Sunday, October 7, 2012

Shem, Rashi, and The End


  Parashas Vezos Haberacha: Where is Shem in The Torah?
  Rabbi David Katz
In this week’s Parsha, the last of the Chumash (the 5 Books of Torah) it ends with the traditionally recited Blessings to the Tribes, Moses’ farewell to the World, and Joshua is charged to enter the Land. We have at this point learned the entire Torah, and by now the reader may or may not be familiar with the most classic Bible commentator “Rashi” who is referred to by his eternal following as the “Little Brother of the Torah.” With that said, the Torah technically does not end with the words of Moses, in the most literal and/or figurative way, rather the Torah ends according to the interpretation that you choose to follow.
Moses has died in our Parsha, to which the Bible commentators then ask, “how could Moses finish the Torah if he has just died!?” A few answers that are commonly offered in response to this query are the following: Moses or Joshua finished the Torah. If it was indeed Moses, then it is said that he received the prophecy of his death and rejection of entry into the Land, and proceeded to pen the conclusion of the Torah in blood. If it was Joshua, due to the passing of Moses, then perhaps Moses received the prophecy, but left his final legacy as a jumble of letters, leaving behind that Joshua would then have to decipher the “code” and he actually penned the final charge of the Torah. This answer is interesting, being that Joshua was actually not inclined to the Torah’s inner dimension as was evident in various Midrashim that elaborate on the shortcomings of Joshua. The Torah’s inner dimension was actually a major pre-requisite in the receiving of Rabbinical Ordination, thus with Moses’ passing in this fashion, Joshua shows by his ability to finish the Torah, that he has received his higher levels of Wisdom and is ready to lead the people into the Land.
As Joshua would enter the Land, he would come as King, along with the Sanhedrin, the Priest, and the Priest of War. The Priest (Elazar the Priest) would bear the Priestly Breastplate (that is inscribed with the names of the Tribes) and questions would be posed to it for counsel to educate the King as to what the Nation of Israel is to do in times of question. The answer would be composed by God within the same style of “hints” (with the illumination of the letters contained within the Tribal Names) as Moses’ finishing the Torah. The Priest and the King would need to work to understand the meaning of the Breastplate’s message. Joshua within this interpretation would show that he was capable as being King. If we project a little bit further, the quintessential King of Israel would be the master of the inner dimension of Torah – King David! [As expressed by Psalms]
The last solution to the issue concerning the Torah’s completion and the passing of Moses, whether it was Moses or Joshua, one could even say it was Rashi! Technically Rashi’s words do in fact complete the Torah and there is a tradition in Tanach by the commentator “Radak” that the Torah of Moses is best described as an on-going discourse constantly being extended, through the vehicle of the Oral Torah and the various commentators. Torah actually then has a history that runs through it and the Torah of Moses proper, is the platform of which all Torah comes from: Pre-Sinai, Rabbinical Literature, and the nature of all Torah, i.e. The Torah of Shem rests in the Torah of Moses in the same way.
With this view, as a technical finish to Rashi, let’s view Rashi’s last words, and employ the same technique as Joshua son of Nun! Many would be amazed to understand that the commentary of Rashi is incredibly deep and contains many secrets, hints, and allusions. After all, Rashi, the Father of the Commentators is said to have written his commentary with Holy Inspiration.
Rashi says: [Devarim 34:12] “[in regard to Moses having broken the Tablets of the 10 Commandments and Hashem concurring with Moses’ actions…יישר כחך ששברת"
“Way to go! – That You broke [them]!” Hashem proclaimed to Moses. What a fascinating way for Rashi to literally end the Torah! Many have invested countless thought in the analysis of how the Torah begins and ends. One such example that perplexes the commentators is the revelation within the Torah’s first and last letters:ב and ל – which when put together spell לב “heart” and are a reference to the 32 pathways [heart has a gematria of 32] of Intellect according to Kabalah. The findings are endless and prove to be a wealth of Knowledge. So did Rashi have a hidden message for us too?
