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IT'S ALL IN THERE

by Rachi Messing    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

When one looks at the Torah, many different things can be seen. One can see an ancient treasure, a document that should be preserved like the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence.

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When one looks at the Torah, many different things can be seen. One can see an ancient treasure, a document that should be preserved like the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence. Another might see an archaic, obsolete text that has no meaning or relevance to our modern, technologically advanced world. But when a Jew begins to delve into and truly appreciate the Torah, he comes to the realization that it is not merely a book, but rather a "how-to" manual that includes all of the vast knowledge in this world.

As Moses spoke to the Jewish people in this week's Torah portion, he noted in reference to the Torah and its mitzvot, "You shall safeguard and perform them, for it is your wisdom and insight in the eyes of the peoples, who shall hear all these decrees and say, 'Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!' (Deuteronomy 4:6). Moses was hinting to all of the Jewish people the numerous wonders that can be found in the Torah.

The Chasam Sofer, a great Torah scholar and leader in Hungary at the beginning of the 19th century, explains that everything that Man knows and ever will know can be found in the Torah, and it is necessary for us to learn it all. One might ask how can astronomy or other sciences affect our lives as Jews? He answers that everything that we do in our lives is based on two things: the Torah and "nature." Nature is the structure that Hashem created for us to live in and to follow the Torah by. We cannot fully understand the laws of the Torah without a firm grasp of the laws of the world we live in. How can we make determinations for Kiddush Hachodesh (sanctifying the new month) without first understanding the way the moon and sun interact. How can we say that an animal has undergone a proper shechitah (ritual slaughter) without first understanding the biology of the animal.

This all leads to an interesting question. We know that the Torah tells us that if possible, the best thing to do is to totally immerse oneself in the learning of Torah, as the verse in Joshua states, "And you should delve into it day and night." How is it possible, then, to understand all of the different sciences and knowledge that are necessary to understand the Torah if one cannot remove oneself from learning Torah?

All of these things, says the Chasam Sofer, are not only necessary to understand the Torah, but can actually be derived from the Torah itself. Moses was informing the Jewish people in this week's portion that when one totally immerses oneself in the Torah, he is able to gain the insight, not just of the Jewish people but the insight of all people. This is why the people of the world will look at the Jews who follow the Torah and say, "Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!"

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Rachi Messing writes from Baltimore.

You are invited to read more Parshat Va'etchanan articles.

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