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September 16, 1988 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-16

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ral Tradition Preserve

May the coming year be
one filled with health,
happiness and
prosperity for all our
friends and family.

Jewish Civilization


Special to The Jewish News


he 613th and final
mitzvah of the rIbrah is
recorded in this week's
portion. The commandment
is that every Jew is to write
a Sefer Torah for himself.
Moses is to transcribe the
laws he has so patiently
taught his people for forty
years. The writing of a Sefer
Torah first fulfilled by Moses,
was then to become a mitzvah
for all Jews for all
The Talmud teaches that a
person may write it himself,
or have it written on his
behalf by a sofer (scribe), but
"he who writes it himself is

Shabbat Shuvah,
Parashat Vayelech:
Hosea 14:2-10,
Michah 7:18-20,
Joel 2:15 27


regarded as though it had
been given to him on Mt.
Sinai" (Mena,:hot 30a). In
this way, the accurate
transmission of the Torah and
the legitimacy of its origins
would be assured in each
But this was not the only
purpose of transcribing the
Torah. And the divine intent
is clearly stated in the words
of the commandment: "Now,
write ye this epic, and teach
it to the children of Israel and
put it in their mouths" (Deut.
The commandment concer-
ning the ongoing trans-
mission of Torah was two-fold:
It involved the technical
transcription of the biblical
text into writing. But that
was not sufficient. And thus
we are told: "Simah b'fihem
— put it in their mouths!'
Torah must not only be read,
but heard; not only written
but spoken.
What is the difference bet-
ween a written text and the
spoken word? A text can be
very precise. Today one can
reproduce thousands of texts,
each appearing exactly like
the other. In addition, the
printed word has per-
manence. It can outlive its
scribe by centuries. The writ-
ten word becomes history.
Yet, there is a crucial

Morton F Yolkut is rabbi of
Congregation B'nai David.

dimension contained in the
spoken word that is never
found in a written text. A text
is always cold, impersonal
and objective. In the spoken
word, there is a blending of
the personalities of the
speaker and the listener.
Dialogue functions not only
on an intellectual level, but
on an interpersonal and emo-
tional plane as well.
Sometimes the milieu is more
important than the text; the
environment surpasses the
message; the spirit
supersedes the words.
Exposure to a scholarly per-
sonality may be more signifi-
cant than hearing his
thoughts. Watching a rebbe
in action, being in the orbit of
a charismatic leader, having
a parent or teacher close to
you — all of these can be of
ultimate value as life-
enriching experiences. The
medium can be the message!
And thus, the- transmission
of Torah, while it requires ex-
actness and objectivity, can-
not be relegated to a text
alone. If Torah is to be
faithfully transmitted from
generation to generation, it
must be predicated on the
personal relationship of the
parent generation and their
successors. Life, vibrance and
vitality are represented by
the spoken and not the writ-
ten word.
Many nations of antiquity
sought to immortalize their
cultures. Egypt built
pyramids, Greece constructed
buildings and Babylon pro-
duced cuneiform tablets. The
history of these ancient
civilizations was etched into
stone and clay to remain
forever. And they did indeed
remain. We know the history
of these nations, but it is an-
cient history. They are dead
civilizations. All that remains
of them is stone and clay, in-
animate monuments and
lifeless memorials.
The Torah understood that
for the transmission of the
Divine revelation to occur.,
parchment and stone were
important. They would pro-
vide the permanence and im-
mutability of Torah. More im-
portant, however, was the se-
cond phase of the command-
ment: "Simah b'fihem." The
Torah must be transmitted
orally from parent to child,
from teacher to student, from
generation to generation.
Implicit in the dialogue is
the sharing by two in-
dividuals of a common
heritage, common commit-
ment and common goals. The


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