Torah Fax

Friday, March 28, 2008 - 21 Adar II, 5768

Torah Reading: Shemini (Leviticus  9:1 - 11:47)
Candle Lighting: 6:58 PM
Shabbat ends: 8:00 PM

Inquire Within

Our Parshah of Shemini discusses various offerings that were brought on the day the Mishkan was dedicated. In the middle of this narrative, the Torah relates how Moses "inquired" about certain procedures that were followed by his brother Aaron. In the discussion Moses had with his brother Aaron, recorded in Lev. 10:16 - 20, it is noteworthy that the word for inquired, darash, is the middle word of the entire Torah.


Two questions arise. First, what is the significance of the middle word of the Torah? Second, why is the word "inquired" the word that marks the middle of the Torah? As a rule, the significance of any text is captured by its opening, its conclusion and also its middle. This is especially true about the Torah, which is designated as Torat Emet, the Torah of truth, which is inherently consistent. Thus, the Jerusalem Talmud states that the word Emet-truth comprises the first, last and middle letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.


The first word of the Torah is Bereishit (In the beginning). This refers to the creation of the world as it arose in G‑d's thought in its most abstract and pristine state. This has been compared to an idea that one has yet to act upon. The very first glimmer of the idea as it arises in one's conscious thought would be referred to as the genesis of the project. Genesis is thus about the world as it existed in its potential state before it assumed form and character.


The last word of the Torah-also referred to as its seal-is "Israel."  A seal has two functions, it designates the end of something and also protects it from being compromised, preserving its integrity and purpose. The seal of the Torah is Israel. The Jewish people were chosen to take the raw material of the world and perfect it and preserve its spiritual and G‑dly status. The word Israel means mastery over the physical and spiritual forces within creation. Israel also comprises two words that mean "the straightforward path to G‑d, Yashar Kel." While genesis is about how the world came to be, Israel is about what the world should become; a world in which the natural and even the spiritual forces are harnessed to the engine of G‑dly transformation. Israel is about the way we no longer have to take a circuitous route to G‑d. 


We can now begin to see the significance of the middle word of the Torah. The middle represents the bridge between the world of potentiality and the world of actuality. The middle word represents the methodology that enables us to take the world (Bereishit-Genesis) and transform it into an Israel-spiritual existence.


This methodology is "darash" inquiry. When Moses-the personification of Torah-is used to probe beneath the surface of one's personality, one discovers one's true assets. One then realizes that he or she is not just a part of creation (Genesis) but is also a part of the Creator, through  which one is able to transform the world. When we employ the  "Moses" within us to probe beneath the surface of life, an entirely different picture emerges than what meets the eye. The world, rather than viewing it as an obstacle, we discover, can be viewed as clay in the hands of a potter; clay that craves our involvement to mold it to conform to G‑d's will.


In short, the key to going from the genesis to completion is through the process of inquiry. By probing beneath the surface of Torah, Israel and the world around us, using the "Moses" component of our souls, we will realize our goal.


The term darash-inquired is related to the genre of Rabbinic literature known as Midrash. Unfortunately, this body of Divine wisdom has been maligned by many who fail to see its true value. Not only is Midrash not the fancy of some fertile rabbinic mind but it is said to contain the greatest mysteries of Torah. But even one who cannot fathom the secrets of Torah when studying Midrash, should realize that Midrash is the instrument through which our Sages probed beneath the surface of Torah. The Midrashic mindset does not allow one to see things superficially. It is what links the abstract world of Genesis to the competed world of Israel. Indeed, as we read in this week's Parsha, Moses was the first person to use the method of Midrash to seek the true meaning of the Torah.


The obligation to be a doresh, an inquirer, was applied by our Sages to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem as well. The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 30a) asks: "What is the basis for the requirement to do things in remembrance of the Temple?" The answer is a citation from the Book of Jeremiah where the prophet exclaims: "...she is Zion [a reference to the Holy Temple], ein doresh lah-there is none that inquires after her."' "From this," the Talmud infers "we gather that she ought to be inquired after." The Temple being "out of sight" has become "out of mind" for many Jews who have forgotten about the significance of the Holy Temple as a model of what the world was intended to become. The insertion of the word darash-inquired in the very middle of the Torah tells us that the  "central" obligation of Judaism is to inquire and probe for all that is holy in our midst.




Moshiach Matters 

In the future time of Moshiach, the faces of the righteous will shine like the sun, the moon, the sky, the stars, the lightning, the roses and the Menorah in the Temple. (Sifrei, Devarim 1:10)

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