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12 Sivan 5766 - June 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
From Sinai Until Now: Moshe Rabbenu's Torah

A Shmuess Delivered by HaRav Yitzchok Hutner zt'l, Shavuos 5740
Excerpts from Reshimos Lev written by Reb Leibel Rutta

Part II

In retrospect, it is striking that on the last Shavuos of his life he dwelt on the fact that, "Every generation loses a Moshe Rabbenu, with whom three thousand halachos are also lost" (they were forgotten during the mourning period of Moshe Rabbenu). However, we also received a special gift from Moshe that retrieves forgotten teachings — pilpul. Besides the actual Torah that Moshe taught Yisroel, he generously shared this means of preservation of Torah.

The essence of giving generously is the underlying wish to confer permanence, as the Ramban comments on the posuk, "and He saw that it was good." Everything in creation was first brought into being by Hashem's utterance and then given permanence through His "seeing that it was good." It is therefore fitting that generosity is the key to the transmission of pilpul. Looking upon something with benevolence makes it permanent and eternal. Pilpul ensures the permanence and continuity of tradition by making possible the retrieval of what has been forgotten. Torah dissemination in every generation must be like that of Moshe Rabbenu. It must include transmitting learning together with the ability to preserve Torah.

Our teacher also said, quoting the Vilna Gaon, that the last mitzvah in the Torah, to write a sefer Torah, corresponds to "seeing that it is good" with respect to receiving the Torah in its entirety, for committing something to writing stems from the wish to accord it permanence.



"Be careful to honor a scholar who has forgotten his learning by force of circumstances, because both the [complete, second] Luchos and the broken [first] Luchos rest in the Aron" (Brochos 8). This refers to the Heavenly decree of forgetting Torah. With respect to the level of the original Luchos, Knesses Yisroel have the status of "a scholar who has forgotten his learning." [See Pachad Yitzchok Yom Hakippurim, ma'amar 25:6 and Pachad Yitzchok Shavuos, ma'amar 18, perek 3.]

"A tzaddik's departure from a place makes an impression" (Rashi, beg. parshas Vayeitzei). See Nefesh HaChaim (Shaar 4, perek 30), where the following teaching of Chazal is explained. "`For a mitzvah is a lamp and Torah is light' (Mishlei 6:23). Just as a lamp only gives light for a certain amount of time, a mitzvah also only provides temporary protection. Just as light illuminates forever, so also Torah protects forever" (Sotah 21). Chazal also rule that, "Objects used for mitzvos [e.g. lulav, succah, shofar, tzitzis] can be discarded, whereas objects used for kedushoh [that have served a Torah scroll, or sections of it e.g. satchel for seforim, tefillin and mezuzos, bags in which a sefer Torah or tefillin were kept] must be stored away" (Megilloh 26). Torah's strength lasts forever.

"A tzaddik's departure leaves an impression," is a principle that applies to every departed manifestation of holiness [See Pachad Yitzchok Purim, Kuntrus Reshimos 9] and also to Torah's unfading strength. We are warned to honor a scholar who has forgotten his learning because of the impression left by the Torah he once had. The same applies to the general level of Knesses Yisroel [with regard to lost levels of Torah].

" `For your dew will be like the [reviving] dew of . . .' (Yeshayohu 26:19) — whoever uses Torah's light, will be revived by it . . ." (Kesuvos 111). Even after a person's soul departs his body, Torah's force leaves impressions on both the body of the soul and on the soul of the body — like "a scholar who forgot his learning" — and he will thereby merit revival after death.

The source of all the Torah that we merited on the second Luchos is the impression left by all the Torah that was forgotten when the first Luchos were broken.

"Osniel ben Kenaz retrieved them with the power of his pilpul" — through the force of the impression left by [the forgotten] Torah.

We continue to draw from this source, thanks to the giving of the Torah at Sinai; the events at Sinai are the source of all the powers of Torah that we merit possessing.

