Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Behar/Bechukosai) Letter as a Guarantee
In the second Parsha we read this week, the Torah describes the wonderful blessings we will receive when we observe G-d’s Commandments. The Torah continues, telling us that if we ignore the commandments, we are warned of great suffering and insecurities that will plague the nation.
During G-d’s rebuke and warning to the nation, He adds, “As angry as I get with you, I will always remember the covenant that I made with your forefathers, Yaacov, Yitzchok, and Avraham.”
When the Torah mentions Yaacov’s name here, it is spelled in an unusual way. Yaacov is normally spelled without a letter Vuv, yet here it is spelled with an added Vuv. Why?
Rashi points out that there are actually five instances in our Scriptures where Yaacov’s name appears with the added Vuv and there are also five instances where Elijah the prophet’s name is spelled missing a Vuv.
Our Scriptures tell us that Elijah is the Prophet that will herald the Moshiach - our final Redemption. During Elijah’s lifetime there was an incident in which he was critical of the Jewish people and doubted their willingness to perform Mitzvos.
Our forefather Yaacov through his prophetic abilities was concerned that at the time of our final Redemption, Elijah might once again be critical of the Jewish people and have doubts about heralding the Redemption. Yaacov therefore, grasped onto the letter Vuv of Elijah’s name and held it as collateral in his own name, as if to say, ‘Elijah, your name will be incomplete until you herald the Redemption, and at that point, I will return the missing letter Vuv to your name.
My uncle Rabbi Moshe Saks of Jerusalem asks: Why was the letter Vuv specifically taken as collateral from Elijah? The Talmud teaches us that in order for us to be worthy of Moshiach – our Redemption, we have to attain a high degree and measure of Emes – truth. In our Kabalistic writings the straight letter Vuv represents Emes – truth!
Yaacov specifically grabbed on to the letter that represents truth from Elijah, as if to reason with Elijah, “Elijah, just as the letter of truth is missing from your name, so too, at the destined time of Redemption, please do not be so particular of the level of truth the Jews have or have not acquired – thus Elijah will be compelled to redeem the Jews at once!”
From where do we see that truth is the hidden meaning of the letter Vuv?
In the morning service on Shabbat day we recite additional Psalms. One of them is Psalm 34 where each verse begins with a letter of the Aleph-Bais – in its proper order. However, the letter Vuv is missing. Why is Vuv missing in this Psalm?
An answer offered is that this Psalm speaks about King David while he was running for his life from his father-in-law, King Shaul. To save himself in front of Avimelech king of the Philistines, David pretended that he was insane. Since David’s action was lacking truth, when he composed this Psalm he skipped the letter Vuv which represents Emes – truth.
When the Torah concludes the book of Leviticus, it states, “These are the Toros” in the plural. What two Torahs is it referring to? Rashi cites a Midrash that points to this verse as an explicit reference to the two Torahs we were given at Mount Sinai through our leader Moshe; the Written Torah scroll and our Oral (Talmud) Law.
When we recite the blessing over the Torah, we refer to it as Toras Emes – the Torah of Truth. Not only are we referring to the Written Torah scroll, we refer to the Oral Law as well, for they are both intertwined and dependent on one another.
Our Oral Law is divided into six categories, which is the numerical value of the letter Vuv. This is consistent with the concept that both Vuv and the Oral Torah have the attribute of truth.
There is a verse that spells out clearly that our forefather Yaacov represents the characteristic of truth. Perhaps that is why it was specifically our forefather Yaacov, who took the letter Vuv from Elijah as collateral. Furthermore it was Yaacov, who before his death wanted to reveal the time of the final Redemption to his children. (He did not do so because G-d caused him to forget it for the moment.) Thus we see that Yaacov is our forefather who is connected to our Redemption.
When a Chasidic Master was asked why the letter Vuv is associated with truth, he responded as follows: When the letter Vuv is at the beginning of a word, it means “and.” Thus it acts as a connector. Vuv does not stand alone, it has the capacity to connect and help others. When one does for others – he is engaged in truth, and by exercising this quality of truth we will become worthy of the arrival of our long awaited Redemption!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks