Toras Galus - Toras Geulah

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Matos - Parshas Masei
Toras Galus - Toras Geulah

In a non-leap year, the portions of Matos and Masei are read together as a double parsha. With the reading of Matos-Masei, we conclude the fourth book of the Torah, Sefer Bamidbar (The Book of Numbers).

On the following Shabbos, "Shabbos Chazon" (Sabbath of Vision), we begin reading the fifth book of the Torah, Sefer Devarim (The Book of Deuteronomy).

It turns out that every single year we finish reading from the first four books of the Torah and we begin reading from the fifth book of the Torah specifically during the Bein Hametzarim (Lit. in dire straits (Lam. 1:3); referring to the Three Weeks, commencing on the 17th of Tammuz and concluding on the 9th of Av, during which we increase our mourning over the destruction of our Batei Mikdash (Temples) and subsequent Galuyos (exiles).

Since Ezra Hasofer (the scribe) arranged for the Torah portions to fall out on specific dates on the Jewish calendar (Megillah, chap. 4, "B'nei Ha-ir", pg. 31b, Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar, Abaye, Reish Lakish), what did he have in mind when he joined the reading of the first four books of the Torah together with the fifth book of the Torah specifically at this time of year?

A teaching found in the Megaleh Amukos (Matos-Masei) will help our understanding. He says that the first verse of parshas Masei contains a hint pointing to the four exiles that the Jewish people had to endure.

The first verse reads, "Eileh Masei B'nei Yisrael" (These are the journeys of the children of Israel; Nu. 33:1). The acronym of these four words are aleph, mem, beis, yud, which also serve as the acronym for Edom, Madai, Bavel, and Yavan (Rome, Media, Babylonia, and Greece; the four exiles).

The Megaleh Amukos (Veaschanan) adds that the cantillation on those words compliment the acronym further supporting the idea that this verse is speaking about the four exiles. The names of the musical notes on those words are, "Azlah, Geireish, Munach, Rivii." Not only are they the names of the notes, but they are also words that can be translated. The words mean that the Jewish people have "gone" (Azlah) and have been "driven out" (Geireish) from one country after the other, when they were "placed" (Munach) in the "four" (Rivii) exiles.

This begs us to ask why Hashem coded the four exiles into the opening sentence of parshas Masei which concludes the four books of the Torah?

Moreover, the Torah is divided into five books: Bereishis, Shemos, Vayikra, Bamidbar, and Devarim (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). (See Megillah, chap. 1, "Megillah Nikreis", pg. 15a, Rebbi Yitzchak; Nedarim chap. 3, "Arba'a Nedarim", pg. 22b, Rav Ada b'Rebbi Chaninah; Sanhedrin chap. 6, "Nigmar Hadin", pg. 44a, Reb Ila'a in the name of Rav Yehudah bar Masparta). Why did Hashem divide His Torah into specifically five books? Why not six, why not three, why not just have one book?

Additionally, Sefer Devarim has a status all unto itself. It is called "Mishneh Torah" (a Second Torah or a review of the Torah) (See Berachos, chap. 3, "Mi Shimeisu", pg. 21b; Megillah, chap. 1, "Megillah Nikreis", pg. 7a). Why is Sefer Devarim in a class all unto itself?

The Shvilei Pinchas shares a novel teaching with us. He says that the first four books of the Torah correspond to the four exiles of the Jewish people. This means that the light which emanates from the teachings of the first four books had and has the power to weaken, and even destroy, the impurities found in the four decadent societies that the Jewish people were exposed to during the exiles, so that the Jews would be protected spiritually, maintaining their Jewish identity and not drown in those foreign cultures.

However, the fifth book of the Torah corresponds to the Final redemption at the End of Days. This means that the light which emanates from the teachings contained within the fifth book has the power to bring about the salvation.

Let's be more specific:

The first book, Sefer Bereishis, corresponds to the first exile which was Galus Bavel (the Babylonian exile). This means that the light which emanates from Sefer Bereishis had and has the power to destroy the corruption of the Galus Bavel, shielding the Jewish people from drowning in the Babylonian's filthy culture. We even find a connection between Sefer Bereishis and Galus Bavel. In parshas Noach, (which is found in Sefer Bereishis) the Dor Haflaga (generation that was dispersed) rebelled against God by building a tower in Bavel (Gn. 11:8-9). This supports the notion that the Kedushah (holiness) of Sefer Bereishis helped preserve the Jews from the Babylonian's spiritual pollution.

The second book, Sefer Shemos, corresponds to the second exile which was Galus Madai (the Median Exile). This means that the light which emanates from Sefer Shemos had and has the strength to destroy the evil energy of Galus Madai, protecting the Jewish people from sinking into their disgusting culture. We even find a connection between Sefer Shemos and Galus Madai. In parshas Yisro (which is in Sefer Shemos) the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai. From the wording of the verse that says that the Jews stood "Tachtis" (underneath; Ex. 19:17) the mountain, Rav Avdimi bar Chama bar Chasa (Shabbos chap. 9, "Amar Rebbi Akivah", pg. 88a) extrapolates that Hashem held Mount Sinai over their heads, giving them an ultimatum. If they would accept the Torah, the mountain would be returned to its place. If not, Hashem would crush them underneath the mountain, turning that place into a huge Jewish grave. Obviously, the Jews accepted the Torah. However, we were forced. Nevertheless, we reaccepted the Torah upon ourselves willingly in the days of Achashveirosh (Est. 9:27). The acceptance of Torah in Sefer Shemos, broke the ice and paved the way for the Jews to accept the Torah upon themselves again in the days of Achashveirosh. This supports the idea that the Kedushah of Sefer Shemos helped safeguard the Jewish people from Madai's spiritual corruptness.

