The Heart of the Torah
BY RABBI DANNY MIRVIS
“Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moshe, whom Hashem had known face to face. (As evident) by all the signs and the wonders that Hashem had sent him to perform in the Land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land. And by all the strong hand and by all the great power that Moshe performed before the eyes of all Israel” (Devarim 34:10–12).
With these words, which describe the supremacy of Moshe’s prophecy, we complete V’zot HaBracha and our annual Torah reading cycle. Whilst celebrating this milestone on Simchat Torah, we do not wait for the next Shabbat to recommence with the book of Bereishit, but straight away return to the very beginning of the Torah:
“In the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth” (Bereishit 1:1).
This immediate recommencement of the cycle comes to highlight the continuity of Torah, our love of Torah, and that however many times we may have completed the Torah, there is still more to learn.
Numerous explanations are given for the fact that the Torah begins with the letter “bet” (of “Bereishit”) and finishes with the letter “lamed” (of “Yisrael”).
The Kli Yakar concludes his commentary of the Torah by explaining that bet and lamed are the only two letters of the Hebrew alphabet that form complete words when placed before the three letters that comprise Hashem’s four-letter name (“yud” followed by “hay” followed by “vav” followed by “hay”) i.e. bet yud (“bi” – in me), bet vav (“bo” – in him), bet hay (“bah” – in her), lamed yud (“li” – to me), lamed vav (“lo” – to him) and lamed hay (“lah” – to her) are all complete Hebrew words. Bet and lamed are therefore the two letters that represent the unity of Hashem’s name and come to teach us that everything begins and ends with Hashem.
Other commentators point out that the letters lamed and bet spell out the word “lev” (heart) i.e. the heart is the link between the completion of the Torah and its recommencement and the heart performs this linking role in numerous ways.
First, our Torah learning cannot be a purely academic or intellectual exercise. To ensure the continuity of Torah and to ensure the recommencement of our Torah reading year after year, we must be emotionally connected to Torah as well.
Second, the continuity of Torah goes hand in hand with the love of our fellow man. Torah study which is not accompanied by pleasant character traits and concern for others is flawed. Torah without a heart is not Torah. The love of our fellow man is not only essential to truly receiving Torah, but is particularly vital in passing it on as well.
Third, our devotion and commitment to Torah should be as constant as the beating of the heart. Whilst an emotional connection to the Torah is essential, emotion can be fickle and must be accompanied by commitment.
As we renew our Torah reading cycle, we should renew our passion and love for Torah, our commitment to Torah and our love for our fellow man.
Rabbi Danny Mirvis is the Deputy CEO of World Mizrachi.