For the week ending 27 August 2005 / 22 Av 5765

Shabbat 114 - 120

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Change of clothes to honor G-d
  • Characteristics of a Torah Sage
  • Shabbat and Yom Kippur
  • Saving sacred writings from a blaze
  • Sacred writings in other languages
  • The 85-letter Torah chapter, a book unto itself
  • What deserves to be saved and what deserves to be burned
  • When the Ketuvim part of Tanach was read
  • What else can be saved from the blaze, how much and to where
  • Preparing for Shabbat, welcoming it, enjoying it and taking leave of it
  • Why Jerusalem was destroyed
  • Stopping the blaze from spreading

The Shortest Sefer

Shabbat 116a

We are accustomed to referring to the Torah as Chamisha Chumshei Torah the five sefarim (books) of the Written Law. There is a perspective based on a passage in Mishlei (9:1) which mentions "seven pillars of foundation" that there are actually seven sefarim.

This can be understood by looking into a Sefer Torah or a printed Chumash at two passages (Bamidbar 10:35-36) which are preceded and followed by upside down letters. The reason for these unusual markers, says the Sage Rebbie, is to set apart these two passages (which are familiar to us as the ones we say when the Sefer Torah is taken from the Aron Kodesh and returned to it) as a complete sefer. This transforms Sefer Bamidbar into three sefarim and results in a seven-sefer Torah.

Rebbies view is contested by Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel who sees these passages not as a separate sefer but as a break between the recording of two sins committed by our ancestors. The sin following these passages is explicit in the Torah: "The people were grumbling and it was wrong in the eyes of G-d." (Bamidbar 11:1) The sin preceding them, however, is only hinted at: "They traveled from the mountain of G-d" (ibid. 10:33). Tosefot cites a Midrash which explains the sin communicated in these words by comparing their hurry to get away from Mount Sinai to that of a child running away from school. Their rush to leave the mountain where they received the Torah was a tragic expression of their fear that if they remained they might be "burdened" with even more commandments.

But how does inserting the passages which tell us what Moshe said when the Aron Kodesh containing the Ten Commandment tablets was transported change the situation of consecutive sins? Perhaps the answer lies in the message which these passages communicated you must never leave Mount Sinai but rather take it along with you in the form of the Torah you there received.

What the Sages Say

"Never have I referred to my wife as merely my wife but rather as my entire household (for she is the pillar of my home Rashi)."

  • Rabbi Yossi

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