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The Birth of Torah Sheba'al Peh (Parshas Devarim)

parsha sefer devarim Jul 23, 2020
 

 

 

Little Josh sat in his living room excitedly opening his birthday presents. He had already received a few new toys from his grandparents, but his parents told him that their present was special. He'd be able to use it to light up whatever he wanted, to make cool shapes on the walls, and to play games in the backyard. As he took his brand-new flashlight out of the box, he excitedly flicked the switch to turn it on. Nothing happened. He flicked the switch off and back on, and again nothing happened. He pointed it around the room, then ran outside to the backyard and pointed it around out there as well. It must be broken, he thought sadly, as he walked back to the house and dejectedly ate his birthday cake dejectedly. 

 

That night, he went to sleep with all his toys in his room, even his broken flashlight. As he was falling asleep, his mom knocked loudly on the door. He opened it, and quickly noticed that all the lights in the house were off. His mom asked if she could use his flashlight, as there had been a power outage. He took his flashlight and started explaining to her that it didn't actually work. As he flicked it on, though, the hallway was suddenly bathed in light! As he moved around the house, the flashlight filled the dark house with a warm glow of illumination. His parents, noticing his confused expression, explained to him: "Your light is powerful beyond measure, but in the presence of sunlight, your flame is subsumed. Only in the dark, when the light has faded, can your small flame shine bright and be seen for what it truly is."

 

Twelve Lines of Separation

 

The Jewish divorce document, called a get, is written according to a very specific format. One such requirement is that it must be written across twelve lines. Tosafos [1] asks why this is so, first suggesting that perhaps it is because the word "get" has the gematria (numerical value) of twelve. [2] Tosafos then gives another answer, one much more enigmatic [3]: In total, there are twelve lines separating the five books of the chamishei chumshei Torah, as there are four lines of separation between every sefer in the five books of Torah. Since a get is a document of separation, it therefore adopts this feature of separation from the Sefer Torah as well, requiring twelve lines. This is a compelling answer, because the Torah is the original "document" of the world. It therefore seems reasonable to model the get, a halachic document, off of the foundational document of Torah. The document of separation therefore contains twelve lines, corresponding to the twelve lines of separation in the Torah.

 

However, there is a major problem with this answer. Between each sefer in the Torah, there are four blank lines. There are five books in the Torah, for a total of sixteen lines. Why, then, are there twelve lines in a get, not sixteen?

Tosafos explains that the lines between Bamidbar and Devarim are not taken into account because Devarim is not considered a sefer of its own; it is purely a repeat of everything that came before it. This idea has multiple expressions. The Latin name for Devarim, Deuteronomy, originates from the Greek word for repeat. Devarim is a unique sefer amongst the books of the Torah, belonging to Moshe in a certain sense. The commentators explain that Moshe spoke the words of Devarim of his own volition, and these became words of Torah. However, this explanation opens up many questions in its own right. How can Moshe's words be included in the Torah? The fundamental nature of Torah is its Divine authorship. And returning to the lines of a get, why does Devarim’s status as a repeat sefer preclude its four lines of separation from being included in the lines in a get? There are still four lines separating Bamidbar and Devarim! In order to understand the deep nature of Sefer Devarim, and to answer these questions, we must develop an essential principle that underlies this entire discussion.

 

Explaining the Historical Transition

 

In previous chapters, [4] we have discussed the idea of two unique stages in history and the implications thereof. However, we can now take this topic one step further and understand why this transition occurred.

 

To briefly review:

  • The first stage of history lasted from creation until the time period of Purim and Chanukah. This stage is highlighted by the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim and Matan Torah and the presence of nevuah. During this stage, Hashem's revelation in this world was apparent and clear. The physical world was naturally seen as an expression of a spiritual reality, and it was easy for one to source the physical back to the spiritual.
  • The second stage, which began around the time of Purim, marked the end of open miracles and prophecy. We no longer experience open miracles, only hidden ones.[5] Hashem is no longer openly manifest and clearly visible in this world; we no longer naturally source ourselves back to Hashem.

 

This is a theme deeply connected to Tisha B'Av, when we lost the Beis Ha'Mikdash, our place of unique and incontrovertibly clear connection to Hashem. Now, in this stage, we must choose to see Hashem. It is in this stage that the world denies Hashem’s involvement with the world, claiming that life is meaningless, disconnected from anything higher. Our age is one of atheism and nihilism, of accepting only that which can be quantified using science, logic, technology, and the five senses.[6] Our challenge is to see past the surface, to uncover the miraculous within the natural, the infinite within the finite, the ethereal within the mundane.

