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The Meaning of the Mitzvot according to Rabbi S.R. Hirsch

The Meaning of the Mitzvot according to Rabbi S.R. Hirsch

Rav Baruch Horovitz

Adapted from a lecture at the Rabbi S.R. Hirsch Centre of the Jerusalem Academy, Pesach 5749. (With thanks to Rav A. Carmell, Prof. M. Breuer and Prof. L. Levi for their comments, some of which have been included.)


The major characteristic of the teachings of Rav Hirsch in his time, and also for our time, is his demonstration of the uniqueness and unity of the Torah.

This approach of “Gaining a deep understanding of every aspect of the Torah, and also of life, by studying the Torah’s outlook from its own sources (sich-selbst-begreifendes Judenthum)”, characterised every aspect of his educational and communal activities. This is related to the absolute truth of the Torah as God’s word; other human, relative knowledge is true only in relationship to Torah1.


Explanation of the Tenach

In contrast to other modernist commentators, who compared aspects of the Tenach to situations in the environment, Rav Hirsch explained both the simple and deeper meaning of every word and phrase by comparing it to other phrases throughout the Tenach. He demonstrated a psychological ‘close reading’ of the narratives. Taking as the basic axiom the Divinity and authenticity of the Written and Oral Traditions he showed how these were not two separate aspects, but were intertwined one with the other, and that the nuances of the verses were explained through the Oral Tradition2.

Analysis of the Hebrew Language

He went to the root of every word comparing it to similar roots that were phonetically connected in Tenach, Talmud and Midrash, formulating a “Speculative Etymology”, demonstrating a deep understanding of language in general and of the Hebrew roots. Every Hebrew word-root has three letters which go back to two basic letters, the third one being a variant. He built up a unified outlook upon life according to his system of the psychological and philosophical roots which are expressed in the Hebrew, without reference to comparative philology3.

Understanding the Mitzvot

Nearly all Jewish thinkers declare that the Mitzvot have reasons. These were often found in environmental factors. For example, Maimonides explained many Mitzvot as opposing idolatorous practices of the time. Rav Hirsch, however, made a detailed study of the Mitzvah trying to understand it from its stucture and from its sources in Tenach, Talmud and Midrash, elucidating the symbolic significance, based on its root4.

Torah with Derech Eretz

The Torah is a total system of how to answer all the problems of life for Jew and Gentile, for the individual and the nation, producing a dynamic unified harmonious approach. This is the deeper meaning of his principle of Torah im Derech Eretz which is often (mis)understood to be a synthesis and fusion of Judaism with the humanism of his day. However, he understood the Torah to be the guide for all aspects of life. By applying the yardstick of the Torah to different situations one sees the Torah in action, with the Derech Eretz being the transitory element in every age, group and environment6. One should dedicate oneself to Torah not only in the Bet Hamidrash, but also in business life, in the use of technology and in politics. This is not a combination between Torah and secularism7, for Torah im Derech Eretz means sanctifying all that is secular8.

In Rav Hirsch’s time and environment therefore Derech Eretz also meant teaching Schiller9. Today, however, if we are going to be true to Rav Hirsch’s principle we must reject the morally bankrupt German culture and apply Derech Eretz to our scientific, post-Holocaust, ecology-conscious nuclear age, with its completely different problems. Dr. Yitzchak Breuer developed the concept of Torah and Derech Eretz Yisrael10. The renewed life here in Eretz Israel with its national environment gives an opportunity to act out Torah and Derech Eretz far more completely in accordance with Rav Hirsch’s initial teaching than was ever possible in the educational program of the Hirschian Schools where there was an imbalance with far less Torah than culture11. Now in Eretz Israel, more time can be spent on mastering Torah subjects in order to apply the Torah’s criteria to the study of nature, history and other subjects.

The Jewish Community

Why should a Torah community be dependent upon a larger community that is not guided by Torah values? This was the basis for “Austritt”12. If we are to translate Rav Hirsch’s communal approach from Frankfurt to the present situation in Eretz Israel, it means as far as possible being independent of a national communal structure and government which oppose Torah values. The Torah community would gain self-respect and respect from others.

