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Thought for the Day: The Essence of the Torah? The Torah, the Whole Torah, and Nothing But the Torah

My wife, she should continue to live and be well and go from strength to strength (all needed just to be able to survive living with me), once had an IVP.  You can look it up, if you like, but all you need to know for this story is that it's a diagnostic procedure.  Diagnostic; not for treatment of anything, just to check out what's going on.  Diagnostic.  A few days later she noticed a painful swelling and reddening on her upper arm.  She called the doctor and he told her to get to the hospital quickly; where she stayed for three days.  It turns out one of the (not uncommon) complications is deep vein thrombosis -- an internal blood clot.  Those can be cause strokes and even be fatal; hence the rush to the hospital.

We asked why they hadn't told her about that, and they said it was in the release she had signed.  She didn't remember any such warning, so they showed us her signed release for the IVP.  Sure enough, the release did mention the possibility of thrombosis... in the third paragraph, after mentioning that another possible complication was death.  She just didn't pay much attention to "what else" could go wrong after that.

Shmos 32:34, on the heels of the "cheit ha'eigel" disaster, HaShem tells Moshe to relay to the nation that His agent will be personally escorting them from now on.  Rashi first comments: this is an instance where the "lach" is used instead of  "eilech" next to "dibur".  (One of those "grammar Rashi's" that people wonder if anyone learns).  That is followed by: His agent, which is to say, not HaShem (ie, HaShem is backing away from the Jewish people in response to that egregious sin).  Are you kidding?!  How can Rashi go from a seemingly trivial grammatical technicality to a revelation that Klal Yisrael was on the verge being cast away from the Creator, thus losing our whole reason for having been created?!  Couldn't he have given me some warning?  You know, "btw... pay attention to the next bit, it's really, really important!"  Throw me a bone!

The key word here is "seemingly".  Rashi isn't trying to pull one over on us; he is trying to teach us something glorious and astounding.  No verse, no word, no letter, no grammatical technicality is any more -- nor any less -- important and fundamental than any other verse, word, letter, or grammatical technicality.  Lest you think this is just mussar, it's encoded into halacha:  Even though a person hears the whole Torah [over the course of the year] with the congregation, he is [even so] obligated to read for himself the weekly selection, twice in Hebrew and once in translation, even [words such as] "ataros" and "dibon" [which, being place names, have no translation] (Shulchan Aruch O. Ch. 285:1)

Lest you think that's nice in theory, but surely you can recognize and discern that which is truly important without further training, my wife was in the emergency room for a kidney stone when she had that IVP.  Kidney stones are (I am told) among the most excruciatingly painful experiences a person can endure; worse (I am told) than labor.  Painful, very painful, but not life threatening.  The ache of the thrombosis, on the other hand, was(I am told) akin to an muscle ache after an overly vigorous work out.  Not so painful, but potentially debilitating or even fatal.

So you really think you can "just tell" the important from the critical?  Is that your final answer?  Maybe you ought to call a friend.


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