Parashas Bereishis

This Shabbos we begin again the annual cycle of Torah readings. Among the Midrashim on the first chapter of the Torah are some teachings about the Torah itself. Thus, Bereishis Rabbah 1:1 presents the following teaching, based on Mishlei 8:30:
R. Hoshiah Rabbah expounded: “‘I [the Torah] was then His ward – I was then His rapture every day, playing before Him at all times’ (ibid.). A ward under tutelage, a ward in a cloak, a ward hidden away.” [The Midrash continues with proof texts for each of these descriptions.]
To shed light on this enigmatic Midrash, the Maggid turns to another Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 28:1):
Said R. Berechiya: “The tablets [of the law] were six tefachim long – with, so to speak, two tefachim in the hands of the One whose word brought the world into being, two tefachim in Moshe’s hands, and two tefachim in between.
Although the full depth of this second Midrash is beyond our comprehension, the Maggid tells us that we can extract from it one key message: The Torah includes three portions – revealed, concealed, and indiscernible. The two tefachim in Moshe’s hands represent the revealed portion, the intermediate two tefachim represent the concealed portion, and the two tefachim in Hashem’s hands represent the indiscernible portion.
The revealed portion consists of what Moshe conveyed to us: the 613 mitzvos Hashem commanded us to observe. Now, we have very limited knowledge of the reasons behind these directives, and no knowledge of what results they produce within the universe. Nonetheless, we are obligated to follow Hashem’s word, without deviating to the right or to the left.
The concealed portion consists of the reasons behind the mitzvos and the results they produce. When we observe the mitzvos faithfully, for Hashem’s sake, Hashem will disclose this portion to us. As our Sages say (Avos 6:1): “Whoever involves himself in Torah for its own sake … has revealed to him the Torah’s secrets.” Thus, David HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 111:10): “The starting point of wisdom is fear of Hashem, which provides good understanding to all who perform [the mitzvos].” The Gemara in Berachos 17a adds that David is speaking of those who perform the mitzvos for their own sake. The idea here is that we should take it upon ourselves to perform mitzvos simply out of fear of Hashem, without understanding, and afterward Hashem will grant us the understanding. This principle underlies the Jewish People’s declaration at Sinai (Shemos 24:7): “We will do and we will listen.” By doing the mitzvos, we gain the merit to learn their meaning.
And then there is the indiscernible portion, which is totally beyond the grasp of man. Our Sages refer to this portion as “wine stored up in grapes from the six days of creation” (Berachos 34b). It is a side of Torah that will never come to light in the present world, but in the end of days it, too, will be disclosed. As our Sages say, in the end of days Hashem will show the Jewish People us His hidden chambers (Yalkut Shimoni II:882).
The same three portions of Torah are what our Sages are referring to in the first Midrash we quoted. The “ward under tutelage” refers to the revealed portion of Torah, which embodies Hashem’s teachings about how we should act. The “ward in a cloak” refers to the concealed portion, which is cloaked from our view, but can be uncloaked by appropriate means. Finally, the “ward hidden away” refers to the indiscernible portion, which only Hashem can perceive, until He makes it known to us in the end of days.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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