Torah Fax

Friday, February 25, 2005 - 16 Adar I, 5765

Torah Reading: Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11 - 34:35)
Candle Lighting time: 5:24 PM
Shabbat ends: 6:25 PM
Moses the Lawyer
Moses, the faithful leader of the Jewish people, was devastated when he was told by G‑d that his people had worshipped the Golden Calf. When G‑d told him that He wanted to destroy them because they had worshipped another g-d, Moses began to plead on their behalf.
In addition to prayer, the Midrash relates, Moses actually acted as a good defense lawyer and argued with G‑d about the guilt of the Jewish people on a "technicality." The crime that they were charged with was idolatry. The prohibition against idolatry was, of course, taken from the first two of the Ten Commandments, where G‑d declared, "I am the L-rd your G‑d, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage," followed by: "You shall have no other g-ds in My presence" Moses' "legalistic" argument, our Sages tell us, was that these commandments were phrased in the singular form: For example, if G‑d was making it clear that He was addressing all of the Jewish people, He should have stated, "Lo yihyeh lachem," You (plural) shall not have any other gods. The Hebrew word lecha, means "you" in the singular form. Thus, Moses argued that in fact the commandments were only clearly addressed to Moses. How can G‑d then hold the entire Jewish nation responsible for something they had not been commanded to follow?
At first glance this Midrash is difficult to understand. Did Moses really think that the Ten Commandments were not given to the entire nation? Wasn't it obvious that G‑d wanted all of Israel to hear these commandments? So even if the language wasn't so clear that He was addressing every individual, wasn't that the context of these commandments? Thus, Moses entire defense seemed to based on a seemingly dishonest premise.
In truth, the fact that G‑d gave the Torah through Moses begs a question, the answer to which will shed light on Moses' "defense" strategy.  Couldn't G‑d have revealed these teachings directly to all of Israel? Why did He need an intermediary?
One answer to this question is that were G‑d to have miraculously implanted the Torah in our minds, regardless of our mental and spiritual capacities, the Torah would never have become our Torah. To bring the Torah down to our level, there had to be a hierarchy of sorts. Moses, the greatest intellect and spiritual giant of all time, was able to receive the Torah on his level, which, in turn, he transmitted to the next level so that they could comprehend it and absorb it and then pass it on to the next level or generation.
This process guaranteed that: (a) Every Jew who studies Torah from a worthy teacher will have the benefit of having been linked to an earlier and higher generation (in terms of its proximity to the initial revelation at Sinai). (b) Every Jew will receive the Torah on his or her level and not be overwhelmed by it, as he or she would have been had it been revealed to us spontaneously, indiscriminately and miraculously. (c) Every Jew knows that it is his obligation to pass the Torah on to others, on their level, so that they are completely receptive to it.
We can now appreciate why G‑d did, in fact, transmit the Torah to Moses specifically, though He meant to give it to everyone. G‑d wanted the Torah to reach and resonate within every Jew, by making the Torah relevant to each and every Jew individually. This He accomplished by transmitting it through the conduit that was Moses.
Thus, when Moses wished to defend the Jewish people's worshipping of the Golden Calf, Moses' argument was that the Torah was given to him specifically. By this he meant that the Torah did not yet filter down from him to the level of the people. Immediately after G‑d spoke the Ten Commandments, Moses went up onto the mountain for forty days and forty nights. Moses did not have the time to bring the message down to their level. And while they also heard the commandment not to worship idols, they had not yet fully absorbed the true meaning of that Mitzvah and they could not yet be held responsible for violating it.
The process of bringing the Torah to the level of each and every Jew is one that started at Sinai, but has not ended yet. The "graduation," i.e., the point at which we will have fully internalized all of the Torah, will occur with the coming of Moshiach. While there will never be another revelation at Sinai, the full import of Sinai will become evident to every Jew in the future Messianic Age.
To prepare for this time, it is our obligation to serve as the next link in the chain of Torah; to brings its message to yet another generation of Jews, so that the Torah will not remain foreign to anyone.
Moshiach Matters
At the present time, when the world trembles, when all the world shudders with the birth-pangs of Moshiach... it is the duty of every Jew, man and woman, old and young, to ask himself: What have I done and what am I doing to alleviate the birth-pangs of Moshiach, and to merit the total Redemption which will come through our righteous Moshiach? (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Previous Rebbe)
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