158/929 The Source of the Torah’s Eternality….is You. Devarim 5.

It’s one of the most wondrous aspects of Torah study, in general, and of the 929 project in particular. If there is one thing that attests to the divinity of this document, surely it is this. The Rashbam called them the “peshatot hamitchadshim bechol yom” –– the new understandings of Torah that each new day can bring. How has such an ancient text been able to maintain its relevance throughout all the generations? How is it possible that for all of Jewish history, radically different Jews leading drastically different lives have all learned the same Torah and drawn new, different inspiration and meaning from it (a phenomenon you can now observe daily at the 929 website)?

This is precisely the “kol gadol velo yasaf”, the ‘great voice that does not cease’ mentioned in chapter 5. And the secret of its longevity is introduced in the second verse of this second speech of Moshe. “God didn’t make this covenant with our fathers. He made it with us, us who are here alive today.” ¬†Moshe tells the people that they, too, were at Sinai. This is false for some of the individuals standing before him, but it’s true for the timeless entity known as Knesset Yisrael. Every member of Knesset Yisrael stood at Sinai, and so Moshe’s exact words are just as false for you and I as individuals, and just as true for you and I as members of Knesset Yisrael.

Every Jew hears revelation, but no one hears the same thing. “One did God speak, two did I hear” (Tehillim 62:12). The differences we find between the ten commandments in chapter 5 and the text in Shemot 20 are a reflection of this, and the key to properly understanding the sense in which God’s word is eternal.

Some people misunderstand this idea to mean that the meaning of God’s word is unchanging. This is demonstrably false, as anyone who opens any bible containing contradictory commentaries from different eras can see. But more than that, it is idolatry, a limitation of God’s infinity to small, man-made creations of the mind (as we learned in the last chapter)_. There can be no more destructive misconception of revelation than this, which causes brutalities and evils, great and small, from holy wars, to stabbings in the streets of Jerusalem.

God is One and His word is One, but humanity is diverse. The significance of the Jewish people numbering 600,000 at the time of the giving of the Torah is that this number, (as I’ve mentioned before), represents the total diversity of human opinion. The only way to reveal the truth of Torah, and to maintain its eternal significance, is by listening to every person’s utterly unique way of hearing revelation.

Shma Yisrael! Listen, O Israel! “He has given us a Torah of truth, eternal life he planted within us!”

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This blog breathlessly tries to follow the brutal pace of the incredible, God-revealing 929 project with reflections on each chapter in English (something the project currently lacks). Happily, these days it also coincides with the weekly Torah portion (and it will for the next month or so). Comments and questions are welcome! You can understand more about the 929 project from their website- 929.org.il.

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the rabbi of the Shalom Hartman Institute's Hevruta program, an educator Hartman Boys High School in Jerusalem, and an activist against Israeli weapons sales to human rights violators.
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