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(5747) Rambam (end of Hil Sefer Torah 10:11) "Anyone who sits before a Torah scroll should sit with respect awe, and fear, because "the Torah is a faithful testimony of the covenant between G-d and the Jews"
1. Rambam states: (at the end of Hil. Sefer Torah 10:11):
"Anyone who sits before a Torah scroll should sit with respect awe, and fear, because (the Torah) is a faithful testimony (of the covenant between G-d and the Jews)" as (Deuteronomy 31:26) states: "And it will be as a testimony for you."
The essence of the law of having “awe, and fear” before a Sefer Torah is found in Talmud Yerushalmi:
“R’ Shmuel bar Yitzchak (when he saw someone standing and translating the Torah while leaning against a pillar) “just as the Torah was given with awe and fear, so too we must conduct ourselves toward it with awe and fear”
But Rambam does not write this reason (i.e.) “just as the Torah was given etc.”
One could say simply - that this law in Rambam is not the law in Talmud Yerushalmi:
For the Yerushalmi’s statement that “one must conduct ourselves toward it with awe and fear” refers to when one is reading the Torah (Krias HaTorah) and translating it (as we have leaned in Talmud Bavli (22a) that learning Torah must be with fear as it states:
“Just as there it was in dread and fear and trembling and quaking, so in this case too it must be in dread and fear and trembling and quaking ( as it is written ( Ex. 20:15): “The people saw (all this) and they trembled etc. .Rashi), so in this case too it must be in dread and fear and trembling and quaking) .
And this law is indeed cited in Rambam previously (in Hil. Tefilah 2:11) where he writes:
” The translator should not lean on a beam or on a pillar. Rather, he should stand with awe and fear”.
However the Rambam here is dealing with the obligation of respect (koved rosh), awe and fear not (just) when one is reading or learning from a Sefer Torah but even one who “sits before a Sefer Torah”. Thus even the sitting before a Sefer Torah must be with respect and awe etc. Therefore he does not write “just as t was given etc. so too we must sit in awe etc.”, but, rather, brings a different reason.
But the subject is still not resolved:
The essence of this chapter in Rambam deals with honor to a Sefer Torah, and the extra care not to conduct oneself toward it with disregard (bizayon), G-d forbid. Therefore what is the special innovation in this law (that sitting before a must be with “reverence, with awe and fear”) that Rambam is compelled to bring a new and special proof – “because (the Torah) is a faithful testimony etc.?”
Moreover: in the Halacha before this, Rambam writes:
” It is a Mitzvah to designate a special place for a Torah scroll and to honor it and glorify it in an extravagant manner. The words of the Ten Commandments are contained in each Torah scroll. A person should not spit before a Torah scroll, etc. He should not turn his back to a Torah scroll etc.” –
Thus Rambam has already given a reason for honoring a Sefer Torah (“to honor it and glorify it more than normal) – for “The words of the Ten Commandments are contained in each Torah scroll”.
What, therefore, is the need to state here that a Sefer Torah is a “faithful testimony etc.”, that specifically because of this (reason) one must sit before a Sefer Torah with “respect awe, and fear,”?
2. One must also seemingly examine why it is written that a Sefer Torah is “a faithful testimony (of the covenant between G-d and the Jews) for all the inhabitants of the earth”
The concept of testimony is also found in the Mitzvah of Tefillin as it says: “It shall be to you for a sign upon your hand” and Rambam cites (in Hilchot Tefillin) that the sign is an aspect of testimony.
(One could say that Tefillin is a “wording of proof . . since they are a testimony and proof that G-d is called on it and we are fearful of it as it says: and all the nations will see that the name of G-d is called on you etc. – this refers to the Tefillin of the head).
Nevertheless, Rambam does not write that the “Sign” and the testimony cause special laws in sitting before Tefillin.
Notwithstanding, we find in Rambam a lengthiness in the laws of the sanctity of Tefillin (in addition to the laws of the carefulness of not demeaning then) and he writes there: “The sanctity of Tefillin is very great”
But this is only when one is fulfilling a Mitzvah (for when the person is wearing Tefillin on his head and arm, he will be humble and G-d -fearing and will not be drawn to frivolous behavior or empty speech. He will not turn his thoughts to evil matters etc.). Therefore, a person should try to wear (Tefillin) throughout the entire day”
Yet he does not write that there is a special law in caring for their honor (even) when he is not wearing them
or that this law is because (of the reason that) they are a sign and testimony.