All the above aspects of his teaching share the common factor of understanding and application of Torah ‘from itself with consistency, thoroughness and independence. This, and not preconceived terms of reference from prevailing cultures, is the true science of Judaism.


The Nature of the Symbol

We are surrounded in life by “natural” and “conventional” symbols. “Natural” refer to the sounds, facial expressions and bodily gestures that we and animals make to express feelings. There are also many “conventional” symbols, including language, artistic expression, clothing, the handshake, flags and other social gestures13.

Symbolism in the Torah


“Let there be light-giving bodies in the firmament of the heavens and they shall be for signs”14. The symbolical significance of the sun, moon, and the stars is mentioned before their function as time-guides and light-givers.

God established a covenant of “peace” after the flood with the sign of the rainbow15. This could mean that rainfall and clouds have a “silver lining,” that we should never give up hope when we experience destruction. Or it represents a “bow” which is not turned against the earth, as a sign of armistice and peace. Or the various colours of the spectrum symbolise different shades of human beings and character that all contribute to the pure light of Hashem16. There are many more such symbols instituted by Hashem mentioned in the Tenach. Most dreams related in the Tenach, both those that are direct prophecies and others, contain ideas and messages connected with symbols17. There are also prophecies which are not dreams combining a prophetic message with a symbol18.

The Mitzva as an Explicit Symbol

It is not surprising that Mitzvot are described in similar manner. There are some Mitzvot where the symbol and the meaning are explicit:

Some are called ot, a sign: - Circumcision - milah - is described as a “Sign of the Covenant’, the meaning of which is contained in the phrase “Walk in front of Me and become perfect.’’19

The tefillin “should be a sign on your arm and a remembrance between your eyes, so that the teaching of God should remain in your mouth.”20

The Shabbat is described as “an everlasting covenant. Between Me and the children of Israel it is a sign forever that in six days did God create heaven and earth, and with the seventh day he ceased and withdrew.”21

The Mitzvah as an Implicit Symbol

Those Mitzvot where a reason is stated, although the term ot is not used, are also symbolic. Rav Hirsch in his writings analysed the details of the above and the following categories of Mitzvot, basing himself upon the reasons declared or implied:

After Yaakov’s struggle during the night of his encounter with Esau, it is written: “therefore the children of Israel do not eat the sinew on the joint of the thigh.”22

The precept to eat matza and refrain from chametz is to remember that “in haste did you go out from the land of Egypt; that God delivered you with strength of hand.”23

“God slew all the first-born... therefore do I offer to God every first-born male.” 24

“Take the beautiful fruit, the branches of palm trees, myrtles and willows, and rejoice before God.” 25

“You shall dwell in huts for seven days, so that your generations will know that I caused the children of Israel do dwell in huts when I took them out of the land of Egypt.” 26

“This shall be to you for tzitzit so that you may see them and remember all the commandments of God and do them.” 27

There is a view that where the reason is mentioned there is a Mitzvah Min HaTorah to be conscious of this reason when fulfilling the Mitzvah. 28

The Apparently Super-Rational Laws (Hukkim) 29

Whilst the above two categories of Mitzvot and Edot (“testimonies”) have a rationale, there are other laws in the Torah where there is only a general motif of “holiness,” Kedushah, “purity” or Divine closeness. This includes the sexual and dietary code, the prohibition of intermingling species, the Priestly Code, the offerings, and the laws of purification. 30

The Sages say that hukkim are those Mitzvot opposed by the nations of the world and the Evil Inclination (yetzer hara) saying they do not have a reason. 31 According to Gentile culture and materialism they do not seem rational. Ramban32 and others, explain that they all have reasons though it may be difficult for us to understand them, hence they are not mentioned explicitly. Rav Hirsch analyses them deeply showing that these also have a moral symbolic significance.

Addressing himself to a generation that considered these laws obsolete and meaningless, he elaborated upon their detailed meaning is relationship to religious, moral and social principles, and a constructive approach to the animal and plant world, demonstrating that they are relevant today. 33

The Rational Law

The rational law includes the humanitarian social code of the Torah — justice and charity; love of man, kindness to animals; personal morality and self-discipline; improvement of character and the religious “direct” mitzvot of faith, awe, love and worship of God.