 

 The Anshei K’nesses Ha’Gedolah were the leaders of the Jewish People during this Second Temple Era, and they took it upon themselves to ensure that we did not become consumed by this new age of secularism and atheism. In order to help us source everything back to Hashem- to link this physical world to something higher- Chazal instituted standardized tefillah and brachos to be said throughout the day, the yearly cycle, and the various stages of one's life. Without open revelation of Hashem's attachment to, and involvement in, this world, these frameworks help us maintain awareness of that connection.

 

It is clear that we now live in the second stage of history, one of darkness, distance, and seeming disconnect from Hashem. Study of the Torah shows that this was not always the case, that prior to the Second Beis Ha’Mikdash the world was full of open revelation, miracles, and prophecy. However, we must address the question of why this transition took place. Why did the very nature of reality shift at this point in time?Why did we need this new challenge of free will?

 

Inspiration and Actualization

 

The underlying secret behind the transition between these two stages of history is one of the most foundational concepts of Judaism, a phenomenon we have previously introduced.[7] The Arizal, Ramchal, Vilna Gaon, and many other Jewish thinkers explain as follows: Every process contains three stages:

  • The first stage is the high, the inspiration, an experience of perfection and clarity.
  • Next comes the second stage: a sudden fall, a complete loss of everything that was experienced in the first stage.
  • Then there is the third stage, a return to the perfection of the first stage. However, this third stage is fundamentally different from the first. It is the same perfection, the same clarity, but this time it's a perfection and clarity that you have earned. The first time it was given to you, now you have worked to build it for yourself.

 

 

The first stage is a gift, the ideal. It's there to help you experience the goal, the destination. It's a taste of what you can and hopefully will ultimately accomplish; but it's not real, it's given as a gift, and is therefore an illusion. It serves only as a guiding force, but cannot compare to the genuine accomplishment of building something yourself. It is therefore taken away to allow for the second and most important stage: building it yourself, undergoing the work required to attain this growth in actuality, to work for the perfection that you were shown. A gift isn't real, something chosen and earned is. We're in this world to choose, to assert our free will, and to create ourselves. Now that we've tasted the first stage, we know what we're meant to choose, what we're meant to build. The third stage is the recreation of the first stage. While it appears the same, it's fundamentally different. It's real, it's earned, it's yours. The first stage was a gift, an illusion; the third is the product born of the effort and time you invested.

 

The first stage of history was a gift, an experience of the ideal. No effort was required to find Hashem, or to connect that which is higher.Hashem openly revealed Himself to us, it was a time of nevuah and transcendence.We then lost that ideal, as nevuah and avodah zarah were removed from the world, the Beis Ha’mikdash was destroyed, and a cloak of darkness fell over existence. We are now in the second stage, where we must rebuild towards the original goal, towards the transcendent ideal. We no longer have open revelation, with its accompanying prophecy and clarity. However, it is precisely for this reason that we can choose to witness the truth and depth of the world, to see Hashem in everything, to connect to the divine in all that we do. In a darkened world, we are uniquely able to cast our own light.

 

Accompanying this transition from the first stage to the second was another unique shift, one that has become the very lifeblood of the Jewish People. When the curtain fell over the first stage of history, Torah Sheba’al Peh was born.

 

The Transition to Torah She’baal Peh

 

The initial stage of Torah is that of Torah Shebiksav. Torah was transmitted through the mechanism of nevuah, reflecting the open revelation of Hashem and truth in the world. There was little to no machlokes (argument) and virtually no human creativity, opinion, or input. If you had a question, you went to a navi (prophet). The navi made himself a receptacle to receive and transmit Hashem's word verbatim. Once nevuah ended, however, the canon of Tanach was closed, and a new age began: the age of Torah Sheba'al Peh.

 

The light faded, the darkness thickened, but something wondrous happened: the makom (place) of Torah transitioned from shamayim (heavens) to the hearts and minds of Klal Yisrael. “Loh Bashamayim Hih”- the clarity and authority of Torah's revelation is no longer in heavens, given clearly and freely from Hashem.[8] It rests in the hearts and minds of the Jewish Sages, who become the walking, living embodiments of Torah, radiating light in a darkened world. The gift of Torah clarity was lost, we now have to rebuild it ourselves, poring over the pages of Gemara and exerting every ounce of our strength to absorb its meaning.

