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Emes is the root, the starting point and anchor of everything, but our relationship with it is often fleeting. Emes is like a flash of lightning, a spark of inspiration. A powerful speech, an inspiring moment, or a profound idea can change our whole perspective on life. Suddenly, we see everything so clearly, we realign our goals, and everything falls into place. However, the very next day, we often find ourselves right back where we were before, as if nothing ever happened. What happened to the clarity of that emes, the power of that vision?

This is the challenge of emes. It is powerful, but it is fleeting. The moment you stop thinking about the emes, that truth disappears from your consciousness. As we have explained before, the spark of inspiration is there to help you experience the goal, the destination. It’s a taste of what you can, and hopefully will, ultimately accomplish. But it’s not real; it’s given as a gift, and is therefore an illusion. It serves only as a guiding force, but it cannot compare to the genuine accomplishment of building something yourself. It is therefore taken away to allow for the second and most important stage, the stage of emunah: this is the phase of building, of undergoing the work required to attain this growth in actuality, to work for the perfection that you were shown. A gift is not real; something chosen and earned is. We are in this world to choose, to assert our free will, and to create ourselves. Now that we have tasted the first stage, the emes, we know what we’re meant to choose – what we can build. The third stage, achieved through the hard work of the second stage, is the completed rebuilding of the original perfection. While this stage may appear the same as the first, it is fundamentally different. It’s real, it’s earned, it’s yours. The first stage was a gift, a spark of emes, but an illusion. The third is the product of the effort and time you invested through the stage of emunah.



Two Stages of History: Emes and Emunah

The process of emes and emunah plays out through the progression of history as well. During the first stage of history, Hashem revealed Himself openly, and the world was replete with miracles, prophecy, and clarity. Little effort was required to find Hashem or to connect to that which is higher. This was the time of emes. We then lost that ideal, as nevuah and avodah zarah were excised from the world, the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, and a cloak of darkness fell over existence. We are now in the second stage, the stage of emunah, attempting to rebuild toward the original goal, the transcendent ideal. There is no longer open revelation with its accompanying prophecy and clarity. However, it is precisely for this reason that we can choose to witness the truth and depth of the world, to see Hashem in everything, and to connect to the Divine in all that we do. In a darkened world, we are uniquely able to cast our own light, living faithfully according to the ideals of emes until we eventually reach our ultimate destination.


The Transition of Moshe’s Death

While the entirety of Jewish history is split between the two stages of emes and emunah, with the first phase reflecting emes and the second emunah, there are microcosms of this idea throughout history as well. Moshe’s death and the last eight pesukim in the Torah represent a smaller scale transition from emes to emunah, from Moshe to Yehoshua. In the unique relationship between Moshe and Yehoshua, Moshe represents emes, and Yehoshua embodies emunah. Moshe was the greatest prophet to ever live, as Hashem Himself attested to (Bamidbar 12:6-8). Moshe reached the absolute highest level of spiritual greatness, meriting to receive the Torah from Hashem and to teach it to the Jewish People. While Yehoshua was an extraordinary Jewish leader as well, he was on a lower spiritual level than Moshe. Moshe led the Jewish People through the miracles of yetzias Mitzrayim and k’rias Yam Suf, and then carried them through the midbar where they subsisted on mann and witnessed constant miracles. Yehoshua led the nation into Eretz Yisrael, where the Jewish People transitioned to a life of hishtadlus, having to find the miraculous within the natural. (See Netziv, Haamek Davar 20:8, where he discusses how the transition into Eretz Yisrael was the transition from the miraculous to the natural.)

While Moshe is compared to the sun, Yehoshua is compared to the moon (Bava Basra 75a; Bamidbar 27:20). Just as the moon receives its light from the sun, a true talmid receives wisdom from his rebbi and loyally reflects that light outwards. When the light of the sun fades and darkness creeps in, it is the light of the moon that must shine. Though not as bright as the sun, the moon’s light radiates with something equally powerful: hope and loyalty, reminding us to create light within the darkness. (As David HaMelech wrote in Tehillim (92:3), “V’emunascha ba’leilos.”)


The Transitions of Torah

This theme of transitioning from emes to emunah, from first stage to second, and from sun to moon underlies not only Sefer Devarim but the entire Torah.