These are the principles of life which form the spiritual foundation for the symbolic pattern of the other Mitzvot.

The Talmud relates: a non-Jew came to Hillel and said “Teach me the whole Torah while I am standing on one leg.” Hillel replied, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary; go and learn.” 34

Is this the whole Torah? Rashi explains: “Robbery, theft, adultery and most Mitzvot.” How is the love of man involved in most Mitzvot? According to Rav Hirsch’s symbolic interpretation, every Mitzvah, including hukkim, improve our character. Drawing nearer to Hashem means to come closer to the moral idea of kedushah (holiness), which is ‘wholeness’ and saintliness. It means developing moral characteristics to their highest potential. So Hillel’s dictum means that all the mitzvot strengthen our attachment to Hashem, who is the moral ideal, and improve our character in relationship to our fellow man; some directly, but others indirectly through the power of the symbol. 235



The day represents independence and activity; the night, dependence and weakness. Rav Hirsch explains: the emphasis of the Torah is not that we should feel our weakness and our dependence upon Hashem; instead He wants each human being and the people of Israel to reach the highest level of activity. Most symbolic Mitzvot, that are meant to develop character, are only done in the daytime. 36

The months have a special significance in that all the festivals are based upon the lunar calendar. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun to the earth and waxes and wanes, so also Israel should reflect the glory of Hashem to the world, as they have the ability of renewal, failure and rejuvenation. 37

The seasons of nature also teach us the meaning of spiritual seasons. For example, the festival of Pesach is in Spring, the time of the awakening of nature. So the spirit of Israel, every year, should be reawakened from winter slumber. 38 “The Jewish calendar is the catechism of the Jew. 39


The six days of the creation of the material world and the seventh day of Shabbat, the eighth day of Milah, the seven times seven days of counting the Omer, followed by Shavuot, reveal the symbol of six as the world of nature, seven as nature pervaded by the power of Hashem, and eight being supernature40. The eighth level of creation is that of Klal Israel and Torah which is a ‘metahistorical’ phenomenon. The fiftieth day comes after the seven and represents the supernatural level of the giving of the Torah. This is why seven days are the days of purification, culminating in the eighth day when a person brings the offering in the Sanctuary and reaches his highest, almost supernatural, level. As Shavuot is after seven times seven days, so Shemini Atzeret is the eighth day after Succot, representing the spiritual preservation of Israel through the joy of the Torah. The Shmittah and Jubilee years extend the symbolic pattern to the Land and State of Israel. The eight threads of the tzitzit and the High Priest’s eight garments represent transcendent sanctity as the ultimate mission of Israel. This is why there are eight days of Chanukah, celebrating consecration of the Menorah and the Temple, which represent dedication to the metahistorical powers of the Torah. 41


The origin and variety of species of animals and plants has puzzled many who have studied the environment. Rav Hirsch emphasises the principle of lemino (“after its kind”), which is emphasized at the beginning of the Humash; the plants and animals were given a blessing that they should multiply and develop “according to their species” 42. The law not to mix varying types of seeds, not to crossbreed animals, nor even to use them together, not to eat milk and meat cooked together, and not to wear a mixture of wool and linen, are based on the awareness of the unique function of differing species. This is to teach us that human beings have a unique specific task, just like the other species. He developed this concept in contrast to the theory which became popular in his time, that one species develops from another; that man descended from the mammals and the plants. The varied groups within mankind have specific functions, and especially the people of Israel have their unique function, outlined in the Torah43. Priests, Levites, men and women, each have a specific role44.

Man has within him levels in common with the plant and animal world. The “vegetable,” “animal,” “human” and “divine” levels are contained within the personality. The divine level should rule the human, the human should rule the animal, and the animal — the vegetable; and not vice-versa. The plant element (feeding and reproduction) should be subjected to the animal element (perception, motion and emotion) which should be subjected to the human element (mind, and creativity) which should be subjected to the divine soul — (conscience, transcendence, and awareness of God45).

Wool, an animal product, and flax, a plant product, when together, represent a creature whose perception and emotion are devoted entirely to food and sex. In man the food and sex instinct should be separated and subjected to perception and emotion, which in turn should be placed at the service of God46.

