Divine Authorship of Torah Part 1 – Rabbi Dovid Abenson

In order to properly understand a written text of any kind it is crucial to know for what purpose it was written. Learning Chumash is no different. In my forthcoming Sefer “I Can’t Read or Learn”, I describe eight steps to learning a pasuk in Chumash. Understanding the purpose of the written Torah and its relation to Torah sheba’al peh is often under-emphasized. As I hope to show, the pesukim of written Torah cannot be properly understood without the eighth step which is that learning cannot be accomplished solo but requires a rebbe and initiation into the chain of oral tradition which is our mesorah.

Imagine you just purchased a potentially dangerous piece of equipment. You don’t want to even attempt to use it until you have read through the instruction manual. The manual that came with the machine is reassuringly thick but when you read it you find it is filled with random stories about the history of the invention and production of the machine and only a few paragraphs pertain to the safe use of the equipment. Even these paragraphs contain little in the way of clear instructions; they just say unhelpful things like: “failure to use the equipment properly can result in injury or death”. Nowhere is there a clear indication of what this “proper use” might be. Without a doubt you will be calling the toll free number listed on the box trying to get to the bottom of this omission.

Something similar occurs when we read Chumash. Some of the most important Halachos central to Jewish life, such as shabbos, tefillin, shechita, and marriage and divorce are not explicitly given in the written text at all.

Shabbos is so central to Jewish observance that it almost literally defines a frum yid, we call him “a shomer shabbos”. We see explicitly in the Posukim, that if one does not keep the Shabbos, he is put to death. As it states שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ יֵעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י שַׁבַּ֧ת שַׁבָּת֛וֹן קֹ֖דֶשׁ לַיהוָ֑ה כָּל־הָעֹשֶׂ֧ה מְלָאכָ֛ה בְּי֥וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖ת מ֥וֹת יוּמָֽת׃ (Shemos 31:15). Six days you shall do all your melachah and on the seventh day a holy shabbos for Hashem, for one who does melacha on shabbos shall surely die. But nowhere in the Torah is this “melachah” explicitly defined. If it is so important why would the rules not be specifically explained? The least we might expect is clear instructions on how to keep Shabbos. That is, of course, if the purpose of Chumash is an instruction manual for living a Torah life. But perhaps its true purpose is something else.

Chazal teaches us that there are 39 biblical prohibitions on Shabbos. The Gemara Shabbos 70a brings a posuk where it is hinted to the 39 biblical prohibitions וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶֽת־כָּל־עֲדַ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֑ם אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְהוָ֖ה לַעֲשֹׂ֥ת אֹתָֽם׃ ( Shemos 35:1)

From the words אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים (these are the things…) Chazal learned 39 Melachos. How? דְּבָרִ֔ים- “things” in the plural indicates two melachos as Rashi points out, the minimum number for plurality. The additional letter הַ in הדברים indicates one more melacha. The numerical value of אֵ֚לֶּה – is 36 in total is 39 melachos that were said to Moshe at Sinai, but still what type of 39 melachos are they?

Reserve your copy of Rabbi Abenson’s new Sefer coming out soon HERE.


Rabbi Dovid Abenson can be contacted at: Tel. 15147393629, Cell/Whatsapp 15149935300, Email: [email protected]. Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director of ShaarHatalmud, a unique yeshivah-based online program, which incorporates learning all Kodesh subjects, from Kriah up to learning Gemara, Rishonim, and Shulchan Aruch. He also conducts evaluations, remediation, and training, and consults with Roshei HaYeshiva and Menahelim to improve students’ underdeveloped learning and textual skills.


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