“The ability to express an idea is well nigh as important as the idea itself.” -Bernard Baruch
One of the more memorable games from kindergarten was ‘broken telephone.’ At that age I already enjoyed and appreciated how quickly and easily our words can be distorted. To say ‘banana’ at the beginning of the chain and then to hear ‘your Mama’ was an insightful lesson in human communications.
Critics of Jewish tradition have often called on this principal to argue against the validity of the Torah, of the Law of Moses, either questioning its divine origin or arguing that there must have been a breakdown or errors in the transmission.
The Ohr Hachayim (Leviticus 16:34) takes a strong stance against such criticism (I guess it was an issue in his time and place as well). At the end of a series of commands performed by Aaron, the High Priest (brother of Moses), the Torah adds a seemingly superfluous line: “and he did as God commanded.” The Ohr Hachayim explains that the verse comes to praise both Aaron and Moses. Aaron is praised for having performed all the commands exactly as he had been instructed with no errors whatsoever. However, Aaron did not hear the command straight from God. Moses was the middle-man and he is praised for having transmitted God’s words perfectly with “not a sixtieth of a hairsbreadth” difference between God’s command and his own recitation.
The Ohr Hachayim states that the entire transmission of the Torah is the same. Moses passed it on flawlessly. There is no error. His contact with God was a clear seamless connection that brought the divine will into human terms and language.
To me it’s an amazing realization that the Word of God is right in front of us, in black and white, in the Torah, exactly as He transmitted it. Now if we could only understand what He was telling us…
To the iPhone, Skype and modern communications technology. While it is still far from flawless, the connection they enable is highly appreciated.