Where is my Angel??

rachel-mouth-84.jpgMidrash tells us that when a child forms in his mother’s womb, an Angel teaches him Torah. However, once the child is born to the world, the angel pats him on his mouth and the child forgets it all – this pat leaves a mark on our top lip – the one you can probably see in this lovely picture.

There are many questions surrounding this mashal, and unfortunately I can’t address them all, but there are a few points that I wanted to mention.

  • We always say that a person does “tshuva” – i.e. he returns to Hashem. Why returns? Because we were attached to HaShem before our soul descended to this world! So what caused us to get separated then? Fair question! Baal HaSulam teaches us that there is no distance in spirituality and thus, the distance between two objects is function of equality of their qualities. The similar they are – the closer they are to each other. When they completely align – two objects become one, and this is what we call attachment – “dvekus” to HaShem. So going back to our lovely Angel for a moment. When person studies Torah and Kabbalah, [if he does it right of course] he feels inner pleasure (that’s as much as I could possibly express it in words, as no words can really describe what one feels when he studies). This pleasure is of interesting origin – it’s not a pleasure of intellectual achievement, but a pleasure of reconnecting with its own soul – touching the knowledge that we already have – we just need to reach out – and here we are. It is also said that when a person dies the first thing that he sees is a familiar “face” – he is confused for a moment but then he recognizes it – it’s the Angel that taught him Torah in his mother’s womb.
  • One of the things that might be interesting to observe here is the fact that Angel pats child on his mouth. Why mouth? Wouldn’t it make more sense to pat someone on the head, so the brain forgets it all? Reasonable question – isn’t it? Midrash explains us, that once we are born into this world, our brain is divided into two parts – inner and outer. Outer part is what receives information from our five senses, processes it and feeds to our brain. While the inner part is what still connects us to Divine – this part is called Daat (sometimes it’s drawn in Ten Sefiros between Bina and Hochma). So while we’re in mother’s womb, Daat dominates, and thus we can absorb Divine, but once outer mind kicks in, it surrounds our inner part with five senses which limit everything we see around us into definitive objects. Everything that we see/hear/touch/etc has to have a limit – we can’t grasp the concept of infinity anymore. Our outer mind is like a camera – it can take pictures of everything outside us, but can’t take a picture of itself – it can’t look within itself – it can only react to external. And it’s therefore on the mouth that the Angel pats us – as the words we use are of finite essence and thus cannot be combined with the knowledge of Divine – the infinite.
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5 Responses to Where is my Angel??

  1. A very sweet, nice Midrash, but the question is still unanswered, 1.where the Angel is after It patted the child on his lips and we can ask some more questions as 2. what happened to the Angel after It patted the lips of the child, 3. if a child forgets all the Torah in a moment or it takes time for him to forget Torah, 4. and what is the use of teaching somebody something and then make him forget it,5. and what it means that the first Angel that meets the person when he dies is the Angel that taught him Torah.
    As we know each Angel has its specific role, and if the one we are speaking about is responsable for teaching us Torah and we are commanded to continue to study Torah in this world, why doesn’t It continue to fulfil its predestination, instead of patting us on the lips and making us to forget Torah?
    To answer these questions we should analyse the above Midrash, because Midrashim may look very simple, sometimes even childish, but they have very powerful information within them. And that is why when we say- learning Torah we mean learning all the other information that our Sages left us :Midrashim,Comments,letters,articles, fundamental work.
    We know that Peh(mouth) is Malkhut deRosh and while the child is in his mother’s womb, it is surrounded by waters- Mahim=Tora =Binnah. And many today’s experiments showed that water can absorb and hold information( our brain is jelly-liquid,we say Kiddush over the glass of wine we dip ourselves and dishes into Mikveh and so on.)
    The meaning of the womb in Kabbalah is Z”T of Binnah( Nekkudot de S”G) which came down the Tabbur and made place for the next stages of development where Tzimtzum B took place, which differs from Tzimtzum A by Shittuf Rakhammim baDin( combination of Mercy and Justice)
    On the physiological level the waters of the womb absorb all the information( and that is why it is so importent to read Torah,Tehillim etc., and to pray by pronouncing the words and not in one’s mind only,because the pronounced words have enomous influencional power in comparision with our thoughts). So the role of the Angel in the womb is to help the child to absorb all what is to learn and to know in Torah and to hold the negative information aside. The Angel holds child’s lips closed ( on this stage the child has no word in all what is going on with him) The Angel works as a Massakh and chooses for the child what is good-Torah and what isn’t good holds apart from the child.
    Now the pat on the new born child’s lips is the result of the Angel letting his lips open and a sound of paaakh is produced, but the question is why it is called pat-it is because now the child opens his mouth and has a split in the “system” of Peh- the upper lip is Binnah deMalkhut and the lower lip is Malkhut deMalkhut which will be now in constant rivelry of how the gift of speech should be used. The speech will have double function, one is of what the Angel taught, and the other of the Demon’s power-Lashon haRah and so on,Where is the demon form?-In Tzimtum B we have Pannim and Akhoraim in each Partzuf so the same power of speech for example which is originally the Angel, in Tzimtum B will have its back effect-Akhoraim- turning into Demon.
    So as you see the Angel doesn’t go anywhere and It stays with us all the time but It has two sides after the born of a child and we are given choice which side to choose.
    To learn Torah and even material sciences demands overcome ( Hitgabrut)and before we will have to say something in this or that field, we have to keep our mouth shut for at least sometime, and listen to what is said and taught to us, while speaking about things, that we don’t know, but we all have some “thoughts” about them, doesn’t demand Hitgabrut, becaude instead of learning we are talking, speculating on the thing we haven’t any Idea, and it demand Hitgabrut to keep silence and learn-choosing Angel side, instead of talking and idling-choosing Demon side.So what the Angel kept teaching us in the womb was keeping our mouth shut and first of all listening to our Sages what they have to say ( Emmunah mihal haDaat) and then to open it for the right purpose.
    The “pat” is letting us free choice of what to say( we are not judged for what we think, but for what we say), and how many times we say-I wish I hadn’t said…)
    The “pat” on the lips- because our use of speech needs correction.WE should be responable for what we say to each other, to our parents, children, spouses, co-workers and so on, and if we are not sure of whether to say something or not, it is better to keep silence till we are clear of what is going on.
    And now to the third question we asked: if a child forgets Torah in a moment or it takes him time.VehBakhartem behHaim- and choose the life-the first cry of a child is a sign of life.The child chooses life and Torah, and it cries and shouts, sometimes day and night without any visible reason and it is because he wants to remember what he learned in the mother’s womb on the Divine level ( as the above article explains), but instead of saying him the words of Torah in our world’s language from the first moments of his life and reciting him Tehillim and Zohar and Etz Haim, we take him on hands or put him into the pram and are doing everything for him to forget Torah- telling and singing him all kind of lullabys!
    We-parents are actually responible for our children forgetting Torah, and only thanks to the fact that the Angel stays within us all the time ,we have a chance to recollect it by pilling off all the lullabys we were told by our parents, teachers and so on.
    and what is the use of teaching somebody something and then making him forget it?- Teaching in the womb Torah stays as a compass(Tzoffen) within us for all our life and it garantees that whatever place or family the child is born, he has the chance to “come home”-to get to spirituality and to unit the splitted Angel (Halliyat AkHa”P) and to correct his portion of Ratzon Lekkabbel through Torah and Mitzvot and not through Hissurim(suffering). But the person should choose the way of Torah consciously and not compalsery as it was in the womb.
    So we may say that teaching him Torah in the womb was Hittarerutta deLehilla and learning Torah or actually recollecting It is Hittarerutta deLettatta ,and as ussual Angels and Demons( two side of the same enterty) are for our services.
    And our last question about being met first by the Angel that taught us Torah, after we pass away, is answered simple enough. Meeting our Teacher-Angel first when we go back to our constant place of life means that the first thing we see there is the purpose of being in this world and we can compere it with what we’ve done and what results we’ve come back with. When a jew dies, his body is wrapped into a piece of white cloth, and it looks like a scroll, in Kabbalah as we know “body ” is our Ratzon Lekkabbel, and if it was structured according to Torah during the life it will be “printed” on that white cloth in the form of the Torah letters( on the Divine level of course), so Angel has Torah which It taught us and we have Torah that we implemented,wether it is less, the same or even more that the Angel taught us in womb depends on our Hittarerutta deLettatta.

  2. Felix says:

    Well said!

  3. Niddah 30a-b – Torah study in uteroJune 20, 2012

    While describing the experience of the developing embryo, Rabbi Samlai offers a homiletical discourse that includes a well-known Rabbinic tradition – that while in utero the baby is taught the entire Torah, but that at the moment of birth an angel comes and slaps it, causing it to forget all that he learned.

    The obvious question that arises from this story is that the entire enterprise of teaching Torah in this manner appears to have no purpose, given that it is to be forgotten in any case. Many approaches are offered in response to this question.