Therefore, this requires serious explanation:
What is different about a Sefer Torah, that since it is: ”a faithful testimony” one must conduct himself with "sitting with respect awe etc.” even when one is not dealing with it?
3. One could say that the explanation to all this, is based on the precise wording of Rambam: “Anyone who sits before a Torah scroll should sit with respect awe, and fear,” – For, at first glance, he should have written straightforwardly: ‘Sit before a Torah scroll with respect etc.”. What need is there for the lengthiness: “Anyone who sits before a Torah scroll should sit etc.?”
And it is possible to say that, with this (wording), Rambam is stressing the innovation of the law compared to the previous laws of honoring a Sefer Torah (in this chapter)
The aspect of honoring a Sefer Torah (simply) is an obligation that rests on (the conduct) of a person with regards to a Sefer Torah. Since a Sefer Torah has holiness etc. we are required to conduct (ourselves) in a manner of honor, to honor it and glorify it and not spit before a Torah scroll, etc.
And this is the subject of the of the previous laws – specific laws regarding the honor and method of conduct towards a Sefer Torah
However, here, it does not speak of the “reverence” which “comes about” from the obligations of man in one’s conduct and approach toward a Sefer Torah. On the contrary – (it speaks of) the “reverence” that a Sefer Torah effects on the person.
For, even in a situation
(not where one is not dealing with a matter that is related to the Sefer Torah but)
where one is (just) ”sitting before a Sefer Torah”, - this alone has to affect him so that “he sits with reverence, awe and fear”
Therefore, Rambam stresses: “Anyone who sits before a Torah scroll should sit with respect awe, and fear,” – and he does not write concisely: ‘We must sit before a Torah scroll with respect etc.”.
(like the wording of the Yerushalmi, cited above, “we must conduct ourselves toward it with awe and fear”)
- because his intent here is
not the obligation of man’s conduct regarding the honor of the Torah, but (rather)
the Torah’s effect on the person (like “Anyone who sits before a Torah scroll).
(According to this one can understand the continuation of Rambam’s words. After this law he continues:
“A person must honor a Torah scroll (to the full extent) of his potential. etc. “Whoever honors the Torah will have his person honored by people." –
For this also refers to the Torah’s effect on the person. For through Torah - “his person will be honored by people” as will be explained in paragraph 8)
4. Therefore it was necessary for Rambam to bring a new and special reason – “for it is a faithful testimony”
Even regarding Tefillin, Rambam writes (as aforementioned) of the action of Tefillin on the person who wears them – ‘he will be humble and G-d -fearing and will not be drawn to frivolous behavior etc. “.
But there, Rambam does not need to bring a special proof, because it is speaking of a situation where the Tefillin is on the person. For when a person fulfills the Mitzvah of Tefillin and places them on his body, it is self understood that the great and extraordinary holiness of the Tefillin has an effect on the person who wears the Tefillin.
However, regarding a Sefer Torah – where Rambam writes: Anyone who sits before a Torah scroll” – means that even when one is not dealing in (studying) Torah - he must sit with reverence etc. Thus the “proximity” of a Sefer Torah to a person must effect that he sits “with reverence, awe and fear”
What causes this special power of Torah?
On this Rambam explains that a Sefer Torah is a “faithful testimony (of the covenant between G-d and the Jews) for all the inhabitants of the earth“as the verse states: "And it will be as a testimony for you."
The explanation is:
Rambam precisely explains that a Sefer Torah is a “faithful testimony (of the covenant between G-d and the Jews) for all the inhabitants of the earth“- However, from the simple flow of the verses, it appears that the intent of the verse:
"And it will be as a testimony for you",
is that a Sefer Torah is a testimony for Yisroel, a testimony and adjuring to Bnei Yisroel to keep the Torah and Mitzvot.
