Boy Wonder

(Torah Portion Beha’aloscha) Boy Wonder!

Over the Holiday of Shavuos we experienced a spiritual aura and an elevated feeling. After an interval of only one day we will have the opportunity to be enveloped in the sanctity of the holy Shabbos.

During our prayers on Shavuos, we mention that Shavuos is the time when we received the Torah from the Almighty.

Our Torah consists of two parts which are interdependent upon each other: The Written law – the five Books of Moshe, which is contained in the Torah scroll; and the Oral Law which includes the Mishna, Talmud and Medrash.

The Oral tradition is the explanation and expansion of what is written in the Torah. Moshe was taught the Torah, both oral and written by the Almighty, and Moshe – our teacher, transmitted it to the Jewish people.

Our laws and traditions would be totally incomprehensible without both the written law and the oral law.

To stress the point that the Oral law is essential, G-d at first declared the Ten Commandments orally and only 40 days later did He present the inscribed Tablets of the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people.

I want to focus on a fascinating Talmudic passage. The Talmud teaches us that while a fetus is in its mother’s womb, an angel teaches it the entire Torah. As the fetus begins exiting into the world, an angel touches it above the upper lip and it forgets the Torah.

The obvious question is, why was it necessary for the fetus to be taught the Torah in the first place if it was going to be taken away from him?

Commentators explain that the Torah is so holy, deep, and pure, that had it not been originally taught by the angel it would never be able to be understood or absorbed by the human mind.

Since at one point we have been exposed to the Torah, we have the ability to study the Torah. Also, it is easier to learn because we are retrieving something that we once had and was lost and G-d rewards us for our time spent working and toiling in the study of Torah.

I want to share a fascinating story, which happened a few years after the Holocaust.

A boy was born to the Mandel family in Israel and when he began to talk they realized that he knew the entirety of Torah, written and oral law, verbatim! He obviously was not touched by the angel and He retained all the Torah he was taught by the angel.

I called my cousin Mr. Yechezkel Paneth who is related to this family and asked him to share with me what he knew about this boy who was dubbed the “Yeled Hapelah – the wonder boy.”

He told me that he spoke to a relative of the boy, Rabbi Spitz, who tested the boy – when he had long hair – that means that it was before his third birthday. He related as follows, “I took out a Torah and read a verse, and he immediately rattled off the next set of verses from memory! I then took out a tractate of the Talmud and read a few lines and he picked up and continued the rest by heart! I then took out a Sefer – book that an ancestor of his authored and he again recited the following lines off the cuff! I then thought to myself, perhaps he has mental telepathy – he somehow knows what I’m reading, so I took out a newspaper and began reading, and he didn’t respond!”

My cousin continued that people were saying that this phenomenon happened right after the Holocaust as a means to strengthen and restore the faith of those who had experienced and witnessed the gruesome atrocities of the Nazis.

After some time, the wonder boy’s parents realized that he couldn’t go on with life this way. They brought the boy to the Holy Belzer Rebbe, RebAhron Rokeach o.b.m. and he took his finger and touched the boy above the lip and he forgot what he was taught by the angel.

Rabbi Yaacov Yisroel Kanievski – the Steipler Rav o.b.m. included this story in one of his publications for he felt that it was important that we should realize, comprehend, and appreciate the authenticity, accuracy and Divinity that exists in the words and statements of our Oral Tradition – the Talmud.

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and enjoyable Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family