The articles in this column are transcriptions and adaptations of shiurim by Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l. The Rav’s unique perspective on Chumash permeated many of the shiurim and lectures he presented at various venues over a 40-plus-year period. His words add an important perspective that makes the Chumash in particular, and our tradition in general, vibrant and relevant to our generation.
This week’s d’var Torah is dedicated in honor the births of Esther Bracha Eichorn and Yoseph Yehuda Bomzer.
The law of klayim (Deuteronomy 22:9) prohibits grafting different species to create a new entity. Grafting misappropriates characteristics of each antecedent. Classical cases include grafting grape vines and other fruit, cross breeding animals and mixing wool and linen (shaatnez). In each case, the result disrupts the natural order of species consistency implanted by Hashem in creation. Undisturbed, the agricultural and zoological worlds must follow the laws of Hashem. Man alone is unique in his ability to destroy that order and rebel against Hashem’s will. The prohibition against grafting is intended to enjoin man from such activities. In summary, Hashem placed boundaries around his creations. By combining and synthesizing something new from Hashem’s creations, man tramples those boundaries and obscures them, turning perfection into abomination.
The inability of creation to violate Hashem’s natural law extends to inanimate object such as heaven and earth. Hashem told Moshe to inform the people that their bond with Hashem is eternal. Just as the sun never rises in the west or sets in the east, or a rock never violates the laws of gravity by rising upwards, their bond cannot be broken either. Ultimately, everything must obey the will of Hashem.
We find another type of grafting prohibition in the Torah in the lengthy description of the layout of the tribal encampment around the Tabernacle in the desert. The various tribes were segregated into five specific groups. Each individual had to know his place, whether he was part of the Levite camp or the Israelite camp. Each tribe had its marching position and flag that reflected its unique identity. Each Levite family had its assigned task in the Tabernacle.
Just as in nature we find specific patterns and behaviors, Hashem ingrained specific skills and talents in each person, while excluding or limiting others. For a harmonious society to exist, each person must learn to recognize and develop his capabilities while acknowledging his boundaries and limitations. Unfortunately, some people regard themselves as all-capable while others lack self-confidence to the point of self-negation.
Hashem wants each member, each tribe, within the Jewish community to realize that he cannot be an expert in everything. To be successful, each individual and tribe must seek and develop their unique talent and special skill to its fullest capability. Conversely, those that focus on areas they are not qualified, are destined to fail. Chazal say that the difficult work the Egyptians forced the Jews to perform was that they compelled them to perform work for which they were not qualified. Such work breaks the spirit of the individual leading to depression and failure. The Torah says each man in his camp and each man with his flag. The community can only begin their march into the Promised Land after they acknowledge the inherent boundaries to their abilities and raise their flags proclaiming their strength. Only Hashem is all-knowing and all-powerful.
B’hanchel elyon goyim b’hafrido bnei adam. Hashem distinguished the nations of the world by giving each a unique talent as a birthright, an inheritance. Some nations display specific genius in math, science, arts or engineering. Any deluded nation or individual that believes they are expert in all areas can cause a holocaust.
About the Author: Rabbi Joshua Rapps attended the Rav's shiur at RIETS from 1977 through 1981 and is a musmach of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. He and his wife Tzipporah live in Edison, N.J. Rabbi Rapps can be contacted at email@example.com.
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