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Shir ha-Shirim XV Part One: Sefirah 18

Rabbi Yudan in the name of Rabbi Yehudah bar Rabbi Simón and Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Nechemiah debated. Rabbi Yehuda said: When Israel heard the words, “I am God, your Lord,” the knowledge of the Torah was fixed in their heart and they learned and never forgot.


They came to Moshe and said, “Our master, Moshe, you become an intermediary between us, as it says, “You speak with us, and we will hear, why should we die (Exodus 20:16; Devarim 5:22).” What would be gained if we were to die? At that moment they became liable to forget what they had learned. They said: “just as Moshe, being flesh and blood, is transitory, so, his teaching is transitory.”

They came a second time to Moshe and said, “Our master, Moshe, would that God might be revealed to us a second time! Would that He would kiss us, “with the kisses of His lips (let us hear Torah directly from Him, without an intermediary).” Would that He would fix the knowledge of Torah in our hearts as it was!”

He replied to them: This cannot be now, but it won’t be in the days to come, as it says, “I will put My law in their innermost parts and in their heart will I write it (Jeremiah 31:33).” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1.2:4, Part One)

Rabbi Yehuda is describing the process at Sinai which continues until today: Israel heard the words directly from God, and the knowledge of Torah was fixed in their heart and they were granted the gift of never forgetting. However, they forfeit that gift when they were frightened of the intensity of a direct relationship with God. There was a part of them that saw Torah as being as transitory as its teachers of flesh and blood. However, they immediately realized that to perceive any part of Torah as transitory is to disconnect it from its eternal Source and leads to the loss of Torah being able to be fixed in their hearts, and they would become vulnerable to forgetting. They came the second time to Moshe and asked for another chance to hear God directly.

We are still at that stage. Our Torah study is our request to hear Torah directly from the mouth of God so that it can be permanently fixed in our hearts and we will never forget. That time will come, as promised by Moshe. We studied the Torah in order to access that time when it comes. Every word of Torah we study should be an expression of our desire to once again merit learning it directly from God.

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