From this it is understood that Rambam’s intent regarding the “testimony” in the Sefer Torah is
(Not how it is inferred from the simple understanding of the verse that: "And it will be as a testimony for you." that it refers to a testimony and warning to Bnei Yisroel to keep the Torah and Mitzvot – but rather)
A testimony to the fact that (G-d ) “chose us over all the nations and gave us the Torah”.
In other words: the existence of a Sefer Torah is a “testimony” of G-d ’s choosing the nation of Yisroel. Therefore, when a person sits before a Sefer Torah, this knowledge that the Sefer Torah is a “testimony” must effect within him respect, awe and fear because G-d “chose us over all the nations” to be His special People etc.
And this is also the innovation in the testimony of a Sefer Torah compared to the sign of Tefillin.
Regarding the sign of Tefillin, Rashi writes:
“For Yisroel must place a sign on themselves to distinguish that they uphold the Torah of G-d ”.
Therefore this is specifically connected to the act of putting on Tefillin, which is specifically during the day and not at night, and not on Shabbat and Yom Tov., and it is not applicable to women and children. Therefore, the law of sitting with respect, awe and fear, regarding the Tefillin itself, is not applicable
However the testimony of a Sefer Torah is not because of an action of a person, (such as) reading the Torah etc. Rather the object of the Sefer Torah itself is a “faithful testimony for all the inhabitants of the earth“.
This means that Bnei Yisroel are separate from other nations in that they are the nation that G-d chose. Therefore, respect is (applicable) at all times and all moments and applies to each male and female from Yisroel.
As Rambam writes: Anyone who sits before a Torah scroll etc.”
For this distinction of “You chose us among all the nations and elevated us over all people ("l'shonot") includes every person from Bnei Yisroel without any distinction.
5. According to this, the difference in words of Rambam here:
“for it is a trustworthy testimony”,
and what is written in the previous Halacha:
“It is a Mitzvah to designate a special place for a Torah scroll and to honor it and glorify it in an extravagant manner. The words of the Ten Commandments (Luchos HaBris – tablets of the Covenant) are contained in each Torah scroll”
(in other words, this law is because the Sefer Torah (and every book of this Sefer Torah ) contains “words of the tablets of the Covenant (HaBris)
The simple difference between “Bris” and “Testimony” is:
And this is the difference between “Luchos HaBris” and a Sefer Torah which is a “faithful testimony etc.”
The (main) aspect of the Luchos is that they are “Luchos HaBris”, so called because they are the Covenant between G-d and the Bnei Yisroel as the verse states: “The tablets of the Covenant which G-d made with you” – which refers to keeping Torah and Mitzvot. For through this a connection and pact is made between G-d and Bnei Yisroel.
Therefore “It is a Mitzvah to designate etc.” which is one of the obligations of a person with regards to the Torah - A person must honor the Torah. For since the Torah binds the person with G-d, he must honor it.
And the innovation in this Halacha
(“It is a Mitzvah to designate a special place for a Torah scroll etc.) -
because of which, Rambam adds a special reason (“words of the Luchos HaBris etc.”) is:
Until this Halacha, Rambam specifies the obligations of honoring a Sefer Torah because of the effect of the holiness of Torah.
(Like his wording at the beginning of the chapter (ibid 2ff): “A proper Torah scroll is treated with great sanctity and honor” – and then he proceeds in all the obligations of the honor for a Sefer Torah)
But here Rambam adds that there is a law to honor the Torah because of the (object of the) Torah itself. This obligates and adds to the Mitzvah of honoring a Sefer Torah a law of “place” - “It is a mitzvah to designate a special place for a Torah scroll and to honor it and glorify it etc.” – And the reason Rambam brings for this is: “The words of the Luchos HaBris are contained in each Torah scroll.”
Since a Sefer Torah contains “The words of the Luchos HaBris”. One must ‘designate a special place” for it.
However, even though this law is due to the object of the Sefer Torah itself (Cheftza),
But in the Halacha after this, Rambam is not dealing at all with the obligations of the person (Gavra) to honor the Torah but rather, the effect of the Torah on the person. Therefore he writes that it is “faithful testimony etc.” In other words since the object (Cheftza) of a Sefer Torah is a “ testimony ” on the choosing of G-d of the Bnei Yisroel, therefore when a person sits before a Sefer Torah he must sit “with respect awe, and fear”.
