Entering the “Word”

Teivah  - a Hebrew term which can be translated as “ark”  or as “word”



Dear Friends,


This week’s parsha – Torah portion – tells the story of the righteous Noah who lived in an age when human civilization had become engulfed by the darkness of decadence and corruption. The Creator informs Noah that a great flood will destroy this civilization; however, Noah, his family, and representatives of the various species will survive through the teivah – ark -  that Noah is to build. After Noah completed his task, the Creator tells Noah: “Enter the teivah, you and all your household” (Genesis 7:1).


The term teivah can also be translated as “word”; thus, the above Divine statement can have another level of meaning: The Creator is telling Noah to “enter the word” – to immerse himself in the light-giving and life-giving Divine teaching which will enable him to renew the world. In this spirit, the Chassidic sage, Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin, offers the following interpretation: “Teivah alludes to the words of Torah and prayer” (Toras Avos).


In the previous letter, we referred to the Christian persecution of the Jewish people during the Middle Ages. The Jews responded to this persecution by going deeper into the “word” of the Compassionate One. In the following passage, historian Berel Wein describes this development:


“They built an edifice of scholarship and research, unmatched in human history, on the foundation of the knowledge and faith of previous generations. Their firm belief in the revealed Divinity of Torah was coupled with reasoned analytic exposition, monumental research, a flood of research books and commentaries, and a holy and individualistic life-style.” (Herald of Destiny)


There are a number of reasons why the Jewish people have been devoted to the study of Torah, and one reason can found in the following statement: “Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23). The mind that absorbs the wisdom of Torah can therefore become a sanctuary for the Divine light. When the mind is full of Divine light, it is able to perceive the sacred beauty and purpose of everyone and everything in the Divine creation. Torah study therefore has a central role within our service to the Creator, and the following verses from our Sacred Scriptures stress this idea:


1. “And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire, and when you arise.” (Deuteronomy 6:6,7)


2. “This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; rather you should contemplate it day and night, in order that you conscientiously do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful, and then you will act wisely.” (Joshua 1:8)


3. “O how I love Your Torah! All day long it is my conversation.” (Psalm 119:97)


Our longing and love for the Torah is expressed in the following words of an ancient prayer which Jewish men and women say each morning:


“Please, O Compassionate One, our God, sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth and in the mouth of Your people, the family of Israel. May we and our offspring and the offspring of Your people, the family of Israel - all of us - know Your Name and study Your Torah for its own sake. Blessed are You, O Compassionate One, Who teaches Torah to His people Israel.”


Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)


Related Teachings and Comments:


1. The light of the Torah illuminates our path. King David therefore said to the Compassionate One: “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).


2. The Hebrew term halacha – often translated as “Torah law” - refers to the “steps” on the Torah path. This term is related to the word holech – walking. Maimonides wrote a classical work on the halacha of the Torah which is known as the Mishneh Torah. In the section on Torah study, he explains why Torah study is a central mitzvah – Divine mandate. He writes:


“There is no mitzvah among all the mitzvos which is equivalent to Torah study. Torah study, however, is equivalent to all the mitzvos, for study leads to action” (The Laws of Torah study 3:3).


3. The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed the following prophecy concerning the messianic age:“For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of the Compassionate One from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3).” After mentioning that Torah will go forth from Zion, the Prophet proclaimed to our people: “O House of Jacob: Come, let us walk by the light of the Compassionate One” (ibid 2:4).  The Prophet is reminding us that we ourselves first need to walk by the light of the Divine word before this light can spread to others.


4. I wish to thank Reb Yitzchak Dorfman for sending me the teaching of  Rabbi Moshe Kobrin and for including the source. I also learned about this teaching through the daily e-mail lesson of Rabbi Avraham Twerski. This series of short daily teachings is titled “Growing Each Day” and one can subscribe to this inspiring series by going to: www.aish.com.  

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