 

The transition from Torah Shebiksav to Torah Sheba’al Peh introduced a number of fundamental shifts in our relationship with Torah. These include the introduction of machlokes, a mode of “hearing” as opposed to “seeing”, and the priority of a sage over a prophet. Let us delve into each of these three topics in order to develop a deeper understanding of the evolution of Torah.

 

Machlokes and Multiple Truths

 

The first and most significant change between the two stages of history is the nature of truth. In the era of Torah Shebiksav, the emes (truth) was singular and one-dimensional. There was no machlokes, no disagreement. But just as when white light is refracted through a prism, different shards of light manifest, the same occurred with the Truth of Torah. The oneness of Torah truth is now expressed in multiplicity, the light has been shattered. Our job is to pick up the pieces and recreate that oneness. This is the deeper explanation of “Eilu vi'eilu divrei elokim chaim”- the principle used to signify the truth within each opinion of the Sages in the Talmud. When the holistic and higher truth breaks down into multiplicity, numerous smaller truths crystalize. Only by reconnecting all of these smaller truths back together can we recreate that original higher truth. This is why machlokes now exists; each talmid chacham fights for the truth of his own unique perspective, and from the unison of these smaller truths, the ultimate truth emanates.

 

This is clearly seen in the evolution of Pirkei Avos. Pirkei Avos is a record of transmission between the Sages of Klal Yisrael from the very beginning of Jewish history. The first Mishna mentions the tradition which passed from Moshe, to Yehoshua, to the nevi'im of the following generations, concluding with the Anshei K’nessesHa'Gedolah. Within this mesorah (tradition), no machlokes is mentioned. Only in the post nevuah era does machlokes begin. In the fourth Mishna of Avos,[9] the two dissenting opinions of Yosi Ben Yo'Ezer and Yosi Ben Yochanan are mentioned. The Maharal [10] identifies this as the very first documented occurrence of machlokes in the age of Torah Sheba'al Peh, the age of creating oneness from multiplicity.[11]

 

Static (Seeing) vs. Evolving (Hearing)

  

Another characteristic of this shift from Torah Shebiksav to Torah Sheba’al Peh is the switch from the mode of “seeing” to the mode of “hearing”.[12] Torah Shebiktav, the written Torah, is inherently linked to sight. On a straightforward level, it is a written text, and is thus read with one’s eyes. On a deeper level, sight represents that which is static; when one sees, they witness everything in their field of vision at once. There is no process or development. Torah was given to us as a complete book, closed and immutable. Torah She'baal Peh, on the other hand, is associated with hearing. On the most basic level, it is an oral tradition, passed down from teacher to student, transmitted and received by means of speaking and listening. On a deeper level, the very nature of Torah She'baal Peh mandates this mode of transmission.

 

It is for this reason that Torah Sheba'al Peh was not meant to be written down. Committing something to writing renders it static and finalized, and writing down the Oral Torah would limit its wisdom to finite fragments of individual statements, causing the shards of truth to remain shattered and broken. If Torah Sheba’al peh was transmitted orally, however, the shards would still remain in flux and in an abstracted form, representing the fact that we are still undergoing the process of "hearing", still putting the pieces together in the hopes of creating true Torah oneness. However, Chazal realized the great need to write it down in order to ensure that we don't forget the mesorah. Therefore, to ensure that we both retain the mesorah of Torah Sheba’al Peh, while still maintaining its “ba’al peh” identity, Chazal created an extraordinary solution. They wrote the Gemara in such a way that the words, while recorded to writing, serve only as a springboard for discussion and deep analysis, ensuring that we still must work and strive to recreate the oneness of Torah. Every single line of Talmud requires our minds to fill in the blanks and connect all the pieces together. Every single concept has endless commentary, requires tremendous background, and leads one on a journey into the infinite depths of Torah. In essence, Torah Sheba'al Peh was never written down. All that was written were the "seeds" necessary to guide us back into the sea of Torah Sheba'al Peh.

 

This is why the Gemara requires a rebbe-talmid relationship. One cannot simply open a Gemara and learn it; proper understanding requires breaking down the text, asking questions, fighting for alternate opinions, and ultimately, the direction of a teacher.Additionally, the very process of learning Gemara represents man’s search for truth. It requires a constant process of breakdown and rebuilding. The process begins with a theory, which one then breaks down and refines, until an improved theory emerges, at which point this process repeats.