    According to the Tikkunei Zohar the purpose of this teaching is so that when the child learns Torah anew, he recalls the learning that took place before he was born, which offers strength and vitality to the knowledge.
    In his Pit’hei Niddah, Rav Betzalel Ranschberg suggests that because of the impurity manifest in humankind since the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it would be impossible to learn Torah and retain its wisdom were it not first learned in the purity of the womb.
    The Arukh LaNer connects this teaching with the one that follows it in the Gemara. The continuation of Rabbi Samlai’s discourse teaches that upon birth the child is made to take an oath – tehi tzaddik ve-al tehi rasha – “be righteous, and be never wicked; and even if all the world tells you, ‘you are righteous,’ consider yourself wicked.” In order for the child to understand the meaning of these terms and accept the oath properly, he must first study Torah.

    In conclusion, Rabbi Samlai teaches that the following message is given to the soon-to-be-born child:
    Always bear in mind that the Holy One, blessed be He, is pure, that his ministers are pure and that the soul which He gave you is pure; if you preserve it in purity, well and good, but if not, I will take it away from you.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

  4. yehudith says:

    V’etchanan(Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)
    Torah Power
    by Rav Nosson Weisz

    We always read Parshat V’etchanan on the Shabbat after the fast of the 9th of Av — a Shabbat known as Shabbat Nachamu, the “Shabbat of Comfort.”

    The comfort of Parshat V’etchanan embraces far more than the Haftorah from Isaiah (chapter 40) which is the source of its name:

    “Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has been fulfilled, that her iniquity has been conciliated, for she has received from the hand of God double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40)

    This message of comfort is a prophecy concerning the eventual Redemption, and assures Israel that the destruction and exile are merely temporary phenomena in the context of an eternal covenant.

    But Parshat V’etchanan offers comfort of a deeper sort, a comfort that is entirely based on the world of the present and does not have to await the coming of any Messiah.

    MAIN THEME

    The main theme of Parshat V’etchanan is to emphasize the overwhelming importance of Torah knowledge, recapping the encounter at Sinai, and repeating the Ten Commandments. Also the Shema, which contains the commandment of teaching the Torah to one’s children, is here. Even more significant, the grounding of the transmission of Torah knowledge and methodology along the chain of generations is established in the following verses:

    You shall safeguard and perform them, for it is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the peoples, who shall hear all these decrees and who shall say, “Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!” For which is a great nation that has a God Who is close to it, as is the Lord our God, whenever we call to Him? And which is a great nation that has righteous decrees and ordinances, such as this entire Torah that I place before you this day? Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life, and make them known to your children and your children’s children — the day that you stood before the Lord your God, at Horeb, when God said to me, “Gather the people to Me and I shall let them hear My words so that they shall learn to fear Me all the days that they live on the earth, and they shall teach their children.” (Deut. 4:6-10)

    CONTINUITY OF GOD’S PRESENCE

    We mourn the destruction of the Temple because it represents the departure of the Shechina, God’s Presence, from the world. This departure is akin to the loss of a most cherished family member. But, in a way, God’s Presence is still among us through His Torah, and that is the true comfort offered by Parshat V’etchanan.

    From the day of the destruction of the Temple, God only has the four cubits of halacha as His domain in His world (Talmud, Berochot 8a)

    Two people who sit together over the Torah, the Shechina hovers over them … how do we know that even when one person engages in Torah study God immediately takes note and establishes his reward? It is written, Let one sit in solitude and be submissive, for He has laid it upon him. (Eicha 3:28),(Avot 3:2)

    These and many other similar passages demonstrate that God is still present in the post-Temple world, and His Presence is linked directly to Torah study. It is clear that God needs Jews to study Torah to establish His Presence in the world.

    The centrality of Torah study to Judaism is no less apparent on the human side. The study of Torah has provided the Jewish people not only with the wherewithal of cultural survival, but also with the spiritual happiness and strength required to sustain its morale and self-confidence through the extended darkness of the long Diaspora.

    Parshat V’etchanan is an appropriate place to explore the concept of Torah learning and its centrality to Judaism.

    THREE PILLARS

    The Mishna states (Avot 1:2) that the world stands on the tripod of Torah, Divine service, and kind deeds. The Maharal explains what this means. The human personality consists of three parts: 1) intelligence or the mind; 2) character or values; and 3) emotions or drives. The survival of the universe demands an attachment to God through the relationship developed with Him by human beings, and therefore, a method must be provided to connect each parts of the human personality to God in order to insure the survival of the universe. This happens when:

    1.man connects his intelligence to God through Torah study,
    2.he connects his character through Divine service,and
    3.he connects his emotions through the practice of kindness to his fellow man.

