Monday, April 22, 2013

367 - Ki Sisa

When Moshe Rabbeinu beheld Bnei Yisroel worshiping the golden calf, he threw down the luchos and smashed them. Chazal tell us (Shabbos 88a) that afterward Hashem thanked Moshe for breaking the luchos. Eighty days later, on Yom Kippur, Moshe descended from Har Sinai with a second set of luchos, with the same contents. What was the impetus for Moshe's decision to break the luchos, and if he felt they weren't worthy of receiving the Torah what changed eighty days later when he returned with a similar set of luchos?

The Gemara (Avodah Zara 5a) states that the second set of luchos differed from the first set. Had they merited the first set, Bnei Yisrael would have been free from the dominion of the yetzer hara and would never have had to contend with the oppression of foreign nations. They wouldhave achieved a level of existence without sin. Prior to their sin, the Torah (i.e. the first set of luchos) was tailored to the needs of a nation that had reached the pinnacle of spiritual ascent. When Moshe saw that the nation had sinned, thereby falling from their newfound spiritual plateau, he understood that the Torah in its present state was not suitable for Bnei Yisrael. They would need a new set of luchos that was tailored to a nation that had tasted sin. The actual Torah would remain in its purity, exactly how it had been prior to their sin; however, the manner in which it would be conveyed to Bnei Yisrael would have to be different.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) elaborates on this very relevant concept. Every generation has a specific manner in which it can, and does, relate to the Torah. Those responsible for transmitting the Torah must understand the peculiarities of their specific generation and transmit the Torah accordingly. The Torah remains the same; it's merely the language that changes. 

Chazal say, "Yiftach in his generation paralleled Shmuel in his generation." What does this mean? Shmuel was a prophet similar to Moshe and Aharon, while Yiftach didn't even merit prophecy at all. Rav Tzadok Hakohein explains that just as Shmuel succeeded in transmitting the Torah to his generation, Yiftach did all that it took to transmit the Torah to his generation. The difference in the spiritual levels of the generations was immense, but the mission remained the same. Yiftach succeeded in finding an appropriate means of conveying the Torah's eternal message.

Reb Yechezkel Levenstien said that when he learned in the Yeshiva of Kelm, his Rabbeim would say that speaking about the terrible punishments in Gehinom to motivate people to improve is not the proper approach for our generation. The Alter of Slabodka would always stress gadlus ha'Adom - the greatness of man. He understood that our era required a softer more optimistic approach and he tailored his discourses accordingly.

No matter the means of transmission, the beauty of the Torah remains the same. We all have the ability to help others in their Torah growth; we just have to find the right language. What spoke to the last generation might not speak to our generation, and what speaks to our generation might not speak to our children's generation. If we bear this in mind when delivering Hashem's eternal message, we will be'ezras Hashem succeed in imbuing others with a true Torah outlook, in a manner that rivals the pedagogy of Shmuel Hanavi.

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