So also with milk and meat. Meat as muscles and organs of motion represents the specific animal side, and milk which is the specific food for carrying on the species. characterises the vegetative side within the animal. Their separation symbolises that vegetative be subject to animal and both submit to the human spirit. Just as in his upright position, in contrast to the horizontal position of the animals, the animal part of man is above the vegetative aild the human part above both, that is, the head which rises heavenwards; so in man, his animal forces are not to sink to vegetative allurements47.


These are mentioned in connection with the priestly garments, the coverings and curtains of the Sanctuary, and the Tzitzit.

Techelet (blue-violet), whose Hebrew root is k-l-h, “to come to end,’ is the colour at the end of the spectrum. It represent the tachlit (same root) — that “end” to which all is striving. This symbolises the divine element in man. Shani (scarlet) is the animal aspect. Argaman (purple i.e. red and blue together) represents the human aspect. Then the shesh, white linen, represents the purified vegetative element48.

These are just a few symbolic patterns amongst many.



Commandments of God or Reason?

If a person fulfils a Mizvah because of some reason or because it represents a moral concept is he really doing it for the purpose of fulfilling the will of God?

Rav Hirsch writes: “If one asks why should you do this and not do that there is but one answer: because it is the will of God and it is your duty to serve him. But the Torah calls upon you by deep reflection to trace the wisdom of God in his word, to understand why God commanded us to fulfil them. With Edoth this deeper penetration into their significance and interpretation of all their parts adds to their proper fulfilment50.

We Jews are the pilots of a space-craft called “the earth.” We have been given a book of instructions — the Torah — which shows us how to keep the Earth running smoothly, and to keep all the passengers, including ourselves, safe and sound. The pilot may also investigate the reasons for the instructions, prepared by the Divine Engineer. However, if he is to act upon his understanding, thinking he may disregard the detailed instructions, then he is likely to bring the spacecraft to disaster.

The Mussar of the Mitzvot

Faced with the challenge of modernism and emancipation, it was found necessary in the Nineteenth-Century traditional communities to emphasize that Torah observance does not mean just studying Tenach, Gemarah, Shulchan Aruch and keeping the Mitzvot. Hassidut emphasized the inner depths of the Torah: to study and experience some of the deeper qualities of the service of God, communion with God, and closeness to the Rebbe51. In the non-hassidic circles in Eastern Europe, the Mussar (ethical) movement arose. Rav Yisrael Salanter and his disciples introduced into the Yeshivah program and also for the Ba’ale Habatim — the working populace — the daily learning of Mussar books. These stress the improvement of character and behaviour, increasing an awareness of God and of responsibility towards fellow men. In Mussar the text studied is the personality of the student for self-improvement in light of the ethical aphorisms52.

Rav Hirsch taught that Mussar is contained in each Mitzvah. In most Yeshivot one learns Gemarah, sometimes omitting the Aggadic passages, and one learns Shulchan Aruch and Mussar, as three different subjects. Rav Hirsch pointed out the unity of all these — that they are one and the same53.

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter said, “Learn Mesilat Yesharim ‘Path of the Upright,’54 and ‘the Duties of the Heart55 to improve character”. Rav Hirsch illustrated that all the Mitzvot are uprightness and that the “Duties of the Heart” are contained within the duties of the “Limbs”.

It is written: “Love your neighbour like yourself, I am God. Keep my statutes, do not crossbreed your animals, do not mix seeds in your fields, do not wear shaatnez — a mixture of wool and flax.”56

In order to develop true love of one’s fellow-man one must have an awareness of one’s specific mission in life, as shown by the principle of separation of species outlined above. You can only love your fellow man if you learn to discipline your own desires in favour of helping your fellow man. When man learns that the animal aspects of motion and perception should rule over his food and sex instincts (shaatnez — as explained above)57, only then he can love his fellow man.