Look to Rashi’s last word: ששברת – “That you broke them.” This word can be rearranged to spell רב ששת  - Rav Shesheth – the name of a certain sage of the Talmud. What is interesting about Rav Shesheth is that he was in denial of the Torah’s secrets that are found in the Midrashim and Agaddata. Rav Shesheth comes to light in a famous passage of Talmud, Sukkah 52b: “And the Lord showed me four craftsmen. Who are these ‘four craftsmen’? — R. Hana b. Bizna citing R. Simeon Hasida replied: The Messiah the son of David, the Messiah the son of Joseph, Elijah and the Righteous Priest. R. Shesheth objected, If so, was it correct to write, These are the horns which scattered Judah, seeing that they came to turn [them] back? — The other answered him, Go to the end of the verse: These then are come to frighten them, to cast down the horns of the nations, which lifted up their horns against the Land of Judah, to scatter it etc. Why, said R. Shesheth to him, should I argue with Hana in Aggada?
Rav Shesheth clearly met his match and admitted his failure to unify all levels of Torah as he clearly did not fully understand the implications of Aggada and the rich Torah that they share and offer to the interested reader. This Talmudic piece that the Talmud chose to illuminate this point to Rav Shesheth is quite peculiar and one that resonates quite loud within Noahide Torah. When we look to Rashi there at Sukkah 52b, in relation to the Righteous Priest, Rashi [fittingly enough] states this is none other than Shem the son of Noah! Thus Rav Shesheth here admits his lack of knowledge of Shem, and this Aggadadic piece outright. Rashi explains without hesitation who these enigmatic characters are, and the Talmud’s conclusion there is to state just how important Midrash is. One must remember also that the Talmud chose to educate with Rav Shesheth with the Midrash of Shem in particular!
The Midrash of Shem is quite unique in the entire Talmud, as not only is Shem mentioned by name, [by Rashi] but this is the only place in Torah that mentions Messiah son of Joseph by name as well. It is not an accident that these two characters have teamed up in this location in order to educate about the Redemption, one of which that Shem is involved in, Rashi, makes it clear here, and now we are left to ponder the Rashi that completes the Torah – as a hint to Redemption, and ultimately Shem?
For far too long, Shem has been a victim of the same plague that bites Rav Shesheth: people simply look past the Midrash and Aggadata. If Rav Shesheth can overlook his shortcomings in Torah, perhaps more people should choose to learn the Torah that lives “off the page!”
Shem was the Forefather of Torah, and it is his message that developed the Avot, the Nation of Israel in its early stages, and Shem himself was a member of Sinai! One may ask, where does all of this Torah of Shem come from? Aside from the very few locations within the 5 Books of Moses, one must be the anti-Rav Shesheth to find the Torah of Shem – Look to the rest of the Torah! When one looks to the Midrash, Aggadata, Chazal, Writings, even random Rashi’s as it seems, not only will you find Torah of Shem [and Noah] – you will find it in abundance!
In the end, Rav Shesheth admitted that he lacked knowledge of Midrash, and the Midrash chosen to exploit this fact was a famous and important one indeed: Shem as the Righteous Priest [as per Rashi]. It is my sincere hope and dream that the Torah of Shem sees the light of day once again, and the Torah of Moses in its truest sense is returned to the World. Let there be no longer any darkness of the Torah of the Avos, Midrashim, Torah history, etc…and most importantly let the Torah of Shem Live! It may be hidden, and one may need to plumb the depths of Rashi to find it, but it is there. After all, we have Rav Shesheth to thank for validating one of the most important Gemara’s there are: Messiah son of Joseph exists. The Torah’s Writings suggest he is to die; yet maybe if we listen to Rav Shesheth’s quiet self-rebuke, Joseph, as the Vilna Gaon states, “will live!” as Jacob hints at this by stating “Joseph still Lives!” And why stop there – if Messiah son of Joseph is one of the Four Craftsmen – a role that he shares with the Righteous Priest – then we must say, Shem Lives as well! To the one who learns the Torah, on all of her levels, may he be Blessed to know that Shem already Lives, for it is our job to find Life. Such is the charge of Torah, one that even Rav Shesheth can attest to – that there will be a Redemption, and Shem son of Noah is a part of it. The Torah attests to this, just read Rashi, you know, “the part of the Torah of Moses that lives on,”…better yet, one can look to the Torah of Shem who witnessed everything at Sinai – an eternal witness, Shem my Lover, Shem the Great, Shem son of Noah. {Midrash Tanna D’ Bei Eliyahu}
בראשית ברא אלוקים
Interestingly enough, the last letters of the Torah's last 4 words and first 3 words spell:

הילל אמת

...and now to explain Hillel in the Talmud Sanhedrin: אין משיח לישראל- Huh?



