Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pre-Genesis Unveiled

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“…The Holy One declared, ‘A (new) Torah shall emerge from Me …” (Vayikrah Rabba 13:3)

The word "new" here in cast in parenthesis because there's a classical commentary who believed that this instance of the word "new" was a manuscript error that later crept into the official version. (see Yifeh To'ar) However, there are others authorities, like the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who seem to accept it either as part of the original text or as part of the inner intent of the original text. The implication of accepting the word "new" as part of the original text or as part of it's intent is an expectation that the Messiah will reveal freshly new Torah teachings, never previously made public. This understanding echoes the Kabbalistic tradition that the Messiah's Torah teachings will be on a higher spiritual level than any Torah teachings publicly taught in prior times.

The core of the Torah is the Ten Commandments. Rabbi Saadia Gaon teaches that all of the Torah's other commandments derive from these ten. The Ten Commandments are like the seeds containing the rest of the commandments in a seminal sense. Imagine a large multifaceted tree emerging from a single tiny seed. So too, each of the Ten Commandments blossoms into a multitude of additional commandments. Therefore, when the Jews huddled "as one person with one heart" around Mount Sinai, they were not merely treated to ten does and don'ts, but, also to the inner core of the entire Torah. Over the course of their next 40 years in the desert, the basic Ten Commandments had unpacked as our present day Torah scroll - the way a buried seed unpacks its genetic code in an earthen womb to sprout, grow and flourish into a verdant tree.

A master of Kabbalah, Rabbi Moshe, shared with me that there was something unique about the first set of tablets. They contained the Torah which the Messiah will eventually teach - the higher spiritual teachings designed for a spiritually enlightened era. The Creator's plan was for the Jews to attain a heightened state of national unity and kindness, thereby enabling them to be worthy of a truly spiritually advanced version of the Torah. Being the conduit for this spiritually advanced Torah, positioned Moses to be the Messiah leading the world into a new spiritually enlightened era. However, the sight of the golden calf ruined the situation. The Jews no longer retained the necessary level of unity and sharing. A mutiny broke out as the "mixed multitude" saw an opportunity to ascend to power in Moses' absence, leading to the tragedy of many worshiping the golden calf. The first tablets never even had a chance to really reach the people, as Moses shattered them, rather than risking the Jews having exposure to a higher standard of Divine expectations than they truly ready for.

After the tablets shattered, Moses pleaded with the Creator for forty days. The Creator allowed Moses to ascend Mount Sinai for another forty days. During this period he received the second set of tablets, which was on a much lower spiritual level than the first set. The teachings of the second set lacked the spiritual depth and wealth of the first set. He descended the mountain and so began Torah in its current form.

Of course, until the Messiah arrives one can only imagine what makes the Torah of the first tablets so amazingly different from today's Torah. Kabbalistic texts drop hints here and there. One particular insight into the difference between the two sets of tablets which really riveted me came from Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Bagdad. He transmits a tradition from earlier mystical sources that the Messiah will reveal a sixth book to the Torah scroll, in addition to the five already present.  Surprisingly, the placement of this sixth book will be before Genesis. Apparently, it will reveal what happened prior to the current Biblical creation story. (See “Od Yosef Chai”, Page 237)

For quite a while I tried to understand how Rabbi Yosef Chaim’s revelation or for that matter the entire Kabbalistic tradition on this subject does not contradict one of Judaism’s thirteen central tenets of faith, “I completely believe that this Torah will not be exchanged and nor will there be another Torah from the Blessed Creator”. (See the conclusion of the morning liturgy in many Jewish prayer books.)

Over the course of years, my mind every so often revisited this question, seeking a creative resolution which somehow combined the elements of the Messiah’s Torah being previously “given” and yet, inaccessible until the right time. Maintaining such a balance would ensure that even when the Messiah will reveal his teachings, they will somehow be a part of what was already received at Mount Sinai and therefore, not contradict the central tenet of Judaism that "...this Torah will not be exchanged and nor will there be another Torah..."

One idea which ran through my mind was that there might be another book of the Torah somehow encoded in the current five books. When the Messiah arrives, he’ll merely reveal the code and before our eyes a new book will appear which was always waiting there to be discovered. Based on the book's content, it will be eminently evident that the book belongs before Genesis.  Hand scribed copies of this book will be attached to the beginning of every existing Torah scroll for ritual reading and published versions will be available for study.

Another idea which crossed my mind is maybe this book is already encoded somewhere in nature. For instance, maybe there’s a way of reading the night stars as sketching Hebrew letters, which in turn form a complete Torah scroll – containing all six books. This way, the book is present as a previously given revelation and not truly new.

While these creative strivings might (or might not) have some truth to them, recently a much more straightforward resolution dawned on me. The messiah’s Torah has previously descended as part of the package crafted for the Jews at Mount Sinai. Moses literally descended with the entire Torah, including the sixth book, encapsulated the first set of tablets. Since Moses already brought it down, the Messiah is merely restoring what Moses has already given - but, we did not yet receive.

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1 comment:

  1. הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים נְאֻם יְדֹוָד וְכָרַתִּי אֶת בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת בֵּית יְהוּדָה בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה:
    לֹא כַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אֶת אֲבוֹתָם בְּיוֹם הֶחֱזִיקִי בְיָדָם לְהוֹצִיאָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲשֶׁר הֵמָּה הֵפֵרוּ אֶת בְּרִיתִי וְאָנֹכִי בָּעַלְתִּי בָם נְאֻם יְדֹוָד:
    כִּי זֹאת הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר אֶכְרֹת אֶת בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל אַחֲרֵי הַיָּמִים הָהֵם נְאֻם יְדֹוָד נָתַתִּי אֶת תּוֹרָתִי בְּקִרְבָּם וְעַל לִבָּם אֶכְתֲּבֶנָּה וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם לֵאלֹהִים וְהֵמָּה יִהְיוּ לִי לְעָם:
    וְלֹא יְלַמְּדוּ עוֹד אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ וְאִישׁ אֶת אָחִיו לֵאמֹר דְּעוּ אֶת יְדֹוָד כִּי כוּלָּם יֵדְעוּ אוֹתִי לְמִקְטַנָּם וְעַד גְּדוֹלָם נְאֻם יְדֹוָד כִּי אֶסְלַח לַעֲוֹנָם וּלְחַטָּאתָם לֹא אֶזְכָּר עוֹד

    Yeremiah 31:30-33

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