Netzavim VaYelech Writing Your Own Torah Song

In this week’s Parsha we find the final Mitzvah in the Torah, number six-thirteen, the obligation to write a Sefer Torah. It is understandable why this is written at the end, since till now the entire Sefer Torah was not yet written, and only when the Sefer Torah is completed is there such a Mitzvah.
The Torah writes:
And now therefore write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me about the children of Israel.
But there a number of aspects of this Mitzvah that raise questions. Firstly, why is the Torah referred to as a song? The Gemarra explains that it is referring to the next Parsha, Ha’azinu, which is a song. But then maybe we are only obligated to write that Parsha? Explain the Rishonim since it is forbidden to write only one Parsha, ergo you are to write an entire Torah. But that answer itself is difficult. Why does the Torah create the obligation through such a roundabout way? Why not just command us to write the whole Torah?
Further in the Halachos of writing a Torah we find something that is not found anywhere else. The Gemarra says , that the main obligation is to write a Torah yourself. And if you do that it is as if you received it at Har Sinai. If you take a Sefer Torah that is incorrect in even one letter and repair it, it is as if you wrote it. But if you purchase a Sefer Torah rather than write one, it is as if you grabbed a Mitzvah from the souk- marketplace. This denigration of one who purchases a Mitzvah is unique to here. There is actually a Machlokes among the Rishonim, which is also continued in the commentaries of the Shulchan aruch exactly what it means. The Rema says that it means you do did not fulfill your obligation. The GRA says that you fulfilled your obligation but in a limited way, since you did not exert yourself . Why is there such a differentiation? And why is one letter sufficient, if you really need to write the entire Torah?
Also the terminology of the Rambam is the Sefer HaMitzvos is unusual . “That every person from among us will have a Sefer Torah.” What is the meaning of the passive and possessive voice?
The Sfas Emes has an illuminating piece about the Mitzvah of writing a Torah which he wrote in honor of a Siyum of writing a Sefer Torah.
Every person has a part of the Torah appropriate to whom he is, whether a letter, a word, a vowel, or a crown. Since every person’s name is hinted to in the song of Ha’azinu this part cannot be grasped without fulfilling the entire Torah to the extent of one’s abilities. Through that one can find their place in the Torah, as the Mishnah says, “There is no person that does not have a place.” And that ‘place’ is the Torah, the place of the Jewish people. Also, as the Ramban writes, the Neshama in the body is like the letters on the parchment on the Sefer Torah. And as the Pasuk says, write them on the tablets of your heart, that the Torah is to be written on the person themselves. That is the writing of the Torah on yourself, and therefore your body needs to be pure and holy like the parchment of the Torah.
What the Sfas Emes means is that everyone has your own individual Torah. Just as at the giving of the Torah we learn that the six hundred thousand people are parallel to the six hundred thousand letters of the Torah, and each person has their own letter and portion in the Torah; this remains in every generation. Just as we learn that all the generations of the Jewish people were at Matan Torah, so too each one has a letter or a part thereof, just like the original six hundred thousand.
What the Sfas Emes means that everyone’s name is in Ha’azinu is referring to an incident recounted in the Sefer KAv V’Yashar .
The Seder HaDoros brings this remarkable story about the Ramban. He had a Talmid named R’ Avner who converted to Christianity. After a short time he rose in the Church to become a very powerful leader. One Yom Kippur he summoned the Ramban to appear before him. He then proceeded to slaughter a pig, cut it up, cook it, and eat before the Ramban. He then asked the Ramban how many Krisus he was Chayav. The Ramban said, “Four.” The apostate argued and said, “Five.” The Ramban gave a very dirty look and even he had enough shame from his Rebbi to be quiet then. The Ramban asked him what made him do what he did? He said that he once heard the Ramban say that all the mitzvos and everything that ever happened in the world was alluded to in Parshas Ha’azinu. Since this was impossible for him to reconcile he left the Jewish religion altogether.
The Ramban reaffirmed its truth and challenged R’ Avner to ask him anything, and he would find it in Haazinu. R’ Avner was taken aback and he asked the Ramban where his name R’ Avner is in the Parsha? The Ramban went to a corner and davened and suddenly a pasuk came to his mouth (Haazinu 32:26), אָמַרְתִּי, אַפְאֵיהֶם אַשְׁבִּיתָה מֵאֱנוֹשׁ זִכְרָם, I made up my mind to cast them away, I would eliminate mention of them from mankind. The third letter of each of these words spells R’ Avner.
When R’ Avner heard this he turned white and his haughtiness left him. He asked the Ramban if there was any cure for his grave ills. The Ramban said, “You heard the words of the Pasuk!” and turned and left. R’ Avner immediately went down to the port, took a boat without any sailors or any oars, and sailed away where the wind would take him, and was never heard from again.
In addition there is a tradition from the GRA that there are six hundred and fourteen words in Ha’azinu and they are all the Mitzvoth and the Klal . There is a Sefer called Shirah L’Chayim which actually shows how each word is an acrostic that mentions the Mitzvot in order of the way they appear in the Torah.
So we find that Ha’azinu is the microcosm of all the Jews and all the Mitzvoth. So when we say that the Mitzvah of writing the Torah is to write the Shira, it is referring that everyone is to write their own name and the Mitzvah that is associated with it. Therefore, purchasing a Torah is not actually making your own mark, since you have to write your part of the Torah. So doing such a Mitzah is the equivalent of someone learning and memorizing what his Rebbe taught him, but never originating anything on his own. And we were not sent to this world to imitate others but to create on our own.
And that is why even one letter is sufficient since each person is actually only found in one letter. And that is what the Torah means to write “for you”, it is your individual part of the Torah. And that is what the Rambam writes that it is for you and from yourself to write your Torah.
That is also why a Sefer Torah inherited from a parent is not enough. Because as much as we are obligated to follow our parent’s way of Torah, we have to forge our own path. But the king who has to write two Torah, one for himself and one as a king; the kingly Sefer Torah can be from his father , just as the kingdom is an inheritance.
If so why is the possessive part of the Pasuk in the plural? The answer is that even though we have to write our own Torah, it is still as a part of the whole, connected to the nation. And the Pasuk ends with “place it on your mouth.” That is the Torah Sh’ba’al Peh, that is actually how each person makes the Torah their own. The writing is the same for all, but through the individual mouths of Klal Yisroel, the unique Torah of each comes out.
And the Pasuk before is:
And I will surely hide My face in that day for all the evil which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.
That is the Pasuk of Esther . And in the time of Esther there was a new acceptance of the Torah, and as the Gemarra teaches us, the Megilah is written as the Torah itself , since that was the Torah of that generation.
And not only does every person have their own part of the Torah, every year as we read the entirety of the Torah again, there is a new giving of the Torah with the unique insights and illuminations of that year .
So as we read this week before Rosh HaShana the Mitzvah of writing our own unique Torah, let us contemplate what we accomplished for ourselves individually last year, and daven that we find our individual niche in the Torah, as a part of the entire Jewish people.


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