Articles

The Seventy Faces of Torah PARSHAT VAYECHI

(by Yehuda HaKohen)

 

"All these are the tribes of Israel – twelve – and this is what their father spoke to them and he blessed them; he blessed each according to his appropriate blessing." (BEREISHIT 49:28)

 

Before his eternal rest, Yaakov blessed his sons for the final time.

 

Abarbanel teaches that Yaakov bestowed a blessing upon each of his sons according to each one's particular role in the task of building the Israeli Nation.

 

He blessed them individually, each in line with his own specific disposition and abilities, so that they would be properly directed towards the paths for which G-D had suited them.

 

This illustrates that each of the tribes has its own unique role as part of Israel's larger national mission.

 

Far from breeding disunity, however, the separate tribal callings bind Israel more firmly together.

 

The tribes are likened to spokes of a wheel – though the spokes point in different directions, they are all part of the same wheel and are all essential to its proper function. The sons of Israel have diverse roles to play within the Hebrew Nation. While Yehuda is destined for royalty, Levi the priesthood, Yissachar scholarship, Zevulun commerce, etc., all twelve contribute their talents and unique abilities to serving HaShem and sanctifying His Name.

 

The Talmud teaches that "there are seventy faces to the Torah". There are numerous ways of serving HaShem and expressing His Divine Truth in this world.

 

While this concept is important to appreciate, it is unfortunately often misunderstood. The various faces of Torah are only legitimate so long as they fit into the framework of HaShem's absolute Truth. An interpretation cannot be considered a valid understanding of G-D's Law if it contradicts the Torah itself.

 

There is one Truth and not seventy. At the same time, however, this one Divine Truth can be viewed from various angles. It can be related to and understood in an assortment of ways so long as these are all in line with its fundamental unity.

 

This would certainly disqualify movements within the Jewish world that negate the importance of Torah Law, rabbinic authority, the commandment to reside in Eretz Yisrael or the prohibition against surrendering any portion of it to gentiles.

 

While the individual Jews belonging to these errant movements are holy and essential parts of the Hebrew Nation, their ideas of "Judaism" cannot be accepted as legitimate understandings of Torah so long as they stand in opposition to clear Divine Law and the teachings of Israel's Sages.

 

In truth, the different faces of Torah are the various ways of contributing to the objective goal of Am Yisrael. The Hebrew Nation is one body with one common purpose – to bring Divine light into the world, reveal G-D's Kingship to all of Creation and uplift existence to its highest potential.

 

In order for Israel to achieve this lofty mission, we first and foremost must be a living, breathing Nation in our land with all of the physical facets of nationhood.

 

We must encompass scholars, policemen, soldiers, doctors, farmers, journalists, pilots, politicians, firefighters and sanitation workers, all serving HaShem and working in unison to build His Kingdom in the physical world. A holy Nation, where even the bus drivers drive their buses and the merchants sell their wares with the intention of serving HaShem and sanctifying His Name.

 

This is the true meaning of "seventy faces to the Torah".

 

Am Yisrael must function as one body.

 

While the Torah scholars must be the heart of that body and work to properly direct it according to G-D's will, each part of the body is essential to its healthy function.

 

It must therefore be understood that the G-D of Israel created us differently with our own unique tasks.

 

Whatever our individual talents might be, we must continuously direct them towards achieving Israel's lofty national aspirations.

 

Only this way, as a Kingdom of priests and holy Nation, can we hope to fulfill our roles in this world, both as individuals and as a holy collective.


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