The Beis Halevi (Derush 18) explains that the original Luchos were a transcendent, other-worldly form of Torah. The entirety of Torah – both Torah She’bichsav and Torah She’baal Peh – were contained within these tablets, and all of Torah was clear and accessible. After the cheit ha’egel, Klal Yisrael lost access to this transcendent level of Torah, and the second set of Luchos contained a relatively limited form of Torah. This set of Luchos, carved by Moshe instead of Hashem, inspires us to loyally work our way back to the original perfection of the first Luchos. The first Luchos were emes; the second were emunah.

This pattern of emes and emunah continues throughout the progression of the Torah. The Maharal and Vilna Gaon explain that Sefer Devarim is fundamentally different from the first four sefarim of the Torah. The first four sefarim were written by Hashem, the giver, while Moshe served purely as a channel of transmission. As Chazal put it, “Shechina medaberes mi’toch grono shel Moshe – [Hashem] spoke through the throat of Moshe,” placing the words in his mouth (Ramban, Devarim 5:12). Moshe became a pure vessel for Torah, a perfect receptacle. Devarim, however, was different; it was Moshe’s creation. He took everything that came before and expressed it through his unique lens. The Maharal and Ohr HaChaim describe this process as Moshe’s transformation into a normal Navi, one who expresses Hashem’s nevuah through their own unique, personal lens. Instead of Hashem speaking through Moshe’s throat, Hashem spoke to Moshe and then, at a later point, Moshe expressed this to Klal Yisrael in his own words. As a result, Sefer Devarim possesses the “style” of Moshe. The Malbim elaborates on this point, explaining that once Moshe uttered his own words, Hashem then ratified them as part of Torah. In other words, Hashem commanded Moshe to write Sefer Devarim as a documentation of what Moshe himself had already said of his own accord. Furthermore, the very content of Sefer Devarim is not new but a repetition of everything that occurred in the first four sefarim of Chumash expressed through Moshe’s lens (Tosafos, Gittin 2a). Thus, the first four books of the Torah are a stage of relative emes, as they were spoken by Hashem and given straight to Moshe, while Sefer Devarim is a sefer of emunah, representing the transition to the human mission of faithfully expressing and embodying emes.

In addition to the transition from the first four sefarim of Torah to Sefer Devarim – a transition of emes to emunah Sefer Devarim itself contains a similar transition as well. While Moshe wrote Sefer Devarim, the last eight pesukim in the Torah are a transition from Moshe to Yehoshua, written b’dim’ah, through a combination of Moshe and Yehoshua. This represents the transition, the “passing of the torch” from Moshe, the rebbi and receiver of Hashem’s original light, to Yehoshua, the loyal talmid, the moon. This transition continues with the shift from Torah to Neviim and Kesuvim, the prophetic works included within the canon of Tanach. While the Chumash was written on a fundamentally higher level of prophecy from the rest of Tanach, the works of Neviim and Kesuvim were written during the times of the Beis HaMikdash when prophecy still existed. Within that time period, it was a stage of emunah relative to the first stage of Torah, but relative to the world we live in today, one void of prophecy and transcendent clarity, Nach is the light of emes as well. (This is the key to understand: Every stage of emunah becomes the stage of emes relative to the next stage down. Thus, relative to Torah, Nach is emunah, but relative to nowadays, both Nach and Torah represent the stage of emes, albeit different levels.)


Our Struggle

This is our struggle: We live within the stage of emunah, of being faithful to the first stage of clarity and light. Before entering the stage of darkness, we are equipped with the tools and perception necessary to be successful in our journey as we rebuild the original spark of inspiration. When it feels dark and all inspiration seems lost, remember the first stage, remember that spark. If you can’t find the light in the darkness, create it.

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Rabbi Shmuel Reichman is the author of the bestselling book, “The Journey to Your Ultimate Self,” which serves as an inspiring gateway into deeper Jewish thought. He is an educator and speaker who has lectured internationally on topics of Torah thought, Jewish medical ethics, psychology, and leadership. He is also the founder and CEO of Self-Mastery Academy, the transformative online self-development course based on the principles of high-performance psychology and Torah. After obtaining his BA from Yeshiva University, he received Semicha from Yeshiva University’s RIETS, a master’s degree in education from Azrieli Graduate School, and a master’s degree in Jewish Thought from Bernard Revel Graduate School. He then spent a year studying at Harvard as an Ivy Plus Scholar. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife and son where he is pursuing a PhD at the University of Chicago. To invite Rabbi Reichman to speak in your community or to enjoy more of his deep and inspiring content, visit his website: