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Category — Rosh Kehilah

A message from our Rosh Kehilah

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova.

According to the Sefer HaChinuch, the final commandment in the Torah is found in this weeks Parsha, Parshat Vayelech. The mitzvah is to write for oneself a Sefer Torah and is based on the verse:
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 among the children of Israel.

The Chinuch states that it is a mitzvah for every person in Bnei Yisrael to have a sefer torah. He further elaborates that it is preferable for one to write it himself in order that it will be dearer to him. Additionally, even if one received a Torah from their parents, they should still write their own Sefer Torah. This is so that the amount of sifrei torah available will increase. The Chinuch understands the reason for this mitzvah to be that people are more likely to learn torah when it is easily accessible to them. As a result each person will learn to fear Hashem and they will know and understand the precious mitzvot.

The Ketav Sofer, Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer Schreiber, (Chatam Sofer’s son) suggests a more fundamental basis for this halakha. In his view, the requirement on each individual to write his own Torah reflects an important principle related to Torah study: one must study his or her “own Torah,” rather than simply imitating that of his or her predecessors. Certainly, absorbing information and knowledge transmitted by teachers and parents is indispensable and the very basis of Torah study. After one establishes this foundation, however, she must aspire to write her own Torah, to apply herself diligently and enthusiastically to probe the sacred texts and arrive at her unique understanding, albeit within the limits of the Oral Law. Every student of Torah should establish his or her own place in Torah, rather than simply amassing information. Thus, according to the Ketav Sofer, the mitzva of writing a Sefer Torah does not merely serve to facilitate Torah learning, but reflects the nature and character of that learning.

It is interesting to note that, in Parshat Ki Tavo, the Jewish people as whole were also commanded to write a Sefer Torah as well.

In Devarim, Chapter 27, the Torah says:
You shall inscribe on them all the words of this Torah, when you cross over the Jordan.

And a few p’sukim later, the Torah says:
You shall inscribe on the stones all the words of this Torah, well clarified.

However, a vast difference exists between the two Sifrei Torah. Bnei Yisrael, upon entry into Eretz Yisrael, were required to engrave the entire Torah upon a large stone, where it would serve as a permanent reminder of the covenant between Hashem and his people. The individual Sefer Torah, however, is very different and is to be written on Klaf.

Based upon an idea of the Avnei Nezer, Rabbi Avraham Borenstein (late 19th century – Poland), we can suggest the following distinction between the two situations for our own lives. We have two ways to come closer to God – one through our connection to the Jewish people and participation in its communal activities, especially learning torah. The other is our personal connection through our own attempt to understand God and follow Hashem’s commandments.

The Rambam explains in the last chapter of Hilchot Teshuva that one achieves true love of God through his or her intellectual capacity and Torah study.

The verses in Vayelech which concern the writing of the Torah bracket a series of verses describing Bnei Yisrael’s straying from God’s path after they have entered into Israel.
“This song shall testify before them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten from the mouths of their children; for I know their inclination – how they do even now, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”

The Netziv, Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, explains that God says to us that even though I know you will transgress, I am still bringing you into the land of Israel. Therefore know, that I will also redeem you. We see from this verse the that power of learning Torah, learning the shirah, enables us to both maintain hope and ultimately assist us in returning to God.

The importance of learning Torah as part of the Teshuva process can be explicitly understood from Sefer Nechemia in which a fast day is declared for national repentance. In Chapter 9, verses 2 and 3:
And they stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and they read in the Torah of the LORD their God a fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and prostrated themselves before the LORD their God.

In the Gemara, Masekhet Rosh Hashana (18a), Chazal teach us that it is written “Seek HaShem when He is to be found – these are the days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom HaKippurim.”

The Rambam in his “Hilchot Teshuvah,” (2:6), goes further and says that this is an opportune time: “Despite the fact that “Teshuvah” and crying out to HaShem are always timely, during the Ten Days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom HaKippurim it is exceedingly appropriate, and is accepted immediately, as it says, in Yishayahu: (55:6) 'Seek HaShem when He is to be found'.

One way to seek God is through learning Torah. We saw both from Nechemia and from this week’s parsha the power of the Torah , the shirah , to encourage a repair of our relationship with God. Thus, having a sefer Torah handy, as the Chiunch says, is not only a way to prevent transgression, it is also can be part of our return to God.

When I witnessed our Rosh Hashana service a few days ago and I anticipate the excitement of Hashem granting us the opportunity to come close during these days of Repentence, I felt a sense of entitlement. Hashem is actually giving us an opportunity that normally, throughout the year, we are simply not granted. During these Aseret Yemei Teshuva, God invites us to come close.

As the Midrash says, haMelech baSadeh…the King has come to out to the field to meet his subjects. God extends himself during this period and we need to simply find a way for ourselves to meet HaKadosh Baruch Hu half way. Learning Torah as a means of both connecting to God and understanding how we must act in this world is one way for us meet the King as He comes to greet us in the field.

Wishing you all a G’mar Chatima tovah and Shabbat Shalom,

Rosh Kehilah Dina Najman

September 21, 2012   Comments Off

Shavuot with KOE

KOE is co-sponsoring with Congregation Ramath Orah a tikkun leil Shavuot Saturday night May 26 at 550 West 110th Street. Rosh Kehilah Dina Najman will be speaking between mincha and maariv. A dairy meal will follow davening, and then the all night learning will begin. There will be a sunrise service after the learning. Details on the learning and paying for the meal will be posted when available.
KOE will be meeting on the second day of Shavuot, Monday May 28, for shacharit/yizkor/musaf/megilat ruth/kiddush starting at 9:00 AM at the house of Rob and Jessica Sacks, 241 W. 97th St. Apt. 7K. If you plan to attend please email info@koe.org.

May 18, 2012   No Comments