Yacov Nordlicht – Shavuos – A New Birth

In this week’s parsha, we find a peculiar pasuk which reveals a very deep yesod. In the beginning of the third perek, the pasuk says, “And these are the offspring of Moshe and Aharon”. However, the pesukim go on to only mention the children of Aharon. The obvious question is, why does the Torah introduce the counting of Aharon’s sons with “these are the offspring of Moshe and Aharon” while it continues to list only the children of Aharon!?

Rashi anticipates this problem and says that the reason the Torah mentions Moshe is because Moshe taught Aharon’s children Torah, and if one teaches another Torah its akin in the eyes of the Torah as if he has given birth to him. (As a side note, this Rashi seems to be a little bit difficult to understand. Moshe taught Torah to all of Klal Yisrael, so it should have mentioned Moshe by the counting of the children of all the shvatim…)

What’s this idea? What does it mean that if a person teaches another Torah it’s considered as if he had given birth to him? What change happens in order to consider the person a “new” individual?

There’s a yesod I heard a while ago from Rav Yehuda Vagshal which I think is applicable to answer this question. There’s a famous ma’amer of Chazal which says, “ain ben chorin eleh mi she’osek b’Torah”, “there’s no free person besides for one who toils in Torah.” Chazal learn this out of a pasuk which says that divrei Torah are “charus al luach libo”, that is, “engraved in the walls of one’s heart.” Chazal tell us not to read it “charus”, “engraved”, rather “cheirus”, “freedom”.

It’s brought down in seforim that when chazal darshan like this, there’s always a connection between the word being changed and the word its being changed to. In our case, that would mean there’s a connection between “charus” and “cheirus”; “engraved” and “freedom”. What’s the connection between the two words?

To explain this, we can start with a parable. There are two ways a person could make a picture on a rock. He could take some paint and smear it on a rock. In this way, the paint would remain the same paint and the rock would remain the same rock, the paint would just happen to be on the rock. Another way to make this picture would be if the artist chose to engrave the image into the rock itself. In this way, the rock itself would portray the image wanted.

The same is true with learning Torah. A person can learn Torah in such a way where the Torah exists outside of him. Just like the paint on the rock, the essence of the person remains unchanged, he just happens to know some Torah. A deeper way to learn is for the person to engrave the words of Torah into his heart. In this way, his essence is changed; it itself speaks Torah.

That’s the connection between the word “charus”, “engraved”, and “cheirus”, “freedom.” A person who learns Torah is considered free. But which type of learning Torah? Only one who engraves the words of Torah into “luach libo”, the walls of his heart.

I think this could be the pshat in the Rashi we mentioned earlier. When one teaches another Torah, why is it considered as if he has given birth to him? Because if Torah is taught and learnt in the correct way, the essence of the person changes. He’s no longer the same person he was before he learned Torah. If he allows the words of Torah to penetrate him, they become engraved in his heart. Then the heart itself speaks these words of Torah.

Next week it will be Shavuos. Besides for being an intense day of Limud Hatorah, the Torah tells us that the korban brought on Shavuos was a Mincha Chadasha. I saw once (I believe a Sfas Emes) that the Mincha Chadasha was brought specifically on Shavuos because the essence of Shavuos is a day of hischadshus, renewal. So if we’ve spent the past year to busy or to complacent to try to engrave Torah into ourselves, Shavuos is the day for the Tikkun. To reflect on the meaning of Torah and the role it plays in our lives. Is it our essence, or merely something we know? Is it the paint on the rock, or is it a part of the rock itself?

This question can serve as a good preparation for Shavuos, to approach the day with a proper mindset and desire to become a person who exudes the message of the Torah from the essence of his being.

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