Parshas Nitzavim – Sefer HaTorah, Zeh and Zohs

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This week’s Parsha is a continuation of the Bris of Klal Yisroel. The Torah writes[1], “If there is someone who will think that the Bris does not apply to them, HaShem will single him out for punishment, as all the curses of the Bris which are written in this Sefer Torah.” In Lashon HaKodesh all words are either male or female. There is no neutral gender. Therefore, the definite article ‘this’, has two forms, male and female. Here it is male.

A similar Pasuk appears in the previous Parsha[2]. “In addition, every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in this Sefer Torah, HaShem will bring them upon you, until you are destroyed.” However, in this Pasuk the word ‘this’ is in the female gender. How can the same phrase be modified in both the male and female form?

Rashi answers this question[3] by analyzing the cantillation – Trop – of the verse. He shows how in each Pasuk a different word is being modified. The phrase has two words, Sefer and Torah. The word Sefer is male, while the word Torah is female. In this week’s Parsha the word that is being modified is Sefer, and thus the male version is used. In Ki Tavo the word Torah is being modified, so the female version is used. That answers the question, but leaves another question. Why does the Torah refer to different aspects of the Torah in these different Pesukim?

In the lexicon of the Maharal, male refers to the source, the Tzurah. It is the form which is the reason one creates something and which its ultimate purpose. The female is the material, Chomer, from which it is made. It remains amorphous until the Tzurah forms it.

R’ Tzadok HaCohen of Lublin says[4] that there are two aspects to the Torah, one referred to as male, and one as female. The Torah Sh’Bichtav is the source, the beginning of all study of the Torah. That is the male. Klal Yisroel is the female that which accepts the Torah Sh’Bichtav and is formed by it, to be able to fashion the Torah Sh’Bal Peh. That is the Bracha after Krias HaTorah; “Who gave us a truthful Torah, and the eternal life is now planted within us.” The Tur explains[5] that once we have read the Torah, then the Torah can grow within us, and create more Torah. The Torah that is created by the reading and assimilation of the Torah Sh’Bichtav is the Torah Sh’Bal Peh. It is actually formed by the mouths of Klal Yisroel as they learn it[6]. (I saw in a Sefer by Rabbi Ari Marcus, “Only those formed by the Torah, can form the Torah.”. That is accepting the Torah Sh’Bichtav and forming Torah Sh’Bal Peh.)

If we take this idea further, in our Pesukim, the Sefer is the male, and the Torah is female. Sefer refers to the Torah which written, the Torah Sh’Bichtav. Torah is that which is learnt, from the word Hora’ah, to teach. That is the Torah Sh’Bal Peh. So if in one Pasuk we use male and the other female, we are referring in one to Torah Sh’Bichtav, and in the other Torah Sh’Bal Peh. But now there is another level of understanding. We need to analyze the Pesukim, to understand what each one is referring to, to know why one is male and the other female.

The phrase “Sefer HaTorah” appears four times in Devarim. Three times it is modified by the masculine, and once by the feminine. It would seem that the default is the masculine. Based on what we said, this is easy to understand. In general, we are referring here to the written Torah, as Moshe is writing it. The one time it is referred to in the feminine is actually, the first time. Why is that Torah Sh’bal Peh?

That Pasuk is in the ninety-eight Klalos of Ki Tavo. However, it does not actually refer to a specific punishment, but says that even whatever is not written specifically in the list of the ninety-eight curses, HaShem will also place those punishments upon us until we are destroyed. But what is this terrible punishment that is not even written down? We find two explanations.

The first explanation is brought from the Midrash. This amorphous punishment is the death of Talmidei Chochomim, the Torah Sages. (Even though many sources quote this from a Midrash, the Meshech Chochma says[7] that there is no source in Midrashim for this.) This can easily be understood as referring to Torah Sh’Bal Peh. The sages are the repository of the Oral Law. Their destruction is obviously a reference to the loss of their Torah. That is why it is written in the female gender.

The second explanation is explained in a Gemarra in Gittin[8], that recounts the horrible suffering at the time of the destruction of the Batei Mikdosh.

Initially, the noblemen of Rome would keep a Tzurah imprinted on a seal by their beds and …, so that they would beget children of similar beauty. From the time of the Great Revolt, they would bring Jewish children, tie them to the foot of their beds, and … use them for this purpose, because they were so handsome. (i.e. their Tzurah would replace that of the coin.)

It is related that it once happened that they did this to two children, and one of them said to the other: Where is this affliction written in the Torah? The other said to him: As it is written: “Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this Torah”.

Why does the Gemarra need to begin by telling us what the Romans did before they had Jewish children? I think the key word here is that they had a Tzurah on a coin. And when they captured Jewish children who were fluent in the Torah, they realized that the Torah was a greater Tzurah. Therefore, they replaced the coin with the children. To explain this further we need to see another Gemarra.

In Pesachim[9], we learn that Rav Menachem ben Simai is called the son of the holy ones since he never looked at the Tzurah of a coin. Similarly, in the Yerushalmi[10], a similar title is given to Nachum ish Gamzu for the same reason. Why is the avoidance of the Tzurah of a coin so praiseworthy?

