Torah Fax
Friday, September 15, 2006 - 22 Elul, 5766

Torah Reading: Nitzavim-VaYelech (Deuteronomy   29:9 - 31:30)
Candle Lighting Time: 6:47 PM
Shabbat Ends: 7:45 PM
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 5 & 6
Stairway To Heaven?
A theme that runs of the Messianic Age and it is the potent force that makes it happen.This week's parsha describes the accessibility of Torah and its commandments. "This commandment that I am commanding you today is not elusive or remote from you. It is not in heaven that you should say, 'Who shall go up to heaven and bring it to us?’”
Rashi comments: "Even if it was in heaven, you would have been compelled to arise there and learn it."
What exactly does Rashi mean? How are we to travel to the heavens to receive the Torah?
One way of understanding this matter is to realize that the Torah has two dimensions. There are the actual commandments that address the world the way we know it. This part of Torah relates to the physical existence that is part of our experience as humans.
But there is another dimension. Torah can also be understood on a spiritual level as well. Besides their literal meaning, the commandments can be understood as metaphors that relate to spiritual concepts.
Indeed, the Talmud relates that when Moses went up to Mount Sinai to retrieve the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments, the angels protested to G‑d that He should keep the Torah in the heavens. Moses argued that the Torah was tailor made for human beings. The Torah was given to people who are born to a physical father and mother; to people who might harbor a desire to murder, steal or commit adultery. The Torah, Moses argued, had no relevance to angels.
But since the Torah so obviously addresses issues of the physical, what then did the angels have in mind when they asked for the Torah?
The answer is the angels wanted a Torah the way it can be understood in a totally spiritual fashion. They wanted a Torah that did not need a physical body, but that could nurture the soul. They wanted a Torah that a spiritual entity devoid of a body could relate to.
Had G‑d given us the Torah the way the angels would have wanted it, we would have had to become like angels. Our Torah would be a strictly cerebral exercise. It would have been geared to the soul and would not have had anything to do with the body. If the Torah was in heaven, we would have to become ascetics. We would have to fast continually, deny the body and be celibate. We would have to engage in prayer all day and study Torah all night. We would have no social life and no commerce. Physical existence would be kept at a bare minimum.
To be sure, if this is what G‑d had wanted of us we would have pursued such an existence. This is what Rashi meant when he said, in essence, "had the Torah been in heaven, we would have had to attempt to climb there to get it."
But that was not what G‑d asked of us. He gave the Torah to us because He wanted the Torah to have a human touch that would to relate to our reality. He wanted us to use the Torah to change the physical world. He wanted us to get married, eat and drink and be physically productive individuals.
But the question now arises. If G‑d never wanted us to reach the heavens, why is it even mentioned in the Torah as a possibility? Why does the Torah imply, as Rashi claims, that if the Torah was given to us in the heavens we would have to go there?
The answer is that the mere suggestion that G‑d would have wanted us to go to the heavens, though overruled by Him, is instructive. The fact that G‑d rejected the notion is not to say that there is no merit in that idea. Indeed, there is much value to the idea that Torah is a spiritual discipline whose goal is to help us rise above the physical plane of existence. It is just that that dimension of Torah cannot exist in solitude; it must be integrated within the dimension of Torah as it relates to the physical.
True, there are times designated by Judaism when we can escape from the mundane. Shabbat is a day when we divorce ourselves from our work and other material pursuits. Similarly, the daily prayers and moments of Torah study are times when the concerns of life are no longer in the fore of our consciousness.
Yes, there are times when we have to wax spiritual and look for the mystical side of the Torah. But all these spiritual pursuits and "escapes" are only legitimate when we know how to come back down on earth and invest that spiritual experience into our physical lives.
In the Messianic Age however, we will reach greater spiritual heights in our approach to Torah. At that time, we will be shown how all of the conventional teachings of Torah are actually reflections of profound G‑dly concepts.
But even in the Messianic Age, we will still have to live our lives according to the manner prescribed by the Torah, in the most physical and literal way. We will still rest on the Shabbat, eat kosher and put on Tefillin. The difference will be that we will also see the deeper, mystical meaning to all of our observances. Moreover, the Kabbalists tell us, we will know how to practice our Judaism by seeing the deeper spiritual side. Whereas today we first must know the simple practical meaning of the Torah text, and from there we can probe deeper within the text to discover its esoteric meaning, in the days of Moshiach, the process will be reversed. We will derive the practical meaning and application of the Torah from first understanding, or seeing, its spiritual, "heavenly" dimension.  
Moshiach Matters
When we reach the month of Elul, we must take stock and ask: Is it possible that eleven months of this year have passed and Moshiach has not come?! The sum total of our stocktaking is "Ad Masei - Until when must we remain in exile." (The Rebbe, 30 Av 5751 - 1991)

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit
© 2001- 2006 Chabad of the West Side