“The love of man” is understood today in many circles to mean that you should treat everyone in the same way. There should be no difference between Jew and Gentile, men and women, adult and child, between one person and the other. This has developed the concept of “unisex”; and in some families the children are given the same vote as the parents. (So in large families parents will be out-voted.) In such an egalitarian society a uniformity is introduced, although some are often more ‘equal’ than others. But the Torah says “Love your fellow man,” “Keep my hukkim and do not mix.” Each seed, each animal and even each type of grain has its specific purpose. “Love” does not mean that everyone is to be treated equally. A husband cannot treat his wife as he would treat himself or vice-versa. He should know that a woman is different in character and role to a man, as parents are to children. Each group has a different role to fulfil: Priests, Levites, Israelites and Gentiles. This is not an egalitarian, but a functional approach, to love a person according to his role, and not to make a blanket rule that everyone is the same58.

Ethics is the essence of the laws of mixing, as it is with the laws of the Sanctuary, of Impurity, and of Diet. Mussar is the warp and woof of all the Mitzvot.


How can the mitzvot have this symbolic significance when many do not require intention.

The Talmudic debate on this59 refers to having the intention to fulfil the Mitzvot and has a limited application. Awareness of meaning is essential for prayers. “Prayer without heart and head, is like a body that is dead”60. But, for example, does one need to know when wearing Tzitzit that the eight threads represent the eighth dimension, the eighth creation, and the people of Israel? That the knots represent the need to tie and discipline ourselves? That one-third of the Tzitzit is knotted and two- thirds are left free to teach that one measure of self-discipline will lead to a double measure of creative freedom?61 If a person is not aware of this is his fulfilment incomplete? There are more complex symbols with the offerings and the Bigdei Kehuna (priestly garments). Do we have to assume that the Kohanim understood the symbols? There is no hint in the Gemarah that the Kohanim or the Kohen Gadol were aware of the symbolic significance of the animals, textiles, colors or numbers. Does the Jew need to have an awareness of the subtle symbolic distinctions between meat and milk, wool and flax?’ Rav Hirsch regarded his system as being scientific and as being proven by consistency with all the details of the Halachah62. How can we assume a complex symbolism as the basis of the Mitzvah when we fulfil the Mitzvah completely without any knowledge of that complexity?

The relationship between dream symbolism and mitzvot symbolism (as desribed in the Tenach, in the Talmud, and by Rav Hirsch) shows that the concept is not just conscious but also subconscious. It is a principle, exphasized by the author of Sefer Ha-hinuch63, that the purpose of many Mitzvot is to influence character by means of actions. Performing certain deeds in a specific manner, frequently, even though we do not think of their meaning as rooted in symbolism, will affect our subconscious mind. Rav Hirsch avoided discussions about the subconscious self in order to emphasize the importance of conscious moral awareness. But his symbolic system cannot be explained without assuming the subconscious impact. It is implied in his comments on incest, the prohibited animals, and the laws of impurity64.


Although Rav Hirsch does not refer explicitly to the Kabbalah as a basis for his system we do know from his notes that he studied the Zohar and other Kabbalistic sources65. He gives symbolic interpretations similar to those given by some of the Kabbalists. The basic approach of the mystics is that the actions which we do here below have a cosmic impact — they affect the higher worlds66. Rav Hirsch spoke to a generation that, for many reasons, was far removed from such concepts67. But it is not surprising that the symbolism to which he refers as being conscious moral education or self- education has its parallel in the Kabbalah, although he was non-Kabbalistic in the substance of his thinking68.

Moral Autonomy and Heteronomy

Should we strive for virtue because it is good or because God wants us to follow virtue?

This is referred to philosophically as moral autonomy v. moral theonomy. Moral autonomy means, according to Kant and others, that a person’s action cannot be considered virtuous unless it is done out of his own free will. But if he does it because a gun is put in his back or because he thinks God or his parents are telling him to do it, then it is not virtuous. This is moral heteronomy, or with Mitzvot — theonomy versus autonomy69.

This is discussed in the Talmud70. Rav Yoseph who was blind said: “Originally, if someone would have told me that the blind are not obliged to fulfill the Mitzvot, I would have made a celebration as I perform the Mitzvot voluntarily. But now that I have heard that Rav Chanina said, ‘One who is commanded to do something is greater than one who is not commanded to do something, I will make a celebration if someone tells me that the blind are obliged to fulfil the Mitzvot.”71 For the commandment implies that this is his Divinely appointed task, or because he has to overcome rebelliousness against Divine authority.72 On the other hand, there is greater spontaneous free-will spirit involved in that which is not commanded, and the ideal saint fulfills all the Mitzvot because he recognizes that they are innately good73.

