By Dr. Meir Tamari
Perhaps the most definitive and special feature of Pshyscha in general, but especially of Kotsk and its ofshoots, as distinct from other streams in Chassidism, is the emphasis placed on the study of the Torah Sh'Beal Peh-Talmud; Halakhah- Aggadah. In this respect, it is argued that they thereby wished to create an elitist scholarly movement. If this is in fact valid, then the primary success was in the school of Sochochow, that never became, for this reason, a mass movement. It was as a movement, directed to the intensive and extensive study of all the sources of the Oral Law. The term 'Oral Law', although commonly used in many circles, is a misnomer at best; at worst it is a serious error. As such it causes much confusion and distortion, by presenting it as merely a legal system, a codex or legislation. In actual fact this is a Torah with law and spirituality intertwined, one concerned as much with morality and righteousness as it is with justice and legal decisions. As such, this study is repeatedly the basis of the Shem Mi Shmuel and this parshah affords us a view of the basic component of his commentary.
Since the medium is the human voice and speech, the Avnei Nezer saw it as being midway between the Written and Oral Torah; a sort of bridge as it were between the two.
The people were able to see within the written text the complete Torah, understanding all the implications of the mitzvoth under the headings of each Commandment and their application, sensitive to the moral and ethical messages contained therein, and aware of the hidden and mystical aspects of this text. In effect they saw clearly and without difficulty in the Written Torah, the presence of the whole of the Oral Torah. However, then they sinned. First, they asked Moses to stand between them and G-d and to bring the Divine Torah to them (Shmot, 20:6), and then they added the sin of the Golden Calf. Because of these sins they descended to lower levels and their spiritual and religious greatness was lost. Sin clouded their vision and the clarity of Torah was lost. The unity of Torah Bichtav and Torah Sh'beal Peh was destroyed. Since then, in order to re-establish this unity, the sages of Israel had to search to find the hints and references in the Written Torah, to the dimensions, applications and the moral and spiritual messages of the Oral Torah. They had, through the study of the written text to define and determine the methods of understanding and applying the mitzvoth, so that Israel was able once again to live with a united Oral and Written Torah.
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Project Genesis, Inc.
Dr. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.