This is why the Torah warns us, "Lest you forget the things that you witnessed . . .. and you shall impart them to your sons and grandsons . . . the day you stood before Hashem . . . at Chorev" (Devorim 4:10).

The Rambam writes, "Even though blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashonoh is a decree of Scripture [i.e. a Torah obligation] it carries a message, as if to say, `Sleepers, shake off your slumber . . .!' This refers to those who forget the truth amid the vanities of the moment . . ." (Hilchos Teshuvoh 3:4).

The shofar arouses by making an impression. This is the deeper meaning of the Ramban's comments on the posuk, "a mighty sound that did not cease." He writes that this refers to Hashem's voice which remained at the same level while delivering the Dibros, whereas the sound of the shofar started gently and increased in strength.

The impression of the events at Sinai remains for all generations. It takes the most powerful impression possible to last for such a long time, hence, the sound of the shofar "was continually growing much stronger." [See Pachad Yitzchok Rosh Hashonoh, ma'amar 20:10.]

Beyond His Lifetime

In his introduction to sefer Devorim, the Ramban writes, "Before beginning to explain the Torah he began to rebuke them . . ." In his commentary to the first posuk he explains that sefer's opening words, "These are the things that Moshe said to all of Yisroel," refers to "the mitzvos that will be mentioned throughout the sefer, from the beginning of the ten Dibros in parshas Voeschanon."

However, he notes, because of the lengthy preface the Torah writes, "and this is the Torah that Moshe set before bnei Yisroel" (4:44), before actually starting to explain the mitzvos, in order to return to the original subject. [Posuk 44 thus marks off the opening rebukes from the mitzvos.]

Yet just before this, in posuk 41, we find, "Then Moshe designated three cities"— a parsha that speaks about the cities of refuge for unintentional murderers. Surely this belongs with the explanations of the mitzvos, not with the opening rebukes.

On the words, "then Moshe designated," Rashi comments, "He betook himself to take pains over the matter, designating them even though they would not start providing refuge until the designation of the cities on the other side of the Jordan" [which would not happen until bnei Yisroel crossed over, not in his lifetime]. Moshe looked ahead to the time after his death and mourning period. He ensured that thanks to his efforts to fulfill the mitzvah of the cities of refuge, the mitzvah could be completed later on.

This corresponds to what he did for Torah. The next posuk, "and this is the Torah that Moshe set before bnei Yisroel" refers to the explanations of the mitzvos and to pilpul, which he generously shared with Yisroel.

"Moshe received Torah at Sinai and transmitted it . . . The prophets transmitted it to the members of the Great Assembly. They said three things . . . and raise many disciples" (Ovos 1:1). This was during the time of the Second Beis Hamikdosh. The Rishonim explain that teaching Torah to many talmidim increases pilpul and broadens the spread of Torah. [Ed. note. See the Meiri's comments here: "They should raise many disciples to debate the topic so that it emerges clearly from between them all."]

"Moshe received Torah at Sinai and transmitted it . . . to the members of the Great Assembly" — this was Moshe's generosity in his gift to Yisroel.

"The prophets transmitted it to the members of the Great Assembly" — in their days the last of the prophets prophesied. The last prophecy was, "Remember the Torah of Moshe, My servant." [See Pachad Yitzchok Pesach, end of ma'amar 78.]

To Our Own Days

Our master said that our times are unparalleled in the extent of factors causing Torah to be forgotten.

"Avrohom Ho'ivri" (Bereishis 14:13). Chazal explain this name: "The whole world was on one side (ever) and he was on the other side" (Bereishis Rabba 42:8). In our times we must also develop this ability and heighten our toil in Torah, including Torah pilpul, to a greater extent than all other parts of Torah.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said, "If you see a generation that has lost hope with regard to Torah, stand up and strengthen yourself with it and you will receive the reward of them all!" (Yerushalmi Brochos 9:5, see Maharal, Tiferes Yisroel 56)

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