Rabbi David Katz
In this week’s Torah Portion of Devarim we find one of the most interesting elements of the entire Torah, one that is purely innovated by the Noahides of Torah. In Exodus 18:21, Jethro [who happens to be a Noahide, and was the Sinai representative of such] helped Moses innovate what would later become The Sanhedrin [Rabbinical council; future seat of Noahides who would descend from Jethro personally] by suggesting to Moses seven supreme qualities that a judge must possess; this would be the vehicle of which Moses would survive and ease his burden [and any other future leader of Israel] from leading the people. These seven qualities are the following: 1) Men who are Wise 2) Understanding 3) well-known to their Tribes 4) distinguished Men 5) God Fearing People 6) Men of Truth 7) People who despise money. Again, the fascinating function here, is that Jethro is a Noahide and he lays down a Torah reality that extends itself all the way into eternity, for the Sanhedrin even extend to a permanent fixture in the Holy Temple of God on the Temple Mount! [No wonder the Temple Mount was owned by the Noahide Aravnah – who sold it to King David. King David himself comes from Noahides, as Ruth his Grandmother was a famous early Noahide]
Of these seven traits that would comprise the distinguishing marks of the Sanhedrin, Moses would go on to say that he could only find three amongst the People: 1) Righteous Men 2) Wise Men [and not Understanding Men; this will be thrust of the remainder of the article, as it is this trait that relates the most to Ancient Noahide Torah and Shem in particular] 3) well-known Men. The interesting observation of the Parsha is that Moses [by way of Jethro] suggests Four Traits in verse 1:13 [the three above plus “Men of Understanding”] yet acknowledges only three, with a glaring exclusion of the “Men of Understanding” Trait in 1:15, as Moses explains, “I simply could not find one amongst the People who imbued all seven qualities.” Thus in the end, only three traits that Jethro suggested were incorporated into the Nation of Israel, by Men possessing all three simultaneously.
The specified trait of “Men of Understanding” that have been specified as being left out, not only was especially chosen by Jethro [as nothing that Jethro suggested was superfluous] but carried significant weight into the Torah and would serve as perhaps the most distinguished Noahide Torah application. Rashi [the Bible Commentator] offers an analogy that one could discern the difference between Men of Wisdom and Men of Understanding: [as it says in Kabbalah: Wisdom and Understanding are two lovers that never separate] One who is wise is like a rich money-changer; when they bring him money to examine, he examines. And when they don’t bring him money to observe he sits and wonders [biding his time]. Whereas the Man who understands is like an enterprising moneychanger; when they bring him money to examine, he examines. And when they do not bring him money to examine, he goes about and brings in business on his own. Rashi also points out in Devarim 1:13 that the distinguishing trait of Understanding is a principle in Torah called, “Mvinim Dvar mitoch Dvar” – “to understand matters within matters,” also to be referred as “Pilpul” – the “spice” of Torah that sharpens the Torah and one’s mind while engaged in learning. This trait serves as the pulse that lays present within all matters of Torah, the pulse of the presence of Noahides in Torah, and more accurately it is the path to the Torah of Shem within the Torah of Moses.
When Moses learned the Torah on Sinai, while rising to the Heavenly Academies of Learning Torah amongst the angels and before the Presence of God, he learned that there is more to Torah than simply memorization and draconian format to Torah, but that the Torah is alive and well, has a healthy pulse, and quite literally preserves the Word of God, even into the ongoing present moment if time. Moses essentially learned the “Pilpul” – “give and take” / “interactive” side of Torah and its dynamic. Moses considered this to be the essence of Torah, thus when it came time to give over the Torah to Israel, Moses chose to plug in the electricity of Pilpul, rather than create a Nation of robots and murmuring parrots. Hashem allowed Moses to do as he pleased in this area, yet Moses persevered in this endeavor, yet it was clear that Moses had another agenda in mind: locate, preserve, and teach over the keys to the Torah of Shem that is present in ever matter of Torah – to understand a matter within a matter!
