Thursday, September 18, 2014

the 13th sefer Torah: a chiddush of the Rogatchover and more

1. Let me start with something about Eretz Yisrael: “…V’hasheivosa el levavecha b’chol hagoyim asher hidichacha Hashem Elokecha shama.” (30:1)  The parsha says that we will all eventually do teshuvah and Hashem will respond by bringing us out of galus.  Yet a few pesukim later (30:8) the parsha again says, “V’atah tashuv v’shamata b’kol Hashem…”  Why does the parsha need to repeat the fact that we will do teshuvah?  It already told us that in the first pasuk?

Ksav Sofer answers that the first pasuk is speaking about teshuvah done in galus, “b’chol hagoyim asher hidichacha”.  While that teshuvah is certainly significant, it is incomplete.  Only in Eretz Yisrael, when we live as a nation in our own homeland, when we can do all mitzvos, including the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, can we return to Hashem in earnest.  Therefore, after telling us that Hashem will bring us back to Eretz Yisrael, the parsha repeats again, “atah tashuv…”  Only then will our teshuvah be complete.

2. A few weeks ago I mentioned the Rambam regarding the mitzvah on a king to write a second sefer Torah (Melachim ch 3:

  בעת שיישב המלך על כיסא מלכותו, כותב לו ספר תורה לשמו יתר על הספר שהניחו לו אבותיו; ומגיהו מספר העזרה, על פי בית דין של שבעים ואחד.

I asked why the king had to copy his sefer Torah davka from the sefer in the azarah under the supervision of Beis Din haGadol.  If it was simply a matter of accuracy, then why apply that standard to only the second sefer of the king – wouldn’t we want ever sefer to be accurate?

The Rogatchover in our parsha comes to the rescue.  Rashi in our parsha quotes from Chazal that Moshe wrote 13 sifrei Torah just before he died.  He gave one to each sheiveit, and one was designated for sheivet Levi and stored in the aron.  The Rogatchover writes that the sefer stored in the aron was unlike the others: it was written with nikud, masorah, ta’amei keri’ah, including the nikud of the shem hameforash.  That was the special sefer from which the king’s torah was copied – a unique copy, different from all other seforim. 

Someone (if you comment anonymously I assume you prefer your name not mentioned) in a comment to the earlier post said that the R’ Soloveitchik quoted his father as saying that there was a special chalos to the sefer azarah, and as proof he cited Rashi (Baba Basra 14) who says that it was this sefer that was used for the hakhel ceremony and for the Kohen gadol’s leining on Y”K.  I wasn’t convinced at the time, thinking that Rashi was perhaps just telling us the metziyus, not a din.  Yet in light of the Rogatchover (who also makes note of this Rashi), it does seem that the sefer azarah was used deliberately and not just because it was the closest sefer torah available.

Why was Moshe and the Levi’im alone entrusted with this special sefer?  The Rogatchover explains that the Levi’im needed to know the ta’amei mikrah because the Levi’im were charged with the mitzvah of shirah, which involved singing parshiyos (e.g. parshas ha’azinu, see Rosh haShana 31).  Moshe himself was a Levi.  When Moshe received the Torah from Hashem, he heard it with the nikud and ta’amim. These were passed on to Klal Yisrael as torah sheba’al peh, but were inherent in the torah sheb’ksav of that 13th sefer.

The Rambam describes the hakhel ceremony as follows (Hil Chagigah ch 3):

 אפילו חכמים גדולים שיודעים כל התורה כולה, חייבין לשמוע בכוונה גדולה יתרה.  ומי שאינו יכול לשמוע--מכוון ליבו לקריאה זו, שלא קבעה הכתוב אלא לחזק דת האמת; ויראה עצמו כאילו עתה נצטווה בה, ומפי הגבורה שומעה--שהמלך שליח הוא

Clearly this was not your regular kri’as hatorah experience or just a kiyum of talmud torah.  The Rambam doesn’t discuss hakhel in hilchos talmud torah – he puts it in hilchos chagigah.  The king’s reading from the special sefer which contained the ta’amei kri’ah and points to the fact that the ceremony is in some sense a re-enactment of Sinai, the way Torah shebksav was delivered to Moshe. What does the Rambam mean when he says even if you couldn't hear you had to have kavanah -- what are you having kavanah on if you can't hear?  Perhaps the kavanah is for the melody, the ta'amaim, which in this case are part and parcel of the text being read, not just the icing on the cake.  Even if you can't make out the words, you can still follow the tune.  

I would say that hakhel is not about kri’ah, but about shirah.      

3. Coming back to the pesukim I started with, which speaks about the teshuvah we must do while in galus, why does the pasuk need to end with “…asher hidichacha Hashem Elokecha shamah?”  What does how we got here have to do with it?

R’ Tzadok haKohen answers that the first step in the teshuvah process is recognizing that we are not in galus by chance.  Hashem put us here to teach us a lesson.  Have we learned that lesson?

The Tiferes Shlomo, however, reads the pasuk a little differently.  “V’haya…,” when the day comes that we do teshuvah “b’chol hagoyim asher hidichacha,” in the galus that we unfortunately find ourselves in, don’t think we will have to go it alone.  “Hashem Elokecha shamah” – Hashem is right there along with us.


  1. The taamim are used for drashos, like mercha tipcha, and are essential for Torah shebal peh. That's Why even chachamim gdolim were required to listen intently, although being baki in Torah.

    1. But they couldn't hear the words?

  2. a) would the sefer she'b'haichal be kosher for kriyat hatorah in a shul, say the bais knesses on the har habayis?

    b) a pshat I feel re "bchol hayoyim asher hidichacha". When a Jew looks around at those self-same goyim, and makes a chesbon hanefesh if he is really much better than them, that is a powerful motivation to tshuva.

  3. Anonymous10:18 AM

    Nice post!
    Maybe I'll start signing my name from now.