Your Weekly Midrash

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“At that time the LORD said unto me: hew thee…” (Deut. 10:1)

In Devarim Rabbah, the great collection of midrash relating to the book of Devarim – Deuteronomy – the sages took the opportunity to comment on Halachah – Jewish law – with each verse. In the matter of Moses recounting how G!d told him to write the tablets, the Rabbis asked, “When a Jew betroths a woman, who has to pay for the writing of the document of betrothal?” “The bridegroom,” they answer, explaining it in this way:

Documents of betrothal and marriage are written only with the consent of the two parties, and the bridegroom pays the fee. And this we learn from G!d from His betrothal of Israel at Sinai, as it is written, And the Lord said unto Moses: Go unto the people and betroth them today and tomorrow (Ex. 19:10). And who wrote this document? Moses. From what do we know this? For it is said, And Moses wrote this law (Deut. 31:9). And what reward did G!d give him? A lustrous countenance, as it is written, That Moses knew not that the skin of his face sent forth beams (Ex. 34: 29). Resh Lakish said: When Moses wrote the law he acquired a lustrous appearance. How did this come about? The scroll that was given to Moses was made of a parchment of white fire, and was written upon with black fire and sealed with fire and was swathed with bands of fire, and while he was writing it he dried his pen on his hair, and as a result he acquired a lustrous appearance.

Midrash Rabbah – Deuteronomy III:12

I can hear you exclaim, “What a fanciful story! Moses wiped his pen in his hair, and from this his face began to shine!?” Fanciful, perhaps, but beautiful – and deep.

When Moses immersed himself so fully in transmitting G!d’s words that his actions became automatic – surely he was idly drying his pen, not thinking of what he was doing! – then that state of immersion resulted in his acquiring a heavenly glow.

Is that not the same with us? When we immerse ourselves in the words of Torah, or in holy actions, or tikkun olam – repairing the world – do we not also begin to glow with the spirit of our actions? And can we not, immersed in that purpose, draw people out from their own mundane worlds and have a glimpse of what can be?

May we each find moments where we lose ourselves in the Spirit of holiness and love, and in so doing bring it to others, without even being aware of the good we are doing.

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