Torah Fax
Friday, July 28, 2006 - 3 Menachem Av, 5766

Torah Reading:  Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22)
Candle Lighting Time:  7:57 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:02 PM
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 2
Shabbat Chazzon
 
Double Chai For Israel

The fifth and final book of the Torah which we commence reading this week is called Devarim (Deuteronomy). The Book begins with the following sentence: These-eileh are the words that Moses spoke to the Children of Israel…” Commentators point out that the opening word eileh has the numerical value of 36. This number corresponds to the last 36 days of Moses life in which he taught the entire Book of Devarim, comprising his last will and testament to the Jewish people. According to the Talmud, cited by Rashi, Moses began his monologue, which makes up the entire Book of Devarim, on the first of the Hebrew month of Shevat, and continued to speak for the next 36 days until, on the seventh of Adar, he passed away.
 
What is the significance of knowing that Moses spoke for 36 days? And what message was he trying to impart when he prefaced his monologue to the Jewish nation with the word eilah-these?
Some commentators point to the fact that the Talmud enumerates 36 extremely harsh criminal offences that the people had to be forewarned not to violate. These offences carry the penalty of karet, which means the soul of the individual is cut off, and the person would die a premature death.
 
However, the difficulty in this approach is that if Moses needed a day to rebuke his people for each of the serious transgressions, why didn’t he need any time to admonish the people for the other less serious offences? And why would he need 36 days altogether? Couldn’t he admonish them about all 36 offenses in one day?
 
The answer lies in a better understanding of the significance attached to the number 36. It is not a coincidence that the number 36 appears in other contexts as well. On Chanukah we light a total of thirty-six candles (except for the shamosh). There are 36 Tractates in the Babylonian Talmud. The Talmud speaks of 36 righteous people upon whose merit the world endures. The primordial light that was created on the first day of Creation, before there was a sun and a moon, illuminated Adam’s first Sabbath for a total of 36 hours.

What do all these references to 36 have in common, and how does it relate to Moses’ last will and Testament?
 
Thirty-six is twice the number chai-18, which means life. Double life implies that one is alive in two crucial ways: One in the body and the other in the spirit. For a person to be truly alive they must recognize the duality of life and the need to harmonize the two forms of life.
 
The first message that the number 36 imparts to us is that when we divorce one dimension of life from the other, when we separate the life of the soul from the life of the body we end up with the 36 transgressions that lead to karet, the soul being cut off from the body, G‑d forbid. Chai is not enough, we need double-chai: the life of the body and soul together.
 
The light that illuminated the world during the first 36 hours of Adam’s presence in this world was a form of light that was a combination of the physical and spiritual. While it was primarily a spiritual form of light, it also had the capacity to illuminate the physical darkness. Indeed, it was so powerful, we are told, that with this light Adam was capable of seeing from one end of the world to the other.
 
However, this type of light could not withstand a world that is cruel, rebellious and defiant. It needs a receptive world. Hence, when Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, G‑d ultimately withdrew this light and preserved it for us for the future Messianic Age. If Adam and Eve had resisted the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit, that light would have remained and they would have never experienced death.
 
From that day onward the mission of humankind is to rediscover those original 36 hours of sublime light, light that leads to eternal life. Indeed, we are told that in the Messianic Age, we will once again bask in that light and that as we get deeper into that Messianic Era we will live forever.
In the meantime, in His infinite kindness, G‑d provided us with occasions when we can get a sample and a taste of this light. We enjoyed some of this light during the miracle of Chanukah, when the brave Macabees were willing to fight for their spiritual life. Hence we light 36 Chanukah candles throughout the Holiday of Chanukah.
 
This light can also be accessed at all times when we study Torah. Thus there are 36 Tractates of the Talmud.
 
There are people whose very lives reveal this dimension of light; the group of 36 righteous people. Their lives are influenced and illuminated by this primordial light, thus giving the world a taste of the future.
 
Of all the great people whose lives were expressions of this light, there was no one like Moses, about whom the Torah states that his face shone with such luminescence that people could not look at him. He had to wear a veil to filter out the light. 
 
When Moses was about to take leave of the Jewish nation that he led for forty years, knowing that some of that light would again become more elusive, he wanted the Jewish nation to remember the number 36, so that they would realize the need to live a double-chai, two-dimensional life that reflects this light, and prepare them for the future.
 
Especially as they were to enter into the Promised Land, Moses wanted them to knows that the Land of Israel had two dimensions as well. While it was a land like any other and had to be conquered by military means, there was another G‑dly dimension to it of which they must always be mindful. Otherwise, Moses warned them, they would not endure on the land.
 
Our brethren in the Land of Israel are engaged in a war to defend their lives from those who would want to see them destroyed, G‑d forbid. But, it would be a mistake to look at it as a battle for one dimension of life exclusively. This is a fight for the body and soul of Israel. It is not just about geography it is also about history. If we have no historical perspective and think as some that the conflict began right before the most recent news report, then we miss the whole point.
 
We must remember that our connection to the Land is tied in with the realization that the Land of Israel was given to us by G‑d as an eternal inheritance; that it is the Holy Land that synthesizes the two dimensions of life.
 
We have no doubts that in the end we, with G‑d’s help, will prevail. But, that is not sufficient. We grieve when even one of our brave defenders is lost or hurt, and we must address our pleas to G‑d that we had enough of suffering and we want and end to all hostilities and complete victory. We want Moshiach now!
 
But, in addition to our heartfelt pleas for G‑d to bring and end to the terrorism against our Land and our people, we must also do our part in incorporating the two-dimensions of Israel into our lives with enhanced observance of the Mitzvot.
 
In last week’s message, we mentioned the specific Mitzvot of Torah study, giving tzedakah, putting on Tefillin and affixing a Mezuzah as measures that can help our brethren in need. There is also another Mitzvah that ties in with this week’s message of two-dimensional light: the mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles. Interestingly, it has been observed that the initials of the phrase Neirot Shabbat Kodesh (Candles for the Holy Sabbath) spell the word Neshek, which is Hebrew for weapons. Our primary weapon (that must accompany the regrettable use of the conventional ones) is the introduction of greater G‑dly light in our lives and throughout the world.
     
Moshiach Matters
On "Shabbat Shira - the Sabbath of Song," we read in the Torah the song that the Children of Israel sang at the splitting of the Red Sea. The song begins, "Az yashir Moshe - then Moses sang." The Baal HaTurim explains: The word "yashir" is composed of the letter "yud" (the numerical equivalent of ten) and the word "shir" ("sing"). This alludes to the ten songs sung by the Jews in praise of G‑d:the song at the Sea; the song at the well; the song "Give ear, O ye heavens"; the song of Joshua; the song of Deborah; the song of Chana; the song of King David; the song of King Solomon; the song of Hezekiah; and the song that will be sung in the Messianic era.
(L'Chaim)

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