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Posted on February 9, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

In one regard, the giving of Aseres HaDibros was a failure. Hashem spoke; the audience didn’t quite get the message (with the exception of the first two of the ten). It all worked out in the end, as Moshe managed to act as a go-between. When Moshe conveyed the content of the Dibros, “Moshe would speak, and G-d would respond to him with a voice.”[1] Chazal teach that Hashem responded with the voice of Moshe.[2]

Dramatic, to be sure. But highly inefficient. Hashem certainly knew that the Bnei Yisrael would not be able to process His own voice, and would have to tone it down by garbing it in a voice that sounded like Moshe. Then why did He bother speaking initially in His own voice, since it wouldn’t accomplish anything?

Here we’ve arrived at an important principle. The letters of the Torah are not just building blocks of words. Each letter is a palace in which Hashem resides. The ohr of the Ein Sof is garbed in these letters. When a person studies Torah, his mind should attach itself to the letters, thereby clinging to the ohr of the Ein Sof that resides within them.

If a person finds himself wavering in an encounter with the yetzer hora, say Chazal,[3] he should pull it into the beis ha-medrash. Shouldn’t they more accurately say that he should pull the yetzer hora to Torah study, regardless of where it takes place? Rather, Chazal mean medrash in the sense of the Torah she-b’al-peh that probes the intent of the written text, and strives to get to the penimiyus of Torah. There he will find and attach himself to the vital energy within the letters.

This process more or less defines our daily mission. “Each day,” claim Chazal,[4] “Torah should be regarded as something new.” How can this be? How can we regard as new a Torah that has been in our possession for millennia?

Yet there is in fact an element of newness that we can bring to Torah every day. We know that a consequence of the first sin in Gan Eden is that the nachash/primordial serpent polluted Chavah with corruption – something that has lowered our stature ever since.

With one exception. When the Bnei Yisrael stood at Har Sinai and heard the giving of the Torah from HKBH, they attached themselves to the Elokus resident in the Torah’s letters. This purified them of the corruption that had spread to all of humanity.

The gain was short-lived. With the sin of the egel/golden calf, the corruption returned. But things were not as they were before. Armed with the Torah, they had a method of purging themselves of the corruption, a bit at a time. (Only with the arrival of Moshiach will the task be completed, as the time for his coming is contingent on removing the last vestiges of the nachash’s corruption.)

The gemara[5] expands the first word (anochi) of the Dibros, yielding “I Myself wrote it and gave it.” A better way of understanding this, consistent with our theme, might be, “I wrote Myself into it and gave it.” Hashem contracted Himself, so to speak, and lodged in the letters of the Torah. It is there that we are guaranteed to find Him. Torah is studied lishmah when it is done for the purpose of finding the Shechinah within it, and making it available to the world. With every bit of Torah that we learn, we remove another layer of the corruption of the nachash, and ultimately bring about full redemption.

For this reason, Hashem spoke the words of the even though the people could not understand. In doing so, He inserted Himself into both the Written and Oral Law, waiting to be discovered there by those who learn with the intent to find Him.

[Based on Meor Einayim by Rav Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl]
  1. Shemos 19:19
  2. Bamidbar Rabbah 14:3
  3. Kiddushin 30b
  4. See Rashi, Shemos 19:1
  5. Shabbos 105a