    These three connections constitute the tripod of the Mishna.

    Because the connection to God through Divine service can only reach completeness of expression through the rituals of the Temple, this leg of the tripod is necessarily incomplete following the Temple’s destruction. But intelligence, character and emotions are a continuum, and the outward expression of human emotion is always directly related to the character of the human being. When the leg of the tripod associated with Divine service — the vehicle that connects man’s character to God — cannot be adequately expressed, the final leg of the tripod, representing the connection established through emotion, must also be limited.

    Thus, in effect, following the destruction of the Temple, the completeness of the connection of the Jewish personality with God is entirely dependent on the leg of the tripod associated with Torah study. As long as the connection made through Torah retains its full vigor, so does the entire continuum of the human personality set forth by the Maharal. Intelligence gives rise to character, which in turn is expressed through emotion.

    THE HUMAN HEART

    The chief difference between the universe as it was before the destruction of the Temple and the way it is now is represented by the role played by the human heart.

    Whereas while the Temple stood it was possible to connect oneself to God purely emotionally as we do to other human beings, and the primacy in the human relationship with God was the province of the heart, this is no longer true in the world of the present. Today, the initial attachment to God must be forged by the exercise of human intelligence through the study of Torah. The universe still rests on the same tripod, but in today’s post-Temple world, the heart must follow the mind.

    Fortunately, the leg of the tripod that rests on Torah study is entirely independent of the existence of the Temple, and can be maintained during the darkest periods of exile in its full vigor. In a period of exile, the completeness and vigor of the entire tripod that maintains the world thus stands on Torah study alone.

    But Torah study itself has two aspects: 1) to know its commandments in order to follow them; and 2) to know its teachings for its own sake.

    For example, while women are exempt from the commandment to study Torah, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 47:14) obligates them to make the daily blessing on Torah learning. The commentators explain that this is due to the fact that every Jew must know how to properly observe the commandments that he or she is obligated to fulfill. The only way to know how to observe the commandments properly is to study the Torah and learn the rules that govern their performance. Thus women are also obligated to study Torah so that they can master the knowledge regarding the commandments that apply to them.

    It follows that the obligation to study the Torah as such, cannot be related to discovering how to observe its commandments. Otherwise, there would be no difference between men and women in terms of the commandment to study Torah. The commandment to study Torah from which women are exempt must therefore be directed at learning the Torah and knowing it for its own sake, as pure knowledge.

    But how can this be? Doesn’t this run counter to the famous statement of Rabbi Yochonon that is repeated in various forms through all of Talmudic literature:

    If someone studies Torah without intending to apply what he learns, it would have been better for him had he been smothered by his amniotic sack and never been born. (Yerushalmi, Brachot, 3b)

    Isn’t the idea of learning Torah inextricably intertwined with knowing how to carry out its commandments?

    To answer this question properly we must contrast the Torah’s attitude to knowledge about spirituality to the one that prevails in the secular world regarding this sort of knowledge.

    TWO CATEGORIES OF KNOWLEDGE

    The secular definition of knowledge divides knowledge into two categories: 1) scientific knowledge and 2) non-scientific knowledge.

    The scientific view of reality is built on ideas that are verifiable by experiment, and in this respect knowledge is defined as the accumulation of hypotheses that have been successfully verified through experiments which can be duplicated by anyone, anywhere, with identical results. But experimentation invariably involves testing for a hypothesized result by weighing, measuring or otherwise detecting by some physically quantifiable means a phenomenon that is a part of the physical world.

    Thus, by definition, any knowledge of purely metaphysical phenomena is automatically defined as unscientific and unverifiable and such knowledge cannot be established as a reality.

    Unscientific knowledge is therefore relegated to the area of intuition and feeling in the secular view of the world. This sort of knowledge is a matter of opinion, where one person’s theory is as good as any other person’s. In the Maharal’s division of the human personality quoted above, it is more appropriate to allocate the entire field of endeavor associated with such knowledge to the area of character and values, rather than to the area of knowledge and intelligence.

    No doubt it would be fascinating to discover the answers to ultimate questions such as the existence of an intelligent Creator or a purpose to the universe, but, as it is impossible to study such questions scientifically, they are forever doomed to remain in the area of the unknown and can never be understood as being reflective of reality.

