Parashat Nitzavim: The Voice of Shem
Rabbi David Katz
In this week’s Parsha we find a thread running through it, one that quite literally explains Jewish History from the eyes of the constant creation of the Noahide from its inception, all the way to Shem, his Voice, and his relevance to the Complete Redemption of the Messianic era. The Torah in Devarim 29:10 in conjunction with Devarim 29:14 state the following two scenarios: “Gerim” who semi - converted out of improper fear, as opposed to the Love of God that would develop into the Awe of God, amongst the many who would stand present in the current covenant upon entry into the Holy Land, and the Torah then closes its demands by stating those who are in fact present here – today, and curiously enough those who are not present today, i.e. future generations, states “Rashi” [Bible Commentator] there. The simple explanation of these two concepts are: ill-advised [semi and whole] conversions, now and in the future; and perhaps the verse is suggesting that in the future just as there would be future Jews coming into this covenant, perhaps “Gerim” of the future would balance the symmetry here as well, only that perhaps they would heed the Torah’s warnings, as it states until the conclusion of the Parsha, and thus repair their predecessors. This rectification could be easily depicted as the arrival of the “related Ger” – The Noahide who is due to arrive in the Messianic Age, the same Messianic Age that the Parsha prophesies at its conclusion.
The Parsha concludes with, “… [in regards to Hashem and his Redemption; in the name of the Love of God – which defines the Noahides relationship with Hashem] to listen to His Voice.” Simply stated, that when we listen to the voice of God [and Love Him all the more so], we are guaranteed to provoke an arousal Above that will precipitate the Redemption on Earth. This is where Shem and his voice come into play and are in conjunction with the Complete Redemption.
The Talmud in Sanhedrin 98a in accordance with the dialogue of the Messiah and his arrival, [the Rabbi asks],”when is the Master [the Messiah] coming?” Upon which the Messiah answers, “Today!” The rabbi goes on to state his confusion to Elijah the Prophet who had shown the Rabbi where the Messiah was, as this is today he said! – and he didn’t come! Elijah then responded, “[indeed] today! - If we would just listen to his voice!” This is where Redemption, Shem, and the Messiah all come together: in the “listening to his voice.” The only question is, to whom shall we listen, Shem or Hashem or the Messiah? Let us not forget as well that this will be a tale of the Ger when all ends meet!
The Talmud Sanhedrin 98b states that one condition of the redemption is that “there is no Messiah in Israel”, and the simple answer to this challenging statement is that Hashem will Himself redeem the World. The vessel to fulfill this task is none other than Shem ben Noah. The Midrash states on this topic: Shem is nullified in the eyes of God to be a staff of God. Hashem offered the Torah for 400 years, upon which only Abraham would accept – only there was a catch: It was being offered by the hand of Shem! The results of this teaching is that something done by Shem is so Holy and not of “self” it is as if Hashem had done it alone. Another example of this in the Midrash [also involving Shem and Abraham] is with the circumcision of Abraham. We are told that Hashem did it alone, yet the MIdrash explains Shem was called to duty – yet another expression of Shem being an agent of God. To return to our axiom “there is no Messiah to Israel”, the domain for Shem to be the rod of Hashem that accomplishes this task, and that allows for the Talmud to conceive of its teaching takes place in the upper worlds that Shem has occupied since a famous meeting with King Solomon that set Shem free to dwell Above as “A Priest to God Above.” It is there where the first gleanings of Redemption take place, involve Shem, and can still be considered from Hashem, as that World is identified as “of people” yet is so close to God that there is no realization of self there. By this model, all opinions of Messiah work accordingly. This brings us to the “when you listen to His/his voice” quotation(s) we saw in the end of our Parsha and in the Talmud in regards to the Messiah.