 

Learning Torah She'baal Peh is an ongoing process, and the body of Oral Torah is continuously growing and developing. Every Jew has the potential to add chiddushim and insights to the mesorah of Torah She'baal Peh.

Torah She'baal Peh's connection to hearing is evident throughout; Torah She'baal Peh itself begins with the word Shema (Brachos 1:1). Furthermore, this Mishna discusses saying Shema at night. One cannot see in the dark, only listen. The entire mode of Torah Sheba’al Peh is hearing - listening in the dark and putting the pieces together, creating clarity amidst chaos and confusion, and sourcing the shards of truth back to their original oneness. It is only once you you've "listened" and accomplished "shema" that you can truly "see" the oneness of Torah.[13]

 

The Art of Learning Gemara

 

There is a puzzling characteristic about Torah Sheba’al Peh and the organization of the Talmud. If you open up any Gemara, you will notice that every masechta (tractate) begins on daf Beis (page two). Even the very first masechta, Brachos (Blessings), begins on the second page. Why does a new topic not begin on the first page?

 

The deep meaning behind this is connected to the nature of wisdom itself. Wisdom is complete, interconnected, and static, like a circle. In this state, there is no beginning or end, only oneness.[14] When one wants to attain wisdom, there is no "real" beginning, no objective starting point, just like there is no starting point on a circle. In essence, you are always entering the world of wisdom from the middle.

 

Whenever you enter the circle to learn and understand one topic, you have actually begun your journey of learning all of wisdom. You begin learning this one topic and then start build, putting the pieces together, creating a conceptual structure. You begin page by page, principle by principle, application by application, collecting and organizing all the data. Because everything is interconnected, every new piece of information you learn must both qualify and be qualified by everything else you have learned on the topic. Eventually, after seeing all the different qualifying parts and perspectives, you begin to see how everything fits perfectly into place. Only once you have learned everything and put all the pieces together can you look back and see, in retrospect, how everything fits together. It is only once you have learned everything that you can truly know anything. This is why every masechta begins on daf Beis: to teach us that we are always in the middle of learning. The first daf is not the beginning and the last is not the end, rather we are always in the middle of the learning process.[15]

 

When Held in Light of Everything Else

 

This is true of all wisdom. Any individual idea or argument in the Gemara, or in all of Judaism, can only be understood in light of every other idea and concept.[16] Every point presupposes that you know everything else. Therefore, until you know everything, you will not fully understand anything. This is what the Gemara [17] means when it says, "The words of Torah are meager in their specific setting, but are rich in another". When isolated, ideas may appear simple, but when seen in context and connected to all other cases, you begin to see more and more of its true profundity and sophistication. As you learn, you must connect what you are currently learning to every other idea you know, and in doing so, you will begin to possess true wisdom and connect to the spiritual oneness of all truths.

 

Genuine Chazarah

 

The first time you learn something, it is impossible to fully comprehend it, because you need to know everything else in order to fully grasp its true meaning. This is the purpose of chazarah.

 

Chazarah is usually defined as review. As such, when people review what they learned, many simply read it over, mindlessly repeating what they have already understood. But true chazarah, true repetition, is the process of learning old material on a completely new level, achieving elevated levels of clarity and gaining new insights. True chazarah requires bringing everything you've learned since last studying this material into your experience of reviewing it. Every time you repeat this process, you are able to elevate your learning to completely new heights, transforming your circle into a spiral.[18] This is why the Gemara [19] says that learning something one hundred times cannot be compared to learning it one hundred and one times. Every time you review something, it should be a revolutionary experience of discovery and innovation. We never repeat, we expand; we never circle, we spiral.

 

Oneness and Twoness

 

The concept of twoness is at the root of Torah Sheba’al Peh, which contains a multiplicity of opinions on every issue. The Maharal describes the letter Beis as the letter of twoness- multiplicity and physicality- the characteristics of our physical world. Aleph, on the other hand, is the letter of oneness- transcendence and spirituality, reflecting Hashem and the spiritual dimension. Aleph is the very first letter in the Hebrew alphabet and has the numerical value of one. It is a silent letter, reflecting its spiritual, transcendent nature. It also reflects spiritual elevation, as expressed in many words that have the letters aleph (aleph, lamed, pei) at its root. . “Le'aleph” means to teach, elevate, or lift to a higher spiritual dimension. “Aluph” refers to the highest-ranking military position and “eleph” (one thousand) is the highest number in the Hebrew decimal system.