The third book, Sefer Vayikra, corresponds to the third exile which was Galus Yavan (the Greek exile). This means that the light which emanates from Sefer Vayikra had and has the ability to destroy the immorality of Galus Yavan, protecting the Jewish people from being overwhelmed by Greek culture. We even find a connection between Sefer Vayikra and Galus Yavan. Sefer Vayikra deals with the Avodah (service) of the Karbanos (offerings). It was the Kohanim (priets) who officiated over the sacrificial ceremonies, and it was the Kohanim (the Chashmonaim, Hasmonians) who won the war against the Greeks on the battlefield, and it was the Kohanim who were involved with the miracle of the Menorah. Furthermore, the Rokeach (chap. 225, cited in the B'nei Yissaschar, Kislev-Teves 2:2) says that in parshas Emor (which is found in Sefer Vayikra) the holidays are mentioned. The order of the holidays found in those verses are: Shabbos, Pesach, Atzeres (Shavuos), Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succos (Lv. 23:1-44). The very next two verses tell us that Hashem told Moshe to command the children of Israel to take pure olive oil pressed for illumination to kindle a continual lamp (Lv. 24:1-2). Why would lighting the Menorah be the next mitzvah? This juxtaposition alludes to the holiday of Channukah that would be established at a later date. The best way to fulfil the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah is with olive oil. This supports the concept that the holiness of Sefer Vayikra helped protect the Jewish people from the darkness of Greek culture.

The fourth book, Sefer Bamidbar, corresponds to the fourth exile which was and is Galus Edom(the Roman Exile). This means that the holy light which emanates from Sefer Bamidbar had and has the power to destroy the depravity of Galus Edom, protecting the Jewish people from completely assimilating into Roman (or western) culture. We even find a connection between Sefer Bamidbar and Galus Edom. In parshas Chukas (which is in Sefer Bamidbar) Moshe sent emissaries to Edom asking, even begging them, just to pass through their country in order to reach the Promised Land. Edom flatly refused and they even came out with a huge throng of armed people to deter us from entering Eretz Yisrael (Nu. 20:14-21). The way of Edom has always been to cause the Jewish people to wander about aimlessly. This supports the concept that the light of Sefer Bamidbar had and continues to empower us to withstand the temptations of the corrupt Edomite culture which surrounds us.

The fifth book, Sefer Devarim, corresponds the fifth period of time in Jewish history which is the Geulah Shileimah (Final Redemption). This means that the light contained in Sefer Devarim has the power to bring about the final redemption and to illuminate us with Torah novella that we did not merit to hear during Galus.

All of this explains why Hashem chose to divide His Torah into specifically five books. It is because the books of the Torah correspond to five periods of time throughout Jewish history. Four exiles and one final redemption. Knowing that there would be five periods of time in the history of the Jews, Hashem split the Torah into specifically five parts to help the Jewish people in every situation they would find themselves in.

This also explains why the five books are split into two categories. The first four books are lumped into one category because they all represent Galus, whereas the fifth book is in its own category because it represents the Geula.

This also explains why Hashem coded the four exiles into the last parsha of Sefer Bamidabar, parshas Masei, in the acronym of, "Eileh Masei B'nei Yisrael." Parshas Masei concludes the first four books of the Torah. Therefore, before concluding the four books, this coding comes to teach us that it was because of the Kedushah which stems from the four books that has preserved the Jewish people in spite of the fact that we have been exposed to the decadent societies that have ruled over us throughout Galus.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this also explains why Ezra Hasofer orchestrated that specifically during the Three Weeks we finish reading the first four books of the Torah, and we begin reading the fifth book of the Torah. It is during the Bein Hametzarim that we intensify our mourning over the destruction of our Batei Mikdash and subsequent exiles. By joining the fifth Sefer with the first four, we are trying to activate and awaken the Geulah, represented by the fifth Sefer, from the four Galuyos that are represented by the first four Sefarim (books).

As a means of a practical application of this teaching, perhaps we could try an exercise for the remainder of the Three Weeks. Each day, say just one verse from Sefer Devarim. It could be any verse. It could be the same verse every day or a different verse each day. Then, right after saying the verse, add the following prayer, "Dear God, with the energy that emanates from Sefer Devarim, please redeem us from our current exile, and reveal the deepest teachings to us, so that we can all come to see that "Ein Ode Milvado" (There is none besides Him; Dt. 4:35)."

So, may we all be blessed to learn the first four Sefarim and tap into their light thus filling ourselves with the strength to endure the effects of the four exiles, and may we also merit to learn all the secrets contained in Sefer Devarim, in order that the whole world will be redeemed and see that there is none other than God.