our holy Torah. Its cloth is woven from the fundamentals of
intellect, understanding and comprehension of the realm of
philosophy [i.e. Theology], for all its commandments and laws
are arranged in such a way that all who see them recognize
that it is the work of a master Craftsman. This corresponds
to the scarlet garment with its fine details.
But the garment is covered with glorious [adornments that
are] more precious than pearls and more valuable than
anything else in existence. Each of their edges and corners
alludes to supernal mysteries, upon which [the existence of]
all the worlds [both upper and lower] depends, through which
[mysteries] these worlds were created and formed, as is
known. Every discerning individual realizes that [these
adornments] bear the Divine imprint. However, this awareness
is not common to everyone -- only to those who dwell in the
holy King's palace.
Nowadays, the nations and rulers of countries want to see the
glory and beauty of the Torah-garment. They do not understand
the exalted level of the precious stones [which correspond
to] the Torah's secrets and [to] the allusions of the
[letters'] crowns, the pointing and the letters [themselves].
They demand that all the precious stones be removed and that
the Torah be translated into a foreign language so that the
scarlet garment itself can be seen. With that done, they
recognize that Torah's wisdom of exceeds that of all other
religions and "Pharaoh's princes extol her" [a play on
Bereishis 12:15]. As a result, great honor is accorded
to bnei Yisroel, who are treated as masters of all the
other nations when the latter witness their Torah's wisdom
and their abundance of intellect as the medrash says
on the posuk (Eichah 1:2), "Great among nations."
However, in our many sins, by becoming masters [and attaining
prominence] over the nations [in this way], the exact
opposite happens -- they become our rulers. [This happens] by
our listening to them and being swayed by what they say,
removing the precious stones, the Torah's secrets and
traditions of Chazal, so that all that remains is the scarlet
garment, the realm of philosophy. Meanwhile the Oral Torah,
which is represented by the precious stones, is set aside and
its appearance grows dull.
The truly wise are thus saddened by the increase of honor
that is accorded at such a time [when the Written Torah is
made accessible to the nations]. Their world grows dark with
the realization that bnei Yisroel will ultimately be
enticed [by involvement in this pursuit] and will waste their
time on external disciplines. Eventually, the nations will
join us in it and will start discoursing in blasphemy,
saying, "Why is the milk of an unclean animal forbidden?
Because it imparts illness and coarseness" and so on, along
the lines of natural science, lauding Moshe Rabbenu as a
great savant but maintaining that it is foolish [in that
case] to have forbidden [the] milk [of a clean animal] that
was milked by a gentile without a Jew watching. They will
treat all the mitzvos in this way.
Were they truly wise, they would realize that all these
precepts contain other highly exalted reasons and that over
each of them, [both] beneficial and harmful angels are
appointed. If they realized that, they would understand that
every ordinance and precept of Chazal's has a Heavenly root
and source and they would stop this kind of talk.
Since though, it is indeed necessary to know how to respond
to the gentiles, every generation ought to appoint
tzaddikim, men of deeds who are full of wisdom, whose
eyes have witnessed every precious trait, who can act as
intermediaries between ourselves and the gentile rulers, as
mentioned before in the parable.
They can remove the precious stones temporarily and replace
them, revealing one measure while concealing two. They can
speak to the gentile sages and rulers on our behalf,
explaining the meaning of any of the mitzvos to them when
they are asked. They will remain firm in their righteousness
and will live in [untainted] faith. They are the truly the
rulers of the world, rather than being ruled by the world and
they are the ones who maintain the fences that protect
The tzaddik whom we are eulogizing at present, the rav
and gaon, moreinu HaRav Dovid zt'l Zinsheimer, author
of Yad Dovid, was in every sense such a man. He was
respected and was very close to the ruling circles in Paris.
He was asked about several matters and he provided his
questioners with answers. He was great and was very highly
respected by the Emporer and ministers, and they paid him
great respect when he died, as is known.
Yet he was also great among the Jews. He was occupied with
Torah his entire life, reviewing Shas several times,
and was also fluent in the works of the Rishonim and the
Acharonim, as is apparent from his sefer. I knew him
in my youth and recently as well, through [our] exchange of
letters and I saw his righteousness and wholeness of heart.
Besides his becoming a ruler through his wisdom in matters of
etiquette and affairs of state, he remained [his own] ruler
in his strength [of spirit]; they did not rule over him, or
sway him to follow them chas vesholom. After revealing
one measure [that was necessary for responding to them], he
went and concealed two measures. His spirit remained pure and
untainted -- "and his fragrance has not changed" (Yirmyohu
48:11), which is translated by the Targum, "has not
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