 

This is why the Torah begins with the letter beis. Torah is a physical array of finite words, all of which are a loyal reflection and emanation of Hashem's wisdom and absolute oneness. Furthermore, the Torah begins by describing Hashem's creation of the physical world, a process most appropriately encapsulated by the letter beis- the letter of twoness that stems from oneness. The letter Beis reflects the process of Hashem's oneness becoming expressed into our physical world. Just as we must connect the twoness of the physical world back to the oneness of its spiritual root, we must do the same for Torah itself by connecting the twoness of Torah Sheba’al Peh back to the oneness of its spiritual wisdom, contained in its original root, Torah Shebiksav. 

 

Chacham Adif Mei'Navi

 

We can now understand the third shift that occurred with the transition from Torah Shebiksav to Torah Sheba’al Peh. The Gemara [20] states that while nevuah was taken from nevi'im, it was not removed from chachamim - sages of the Talmud. The Gemara then states, "chacham adif m'navi" - a sage is greater than a prophet. What does this mean?

 

In terms of content and clarity, a navi sees far more than a chacham. However, the navi receives this as a gift. He is only a receptacle, receiving the word of Hashem. His insight is wholly min ha'shamayim, lacking any creativity and human input. Once the light of nevuah went out, the chachamim now shine a new, unique light in that darkness. By tapping into the inner consciousness of Torah, they bring down Torah truth themselves in a unique, personally creative manner- a fundamentally different form of Torah wisdom. This Torah stems from human effort and creativity, and in a very deep way, it is a greater form of Torah, for it is a Torah built through effort, choice, and human input. Once the light faded, this is the Torah we build in the darkness.

 

However, once we accept this unique role and ability of the chachamim, we still must ask: how are they entrusted with this unique power? How can humans create Torah? Where do we find such a precedent?

 

Devarim: The Root of Torah Sheba'al Peh

 

The answer lies in the sefer of Devarim, Moshe's sefer. As the Maharal and Vilna Gaon explain, Sefer Devarim is an expression of the first four sefarim of the Torah. Moshe first became a pure vessel for Torah, a perfect receptacle.[21] The first four sefarim were written by Hashem, the giver, while Moshe served purely as a channel. As Chazal put it, "Shechinah mi'daberes mi'toch grono shel Moshe," Hashem spoke through the throat of Moshe, placing the words in his mouth. Devarim, however, was Moshe's creation. He took everything that came before, and expressed it through his unique lens. The Maharal and Ohr Ha'Chaim describe this process as Moshe's transformation into a normal navi, one who expresses Hashem's nevuah through their own unique and personal lens. Instead of Hashem Himself speaking through Moshe's throat, Hashem spoke to Moshe and then, at a later point, Moshe expressed this to Klal Yisrael in his own words. As a result, Sefer Devarim possesses the "style" of Moshe. The Malbim elaborates on this point, and explains that once Moshe uttered his own words, Hashem then ratified them as being part of Torah. In other words, Hashem commanded Moshe to write Sefer Devarim as a documentation of what Moshe himself had already said of his own accord.

 

This is the root of our ability to engage in Torah Sheba'al Peh, to become part of the creative process of Torah. At root, Torah Sheba'al Peh is the process of taking the seed of Torah Shebiksav and fully expressing it, developing it, without losing or betraying any of its inner meaning. It's a beautiful and elegant balance of being completely loyal to the written text of the Torah itself, while still finding room for personal creativity and innovation. Of course, there are rules and limitations and very clear guidelines to this process. Only Jews who are an Aron or Mishkan for Torah, who have first connected themselves completely to the vast mesorah of Torah, can contain the Shechinah of Torah Sheba'al Peh. Only those who completely give themselves over to Torah, like the Gedolim in every generation, can become the true pillars of Torah Sheba'al Peh and halachic reality. However, in a deep way, each and every one of us can tap in to that mesorah and become a part of this magical process as well.

 

The root of our ability to become partners in the creative process of Torah comes from Sefer Devarim, from Moshe Rabbeinu’s unique input. Moshe completely connected himself to the first four sefarim of the Torah, embraced and embodied it, and then expressed something unique from within Himself. This was the first example of Torah Sheba'al Peh in Jewish history.

