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Home » Nitzavim

Nezavim Vayelach: Relevance of Torah

Submitted by on August 25, 2013 – 4:09 amNo Comment | 5,205 views


In our Parsha, the Torah provides its own coordinates. “It is not in the heaven to say, who might rise to the heaven to bring it to us nor is it across the ocean to say, who might traverse the oceans to bring it to us.”[1]

At first blush it appears superfluous to inform us that the book in our hands is not in the heavens. It makes as little sense as me asking you to run around the corner to ascertain that I am not there. If you are reading this passage and you are on earth, you know that the Torah is on earth, not in heaven and in your country, not across the ocean. This message should perhaps be placed on outdoor billboards and in the media, but not in the book itself.

However, when you reflect on this passage it yields a powerful message. Rather than a set of coordinates, it is a teaching that informs our entire approach to the Torah.


What is the Torah to you? Is it an interesting book and a good read or is it the word of G-d that binds you? When you attend a Torah class and learn the Jewish dietary laws do you walk away thinking about the changes you need to implement in your diet or do you come home to tell your spouse and friends about the interesting habits of others? Does the Torah have relevance to you?

In all seriousness the question boils down to this: Is the Torah and ancient book for a vanishing people or is it alive and well in you? If the Torah is not alive in you, whose task is it to keep it alive? If not yours, who? If not yours, why not?

This passage appears toward the end of the Torah because it is G-d challenge to us. Now that you have completed the lion share

of the Torah, I want you to know that I never meant for it to be irrelevant and abstract. It is not in the heavens for heavenly, pious and holy people who devote their lives to scholarship and charity. Neither is it across the ocean for distant tribes from other parts.

relevance - innerstream

It is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to perform it.”[2] The Torah is meant for you. Just like Uncle Sam, the Torah Wants You. You can’t duck this responsibility and you can’t shirk this privilege. It is not an anthropological study of how people lived years ago in distant places. It is about you.[3]

I once met a Jewish couple in an apartment building. When I told them that a new Jewish family was about to move in to their building they rejoiced. When I mentioned that I had just koshered the new family’s kitchen they replied,” aaah, that kind of Jew.” After a brief pause they recovered and said, “That’s all right, we welcome all kinds to our building.”

This is the vital mistake that G-d wants us to avoid when we read the Torah. The laws of kosher are not for the other kind of Jew. It is for you and me and every Jew on the planet. The Torah belongs to you. When G-d issued His commandments He was talking to you too. When he said Jews must keep Shabbat and Pesach and Rosh Hashana, He included you. The Kosher Jew is not a different kind. He is your kind. You too are a Kosher Jew. Even if you don’t know it yet.


There are Jews that observe select sections of the Torah, but not others. They pick and choose the parts they like based on preference or the way they were raised. They hardly stop to think about the other rituals because they were not raised that way. Charity is for me as is the Seder and support for Israel, the rest is for others. The Torah challenges us to examine our hearts every day and ask ourselves, what makes us different.

The Torah and the Jew is like a father and a mother. Each makes a critical contribution to the conception and birth of a child, but the child can only be ushered into the world if the parents collaborate. Together, they can channel life into the world, apart, they cannot. A seed without a womb is useless. A womb without a seed is equally useless. It is only when the father contributes the seed and the mother her wo

mb that a child can be conceived, nurtured and brought into the world.

The same is true of the Torah and the Jew. The Torah is a container filled with intensely sacred Divinity. When we study the Torah and implement its teachings, we are suffused with its holiness and Divine energy. We become holy creatures as it were. But if we study

the Torah as an academic curiosity and don’t see ourselves and our role within it, the holiness of the Torah remains aloof, trapped in the Torah and unable to permeate us or the world at large.

A student without Torah cannot channel holiness into the world. The Torah without its students also cannot channel holiness into the world. It is only when the two mate that our person and our world become holy. To bond means to become relevant and important to each other. It is not enough that we learn about each other and remain at a distance. To conceive a child we must be intimate physically, emotionally and spiritually. The same is true of Torah. To produce the holiness that the Torah is designed to usher into the world we need to connect with the Torah and make it relevant.

Learning about it at a distance, as a book that has no relevance for me, will not generate the spark that the Torah is designed to generate. It is only when we learn to take it seriously and recognize that it not intended as to be taken as theory but as concrete instructions for daily life, that the Torah becomes a channel of Divine blessing in our lives.

To bond with the Torah is to give it relevance in our daily lives. Whether it is by taking on the observance of its laws on a personal level or by working to maintain a higher level of consciousness even as we go about the tasks of daily life, the challenge is the same. It is to recognize that when I study the Torah G-d is talking to me. Not to my neighbor and not to my friend, but to me. He wants me to take Him seriously. Seriously enough to implement change in my life.[4]

G-d Reciprocates

When we implement change in the way we treat the Torah G-d implements change in the way He treats us and we merit a year of blessing and abundance plenty and joy. When we treat the Torah as a relevant document, our concerns become relevant to G-d and He ensures that our blessings flow from heaven.

G-d treats us the way we treat Him. If we build a hiding place for Him in heaven, He will hide there. If we usher Him down to

earth, He will descend and join us.

[1] Deuteronomy 30: 12:13.

[2] Deuteronomy 30: 14.

[3] Meor Enayim ad loc.

[4] Ibid.


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