Parashat Vayishlach: Encountering the Torah


his column is dedicated to the sacred memory of the author’s sister-in-law, Ruchama Rivka Sondra, and the refuah shlaimah of Yosef Shmuel ben Miriam.

Rav Saadiah Gaon was one of the greatest of the Babylonian gaonim. His approach to Torah study was direct and to the point: Analyze the verse on its own terms based upon the actual language presented therein. In other words, instead of approaching the verse with pre-conceived ideas that will most likely determine its interpretative outcome, examine it in its most pristine form.

In practical terms, this means that before we automatically apply Rashi or another commentator’s analysis, we need to encounter the pasuk as it was given to Moshe Rabbeinu at Mount Sinai.

This, perhaps, is one way of understanding the famous verse: “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morasha kehilat Yaakov” (“Moshe commanded us the Torah, it is the inheritance of the entire Congregation of Yaakov,” Sefer Devarim 33:4). In sum, this means that since the Torah is our inheritance, each of us is duty bound to exercise personal ownership, and expend our greatest cognitive efforts to interpret the Torah on our own - before relying upon Chazal (our Sages of blessed memory).

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