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If ever the question should ever be raised what was the most amazing era of Avraham Avinu’s life I’m sure most people, if not all, would answer: How at a young age he figured out the truth for himself, stood up against his family, his society, and the whole world. He debated them, was jailed by them, and was willing to die for the truth that he discovered and was miraculously saved. And yet these details of Avraham Avinu’s early Life are not to be found anywhere in the Chumash. Of course, there are faint allusions, but the details a are hidden and only revealed in the Torah she’baal peh. The Chumash introduces Avraham Avinu as starting his mission when he is commanded to go to the land of Israel in the opening verse of this week’s Parsha. What happened to all the adventures, struggles and sacrifices, from the first 75 years of his life?
Rashi’s in his opening comments on the Torah says that the Torah should have started from the first commandment that we got as a people, to Sanctify the new moon. the reason the Torah opened with the whole story of the Genesis and the unfolding generations is for the purpose of having what to respond when the nations of the world accuse us of having stolen the land of Israel. we will respond:
“G-d created the world and can give the land of Israel to whoever he sees fit…” This begs a much greater question: can the story of the Genesis be omitted? it’s from the fundamentals of our faith! why is it that the only merit of recording the story of creation and the development of civilization in the Chumash is only for the purpose of affirming our rights to Eretz Yisroel?
The answers lay in understanding two core ideas:
First and foremost, what are the different functions of the written law and the oral law? why was the Torah divided up that way?
Another core idea we need to understand is: what is the idea behind a ‘Holy Land’ that is different from all the other lands that were all equally created by Hashem?
The difference between the written law and the oral law is difference between seeing and hearing. The written law is read and thus absorbed Through the Eyes and the oral law is spoken and thus absorbed through the ears.
Hearing is how we absorb ideas and explanations of the visible facts. The Mind realizes ideas and explanations for the visible natural phenomena. The ideas are communicated by the person who figured them out by his expressing those ideas in words and are absorbed by The Listener through his ears. What needs to be heard are ideas and explanations that are not physically observable.
As ideas and explanations are ‘invisible’, for that very reason it is possible that certain explanations and ideas may be just speculation or fantasy.
Seeing great advantage is that it is concrete and objective. what has been observed and demonstrated cannot be disputed. As the saying goes “seeing is believing”. However, seeing only detects the dry facts without the depth of explanation behind the facts.
Our wholesome holy Torah has both elements! it is reality itself! It is factual and it is also infinitely deep! Having both qualities it had to be splintered into a written law and an oral law. the written law reflects the visible tangible indisputable facts which can be observed visually. The oral law is the infinite depths of the Torah which the eye cannot see, but the mind can comprehend.
What type of Torah becomes the written law? Prophecies! Prophecies are what was seen by the prophet in prophetic vision. the oral law comes to explain deeper meaning behind what the prophet observed or ideas that even a prophet can’t see!
For example: Olam Habah is the ultimate goal in Destiny and the real reward of our Mitzvahs. However, Olam Habah is not explained in the written law, but rather only in the oral law. This is because Olam Habah is beyond where prophecy reaches as the Talmud says “all the prophets only prophesized up to the time of Mashiach but Olam Haba no one has seen it except for Hashem” the written law won’t talk about what can’t be seen. therefore, the written law only says that if you do your Mitzvahs you get ample rainfall and the crops grow and there will peace and tranquility, because that the eyes can see!
This is also the difference between Eretz Yisroel and Chutz l’eretz. Eretz Yisroel is called “the land that the eyes of Hashem are in it”. Everything about eretz Israel is about “seeing”. we make Aliyah l’regel three times a year “to see the face of the master of Hashem”. all the Prophecies and prayers for coming back to the land of Israel are expressed as “seeing”: “may our eyes see your return to Zion in Mercy” “show us Hashem our Lord the consolation of Zion your city” “May our eyes see your kingdom as it says in the songs of your might”.
In the land of Israel, the truths of the Torah become as tangible as anything that can be observed with our eyes. The Talmud says that Eretz Yisroel actually “lost space” when the Jewish people were exiled. Rav Yitzchak Eizik Chaver explains that Eretz Yisroel has “extra space” by the power of the Torah in order to demonstrate the truths of the Torah.
In chutz l’eretz the truths of the Torah are wonderful and holy ideas – in Eretz Yisroel those ideas become manifest to the point that they could be observed and that’s a secret of the “extra space” that Eretz Israel has when did Jewish people reside there – the truth of the Torah actually become tangible and take up space!
With this we could appreciate what the kuzari means when he says that prophecy, which is what is seen, is only in the land of Israel or for the sake of the land of Israel! when we have prophets prophesizing, that’s when the written Law was expanding. ever since we’ve been exiled the written law is no longer is expanding, but the oral or continues to expand in the exile! “in darkness he placed me like those dead to the world – this is the Babylonian Talmud” It’s called Darkness because it lacks the visibility of Prophecy. the written Torah has been observed and even stolen by the Gentiles. the oral Torah is the special Covenant between us and Hashem that the gentiles can never touch because they could never see it – but that also means that they’re not going to be influenced by it.
The written law, which is visible, has made a huge impression on all of mankind! when the Jewish people are in eretz Israel that’s when they are influencing the world in a way that the truths that the Jewish people live by is truly “a light onto Nations” that they could see and follow. In chutz l’eretz we may influence the gentiles by discussion and debate, but in eretz Israel the truth that we preach becomes “a light” that they can see and can no longer dispute!
Avraham Avinu wanted to change the world! when he figured out the truth for himself he debated the whole world and suffered the consequence of being jailed and being thrown into the furnace. but everything that he did in the former part of his life did not have a lasting effect on the globe. The thousands of converts to his cause that he made in charan petered out and did not last even one generation. Avraham Avinu’s lasting effect on the globe was by moving to Israel and making a presence there – just like the Jewish people make their impact on the globe by occupying Eretz Yisroel!
Now we could understand why Rashi says that the written law told the whole story of the unfolding of mankind for the sake of substantiating our rights to Eretz Yisroel. the written law, like Eretz Yisroel, is what the gentile can see and is actualized by the Jewish presence in the land of Israel. we can now understand why there is such resistance to Jewish presence in the land of Israel even though it’s such a small stretch of land smaller than the state of New Jersey! The world’s moral Consciousness hinges on the Jewish presence in the land of Israel! our being there forces the nations to see the truth of the Torah! In Chutz l’eretz we only debate and discuss, in Israel we force them to “see” and that’s why they’re so resistant to our presence there. This is why the whole story of the Genesis of the written law is to substantiate our presence in the land of Israel because the written law and Eretz Yisroel have a common root of demonstrating the truths of the Torah. what can be seen cannot be disputed.
With this we understand that everything that Avraham Avinu did in his first 75 years was a great Merit for him as an individual and most definitely made him worthy of being chosen. However, his mission as the progenitor of the chosen people only had a lasting effect on the globe from the point that he moves to Israel and onwards. This is why the written law, which is what can be seen and not denied, only discusses Avraham Avinu’s activities in Eretz Yisroel. The adventures from his life in chutz l’eretz as wondrous as it was, did not have a permanent influence on the world. His mission following his calling to go to land of Israel is what made a permanent impression on reality that is as real as anything that can be observed.