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Too busy to notice miracles

Friday, 25 March, 2022 - 12:22 pm

Hands-on experience is critical to mastering any trade. A medical student will never go straight from the classroom into the operating room as the lead surgeon without observing and training in hundreds of surgeries. An engineering student will never build a bridge based solely on the information he or she learned in the textbook and you will never get a driver’s license just by memorizing the DMV driving manual without getting behind the wheel.

In this week’s parsha the Torah enumerates the permitted and prohibited animals, birds, fish and grasshoppers (you read that correctly) for kosher consumption. For most species, a specific set of signs were designated as indicators of their kosher status while others are identified by name. The list is long and detailed including exotic species from distant lands the Israelites had never seen before.

As all other Torah laws, G-d communicated them to Moshe in the desert and he in turn immediately shared the information with the nation. The Torah records Moshe’s opening words to the kosher lesson “This is the living creature you may eat…” Our sages explain that Moshe did not merely enumerate a laundry list for them to memorize, he held up every single animal specimen in the world and announced “this is kosher” or “this is not kosher.” The same thing happened with every bird, fish, grasshopper and insect.

What you just read sounds like a profound lesson in education but what has gone unnoticed for thousands of years is the fact that this hands-on kosher lesson was perhaps the greatest miracle to ever happen in history! How did Moshe get his hands on a specimen of every animate being - including fish - in the desert? This phenomenon outshines all the miracles of exodus by far!

The fact that there is no emphasis on the awesomeness of this epic miracle in all of Torah literature is even more mind boggling. But in truth, this itself teaches us a profound lesson about Torah and Torah study.

Axiomatic to Jewish belief is the idea that the Torah is the blueprint of creation and its study and implementation is the purpose of creation. It follows that when the Jews needed to learn a Torah topic that necessitated intimate knowledge of even the most exotic animate species, it was a given that nature would deliver these specimens to them even in the desert. Furthermore, the Jews were too busy absorbing the Torah information, they could not be distracted by marveling at the miracle occurring in front of their eyes. They had to get it right and too much was hanging in the balance.

This illustrates the importance of Torah study and how seriously we should take it. Set aside time to learn some Torah every day. Make that time sacrosanct where nothing can distract you because it’s the foundation of Jewish living.


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