In parshas Shemini, the Torah records a dispute between Moshe and Ahron regarding the Chattas offering of Rosh Chodesh. While Moshe felt that Ahron should have eaten the Chattas offering, Ahron had it burned because he was an onen, having recently lost his two sons. Despite his initial disappointment in the seeming departure from halacha, Moshe ultimately acquiesced to Ahron’s judgment.

The verse in which this dispute is introduced, which begins “And Moshe inquired insistently about the Chattas offering”, is marked with a Masoretic note indicating that the words “darosh darash” represent the exact halfway point in the words of the Torah. The Degel Machaneh Ephraim sees this seemingly trivial fact as hinting an important lesson.

In his essays on the Torah, Ben Ish Chai compares the relationship between the Written and Oral Torahs to that of a uniquely shaped jewelry box and the ornaments with which it is filled. The true spiritual treasures of our nation are represented by the teachings of Torah sheBa’al Peh. It is the words of our sages that illuminate the intentionally obscure and indecipherable meaning of the Torah’s heavenly guidelines for living. Without the Oral tradition filling in the many blanks, it would be impossible to understand the Torah’s true intention, much less live life practically as an oveid Hashem. Rav Kook begins his monumental work Oros HaTorah by contrasting these two parts of the Torah. The tzaddik teaches that while Torah Sheb’Ksav is like the heavens, transcendent, impenetrable, and mysterious, Torah sheBa’al Peh is bound to the earth; practical, pragmatic, and eminently applicable to the contours of the human experience. Without its “earthly” counterpart, the written Torah would remain hovering above the reach of our nation, merely half a work – an incomplete revelation.

This, explains the Degel, is the meaning of the Torah’s halfway mark falling among the words “dorash darash”, which imply a double explanation. Hashem is reminding us that without “darosh darash”, the double study of both Torah sheb’Ksav as well as Torah sheBa’al Peh, the Torah is severely truncated, only expressing half of its true glory. May we merit to dive deep within the ocean of Torah in its entirety, uniting heaven and earth by embodying the Torah’s heavenly ideals within the mundane details of our daily lives.

Divorced from its oral tradition, Torah sheb’ksav is only half a revelation – indecipherable and beyond our reach.

Rebbe Ephraim of Sudylkov
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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