The Song of the Torah – Weekly Words of Torah, Nitzavim/Vayelech 5773

Insights into Parshat Nitzavim/Vayelech of Rav Moshe Ganz, Ram Emeritus of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, by Rav Re’uven Ungar of Sha’alvim.

“And now write for you this song”. The simple meaning of this verse refers to the song of the following parsha, Ha’Azinu (which details subsequent Jewish History). In times of the exile the reading of Ha’Azinu reminds the Jewish People that our troubles do not happen without reason; rather, they are punishments for misbehavior. We were warned from the beginning. This will lead us to correct our ways.

The gemara (Masechet Sanhedrin, 21b) derives from this verse the obligation of every Jew to write a Sefer Torah. The Rambam (Hilchot Sefer Torah 7:1) explains as follows: “Write the Torah that contains this song. Because the Torah is not written in separate passages (parshiot, parshiot)”. Thus, the primary focus of the mitzvah is to write the song of Ha’Azinu, in accordance with the simple meaning of the verse. Due to a halachic technicality, the writing of the entire Torah is necessitated.

Other Rishonim (the Rosh, Sefer HaChinuch) opine that the gemara maintains that the song refers to the entire Torah. The mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah is intended to foster access to Sifrei Torah; this will lead to Torah study. The study of Torah will lead the Jewish People to the proper path.

Why is the Torah referred to as a song? At first glance, we would think that “chok”- law, statute- would constitute a more appropriate description of the Torah. The law is set; a song represents innovation. The law applies to the community; a song expresses the feelings of the individual. And the major difference- the law is established from external sources; a song flows from within.

And yet- the Torah is termed as a song. Even though it is the law, and it was given externally- nevertheless, it must be a song. The Torah is different from all laws. Its source is The Creator of all. It was given to us because it is appropriate for us. Via the Torah we express our true selves. The love and respect that we feel towards The Master of the World, the depth of our desire to do good. The obligations of the heart are also the desire of the heart. “My soul yearns for you at night” (Yirmiyahu 31:32). While Hashem did raise Mt. Sinai upon us to accept the Torah, we said that we would perform and learn (na’ase venishma) the Torah. With a full heart.

According to the Sefat Emet (Vaylech, 5648), in principle the Torah does not need to be written. Because Hashem, the Torah and the Jewish People are one, thus The Word of Hashem is written on our hearts. Originally, only the 10 Commandments- Aseret HaDibrot- were written. Subsequent to the Sin of the Golden Calf- Chet HaEgel- the rest of the Torah was written. In the time of the exile even the Oral Law was permitted to be written as well. The Written Torah is designed to awaken us and to open our hearts; through the study and love of Torah we reveal our internal love of The Master of the World.