Friday, March 07, 2008

The Far Side...

…doesn’t seem quite so clever this morning. It’s still funny and can bring a quick smile to my face but it just feels…inconsequential.

That’s one of two words that keep flashing through my mind, along with incomprehensible.

Straight to the point then.

Starting with Shemos the final four seforim that make up the Torah end as follows:

Shemos –

כִּי עֲנַן יְהוָה עַל-הַמִּשְׁכָּן, יוֹמָם, וְאֵשׁ, תִּהְיֶה לַיְלָה בּוֹ--לְעֵינֵי כָל-בֵּית-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּכָל-מַסְעֵיהֶם

For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys

Vayikra –

אֵלֶּה הַמִּצְו‍ֹת, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת-מֹשֶׁה--אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: בְּהַר, סִינָי

These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai

Bamidbar –

אֵלֶּה הַמִּצְו‍ֹת וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה--אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: בְּעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב, עַל יַרְדֵּן יְרֵחוֹ

These are the commandments and the ordinances, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho

Devarim –

וּלְכֹל הַיָּד הַחֲזָקָה, וּלְכֹל הַמּוֹרָא הַגָּדוֹל, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה מֹשֶׁה, לְעֵינֵי כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל

and in all the mighty hand, and in all the great terror, which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel

Many commentators see sefer Bereishis as a stand alone piece of the Torah, almost like a preamble as it sets the scene or lays the groundwork for what will happen from that point on, it is individually historical (which is important in the extreme, but different than what goes on in the rest of the Torah) and includes very little direct instruction that is relevant outside of sefer Bereishis.

The final four sefarim (pun not intended:) are more one unit that flow from one to the next. It is interesting to note then that of the four only Shemos does not end with the words Bnei Yisroel, or words to that effect, but instead the words Beis Yisroel (while sefer Devarim does not use the word Bnei the implication is clearly to the nation at large). It could have used the common term of Bnei Yosroel just as easily or left out a descriptor all together like at the end of sefer Devarim.

Why the special use of the term Beis?

As with many things in Judaism the answer to how things end lies in how they were begun. Sefer Shemos begins with the following verse:

וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, הַבָּאִים, מִצְרָיְמָה: אֵת יַעֲקֹב, אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּ

Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came into Egypt with Jacob; every man came with his household

Ish U’Veiso, every man with his household. This is what the entirety of sefer Shemos is about, the building of the house of Yaakov…the building of the nation of Klal Yisroel. If sefer Bereishis was about laying the foundation, then sefer Shemos is about taking the first steps in putting it to use. All of the rules, all of the commandments, all of the victories, all of the hardships, all of the joy and all of the sadness. They all come as parts of the building and developing of this great entity. The key element involved in this development is the Batim, the home…the Jewish home. The Jewish home sets the tone for what is Klal Yisroel.

There can be no Bnei Yisroel if first there is not a Beis Yisroel.

--Today the former mourns with one of its latter--