Anonymous said...

Today Rav Fish`s words (interpretations) will be proven:

"...The Vilna Gaon on the Mechilta (Shmos 14:20) and the Midrash Talpiyos (Gog) say, that the Gog U'Magog war shall begin three hours before "Hanetz Hachama" (crack of dawn) on Hoshana Rabba, and shall last three hours only. This is why we say " הוֹשַׁעְנָא שָׁלֹש שָׁעוֹת " If we connect this to what the Zohar quoted above said that the war will be in the 73rd year of the century, it comes out that the war shall take place on Hoshana Rabba of 5773.

The date 773 equals "crack of dawn on Hoshana Rabba":
.תשע"ג בְּגִימַטְרִיָּא הָנֵץ הֹשַׁעְנָא רַבָּא

.... Please comment.

Joe said...

Shalom Rav Katz,

as always............a very inspirational article that allows one to soar to dizzy heights of revelation.
As I absorbed the profundity of your insights, I must admit sparks were going off in my heart of hearts.

Reading the conclusion of Sefer Devarim and the changing of the guard from Moshe Rabbeinu to Yehoshua ben Nun, I noticed that after Moshe laid his hands upon Yehoshua, Yehoshua was filled with a "Spirit of Wisdom." After reading your article, I realized that this has an enormous impact on the whole event of Simchat Torah where the eternal cycle of reading the last portion of the Torah, rolling back the Torah scroll to the beginning and then reading Parashat Beresheit.

I have always believed that the end is in the beginning and the beginning is in the end. Could the Torah be giving us an incredible insight ? It is also interesting to note that Sefer Yehoshua begins the Tanach section of the Neviim or Prophets.

Back to THE ENDING of the Torah. My continuous thoughts keep delving into the possibility that the Torah cannot be perceived just as a book of law.. For in so doing it shatters the tablets of our hearts based on strict justice or din. It becomes devoid of the rachamim or mercy of the life of the indwelling Ruach ha Chodesh. Yes, we may see glimpses of the promised land, but we may never really enter. For without the Ruach ha Chodesh or the Spirit of Wisdom, the does and don'ts become dry religion. Just as the Spirit animates the body so the Ruach or the Holy Inspiration enlivens the Torah bringing it alive. Hence the Torah is likened to the Tree of Life or the Book of Life.

Now to the Beginning of the Torah when all was dark, chaotic and without form. By necessity the Spirit of Hashem, that the Sages liken to the Spirit of Mashiach, hovered or moved over the waters. This very movement of the Ruach produced the utterance of HaShem who spake Light into existence. HaShem then separated the Light from darkness............and it was good. Similarly, our very existence is dependent on the Light of Torah as the utterance of HaShem. Without this Light, how deep is the darkness and how chaotic is our form.

So in the end all must be enlivened.........for the G-d that we serve is EL CHAIM or THE LIVING G-D. The Torah is Emet or Truth. The Truth is absolute, constant and fixed. What enlivens, moves and renders it dynamic is the Ruach ha Chodesh or the Holy Breath. Similarly the Torah is brought alive by the Navi or Prophet. Even though the Torah is absolute, constant and fixed, the human tendency to stray off the path into man made interpreted religion is ever present. Enter the Navi, whose role it is to shine Light on these darkened paths and lead back to the ancient paths. The Spirit of Wisdom, ie the Spirit of Mashiach which rested on Shem, was transferred to Moshe, onto Yehoshua ben Nun and onto Eliyahu ha Navi and all the Neviim.

Od Avinu Chai, Od Yosef Chai, David Melech Yisrael Chai, Od Shem Chai.

Therefore, Hillel's Truth, I would assume is based on the attribute of Rachamim or Mercy, rather than Shammai's Truth of Strict Din or Justice. I cannot wait to hear your take on הילל אמת

Todah rabbah for this inspirational post, Rav Katz.

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