    Needless to say, this view represents the ultimate pessimism. It relegates the universe to the status of an unexplainable cosmic accident, and condemns man to a purposeless existence as a meaningless cosmic blip within it. Every person can and must legitimately follow his intuition as far as deciding how to answer ultimate questions, but his decisions, which have more to do with the human heart than with human intelligence, cannot be graced with the honor of being ranked on a par with scientific knowledge. Who can guarantee that they conform to outer reality at all?

    Thus, man’s intelligence, the faculty that raises him above the other creatures in his world, is rendered useless to him as a guide. That is not to say that intelligence has no value. It is extremely useful to solve scientific problems, which is no small matter, as increased knowledge of science and technology lead to ever-higher standards of living. But as to helping man solve the dilemma of why he exists, man’s powerful intelligence is rendered totally impotent.

    There is a corollary to this secular view of knowledge in terms of the proper attitude to adopt towards the intellectual giants of the past. While no doubt we are overcome with admiration when we regard the early trail blazers of human knowledge who managed to come up with such great insights with the limited tools at their disposal, in terms of knowledge they cannot be regarded as our equals, much less our superiors. After all we understand the world much better and more accurately than they did.

    While this is strictly true only regarding their scientific knowledge, it is an attitude that must inevitably carry over to embrace their spiritual/moral understanding of life and the world as well. When one is properly grounded in reality, even his intuition tends to be more reliable.

    Thus the secular scholar believes himself to be at the frontiers of human knowledge no matter what area of intellectual endeavor he may be engaged in. He rests on the shoulders of the giants of the past, but even a midget standing on the shoulders of a giant sees further than the giant under him. (Rashi, Vayera)

    ANSWER TO SKEPTICISM

    The answer to all this skepticism is Torah study. Any effort to study another sort of reality from the outside, when you are stuck with the limited tools, is necessarily doomed to failure. In order to study an alternative reality you must be able to walk around within it and taste it from the inside. When you can smell its flowers and see its trees you can no longer doubt its existence. Knowing this, God gave man a Torah that embraces far more than a set of instructions for him to carry out in his world. God gave man the necessary information to be able to place himself inside spiritual reality and orient himself there.

    The Torah scholar, who immerses himself in the pursuit of learning Torah for its own sake, finds himself inside a spiritual universe that is as real to him as anything in the physical world.

    In the words of the Amora Shmuel:

    “The paths of the heavens are as known to me as the streets of my home town Nahardoi.” (Talmud, Brochot 58b)

    It is only the person who has not immersed himself sufficiently in the sea of the Talmud that can be skeptical about the existence of God or of a spiritual world. Whoever has studied the Torah knows that it could not possibly have been invented by any human imagination and describes a world of ideas and values that are as real as anything else in man’s universe.

    TORAH PERSPECTIVE

    As seen from a Torah perspective, the position reached by the scientist is only the half-way mark. It is perfectly true that the human mind cannot penetrate unaided into a reality other than the physical. The frontiers of science have taken us to a glimpse of reality as it must have appeared at 10 to the minus 43 seconds after the Big Bang, but beyond this point, human knowledge cannot go unaided. While we are scientifically aware of the fact that we cannot explain the origin of the universe in terms of natural law as we understand it, our knowledge does not allow us to glimpse the world of God from within.

    Knowing this, God gave us intelligence and also gave us the Torah.

    And God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness. (Genesis 1:25)

    Rashi tells us that “in our likeness” means “with intelligence.”

    God trusted the intelligence He implanted in man, which mirrors His own, never to be satisfied until it could uncover the knowledge necessary to figure out the point of possessing such intelligence. But God knew that man’s unaided efforts would only allow him to conclude that his intelligence must have a purpose, but not what that purpose might be. So, God also gave man His Torah, the book that contains the information necessary to provide a solid foundation for such knowledge.

    Whoever studies Torah intensely knows positively that only God could have authored it. Once he reaches this conclusion, he gains confidence in the capacity of his God-given intelligence to serve him as his guide through life, based on the information readily obtainable from God’s book. He does not have to relegate information regarding the purpose of existence to the realm of intuition. His intelligence is grounded in reality and still manages to encompass the spiritual world as knowledge, not intuition.

    On the deepest level, to learn Torah with the idea of applying it means to use one’s Torah knowledge to define reality. The proper study of Torah allows the Torah scholar to give his intelligence the preeminent place in the pantheon of the human personality.