 

Sefer Devarim as a Unique Sefer

 

We can now explain Tosafos' description of Sefer Devarim in regards to the twelve lines of a get. In a way, Sefer Devarim is unique and distinct from the other four sefarim of Chumash. It is the only one written by Moshe himself, and in a sense, is a completely separate sefer. Viewed from this angle, it is possible to suggest that the four lines between Sefer Bamidbar and Sefer Devarim do not count as a form of separation, because Sefer Devarim holds its own status as a completely separate sefer. Therefore, only the lines that separate between the first four books of the Torah are taken into account to determine the format of a get.

 

However, there is an even deeper answer to this question: Sefer Devarim is not counted as a separate volume of the Chamishei Chumshei Torah, not because it is a completely separate sefer, but for the exact opposite reason: it is subsumed within the first four books. This mirrors the deep relationship between Torah Sheba'al Peh and Torah Shebiksav. Torah Sheba'al Peh is not a distinct entity from Torah Shebiksav, it is a genuine expression of it. All the details and elements of Torah Sheba'al Peh are revealed aspects of truth that are buried within Torah Shebiksav. Therefore, Torah Sheba'al Peh is one with Torah Shebiksav. Devarim is not a new sefer, it is an actualization and expression of everything that is in seed, root form within the first four books of Torah. Therefore, there is no separation or gap between Bamidbar and Devarim, because everything within Sefer Devarim stems from the previous four books of Torah.

 

Our Role in Torah

 

This is our unique role in the world. When the light fades, when translucencebecomes opaque, we must shine a light in the darkness, we must reveal the truth of Torah in a post-prophetic age. As the Zohar explains, only when the lights go out and darkness reigns can a candle serve as a source of illumination. When the world is incandescent with spiritual clarity, humanity serves as a loyal channel and receptor of truth. When that light fades, we can become part of the creative process itself, not just shining the light, but creating it as well. May we be inspired to strive for Torah truth, listen closely in a world of darkness, and gather the shards of multiplicity into a singular oneness of higher truth.

 

[1] Gittin 2a.

[2] This is the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam.

[3] This is the opinion of the Ri”y, in the name of Rav Hai Gaon and Rav Saadya Gaon.

[4] For an example, see chapter on Parshas Balak.

[5] See chapter on Parshas Bo for more on the relationship between open and hidden miracles.

[6] See chapter on Parshas Chukas for more on the relationship between rational knowledge and deeper post-rational wisdom.

[7] See chapter on Parshas Mishpatim.

[8] Devarim 30:12, Baba Metzia 59a.

[9] Avos 1:4.

[10] Derech Chaim 1:4.

[11] For more on the topic of oneness and multiplicity, see chapter on Parshas Balak, section: “Bracha: From Oneness to Twoness”, and the subsequent sections as well.

[12] See chapter on Parshas Vayigash for a more extensive discussion on the concepts of seeing and hearing.

[13] It is fascinating to note that the first masechta of Torah Sheba’al Peh is Brachos. A bracha represents the transition from oneness to twoness, but also represents the connection between twoness and its original oneness. See chapter on Parshas Balak for a deeper understanding of brachos and this concept. The first masechta of Torah Sheba’al Peh is Brachos, as the very essence of Torah Sheba’al Peh is taking the shards of twoness and recreating the original onenss of Torah truth, the very essence of a bracha.

[14] See chapter on Parshas Ha’Azinu for more on the concept of circles. It is important to note that while circles can be negative, this is another example of how circles can be positive as well. However, even in this case, the greatness of the circle of wisdom lies in the concept of the spiral, as one’s understanding of wisdom continues to grow.

[15] While this might be startling to contemplate, it is important to note that a single stance on any one thing is, essentially, a statement on everything. This is because all of wisdom and truth is interconnected. If one takes a stance on a single topic or issue, then that stance will ripple through every other idea and topic as well, as all of wisdom is an interconnected circuit, a multifaceted web of oneness. That is why everything requires nuance and qualification. A little knowledge can do a lot of harm.

[16] Which is why context is so important. It is also why taking something out of context is equally inappropriate.

[17] Rosh Hashana- Yerushalmi 3:5.

[18] See chapter on Parshas Ha’Azinu for more on the spiritual concepts of circles of spirals.

[19] Chagiga 9b.

[20] Bava Basra 12a.

[21] See chapter on Parshas Beha’aloscha for more on Moshe’s uinique level of prophecy.

  

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