The answer to this question is given in the Ethics of the Fathers, “You should make your will to be like the will of God.” You have to do it because God commanded you to do it, but you should try to bring yourself to the level where you so much identify with and understand the will of God, that you also do it out of your own free will. Make an equivalence between autonomy and theonomy.

A person may be in a situation that he does not feel like “davening” (praying), so he says, “Hashem says I have do daven now.” He forces himself to daven and the experience brings him into a mood in which he wants, and is happy, to daven75. A person does not want to give charity, but Hashem says he has to make a habit of it until he brings himself to the level where he will want to give.

It is written in Shemot Ch. 23: — “If you meet the animal of your enemy going astray you should return it to him. If you see the ass of one whom you hate lying under its burden, you should hasten to his aid76.” In Devarim Ch. 22 it says: “You should return your brother’s animal to him and help your brother’s animal which has fallen77.” Why does it say in the earlier passage of the Torah “your enemy” and in the last book of the Torah “your brother”? Why is there such a large separation between the two otherwise similar passages? The answer could be that when beginning Mitzvah observance, you may not want to help your enemy, so the Torah says you have to help him. Through frequent deeds of this nature, and continuing right through the Torah and all the Mitzvot, you will reach the level when your enemy will become like your brother and you will want to help him. The Torah says: “Take it on as a Mitzvah even if it is difficult for you, and in the end, it will train you in doing kindness until your enemies become your brothers78”.

This applies even to the Hukkim which we cannot understand easily but also have an ethical purpose. They also do not pose a contradiction between autonomy and theonomy79.

The Torah discipline becomes a self-discipline, and what was at first a Mitzvah ultimately becomes part of one’s character. It is also true that good characteristics (Middot) lead to Mitzvah fulfilment. It works in both directions: The more good Middot one has, the more Mitzvot he wants to do, he will want to increase the challenge: he will want to do Mitzvot that are difficult for him, and that will, in turn, raise his level of Middot80.

Sow a deed, reap a habit,

Sow a habit, reap a character,

Sow a character, reap a destiny.


Nineteenth Century Germany

Some have claimed that Rav Hirsch was influenced by Kant, Hegel and Nineteenth- Century German ideas81.

He possessed a thorough understanding of German idealistic philosophers. He read widely, but primarily studied deeply all Torah sources, developing his independent approach82.


The Most Comprehensive Symbolism

Rav Hirsch’s symbolism represents a more systematic attempt at explaining the details of the Mitzvot than can be found elsewhere. Philo’s symbolic interpretation was philosophical. The Sefer Hahinuch’s educational, Recanati in his Ta’amei HaMitzvot, mystical, and the Remah in his Torat HaOlah explained rationally and kabbalistically details of many of the Mitzvot; but nobody dealt with the subject comprehensively as did Rav Hirsch.

Further Development

It is written84 “One generation to another should praise your actions.” A Hirschian-like interpretation of the word “Yeshabah” is given by the Malbim: le-shabbe’ah ‘to praise’, is connected to the word ‘shevah’ — ‘improvement’.” Leshabbe’ah means to praise a person in the sense of improving on what is already known about him, or to praise Hashem on a higher level, according to the greater knowledge that has been gained.88 In this way we can today build up the teachings of Rav Hirsch and reach a more comprehensive and deeper approach to the understanding of the Mitzvot.


In our generation the inner tradition of Jewish thought found in the Kabbalah is widely accepted as part and parcel of the deeper aspects of Torah, and can be understood much more easily because of the spread of Hassidut, Mussar, and the intermingling of varying Torah approaches86. There are many aspects in Kabbalistic literature that are related to symbolism87.

In Depth Psychology

There are today many differing schools of in-depth psychology which connect the symbols of life with man’s inner feelings. This is shown in the analysis of dreams, myths, language, and symbols used by groups and nations88. By a deeper study of in-depth psychology, one can come to a better appreciation and application of Ray Hirsch’s ideas.89.


