Keeping the Mesorah by Michael Winner/2/19/2021 Since Pesach, all Israelis are required to wear masks in public (i.e. out of the house). It's annoying, but, it's been part of life. This week, the Kollel made a private rule stating that anybody who is at least one week past his second vaccine shot does not need to wear a mask within the Kollel. It was my first time in nearly a year seeing people's faces. What a relief! I know this whole thing is not over. We have no idea what will be. But, when given the opportunity to "relax" the rules in a safe environment, you have to take it and enjoy it. Just a warning. This is a Winner Original and may or may not be true. Any spiritual punishment you earn for reading and believing it is on your head. You have been warned. When discussing the Aron which held the two tablets which Hashem gave to Moshe, there is a strange redundancy. In the 16th pasuk of the chapter, Moshe is commanded to place the tablets in the Aron, "You shall put into the Aron the Testimony that I shall give to you." Six pesukim later, the Torah relates the exact same commandment, "You shall place the lid on the Aron from above, and into the Aron you shall put the Testimony that I shall give you." Even Rashi seems to be baffled by this. He suggests that based on the verses, that the commandment is a bit more specific than we initially think. Really, we are to first put in the tablets and only THEN put the covering on the Aron, and NOT put the covering on, then lift it off, and then put in the tablets. It's a good explanation. But my question is: why? Another strange anomaly: In verse 40, at the end of the description of the Menorah, the Torah gives a reminder to make the Menorah exactly as it was shown to Moshe on Mt. Sinai, "See and construct, according to their form that you are shown on the mountain." Only regarding the Menorah, do we see such a specific commandment. I think it's possible to connect these two ideas. The Aron represents the Written Torah, that is why it contains the two tablets. And with the Written Torah, once it's "in." it's "in." There is no going back and adding or subtracting. It's a "closed book" if you will. That is why Hashem commanded that they be put in and then covered up, never to be opened again. It's a warning: the Written Torah is not to be "played" with. The Christians came and added to it. So did the Muslims. The Reform don't even recognize the Author, so they cut and paste it as they see fit. But in truth, we are being warned against any of these ideas. The Menorah, on the other hand, represents the Oral Law. It represents the Mesorah, the tradition, that we have passed down uninterrupted for 3300 years. The Oral Law is something that we do "play with." We sit and learn it with the Written Law, and we work hard to understand it and apply it to our lives. We (or at least those trained to) can use it and apply it to different situations, which enables us to keep the Torah no matter where or when we live. However, the Torah is warning us that even if it's been passed down Orally, we have an obligation to keep it "just as you saw it on the mountain." We cannot start changing how we learn the Oral Law or use it in a twisted and perverse manner. There are rules and regulations on how we use it. I once read a "thesis" of a certain Reform rabbi who wanted to say that tattoos are perfectly acceptable by Jewish law. Not only that, he claimed, but the Gemara clearly shows it. He brought in "proofs" from the Gemara itself, with a few mistranslations and interesting "interpretations" and "theories." But like all such "Jewish law" that they pass, it's not based on Mesorah, tradition, of what was learned at Sinai, rather it was based on "personal interpretations," which are really just what the person wants to do at that moment, and wants to find a way to allow it, no matter how far-fetched it is. I don't know if what I wrote was on "Hashem's mind" at the time, but I think the lesson is still a good one. We must remain vigilant not to touch the Written Law and remain careful to make sure that the Oral Law continues to be the same as the one spoken "at the mountain." That is how it has been for 3300 years, and that is how it will always continue. Have a wonderful Shabbos!