The Value of the Hidden Sefer Torah

Vayikach vayiten es haEidus el haAron (40:20)

Hashem commanded Moshe (25:16) to place in the Ark the “testimony” which Hashem would give him. Rashi explains that this is a reference to the Torah and the Tablets, which bear witness to the fact that Hashem commanded us regarding the mitzvos which are contained therein. Harav Zalman Sorotzkin, zt”l, questions the value of having a sefer Torah placed in the Aron in the Kodesh Kodashim, a place where it would never be used or even seen, as nobody but the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur was allowed to enter there.

The Midrash explains (Devarim Rabbah 9:9) that the public awareness that hidden deep in the inner recesses of the Beis Hamikdash was a 100 percent authentic sefer Torah written by Moshe himself acted as a powerful deterrent to any would-be forger. Anybody who entertained the possibility of denying some of the mitzvos and supporting his claims by writing a falsified sefer Torah that omits them would refrain, due to the recognition that if he did so, it would be possible to bring out Moshe’s authentic Torah from the Aron to compare, thereby proving him wrong and exposing his malicious intent.

In a eulogy on the great Brisker Rav, Harav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, zt”l, Rav Sorotzkin suggested that the Brisker Rav had similarly isolated himself from most of the world, confining himself all day to the learning and teaching of Torah to a few select students in his house. Although he eschewed a public and social role, his value as the last remaining vestige of the Torah-true Judaism of Brisk was inestimable. While the Brisker Rav was still alive, anybody who dared question the smallest custom and attempted to alter the mesorah from Europe knew that his claims would be immediately and sharply rebuffed by the Brisker Rav, who was comparable to the authentic sefer Torah, but Rav Sorotzkin concluded that, tragically, that was no longer possible now that he was gone.

Along these lines, at the end of the sheloshim for the Brisker Rav, Harav Chatzkel Levenstein, zt”l, eulogized him in the Ponevez Yeshivah. Rav Chatzkel commented that throughout his life, he had interacted with numerous Roshei Yeshivah and Rabbanim, but he never experienced any fear of any of them or any discomfort when he was in their presence, no matter how great they may have been. However, when he went in to visit the Brisker Rav in his home in Yerushalayim, he immediately felt a tremendous sense of trepidation. Upon further reflection, he understood that when one is in the presence of someone who literally lives with a constant pachad (fear) of Hashem, that pachad accompanies and surrounds him wherever he goes, and that is what Rav Chatzkel felt when he entered the Brisker Rav’s house.

Q: Moshe told the Jewish people that Hashem selected Betzalel to build the Mishkan and explained to them that He also bestowed upon Betzalel all of the necessary talents and skills to perform the job. One of the qualities that Moshe mentioned is (35:34) the ability to teach. Once Betzalel possessed the requisite knowledge, why was it necessary to specifically give him the ability to teach?

A: The Ibn Ezra and Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh write that there are many people who possess tremendous wisdom, but they have a difficult time teaching or explaining their knowledge to others. As a result, it was insufficient for Betzalel to be given the wisdom, and he needed the additional gift of being able to impart it to others.

However, Hagaon Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt”l, noted that Harav Chaim Soloveitchik, zt”l, had a well-known saying that if a person has a difficult time explaining a concept, it is an indication that he doesn’t fully understand it, and a similar idea is mentioned by the Vilna Gaon (Mishlei 22:18). This seems to indicate that it is not possible to fully and properly understand a topic unless one is also able to explain and teach it to others, in apparent contradiction to the opinion of the Ibn Ezra and Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh.

Q: As the Mishkan is considered to be a microcosm of the entire universe, its building and assembly should be similar to the creation of the world in Parashas Bereishis. What parallels can you find between the two?

A: Harav Gedaliah Schorr, zt”l, explains that the primary purpose of Creation was for Hashem to rest His Divine Presence in this world, and this plan was fulfilled through the building of the Mishkan. The Vilna Gaon writes that the concept of the Mishkan is repeated seven times in the Torah, as each section served the purpose of lowering Hashem one level through the seven Heavens, until the Shechinah finally reached our world.

The verse says (36:7) that the Jews contributed so much for the building of the Mishkan that Moshe had to tell them dai — to stop bringing more, which is similar to the teaching of Chazal (Chagigah 12a) that when Hashem created the universe, it expanded to the point that Hashem told it dai — to stop spreading out. Rav Schorr explains that if Hashem had allowed the universe to expand any further, His presence would have been so hidden that it would have been too hard to detect.

The case of the Mishkan was the exact opposite, in that if the Jews had made it any larger, Hashem’s Presence would have been too great and taken away our free will. Finally, Rav Schorr points out that on Shabbos we are commanded to refrain from 39 categories of creative labor, which Chazal derive from the types of work which were required for the construction of the Mishkan. This indicates that all of the creative labors that Hashem used to create the universe, and from which He rested on Shabbos, were also present in the building of the Mishkan, and for this reason Chazal teach (Brachos 55a) that Hashem endowed Betzalel with the mystical knowledge to combine the letters which were used to create the Heavens and the earth.

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email