18 Aug 2016 Parshas V’Eschanan: The Transmission of Torah
In this week’s passionate, stirring, eloquent and moving parsha, Parshas V’Eschanan, Moshe continues to lovingly encourage, exhort and teach the nation from whom he will soon part. In this parsha, he reviews one of the tenets of our faith: The Aseres ha’Dibros, which were heard at the time of the Revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah, back in Sefer Shemos.
Moshe relates that the people approached him and said, We cannot continue to hear the Voice of Hashem, lest we die…You, Moshe, go close and hear what Hashem will say, וְאַתְּ תְּדַבֵּר אֵלֵינוּ – and you shall speak to us all that Hashem will speak to you, and we will hear and we shall do (Devarim 5:22, 24).
Why is Moshe referred to here as אַתְּ, you, in the feminine form, and not the usual אַתָּה, you, in the masculine form? וְאַתְּ תְּדַבֵּר אֵלֵינוּ – And you (as a female would) should speak to us.
The Ba’al HaTurim teaches, וְאַתְּ תְּדַבֵּר: בקול נמוך כאשה, בענין שנוכל לסבל – Speak to us (Moshe) softly, like a woman, so that we will be able to endure (the words of Torah).
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “People are mistaken in thinking that there is only one masorah and one masorah community; the community of the fathers. It is not true. We have two massoros, two traditions, two communities: the masorah community of the fathers and that of the mothers… What is the difference between the two massoros, the two traditions?
“One learns much from the father: how to read a text, how to comprehend, how to analyze, how to classify, how to apply. Father teaches the son the discipline of thought as well as the discipline of action…
“And what is toras imecha – the Torah of the mother? Permit me to draw upon my own experiences… I used to watch my mother arranging the house in honor of a holiday. I used to see her recite prayers; I used to watch her recite the sidra every Friday night and I still remember the nostalgic tune. I learned very much from her.
“Most of all, I learned that Judaism expresses itself not only in formal compliance with the law but also in a living experience. She taught me that there is a flavor, a scent and warmth to mitzvos. I learned from her the most important thing in life – to feel the presence of the Almighty and the gentle pressure of His hand resting upon my frail shoulders. Without her teachings, which quite often were transmitted to me in silence, I would have grown up a soulless being, dry and insensitive.
“The laws of Shabbos, for instance, were passed on to me by my father. The Shabbos as a living entity, as a queen, was revealed to me by my mother. The fathers knew much about the Shabbos; the mothers lived the Shabbos, experienced her presence, and perceived her beauty and splendor.
“The fathers taught the generations how to observe Shabbos; mothers taught generations how to greet Shabbos and how to enjoy her twenty-four hour presence.”
וְאַתְּ תְּדַבֵּר: בקול נמוך כאשה, בענין שנוכל לסבל – Speak to us softly, like a woman, so that we will be able – as a nation! – to endure.
It is true, Moshe, that we need to study and practice the laws of Torah and all the details; the intricate and complicated halachos that guide our lives. But Moshe, our leader, Rav, father, mother, guide and teacher! Do not forget to also teach us those aspects of Torah relayed to us by the mother; speak to us like a woman, softly, with love, passion, emotion, depth – do not forget to teach us Toras Imecha – the Torah of the mother – so that our people be able to endure.
As a father, teach us the laws of Shabbos; as a mother, teach us to experience Shabbos.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l notes that, “The Biblical woman was never at the center, always in the wings. She was never loud, always quiet. At the same time, she was the leader and the head of the household.”
As we learn both the laws of the father and the experience of the mother, may we be wise enough to appreciate and cherish the dual, and complementary, massoros – that of the father and that of the mother.
שְׁמַע בְּנִי, מוּסַר אָבִיךָ; וְאַל-תִּטֹּשׁ, תּוֹרַת אִמֶּךָ – Hear my son, the rebuke of your father, and do not forsake the Torah of your mother (Mishlei 1:8).
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,