6. And the explanation according to the method of Chassidus is:
The three aspects to a Sefer Torah
depict the three ways and steps in connecting the Bnei Yisroel with G-d -d, that was forged and came to completion at Matan Torah
And the explanation is:
The aspect of the holiness of Yisroel that was forged at Matan Torah is the holiness of the soul in every Yisroel. For even though the Patriarchs were vehicles (markaveh) (for G-d -dliness) and bequeathed a holy soul (Neshama Kedosha) to each and every one of their descendents until the end of all generations - (which is present in the other peoples of the world), nevertheless the culmination and completeness of the holiness of the soul was made at Matan Torah.
And even though every Yisroel, when immediately when born possesses a holy Nefesh,
and (afterwards) the beginning of the entering of this holy Nefesh is at the Mitzvah of Milah (circumcision),
nevertheless the “culmination and main entering of the holy Nefesh in a person is at thirteenth years and one day for a male and twelve years for a female for then they are obligated with Mitzvot from the Torah and are held culpable”
The aspect of the “Bris” at Matan Torah was the connection to G-d through keeping the Torah and Mitzvot. The Torah is the pact (Bris) that connects Yisroel with G-d, as the Zohar states:
“Yisroel is connected to the Torah and the Torah with G-d”. For through Torah Yisroel is connected with G--d,
The essential connection (Atzmus) (with G-d) of Matan Torah is that G-d chose us among all the nations. The concept of choice is not because of holiness or greatness but because its root is in (G-d’s) essence which is above all boundaries and levels.
The difference between the three levels is:
Even though all of the three types of connections are constantly inherent within Yisroel, nevertheless there are differences in the way they affect a Jew:
In the aspect of the holiness of Yisroel – there are some of Bnei Yisroel that have the holiness of their soul enlightened within them in a revealed manner. And there are some that do not have (their soul) enlightened within them so much. And in those that have their soul enlightened within them in a revealed manner, there are different levels and ways that the holiness is revealed during times of the year – (for example) weekdays, Shabbat Kodesh, the High Holy days and the festivals of the year.
The same applies to the aspect of the Pact (Bris) of Torah. The connection with G-d through keeping Torah and Mitzvot:
For even though this constantly exists in each and every Yisroel, without regard for his level and standing, as is alluded to in word “Yisroel” – which is an acronym of “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah” (Yesh Shishim Ribu Otiot l’Torah).
Thus each and every Yisroel, whatever his standing, has a connection to Torah (And through this to G-d) which flows (to him) through the letter of Torah which is related to him,
Nevertheless, there are differences between letters and consequently between the Bnei Yisroel. And this is also in the revelation of this aspect.
(And also in each person themselves, from time to time (corresponding to his status and standing in his learning of Torah and keeping Mitzvot)
However, the essential connection of Bnei Yisroel with G-d, does not have any divisions and levels. Because it is an essential connection of the essence of Bnei Yisroel with G-d’s essence (Atzmut)
7. And this is the essential import of the aspect that Matan Torah is the faithful testimony for all the inhabitants of the earth”:
There is a well known saying (of the Alter Rebbe etc.) that testimony is on something that is hidden and cloaked, but testimony is not required for something that is revealed.
And moreover, even on something (hidden) that will (in the future) be revealed, testimony is not required according to Torah. Testimony is specifically on something that is hidden (as is explained at length (also) in the concept of “You are my witnesses” (Atem Aidai) )
Thus, the testimony of Torah that it is a faithful witness for Bnei Yisroel is understood:
Because this testimony is not on something that is revealed, namely on the connection of Bnei Yisroel (to G-d) through Torah, which is something that is recognizable and visible that Bnei Yisroel are separate from the nations of the world:
And the testimony is also not on the holiness of Yisroel – the holy soul (Nefesh HaKedoshah) in each and every Yisroel, for even though the holiness is not always recognizable in a revealed and tangible manner, nevertheless, it is of the category of “something that will be revealed”. For each Yisroel has a revelation (enlightening) of the holy soul at various times. It is awakened within him and shines at auspicious times of the year (or through a Bas Kol (a heavenly voice) from above, as is known), (but rather)
The testimony of a Sefer Torah is on the essential connection of Yisroel with (G-d’s) essence which is something that is hidden, albeit existent in every Yisroel in whatever condition.
