Letters March 2022
Wisdom is Endless
Rabbi Burstein questioned the following Rashi:
“Torah was given as a gift, like a bride to her groom, for it could not be studied entirely in such a small time frame like this” (Rashi on Exod. 31:18).
When God concluded speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai, He gave him Torah. “For it could not be studied entirely” highlights the enormity of Torah’s scope. Torah is vast and God could not communicate all its lessons to Moses during a mere 40 days on the mountaintop. Thus, after God concluded his rendezvous with Moses, much Torah was left to learn, so God gave Moses all of Torah in written form. This also teaches that Torah could be studied independent from God, explaining why God gave Moses Torah upon his descent.
What determines Torah’s vastness? This must be due to its reflection of the Creator’s will, as the Creator knows all. But of what's significance is Torah's magnitude? Would a smaller Torah be any less valuable?
The lesson is that the receipt of Torah was not a one-time event. It was only beginning of an endless pursuit throughout each person’s life, and for all generations. Originally, Adam was to live eternally, and he was to occupy himself with God’s wisdom, which could occupy an eternity of study. This is man’s preoccupation in the afterlife, which does not end. Knowledge leads man from one question, to an answer, and to further questions…and that’s exciting. Wisdom’s nature as an eternal pursuit is a great part of wisdom’s appeal. It is a pursuit into which man can invest all his energies, finding full satisfaction and no frustration.
Thank you Rabbi Burstein for your question, which proves the very point that questions and answers continue…with no end in sight.
Rabbi Burstein offered his own explanation:
“What is the relationship between a brief timespan and a bride being given over to a groom? Maybe it means that when the couple start out, the groom doesn’t see the complete package…i.e., how great a woman she is. But you have to take the plunge so to speak, and get married. So too Hashem gave us the Torah after a short amount of time so we would take the plunge so to speak and accept the Torah. Otherwise, if people needed to see everything in their spouse first, they could never get married. And if we needed to see everything in the Torah, we wouldn't be able to accept it.”
Millenia & Dinosaurs
Reader: Why was Earth populated for billions of years (in a naturalistic way) and why did G-d create the dinosaurs? Does the Torah mention dinosaurs? The Torah speaks about great tannin.
Rabbi: Without God informing us of His exact planning of Earth, its prehistoric and ice ages, and essential eons, we can’t talk with any certainty. But we can deconstruct the universe and appreciate that its creation required immense time to unfold. Galaxies’ distances from each other, and their billions of respective stars are understood to take great amounts of time to arrive in God’s desired state. We are in no position to say that God should have created everything in a single moment. For we are not the Creator. Similarly, we can’t tell Henry Ford that he should have made his autos in a different way. For by doing so, it would no longer be a “Ford.” So too, suggesting God could have made the world in a millisecond instead of 13.7 billion years, suggests knowledge we don’t have, and refers to a universe that God did not imagine…its not “The Universe,” but our own fantasy.
And finally, rabbis have suggested that, “great serpents” (Gen 1:21) may refer to dinosaurs.
Peace: Elusive or Undesired?
Friend: If all religions teach peace, why can’t they achieve peace?
Rabbi: Peace is not sought by all religions; religious wars prove this. Religions may tout peace as a lure to amass adherents, as they feel numbers validates their faith.
But when religions finally seek truth as an end, instead of power, and they follow rationality and not human deification, superstition or blind faith…peace could be fostered, even with disagreement. This is because the mutual appreciation of peoples searching for truth obscures agendas. Both parties seek the same thing, and there is no conflict when vital goals are shared.