Based on a shiur by Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Did you hear it? There was a Kol Torah in Beit Shemesh! No, I don’t mean the beautiful sounds of the cheders and batei midrashim you can hear buzzing as you walk down the street. This time the Torah itself cried out.
On Sunday evening, our community was zocheh to receive a new sefer Torah, entrusted to our own Yeshiva Gedolah, Nesivos HaTorah. We knew this was not an ordinary sefer Torah. Two years ago, Chaya Zissel Braun left this world. This sweet neshama was only 3 months old when a terrorist attack took her life. A kind donor decided the only appropriate response is to write a sefer Torah.
This week, the Torah arrived. At the inauguration, Rav Yaacov Haber, shlita, recalled his encounter with an old Jew on a trip to South America. The old European man expounded on the Yiddish word “einekel”, grandchild. There is no Hebrew linguistic root, no German or French behind the word. He explained it came from a contraction from this week’s parsha “Ha sneh eineinu ukal”, the lowly thorn bush will never be consumed. A grandchild is the nation’s continuation of our connection and service to Hashem. This will never go out.
This sefer Torah carries that message. This sefer Torah is that message. Now, you might think the message is written in the words on the parchment. But this sefer Torah is different. Let’s learn.
Last week, Rabbi Haber gave over another story in his chabura on Nefesh HaChaim. The medrash tells us Rebbe Yossi was travelling, and met up with Rebbe Chiya. He told Rebbe Chiya of his enigmatic encounter with a very old Arab man. (This old Arab man was later confirmed by Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai to be a very old neshama who came to this world to reveal essential secrets to the generation.) Through cryptic word puzzles, the old Arab man revealed secrets about the power of speech.
Speech, as the Nefesh HaChaim explains, has the ability to penetrate through our world of asiya, and up to yetzira and briya, where the Kisei Shel Kavod sits. Speech not only reaches those worlds, but Adam (mankind) has the power to affect those worlds, which then recreates the world according to our influence. The higher and more refined our speech, the more effective the influence on the world.
The lowest level of speech is called hevel, literally breath. This is the simple life force that Hashem Himself, kviyachol, breathed into man. Our breath testifies to Hashem’s life-giving force. Our breath reaches to the heavens, and changes the world. Chazal tell us that hevel shel tinokos shel bais rabban mikayim Beis HaMikdash. The sounds of children learning allow the Beis HaMikdash to be built.
The next level is milim, words. These represent our free choice. I can build or destroy with my words. It’s my choice. When I fill my mouth with Torah and chesed, then I am building new worlds filled with Hashem’s bracha and chesed.
The highest level is kol, sound. Now this does not make sense. Rav Haber explains the Vilna Gaon here. I understand why milim (words) are a higher form of speech. But how can a simple unarticulated sound have a higher more effective impact that the milim chosen of our own free will?
The Vilna Goan understands kol to mean galui, revelation. A kol reveals what is truly inside. This cannot be expressed in words, but it can be expressed. Hashem Himself taught us this. Chazal tell us that Hashem gave His Torah with chamishim kolos. Five different expressions revealing the inner Torah.
We experience this on Yom Kippur. The whole day is filled with words. Piyutim, tefillos, vidui, more and more words. Yet it is not enough. At the climax of the day, we move beyond words to express our most inner connection to Hashem. We blow Kol Shofar. A sound of deep connection, hope, and trust.
This is the sound of a bubby’s krechtz. Or, as we saw on Sunday night, the sound of a single tear drop rolling down a grandfather’s cheek. Yidden do not give up through despair. Yidden build through their unwavering belief in the geulah coming from Hashem. Our minds cannot logically fathom a situation, yet we know in our deepest place that Hashem will reveal that this too is part of the geulah. That deepest place comes out as a kretchtz or a single tear drop. And it has the power to change the world.
As we danced down the streets of Beit Shemesh, this was the kol that accompanied us. Hundreds of people swarmed around the Torah, singing and dancing. Roshei yeshiva, bachurim, children, families, even the bus drivers stopping to honor the procession (and dancing too!).
As the simcha quieted down, the sefer Torah was taken out for the first time on Monday morning. The early morning air was crisp in the Nesivos HaTorah beis medrash. You could see the hevel shel tinokos in the air as the bachurim donned their tefillin and started morning brachos.
With loving care, the bachurim escorted the Torah to the bimah. As the only Kohen there, I was honored with the very first Aliyah from this sefer Torah. This is when we heard the special kol from this sefer Torah.
“I heard the groan of Bnei Yisroel…” And then the 5 lashonos of geulah (v’hotzaisi, v’hitzalti, v’goalti, v’lakachti, v’hayvaysi). Hashem heard our kol. He heard the bubby’s krechtz and the tear on the grandfather’s cheek. And He is already bringing the geulah.
This whole sefer Torah is one big parshas HaGeulah. This sefer Torah is beyond the hundreds of thousands of milim written on the parchment. This sefer Torah is beyond the billions of words of explanation from the mefarshim.
This sefer Torah is about the white space. Our inner voice, the voice Hashem blew into us. The voice of eternal connection, and knowledge that the geulah is already starting.
Now we know why this sefer Torah was entrusted to a galant group of bachorim at Yeshivas Nesivos HaTorah. Ha sneh eineinu ukal. These are the boys who heard the kol from this Torah, and will teach it to their grandchildren.
– Written by Shmuel Marty Rothenberg