Torah Fax

Friday, September 19, 2003 - 22 Elul, 5763

Torah Reading: Nitzavim-VaYelech (Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30)
Candle Lighting Time: 6:40 PM
Shabbat Ends: 7:38 PM

Prose and Songs

The very last commandment in the Torah, its 613th, mentioned in our parsha, Nitzavim-Vayeilech, is to write a Torah Scroll.  In the Biblical text, the Torah does not explicitly mention that one is to write the entire Five Books of Moses. Rather it states: "And now write this song," referring to the song that appears in next week's parsha of Ha'azinu. Maimonides explains that since we are not permitted to write just one section of the Torah by itself, it could not mean that we should merely write this one song. Hence, we know that the commandment is to actually write the entire Five Books of Moses that contains this song.

The question begs to be asked. If the Torah wanted us to write the Five Books of Moses, it could have said precisely that. Why does it have to say that we should write this song and rely on the Oral Tradition that proved that this command is actually a reference to the entire Five Books of Moses? Clearly, the Torah wanted to impart to us a fundamental lesson about the very nature of the Torah. The Torah-in its entirety-is a song. Even the parts that are written in prose, even the laws and words of rebuke, are in reality a song.

Some analogies to be made between Torah and a song:  First, a song touches a part of our soul that words cannot reach. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement, summed it up best when he said: "Speech is the pen of the heart, melody is the pen of the soul."  Torah, likewise, has the capacity to speak to the very soul of a Jew, not just his mind and heart.

Second, a song is generally associated with joy. When the Jews crossed the Red Sea, they sang jubilant praise to G‑d. And though some songs that can express feelings of sadness, the primary role of music in Judaism is to elicit joy and spirit. In addition, even the more somber melodies within Judaism, while they do not necessarily bring joy, they do generate feelings of aesthetic delight. So too, Torah can become the person's greatest source of joy and delight. For this reason, King David the longest chapter in the entire Bible, Psalm 119, to extol the virtue of Torah as a song.

Third, a song has no end. When one comes to the end of the song, it is only natural for one to start all over again. A song, unlike a lecture, is meant to be repeated over and over again. Indeed, the tempo of the melody increases each and every time the song begins anew.  Similarly, the nature of Torah is to begin its study anew, immediately after it is completed on Simchat Torah. When one learns Torah, one touches infinity and is thereby moved to repeat the words of Torah.  Each and every time we begin the Torah anew, we actually experience a marked increase in the energy level and enthusiasm for Torah.

Fourth, a song has the capacity to convey a message without shocking anyone. Even words of rebuke that are couched in a melody can have a positive effect. The melody possesses a soothing effect.  Similarly, the words of Torah, no matter how powerful and pointed they may be, have a soothing effect particularly on those who appreciate Torah's celestial song.

Fifth, a song has the capacity to lift us up raise us to a higher plane. Likewise Torah study is an uplifting experience that takes us to a higher place. Similarly, when we were inducted into nationhood-at the time of the Exodus and the splitting of the Sea - the Israelites sang the Song of the Sea, as mentioned above. And in this vein, Biblical literature affirms that the future and final Redemption will also be inaugurated with song.

One question remains. Why is this characterization of Torah as a song not alluded to earlier? Why do we have to wait to the very end of the Torah to learn of its poetic nature? The answer to this question is that indeed Torah contains both elements of prose and song. The difference between these two elements is that the dimension of prose within the Torah can be grasped or mastered one parsha or even word at a time. One does not require having the Torah in its entirety to appreciate the wisdom contained in any one part of it.

But when it comes to the melody of Torah, if even one note is missing, it affects the integrity of the entire composition. Thus, our Parshah refers to the song of Torah only when the Torah is about to be completed.

What is true about the Torah, that its poetic and thus its infinite nature is revealed at its end, can also be said of the end of days. Only when Moshiach comes will we be exposed to the Torah's deepest secrets and melodies.

We can apply this idea to the Jewish people. The word Israel in Hebrew is an acronym for, "There are 600,00 letters in the Torah." This suggests that the Jews-whose original census totaled 600,000-are a human version of a Torah; each individual corresponding to one letter. We too possess a prosaic dimension and a poetic one. Our more spiritual character -the song aspect of our existence-will come to the fore at the end of days, when the Jewish people will complete their mission in exile. When the human Torah reaches completion, our infinite dimension will become the dominant one. Upon realizing this dimension of our being we will truly and literally be moved to sing the ultimate song.

Moshiach Matters

The word shofar is connected with the phrase “Shipru Ma’aseichem, Beautify (and improve) your acts.” The Talmud tells us that every command that G‑d asks us to fulfill, He Himself fulfills as well. Therefore, we request of G‑d that he also “improve” and “beautify” His works, the work of creation, in the ultimate and truest sense of the words - by sending our righteous Moshiach immediately.

Moshiach - It's a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

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