Halacha for Sunday 5 Sivan 5781 May 16 2021

The Torah is in the Hands of the Jewish Nation

Our Sages teach us in the Gemara (Berachot 5a) that Hashem does not conduct himself like human beings, for when a human being sells an object to another, the seller is upset about the loss of the object he was forced to sell and the buyer is happy about the acquisition of his new purchase. On the other hand, when Hashem gave His Torah to the Jewish people, He was very happy, as the verse states, “For a good asset I have given to you, do not leave my Torah.”

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l asked (in a lecture he delivered in the year 5720/1960): It seems that the parable does not fit the reality of the situation, for when a human being gives a gift to another, he loses that object and he no longer owns it; however, this is not the case regarding the holy Torah, for it still belongs to Hashem, as it is included in the entire creation which belongs to Hashem. If so, it seems difficult to say that Hashem would ever be “upset” for “losing” His Torah?

He answered based on the Midrash (quoted by the Ritba in Eruvin 14b) that says that when Moshe was on Har Sinai (Mount Sinai), for every detail of Torah law he was taught, Hashem showed him forty-nine ways to permit the matter and forty-nine ways to prohibit it. Moshe asked Hashem, “So what is the final Halacha?” Hashem replied that it would be left to the Sages of the Jewish nation, for if the majority permits it, it shall be permitted, and if the majority prohibits it, it shall be forbidden.

Based on this, we can understand that from the time the Torah was given to the Jewish people, its laws are no longer contingent on Heavenly edicts; rather, the matter is transferred to the hands of our Sages and if there is a disagreement between them about a certain matter, we follow the rule of “after the majority do we turn” and the law follows the majority, whether it be to the side of leniency or stringency.

In this way, Maran zt”l also explained the forty-nine-day period of the counting of the Omer which precedes the holiday of Shavuot, in that these days symbolize the forty-nine ways which Hashem showed Moshe Rabbeinu to interpret every single law and the holiday of Shavuot itself symbolizes the transferring of the Torah to the hands of the Jewish nation and the authority to render halachic decisions being granted to them.

Similarly, the Gemara relates that when Hashem saw the decision of the Jewish Sages, he exclaimed, “My sons have been victorious over me!” meaning that, so-to-speak, Hashem’s sons will render the decisions on Halacha forever. Indeed, the Bet Ha’Levi explains that the root of the Hebrew word, “Nitzchuni” (“they have been victorious over me”) is the word “Netzach” which means “eternity”. This teaches us that even if at some point in time, a person will come and perform a sign or wonder in order to prove that the Halacha follows his opinion, we shall not heed his words for the Torah “is not in Heaven” and it is not dependent on signs and wonders; rather, it depends on a decision based on the clear logic and wisdom of the Jewish Sages.

Chag Same’ach and Tizku Le’Shanim Rabbot Ne’imot Ve’Tovot

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