It appears there are two types of Tzurah in the world. One is that of a coin. (In Halacha[11] when you require a coin, it is not enough to use an un-minted piece of silver, but it needs to be stamped by the mint.) And then are those who are Kodesh. They never look at that Tzurah. It is not just that they do not at the Tzurah of the coin, but they have a different and opposite Tzurah. Even looking at a coin, would diminish their unique Tzurah.

The word for coin in Lashon HaKodesh is מטבע. That is the word for stamping something, to give it a Tzurah. It is tied to the word, Teva. Nature seems to be the Tzurah of the world. But there is a greater Tzurah. It is our goal to reveal the true Tzurah. The Gemarra describes two new coins[12]. One has the Tzurah of Avrohom and Sara on it. Avrohom created a new coin since he created a new Tzurah in the world. When he revealed HaShem as the master of the world, there is a new Tzurah. The other coin has Dovid and Shlomo on one side, and Yerushalayim on the other. Dovid, Shlomo, and the Bais HaMikdosh are the beginning of the revelation of Moshiach. This is the creation of the final Tzurah of the world, as will ultimately be revealed.

Similarly, there is the coin of the Machatzis HaShekel[13]. HaShem shows Moshe a coin of fire. It creates a new Tzurah in the world. It is a different system of value, that of the Mishkon.

There is a Rashi that teaches[14] us that three people ride a donkey; Avrohom, Moshe and the Moshiach. The Gur Aryeh explains[15] that the donkey – Chamor – is Chomer. These three people are the ones who control the donkey and give Tzurah to the Chomer. That is what we just learned, the coin of Avrohom, the coin of Moshe, and coin of Dovid and Shlomo.

This dichotomy is what is in play in the Gemarra in Gittin. When a child is conceived, it is the Chomer receiving a Tzurah. Originally, the Romans wanted what they thought was the greatest Tzurah, that of a coin. But after the Churban, they saw there was an even greater Tzurah, that of Klal Yisroel. But this Tzurah belongs to Klal Yisroel, and it is Kodesh. But once they conquer Klal Yisroel and destroy the Bais HaMikdosh, they think it belongs to them. They remove the coin, and replace it with Jewish children who know the Torah.

To further explain. The Brisker Rav had a son, R’ Chaim, renowned for his genius. It is said over in his name, that when we see a punishment that does not appear in the Torah, one can wonder. Since the entire world is created by HaShem looking in the Torah and creating the world; where does this come from? The answer is that it comes from this Pasuk; even what is not written in the Torah directly is still from HaShem. Even what seems to be outside the Tzurah of the Torah, is really part of the Tzurah.

That is the dialogue between these two boys. They understood the depth of the Tzurah of the Torah. But here the Romans are using that Tzurah, and seem to take it for their incorrect purposes, where is that written in the Torah? The answer is that it is written where it does not say it. This is a punishment to the entire Tzurah of the Torah. As it says in Eichah[16], “Among the nations, there is no Torah.” They take the Tzurah of the Torah, and try to make it theirs. That is why this punishment is not written because it is the opposite of the Tzurah of the Torah.

This ability to take the Torah and understand the Tzurah is the realm of the Talmidei Chochomim. That is why in this Pasuk which is the punishment of the Tzurah against the Torah, we refer to the female aspect of the Torah which is the joining together of the Chomer and Tzurah of the Torah. It is the ability of the Chochomim to understand even what seems to not be written in the Torah. That is why it is referred to as female.

The two explanations are both aspects of one idea. This Pasuk is about the destruction of the Torah Sh’Bal Peh. One is through the actual death of the Chochomim, and the other through the misuse of the Torah.

This is the what Rashi is referring to, the two sides of the Torah, and how to understand the various Pesukim.

[1] דברים פרק כט – (כ) וְהִבְדִּילוֹ יְדֹוָד לְרָעָה מִכֹּל שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּכֹל אָלוֹת הַבְּרִית הַכְּתוּבָה בְּסֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה:

[2] דברים פרק כח – (סא) גַּם כָּל חֳלִי וְכָל מַכָּה אֲשֶׁר לֹא כָתוּב בְּסֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת יַעְלֵם יְדֹוָד עָלֶיךָ עַד הִשָּׁמְדָךְ:

[3] רש”י על דברים פרק כט – (כ) הכתובה בספר התורה הזה – ולמעלה הוא אומר בספר התורה הזאת גם כל חלי וכל מכה וגו’ הזאת לשון נקבה מוסב על התורה. הזה לשון זכר מוסב על הספר וע”י פיסוק הטעמים הן נחלקין לשתי לשונות. בפרשת הקללות הטפחה נתונה תחת בספר והתורה הזאת דבוקים זה לזה לכך אמר הזאת וכאן הטפחא נתונה תחת התורה נמצא ספר התורה דבוקים זה לזה לפיכך לשון זכר נופל אחריו שהלשון נופל על הספר:

[4] פרי צדיק מאמר קדושת שבת – מאמר ז – ותורה שבכתב נקרא אור לשון זכר ותורה שבעל פה אורה נוקבא. כידוע דתורה שבכתב ושבעל פה הם סוד זכר ונקבה שזו מקבלת ונשפעת מזו ולית לה מגרמה כלום ונקייה באה רק מה שיונקת ומקבלת חכמה מתורה שבכתב שהוא חכמתו יתברך שמו דיהיב לחכימין שיחכמו עוד להוסיף חכמה

[5] טור אורח חיים סימן קלט – ומטבע של ברכה אחרונה כך הוא אשר נתן לנו תורת אמת וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו פי’ תורת אמת היא תורה שבכתב וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו היא תורה שבע”פ דכתיב (קהלת יב) דברי חכמים כדרבונות וכמסמרות נטועים

[6] שפת אמת – בראשית – לחנוכה – שנת [תר”נ] – והכוונה כי ברזל היא התורה עצמה שנק’ עוז. ותורה שבע”פ הוא מה שנטעו חכמים אור התורה בלבות בנ”י כמ”ש כדרבונות שמכוונים הפרה לתלמי’ ע”ש. וע”ז מברכין חיי עולם נטע בתוכנו היא תורה שבע”פ שהיא נטועה. וגם נטיעה היא פרה ורבה ועושה תולדות. והוא מה שמקבלין בנ”י דברי תורה בלבם ונפשם. עושין בזה תולדות. ונטיעה השרשים לעולם מתפשטין יותר ויותר וכן הוא כח תורה שבע”פ.

[7] משך חכמה על דברים פרק כח – (סא) גם כל חלי וכל מכה אשר לא כתוב בספר התורה הזאת – זו מיתתן של צדיקים (מאמר מפורסם ומקורו א”י, ועי’ איכה רבה א-לט וע’ נצוצי זוהר לזוהר ס”ס שמות מלואים דף י:), דימותו שלא לראות ברעה,

[8] גיטין דף נח/א – בני ציון היקרים המסולאים בפז מאי מסולאים בפז אילימא דהוו מחפי בפיזא והאמרי דבי רבי שילא תרתי מתקלי איסתירי פיזא נחות בעלמא חדא ברומי וחדא בכולי עלמא אלא שהיו מגנין את הפז ביופיין מעיקרא חשיבי דרומאי הוו נקטי בליונא דגושפנקא ומשמשי ערסייהו מכאן ואילך מייתו בני ישראל ואסרי בכרעי דפורייהו ומשמשי אמר ליה חד לחבריה הא היכא כתיבא אמר ליה גם כל חלי וכל מכה אשר לא כתוב בספר התורה הזאת אמר כמה מרחיקנא מדוכתא פלן אמר ליה אינגד פוסתא ופלגא אמר ליה אי מטאי לגביה לא איצטריכי לך

[9] פסחים דף קד/א – מאן ניהו בנן של קדושים רבי מנחם בר סימאי ואמאי קרו ליה בנן של קדושים דלא איסתכל בצורתא דזו

[10] תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת מגילה דף טו/א – ולמה נקרא נחום איש קודש הקדשים שלא הביט בצורת מט

[11] מסכת עדיות פרק ג – מְחַלְּלִין מַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנִי עַל אֳסִימוֹן, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי דוֹסָא. וַחֲכָמִים אוֹמְרִים, אֵין מְחַלְּלִין

רמב”ם פירוש המשניות – מסכת מעשר שני פרק א משנה ב –  ואסימון, הוא הסלע שאינו מפותח, כלומר שאין בו צורה, וזה למאמר השם יתברך (דברים יד) וצרת הכסף בידך, ואמר וצרת הכסף דבר שיש עליו צורה בידך,

[12] בבא קמא דף צז/ב – תנו רבנן איזהו מטבע של ירושלים דוד ושלמה מצד אחד וירושלים עיר הקודש מצד אחר ואיזהו מטבע של אברהם אבינו זקן וזקינה מצד אחד ובחור ובתולה מצד אחר

[13] מדרש תנחומא כי תשא – פרק ט – זה יתנו אר”מ כמין מטבע של אש הוציא הקב”ה מתחת כסא הכבוד והראהו למשה וא”ל זה יתנו כזה יתנו כל העובר על הפקודים כל העובר על סכומיא:

[14] רש”י על שמות פרק ד – (כ) על החמור – חמור המיוחד הוא החמור שחבש אברהם לעקידת יצחק והוא שעתיד מלך המשיח להגלות עליו שנא’ (זכריה ט) עני ורוכב על חמור:

[15] ספר גור אריה על שמות פרק ד פסוק כ – כי מפני שהיתה רכיבה זאת מיוחדת, והוא רכיבה על העולם הטבע, ואלו השלשה היו רוכבים על הטבע,

[16] איכה פרק ב – מַלְכָּהּ וְשָׂרֶיהָ בַגּוֹיִם אֵין תּוֹרָה גַּם נְבִיאֶיהָ לֹא מָצְאוּ חָזוֹן מֵיְדֹוָד:

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