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Parshas Tzav - Read a Book, Learn a Sefer         6 Nissan 5778

03/22/18 14:18:57

Mar22

Recently, someone shared an article with me which appeared in the March 15, 2018 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Headlined “Learning to Pray When Words Fail”, it addressed a condition called aphasia, the loss of ability to express or understand speech.. The article focused on a couple, Julie and Avi Shulman. Julie Shulman received her undergraduate degree in linguistics from Israel’s Bar- Ilan University in 2000. Following graduation, Mrs Shulman, a native of Maine, headed to Massachusetts, where she earned a master’s degree in speech therapy, fulfilling her goal of wanting to help people suffering from speech disorders. She never imagined how personal this mission would become. Her husband, Ayal Shulman, worked as a business-development manager for an Israeli startup in Brookline, MA. .The Shulmans returned to Israel in 2009,with three young children and promising careers. Two weeks after their return to Israel, Ayal suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Miraculously, his cognitive function was intact, but his speech was limited to sentences of three or four words. Mrs. Shulman explained that ”Disorders such as aphasia pose a challenge for adherents of speech-based faiths such as Judaism The underlying principle of our Jewish practices, and involvement in our religion, is the use of speech. Whatever blessing we choose, we express it verbally. The loss of speech is debilitating for family, friends, business, and especially in the way in which we practice our religion. Awareness of the preciousness of the gift of speech should deeply enhance our quality of davening and learning.

Whenever we are called to the Torah, we chant the words out loud. Prayer and Torah study is said out loud, frequently accompanied by melodies and chants which enhance and inspire us as we pray. Men learn Torah by saying the words out loud. This has been a proven method of retention of our studies throughout the millennia.

The power of prayer is the ability to verbalize the words and say them to God. The ‘kavana’, or intent, is in the heart and the mind, but it is the physical formation of the words coming from the mouth that make up the actual prayer. We are not supposed to just read the prayers with our eyes.  We should silently verbalize every word, hearing each of the words being read.. The same is true in learning. It is not sufficient to learn a piece of Torah just by reading it with our eyes. Each word must be said as they are being learned. Please do not misunderstand or misinterpret my words, thinking you cannot learn that way. What I am saying is that the effect, the long-term benefit one has by sounding the words out loud, hearing every word, is immeasurable. I know that people who did not grow up with this idea of praying or learning out loud may have difficulty adjusting to this way of learning. My promise to those of you who fall into this category is that if you try it you will soon see, hear, and appreciate the difference.

In contrast to the Jewish (Orthodox) way of praying is the non-Jewish practice of praying  which is  not as vocal. An even greater contrast can be seen between the study of Torah and how we go about learning secular studies. There are libraries in every community, school, and college campus which typically require that you observe the rule of respecting the environment of quiet, whispering softly only when necessary. Studying is usually done independently and quietly at desks and tables, sometimes with headsets and headphones to maintain the required silence. The complete opposite is found in a Beis HaMedrash where it is noisy, loud and full of the tumult that is the battle of Torah learning. The soldiers are entrenched on the battlefield known as the Beis Midrash facing their foe (the chavrusa) with their ammunition in the form of the Gemara, and their talent in the form of their minds, and their weaponry in the form of their mouths battling for the truth of Torah!

When a person reads a book with his eyes, that is exactly what is being done: reading or scanning the page, but not necessarily learning. When a person reads the words of a sefer, he says the words aloud- he is not just reading the words; he is concentrating on each word, learning in depth. The two components of the Torah are comprised of the Torah She’Bichsav,  the written Torah, and the Torah She’B’Al Peh, the oral law. The Oral law requires that every word is said out loud; it is not enough to just use one’s eyes, scanning across the page. This intense focusing on precise learning is  deduced from a verse in this week’s Torah portion.

In this week’s parsha Tzav the Torah states in Vayikra 8:3 during the episode of the installation of the Kohanim, “V’Eis Kal Ha’Eida HakHel, El Pesach Ohel Moed”: “Gather the entire community at the entrance of the Communion Tent”. I saw a beautiful elucidation of this line in a new sefer, *Malchus Beis Dovid. The author quotes the Netzi”v’s explanation of the purpose for this gathering. Rav Berlin explains in HaAmek Davar that if the gathering day was day eight, the day after the seven-day preparation course for the Kohanim, it could be understood as giving honor to Hashem with everyone gathering there together in order to display honor to the King by having a multitude of people attending. This day of gathering was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the day the Mishkan was erected. But if the gathering was the previous seven days, known as Shivas Yemei HaMiluim, what and why was the purpose for gathering? It cannot even be compared to gathering when the Leviim were consecrated, because ‘Semicha” was involved, as stated “…and the Bnai Yisrael pressed their hands.” Even though only a few chosen men did the leaning, since it resembled a Korban, this is similar to when a Jew offers his sacrifice. That person needs to be there. From those two cases we know the purpose and the reason for the gathering. But why here?

The answer is found in Toras Kohanim where the Midrash teaches us that there were a few differences which were told to Moshe now and had been taught to him earlier. Because of this, it was necessary for everyone to come together again, this time to receive the tradition with its changes. Because of these changes, everyone needed to be present to hear the differences. From here we learn the power and strength of receiving Torah She’B’Al Peh, the Oral tradition. Even Moshe Rabbeinu himself would listen to Hashem’s oral directive, even though Moshe had written something contrary to that which was in the written law. Now the entire congregation of Israel would understand that the manner of the Torah comes through the Torah She’B’Al Peh, the Oral Torah, which is comprised of the Mishna and Gemara, the Talmud.

Later on in Vayikra 8:36, The Netzi”v explains the words “B’Yad Moshe”- in the hands of Moshe - referring to halacha, Jewish law, which means the Gemara. This is based upon a Gemara in Krisus 13 quoting a verse, “The words that Hashem spoke into the hands of Moshe.” The halacha apparently is the halacha L’Moshe MiSinai. The Gemara Sanhedrin 87 explains the concept of a law that was given to Moshe at Sinai represents strength of argumentation or debate that was given explicitly to Moshe. Here too, Moshe derived something on his own. He was MeChadesh; he created an entirely new depth of understanding - totally new ideas based upon the written law. This is the potency of the Oral law, particularly during the seven-day period of inauguration. Even though it says of the Mishkan, “to make for me a Tabernacle and I will dwell in it amongst you.” How is it possible that we interpret this to mean that Hashem will dwell in our midst? The answer is yes, with the koach HaTorah She’B’Al Peh it is possible to say that God will dwell among us despite the fact it does not say that precisely in the verse. Moshe learned it and Hashem gave His approbation to the learning and teaching of Moshe’s elucidation in the form of the Oral Law.

It is during the month of Nissan we look for ways to hasten the redemption, perhaps by learning and not just reading. Let us raise our voices in davening to Hashem with our Tefillos in Shul, and let the Kol (sounds of) Torah emanate from the Beis HaMedrash and look forward to bringing back the Davidic dynasty in the coming of Moshiach speedily in our day. Amen!                       

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Authored by Reb Dovid Bogopulsky, born 1992 in San Diego, Ca. He is currently an Avreich in Yeshivas Toras Moshe located in Sanhedria Murchevet. Reb Dovid lives in Jerusalem. He authored two other publications, Malchus Beis Dovid on Horiyos and Dudaei B’ni on Shas.  

Tue, May 21 2019 16 Iyyar 5779