This past Wednesday, during the Holiday of Simchas Torah, we completed the Torah – the Written Law – also known as the five books of Moshe. Because Moshe was chosen by G-d to teach the Jewish people, G-d’s Torah is attributed to Moshe.
Following G-d’s Revelation on Mount Sinai, Moshe ascended to the Heavens for forty days and forty nights and G-d taught him the entirety of the Torah.
When Moshe finally descended he taught the Torah to the leaders and the masses. Before Moshe’s death he was commanded by G-d to write 13 complete Torah scrolls. From these original scrolls all subsequent Torah scrolls were copied. When a scribe writes a Torah he must look into a previously written Torah and copy directly from it. When one compares all the Sefer Torahs in the world they will find that they are all exactly the same in their authentic contents! This is totally awesome and truly compelling to even the skeptic.
Right after we complete the Torah with reading the Portion of V’zos Habrocha – the last of the 54 portions of the Torah – another Torah scroll is opened and the Torah is read from Beraishis – the beginning of the Torah. We start from the creation of the world, up until the Torah describes G-d resting on the seventh day of creation – the Shabbos. This Shabbos is when we will read the complete portion of Beraishis.
The Torah is our Law Book. After Moshe died, Yehoshua and the Jews entered the Land of Israel. The Torah was complete and a new phase began. From then on, the 24 books of the prophets were written; they are called Neviim – prophets.
There are additional books, and they are called Cesuvim – Chronicles. Included in Cesuvim are the 5 Megilos – scrolls. Each of these scrolls are read at one time of the year. The Megilla of Esther is read on the Holiday of Purim both at night and by day. On Tisha B’Av, our saddest day of the year, we read the Megilla of Eicha – Lamentations – at night. The other three Scrolls are read during the festivals. During the Shabbos of the holiday of Pesach the scroll of Shir Hashirim – Song of Songs is read in the synagogue. And during Shabbos of the holiday of Succos, Koheles is read. The Book of Ruth is read on the second day of Shavuos.
This past weekend we spent a wonderful and enjoyable time at the home and Succah of our daughter Gitty & Reuven Epstein along with our grandchildren. At Shul, during his remarks, Rabbi Meir Boruch Turin asked an interesting question in the name of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. King Solomon’s theme throughout the Book of Koheles is that everything under the sky is vain. Reb Moshe wonders, how can King Solomon say everything is vain? After all, we will read in this week’s Parsha with the conclusion of the sixth day of creation, G-d declares, “V’Hinai Tov Meod – It was exceedingly good.”
Rabbi Feinstein explained that yes, when you read Koheles, Shlomo relates how everything is vain; however, when you get to the second to the last verse of the scroll he pulls it all together, “The sum of the matter, when all has been considered, Fear G-d, and keep His Commandments, for that is man’s whole duty.”
Solomon is teaching us that yes, the world can be nothing but vanity, but that is only when there is no fear of G-d and when the commandments are disregarded. However, when one fears G-d, and His commands are upheld, one can appreciate the world and all its wonders and functions. He will be able to see the world as G-d sees it, V’Hinai Tov Meod – it awesomely good!!
As we begin the Torah anew it charges each of us to try our best to become as knowledgeable as possible of our Torah through the Mitzvah of Torah study.
How does one deal with the overwhelming feeling that there is too much to learn? This often stands in the way of one’s personal growth in knowledge of Torah.
Over Shabbos I was reading a book geared for youngsters on the laws of Lashon Harah – not speaking ill of others. An issue raised was if one commits not to speak ill of others he might get an overwhelming feeling that there will be nothing left for him to speak about.
The Chofetz Chaim o.b.m. says something phenomenal. When one reads the Torah’s account of the serpent’s words to convince Chava – Eve – to eat from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, he says, “Even though G-d said that you cannot eat from all the trees of the garden.”
Wait one minute, did G-d say this? No! He actually commanded them specifically to eat from all other trees. So what was the serpent trying to do? Says the Chofetz Chaim he was trying to overwhelm Chava by saying “Look, you cannot eat anything; you’ll be left with nothing to eat, so go and eat from the tree – which she eventually did.”
Our minds – the little serpent within us – can work on us the same way. “Look how too far reaching this Mitzvah is! Or study of Torah is too massive!”
If one approaches Torah study and Mitzvos in a progressive manner he will see great success and fulfillment!