If the Redemption is to come about from Listening to the voices of the Messiah and Hashem, as detailed in the two locations listed, Shem must be seen as the missing piece that makes both valid. The Torah is the voice of God, and we know not where to look for the voice of the Messiah – enter Shem! One must remember that Shem is the rod of Hashem, and Hashem wrote the Torah in the language of Man. [The Torah is also rooted in the same World that Shem’s soul consciously dwells in, called Atzilus – Closeness] Thus the Torah contains the voice of God, the same Torah that Moses wrote by God’s Prophecy. One little known fact that has exists, is that the Torah of Moses contains the Torah of Shem, and more explicitly, it can be described as the voice of Shem.
Underneath every facet of Torah, we find the voice of God. Some levels are in the simple meaning, and this is easily seen as Moses’ prophecy of God’s Word. Yet the Torah of Shem is called “Pilpul” – the spice of Torah, which as is taught, all Torah is recorded in the voice as Men would speak. One must make the conclusion at this point, that Shem’s voice in the Torah is loud and clear – “if we would but hear it today!” It is Shem who epitomizes doing the absolute will of God, to the point that he represents what God wants in this World. Put the pieces together and we come to a simple equation: Shem’s Voice speaks God’s Voice, [much like Moses prophetically spoke the Word of God, the Midrash states that Shem perceived the “inner monologue of God”] and this is what we must listen to – Today! The results are uniform in both locations of context: Listen [to God; – Find the Voice of Shem = God’s Voice, as an act of self-nullification, i.e. a higher level of prophecy (deemed “Wisdom” as opposed to Moses’ level of “Netzach – Victory”)] and bring about Messiah [literally and not “Above”] and the Redemption by the Power of God.
Enter the Noahide and the Ger.
The Parsha states that the ill-advised Gerim stood at the covenant mentioned in the Parsha. The Talmud states [Yevamos 48b] that in the future there will be converts to Judaism who are punished for not having spent time and learned as a Noahide, similarly to the Gerim who stood at the covenant in the Parsha; the Parsha predicted that for everyone present there would be their future counterparts present in spirit as well, i.e. Gerim who were not proper in the eyes of God. [For this is the reason that Hashem did not wish for Moses to bring out the Mixed Multitude, for they would mesh with these Gerim, and produce an evil that would cause Israel to sin. The Torah then warns against this for the rest of the Parsha.] However, there would be another Ger-derivative who would be present in the future, one that would provide the code of proper symmetry for all of the types of Gerim mentioned: The Ger Toshav/Tzedek/Noahide. In the case of the Noahide, he represents the Ger with proper intentions, has a Love of God, and has a genuine Love for Torah [Torah, performing his Commandments, and the study of all]. The difference with this Ger is that he goes directly back to Shem, and therefore not only hears the voice of Shem, but seeks it proactively, along with the voice of God, with all his heart and all his soul!
The Noahide then understands and expresses that the voice of the Messiah and Hashem are not a contradiction – if we would [learn (all) Torah] Today! By doing so, the spice of Torah comes out, and Hashem would keep his promise and word, and bring the Complete Redemption, on High and on Earth. To explain how Shem would be a part of both, we turn to the Talmud Sukkah 52b that states there are Four Craftsmen of Redemption: Messiahs sons of David and Joseph, Elijah, and the Righteous Priest Shem ben Noah. Thus Shem does his part Above and is credited as bringing it down as the Righteous Priest. Shem is even hinted at in the word Messiah, as in Hebrew Messiah spells, “Shem Lives!” [משיח = שם חי]
From here we see exactly what the Parsha explains in a beautiful way, one that one must give not only his eyes to, but his ears as well: a history of the Ger, and therefore a perspective of Jewish History [as the Jewish History can be seen in context of its relationships to Gerim, from Moses until today], the foundations of Noahides, from the original Gerim and their position at the covenant within the Parsha that prepares for all future Gerim, and ultimately, Shem – his voice – the Messiah - the Redemption, and the Word of Hashem..if we would but only listen. The Noahides Thank God were created to listen, and thereby even seek for their mysteriously hidden ancestor: Shem ben Noah. And as the Messiah says, on many levels it seems, “If we would but only listen today.” For that matter, the Torah of Hashem speaks, and as we learned, in its deeper valleys, it speaks through the Wisdom of Shem ben Noah.