The obvious question is where do we find the Torah of Shem within the Torah of Moses? The answer is quite simple [yet far from obvious] in that is pulsating constantly in the Torah that we learn; it is essentially the technique of understanding a matter within a matter. Since Shem’s Torah is not central to any location in Torah, Parsha, or even a continued and recorded extended period of History [despite the fact that he WAS a main character of the Flood and Noah’s Ark, yet the Torah publicized Noah instead], it is our job to take what we do know to be true about Shem, thus giving over a stock-pile of Torah that we could effectively call the Torah of Shem, even if in a limited state.
Once there is a bulk of knowledge of Shem present within the prospective student, along with ability and desire to understand the Torah, one can apply “pilpul” to his Torah study, and recapture the truth of Torah that would compose itself within the Torah of Shem, as he is/was the father of Torah. It was for this that Moses knew he must preserve the Torah in its purest form. Moses achieved this goal when he delivered “pilpul” to Israel and along with this gift per force is the Torah of Shem. If Jacob was severe to his children not to forget the Torah of Shem, as depicted in the literal text that he answered to their “Shema” [in the form of Baruch “Shem” Kavod Malchuto LeOlam VaEd while Jacob served as the paradigm “Listen O’ Israel] then Moses would continue the respect to Shem, as he is the forefather to Spiritual Mankind and the Torah.
All that we are left with is: how is this “pilpul” connected to the Torah of Shem? The answer is quite simple; since we have no direct transmission of his Torah, yet we know that it is buried within the Torah of Moses, with intent of its extraction, our job is to derive it! Pilpul is the art of understanding matters with matters, and this is the secret to the Torah of Shem. For every bit of revealed Torah, if we seek to find the matter within a matter, you will find the path to the Torah of Shem; the path has ability to shine depending on how much we seek to find it and incorporate the known Torah of Shem. [Torah of Shem would be comprised of whatever we have in print from the revealed sect of Torah] It is this style of learning where the concept of an entire revelation of Torah can take place, much the same as Abraham received the entire Torah from Shem on the Temple Mount. Even to understand that exchange between Abraham and Malki Tzedek, one must delve into pilpul [a matter within a matter] just to understand what happened between the two of them.
Moses seeks to establish the beginnings of the Sanhedrin in this Torah Portion, and it will require the Torah of Shem and the level of Torah called pilpul; both salvageable by Understanding Men. If Moses could not find this quality amongst the Jewish People, yet Jethro made it a positive distinction, where would such a People be found? The answer should be obvious – the Noahides themselves! [After all, we seek Torah of Shem from the Torah of Jethro – both Noahides!] We find in the Midrash on the portion of Torah where Bilaam curses / Blesses the Jewish People in Parashas Balak that the famed Kenites, who go back to Jethro, actually have a permanent presence within the Sanhedrin and sit with permanence in the Holy Temple. Thus Moses sought to find this level of Understanding Men, and he failed in finding them. However the story gets much greater from that moment onwards, as it is the Noahides for eternity who will take the seat of Understanding, learn the art of pilpul in their eternal inheritance of Torah, and will be the most Blessed in extracting the essence of the Torah, the Torah of Shem.
The Midrash makes it quite clear that learning Torah is especially prominent amongst the Noahides, to the tune that the entire First Temple time period was quite literally filled with Noahides, until Sancheriv came and exiled the Noahides with the 10 Lost Tribes. The Noahide represents everything that is Good within Torah and it is thus fitting that Noahide Torah contribution in Torah is unparalleled in Torah history. Moses gave the opportunity for these secrets to be revealed in Torah, and this was clearly not for naught, as Moses, an incarnation of Shem, surely saw the Blessing that comes with Torah – the Eternal Noahide Nations. The Torah would not exist today if not for the Noahides; the proof seems to never stop revealing itself, even if it is from a matter within a matter, something that each time and place in Torah, brings us back to the original teachings, of Shem son of Noah. Finding Men of Understanding to comprise the Sanhedrin is no different, in its Noahide roots.
May the World fill with Men of Understanding!