According to this we can understand the precision in Rambam’s wording: “it is the faithful testimony”:
In the covenant (Bris) between G-d and Yisroel on keeping Torah and Mitzvot, if there is a lack (G-d forbid) in keeping Torah and Mitzvot, it affects the covenant. However the essential connection between Yisroel and G-d is eternal and unconditional for every one of Bnei Yisroel . Therefore is “the faithful testimony”:
8. According to this one could explain (according to Pnimiyut ) the words of Rambam in the continuation of the Halacha. For after this law he concludes (in Hilchot Sefer Torah):
“A person must honor a Torah scroll ((to the full extent) of his potential. The Sages of the early generations said: "Whoever desecrates the Torah will have his person desecrated by people. Whoever honors the Torah will have his person honored by people."
Seemingly, one could infer from the particulars of the wording that:
(And one could say that this is the meaning of the precise words: “his person (gufo) will be honored by people/beriot”. In other words it is speaking about honor that normal people (beriot b’alma) will give him (not Torah scholars or exceptional people) . For the honor that comes from “people/beriot”, who do not have an understanding of spiritual matters is related to the body of a person) -
How, therefore, is it fitting to conclude the entire laws of Sefer Torah with this type of reward?!
According to the aforementioned one could say that the intent is not to publicize the reward that a person attains by honoring the Torah, but that (these words) are a continuation to that which Rambam states previously that the object of Torah (Cheftza shel Torah) influences a person (gavra) because it is a faithful testimony for all the inhabitants of the earth”
The explanation is:
Testimony is on a concealed thing –Its purpose, however is to reveal the very thing that is hidden. So too in our case: A Sefer Torah reveals the essential connection between G-d and Yisroel, so much so that through this, the dearness of Yisroel is revealed to “all the inhabitants of the earth”.
And in continuation, Rambam writes (and concludes the laws of Sefer Torah) with this “testimony“ of a Sefer Torah which reveals the quality of Yisroel to “all the inhabitants of the earth” - “Whoever honors the Torah will have his person honored by people.". For through a person’s honoring the Torah, it effects that also “people/beriot” will recognize his quality. And this will be expressed by their honoring his person (gufo)
9. It is understood and simple that the advantage of the testimony of a Sefer Torah - to reveal the essential connection with G-d – is primarily with the person himself, that it should influence a person so that all of his deeds reveal and feel this concept, so much so that it is recognizable in his physical body. And from this, this testimony will extend to all the nations of the world.
And this is the wherewithal (nesinas koach) that we “take” from the time of Matan Torah on Chag HaShavuot. For in addition to the awakening in revealing the holiness of Yisroel, the holy soul within him and also in addition to the “strengthening” in the (Luchos) of the Covenant - through Torah study and the performance of Mitzvot,
Even more so and paramount - is that it adds to the revealing of the essential connection between Yisroel and G-d. And this has an effect on one’s Avodah with all one’s innermost powers, and with thought, speech and deed in all the days of the year.
So much so that it is recognizable to “all the nations of the world” and will have an influence and effect upon them, so that they should fulfill their Seven Noachide Laws. For even this was given at Matan Torah as Rambam states:
“By the same regard, Moses was commanded by the Almighty to compel all the inhabitants of the world to accept the commandments given to Noah's descendants . . Anyone who accepts upon himself the fulfillment of these seven Mitzvot and is precise in their observance is considered one of 'the pious among the gentiles' and will merit a share in the world to come. This applies only when he accepts them and fulfills them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moses, our teacher, that Noah's descendants had been commanded to fulfill them previously.”
And through this it will also hasten the coming of our righteous Moshiach who will “repair/yetachein” the entire world to serve G-d with togetherness (unity) as it states:
“For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the L-rd, to serve Him with one consent”.
Speedily and in our days - Mamosh
m’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Shmini 5746;
25th Iyar 5744)
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