Monday, May 17, 2010

Celebrating The Two Torahs

As I read through the passages that detail the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai, I find myself experiencing Hashem’s revelation as an ominous, commanding voice, insisting on obedience.

This image may not capture the entire picture of the giving of the Torah.

Our sages teach that the tablets that Moshe received were six handbreadths wide by six handbreadths long by three handbreadths deep. At the giving of the Torah, Hashem held on to two handbreadths, Moshe held on to two handbreadths, and there were two left in the middle.

The Maharal of Prague asks why there needed to be two handbreadths in the middle; why couldn’t there be two in Moshe’s hand and two in Hashem’s hand? He answers that if that were the case, it would have implied that the Torah has two components: what Hashem decreed, and what Moshe received. But this does not express the most essential element of the Torah: the two handbreadths in the middle represent the place of relationship.

These two handbreadths represent the give and take. The Torah is not only a fixed document where Hashem acts as the omnipotent commander, but rather the Torah represents an unfolding relationship that expresses a living dialogue. This Torah is called the Oral Torah, and is as essential as the fixed letters on the tablets.

As we receive the Torah anew on Shavuot, we need to not only experience the dramatic revelation of the Written Torah, but we must also seek out the active relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people, which thrives in our study halls and in our silent contemplation.

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