Thursday, September 13, 2012

for every end there is a means

Rashi comments on the pasuk, "Ki hamitzvah ha'zos... lo ba'shamayim hi," (30:12) that were the Torah indeed found in shamayim, we would have to go up and learn it there.   In other words, the pasuk does not mean, "Torah is not in heaven..." but were it there, you would have a good excuse not to learn. Rather, it means, "Torah is not in heaven," and therefore you have it easy, because were it there, you would have to find a way to get to it -- there are simply no excuses.  That's quite a powerful message to take into the last Shabbos before the end of the year.

I am wondering what prompted Rashi to make this comment.  What in the pasuk indicates that the first pshat is wrong and the second one is correct?  I have an idea or two but nothing compelling -- what do you think?
The meforshei Rashi discuss this hava amina that we would have to go up to the heavens -- how would we get there? The Maharal explains that one can get to shamayim through nevuah. This fits perfectly with Rav Shteinman's interpretation (in Ayeles haShachar) of the word "hayom," in the admonition a few pesukim earlier (30:8), "V'atah tashuv v'shamata b'kol Hashem...asher anochi metzavecha hayom," as an allusion to the principle that "ain navi rashai l'chadesh davar" -- the Torah was complete on the day it was given; later prophets are not permitted to add new mitzvos. Torah is not a product of nevuah; it is a completely different cheftza.

The Shem m'Shmuel's explains that had the mitzvah of limud haTorah necessitated getting to shamayim, then Hashem would have given us a means to get there. Since Torah is the blueprint of creation, if there is a din in the Torah, it means there has to be built into creation the means of fulfilling it.  What the Sm"S is telling us is that Hashem has equipped us with the kelim to accomplish whatever it is he asks of us. 

To us, getting up to shamayim seems like a fanstasy -- something we could only dream of. It is hard for us to imagine doing such a thing even if Hashem demanded it. For some people attending tefilah b'tzibur, learning a daily seder, keeping Shabbos k'halacha, etc. seems just as impossible. The Torah doesn't come out and tell those people, "Who are you kidding -- it's not so hard." The message of the Sm"S is very different -- yes, it is hard. For you it's as hard as going to shamayim. But guess what -- if Hashem wants you to do it, it means he gave you the means and ability to make it happen. Now you have no excuse.

Posting has been light lately (both in kamus and eichus), but I bl"n I hope to get to a nice piece from R' Elchanan before Yom Tov, so watch out for it.  If not, maybe afterwards. 


  1. Anonymous10:50 PM

    if the Torah is not overseas (30:13), why then
    do Chazal permit one's leaving eretz Yisrael to acquire It? and, given that they do so permit, can we not assume that they'd also allow departure from Her atmosphere to travel to Deep Space Yeshiva, situated at the place to where Hashem brought Avraham out (Breishis 15:5), with talmidim in attendance as numerous as the stars?
    [the Apollo missions came back with just so many
    rocks (see "any rock will do", Divrei Chaim,
    June 28/12, comment 1); any rocks brought back
    by the Hashem missions would of course be powerfully inscribed...]

    on the other hand, that the Torah is in our mouths & in our hearts, 30:14, suggests that He
    is very near to accepting as is the 'imrai' of our mouths & the 'hegyone' of our hearts; in a way, we needn't even listen to the Torah's words ('listen to It', 30:12-13, is missing from 30:14)-- they've already been heard...

  2. I said over this vort at the shabbos table. Thank you!

  3. Bob Miller12:12 PM

    The basic point of the pasuk seems to be the accessibility of Torah knowledge. Because we have such access, we can be held responsible for learning Torah and carrying out its commands.