    Destruction and exile are phenomena that induce mental disorientation and emotional devastation. To be able to retain moral values and continue religious traditions in such situations, one has to have a powerful grip on one’s sense of reality. One has to trust the power of one’s mind to reach the truth. This power is found in the Torah, our chief comfort.

  5. Vayelech(Deuteronomy 31)
    Writing Our Own Sefer Torah
    by Rav Yehonasan Gefen

    “And now write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel…” (1)

    The Rabbis teach us that the song referred to in this verse is the whole Torah and that every Jew is commanded to write his own Sefer Torah.(2) The Gemara in Sanhedrin tells us that even if a person inherits his ancestors’ Sefer Torah, he still must write his own Sefer Torah for himself.(3)

    The commentaries offer a number of explanations for this law:(4) The Ktav Sofer explains that this mitzvah is teaching us that it is not sufficient for a person to observe the Torah simply because his parents habituated him to Torah observance,(5) rather he must create his own personal relationship with God based on a genuine recognition and appreciation of Torah. Writing one’s own Sefer Torah and not relying on that of his parents indicates that a person is striving to develop his own path in serving God and not blindly follow that of his parents.

    The Ktav Sofer uses this principle to explain another saying of the Sages about the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah: The Gemara in Menachot says about one who writes a Sefer Torah for himself, that it is considered as if he accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai . The Ktav Sofer explains that there are three levels of people who keep the Torah; He writes, “there are those who do it from love, there are those who do it from fear and there are those who only do it because they are habituated to it and the habit has become part of their nature.” He continues to argue that since a person in the third category would not observe the Torah if not for habit then it is logical to say that had he been at Mount Sinai he would not have wanted to accept the Torah! In contrast if a person takes it upon himself to write his own Sefer Torah and not rely on that of his parents, he demonstrates that he wants to accept the Torah based on his own decision, rather than purely because he was brought up to do so. Accordingly, had he been at Mount Sinai he would have accepted the Torah anew and would not have needed anyone else to force him to do so, hence the Rabbi’s statement that one who writes their own Sefer Torah is considered as if he received the Torah himself.

    The lessons from this mitzvah are very relevant in these times. An essential element of genuine teshuva (repentance) is a desire to develop our relationship with God and to eliminate the sins that harm that connection. In order to do this it is vital that a person strengthen his faith and thereby remind himself of why he keeps mitzvot. Throughout the year a person may try to observe the Torah but there is the constant danger that he will fall into the trap of habit and lose focus on why he is keeping the Torah.

    There is another key lesson that can be derived from the Ktav Sofer’s explanation of why each person must write his own Sefer Torah. It is not enough that a child mimic his parents’ form of serving God rather he must forge his own unique relationship with God, developing his own traits and talents to their fullest. At the same time, the mitzvah requires that he write the exact same Sefer Torah as that of his forefathers, teaching us that the degree of innovation that he makes cannot go beyond the boundary of the Torah that he inherited from his parents.

    All Jews are born into a line of Tradition that goes back to Abraham; we are obligated to faithfully adhere to the instructions and attitudes that we receive from this line of tradition. A person cannot make up his own set of values or lifestyle; there is a Tradition that guides him how to live his life. But, at the same time, this does not mean that each person in the chain of the Tradition is identical in every way – there are many ways in which a person can express himself in the fulfillment of the Tradition.

    This idea is also highly significant in the High Holy days. A person is not only judged for his mitzvah observance, there is also a judgment as to whether he is fulfilling his own personal purpose in life. This is expressed in the prayers of these days when we say that we are judged, ‘maaseh ish upekudato’ – man’s actions and his purpose. ‘Maaseh ish’ refers to a person’s mitzvah observance, but what does pekudato mean? Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz explains that it refers to a person’s tafkid (purpose).(7) A person is judged as to whether he utilized his own talents to the greatest ability. It is not enough for him to mimic his ancestor’s lifestyle rather he must strive to find his own niche in serving God.

    The Ten Days of Repentance is an excellent time for contemplation of one’s life purpose and direction. May we all merit to break out of habit, reinvigorate our Service of God and reach our own unique potential.

    NOTES

    1. Vayeilech, 31:19.

    2. The poskim dicuss whether women are obligated in this mitzva.

    3. Sanhedrin, 21b.

    4. See Sefer HaChinuch and Darchei Mussar, Parshas Vayeilech.

    5. Ksav Sofer Al Hatorah, Vayeilech, 31:19.

    6. Menachos, 30a.

    7. Heard from Rav Yissochor Frand shlit”a.

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