September 17, 2015

In this weeks sedra of Vayelech, we find the last of the 613 mitzvot, that of writing a Sefer Torah.

Paradoxically, even if one has inherited a Sefer Torah from one’s father, it is not enough. One is still obligated to write a NEW Sefer Torah for oneself ( if possible.)
However, even in this age of excellent reproductive technology, the Torah must be written by a scribe on vellum with a quill and ink!

The wording of the mitzva is strange. ” and now write down this SONG”. The simple, literal meaning is to write down the previous parasha of Haazinu which is a poem written in poetic form.

But the halachik understanding of the verse is in the Talmud, massechet nedarim 38. Why is the entire Torah called “Shira” a song?

The Netziv, in his introduction to the Torah explains.
“In Massechet Nedarim 38 it is suggested that the phrase “shira” as in “Write down this song” applies to the entire Torah…. How may the entire Torah be compared to song or poetry, after all it is not written in poetic style. Rather we must suggest that Torah as a whole contains the inner qualities of poetry in that poetry uses language in a unique way. Everyone knows that poetry differs from prose in that the ideas are not explicitly expressed, as in prose. In poetry one needs a commentary alongside the poem to say: “this stanza refers to this or that.” This is not an external addition to the text, but this is the very nature of poetry, even for the layman. Moreover, in poetry, an expert, one who understands the allusion and the choice of phrase, will be enlightened by the language and style of the poem in a way radically different to a person who simply wishes to know the basic theme of the poem. In fact that person, ignorant in poetry, will probably emerge misunderstanding the intent of the poet. Such is the nature of Torah. The stories are not explicitly interpreted and laid out before the reader. Rather one has to create a commentary that dwells upon the allusions, the precision of language … maybe alluding to a particular law, a teaching or a midrash.” (HaEmek Davar. Introduction to Torah sect.3)

Shabbat shalom


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