Today many assume that the human being is more than a psychosomatic unity. The mind of man is connected to matter but also extends further than his own person. The mind of one person is connected to the mind of another, as shown by hypnotism, telepathy and other parapsychological phenomena, such as near-death experiences. These have shown the existence of the power of the mind outside the body and the material world90.



There is a parallel between times, sounds, numbers, colours, bodies, objects, and the feelings that they engender within us and within other people. When Jews of many generations in many countries all wear tzitzit, put on tefillin, observe the Shabbat in a special manner, this creates archetypes: basic national, and sometimes also universal principles that enter into many areas of life91.

For example: the impact of the sound of the Shofar on the New Year is called zichron teru’ah — ‘retrospection from the broken sound’92 - it should arouse within us national memories. The sound of the Shofar has an impact upon Jews, joining their minds and hearts with the minds of Jews from previous generations. It happens that a young person experiences in a dream something which took place some generations ago in the family or in the nation although he could not have heard or read about it from anybody. This is an archetype experience. The sound of the Shofar arouses within Jews the memory of the experiences of Mt. Sinai where there was the sound of the Shofar93 arousing their hearts. The symbolic subconscious power of the Mitzvot arouses the mind and heart to span time and space, and reach closeness to God.


The Mitzvot create, consciously and subconsciously, for the individual and for the nation, a power of kedushah, holiness and wholeness. As we say in many blessings:

“Sanctify us through Your commandments”94 This is the ultimate purpose of Torah life.


  1. 1.The Nineteen letters, Letter 2 & 8; S.A. Hirsch ‘Jewish Philisophy of Religion of S.R. Hirsch; the parallels to Hegelian concepts outlined by N. Rosenbloom in Historia Judaica XXII. no.1, demonstrate no indebtedness, as shown by Dayan Dr. Grunfeld, Introd. to Horeb p.XLI, and applies equally to N.R.’s remarks in his ‘Tradition in an age of reform’ 174 ff. On Absolute Truth, Comm. on Bereshit Ch2, v.19; Ch9, v.27.
  2. 2.Introduction by Dayan Dr. Grunfeld to English Edition of Rabbi S.R.H.’s Commentary on the Torah.’
  3. 3.Rabbi S.R.H., Jüdische Welt- und Lebeasanschauung, Gesammelte Schriften V 143ff. T. Thas Thienemann. The Interpretation of Language.
  4. 4.R.S.R.H. in 18th Letter preferred Mendelssohn to Maimonides in the approach and not in general, as implied by chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovts, The Timely and the Timeless, 253.
  5. 5.Prof. M. Breuer, Torah Im Derech Eretz of R.S.R.H., 1970.
  6. 6.C.R. Jakobovits’ claim of contradiction to not admitting foreign influences in interpreting Judaism (ibid.255) is therefore invalid.
  7. 7.Comm. Of R.S.R.H., Devarim Ch.4, v.6
  8. 8.Nineteen Letters, 2nd letter; The Festival of Revelation in Coll. Writings I 183 ff.
  9. 9.Schiller Gedenkrede, Ges. Schriften VI, 308 ff.
  10. 10.Essay in Nachlat Zvi, Vol. III 338 f.; Weltwende 152.
  11. 11.M. Breuer, Jud. Orthodoxie im Deutschen Reich 106 ff.
  12. 12.Ges. Schriften IV ff; Historia Judaica, X, 2; Prof. M. Breuer’s vie, .in lecture this year at Jerusalem Academy, that according R.S.R.H. there should be separation of Religion and State in Israel. Chief Rabbi Jakobovits, R.S.R.H. sees contradiction to re-claiming estranged Jews; but his independent model-role brought respect and attracted them.
  13. 13.As above (3) & Collected Writings Vol III 3 ff; Dayan Dr. Grunfeld, Introduction to Horeb. CVII ff.; A.N. Whitehead, Symbolism, E. Cassirer, Symbo1ic Forms; Symbolism in Religion and Literatue.
  14. 14.Bereshit Ch. 1, v. 14. Shemoth Ch. 12. v.2. Commentary of R.S.R.H.
  15. 15.Bereshit, Ch. 9, v.12 ff. Commentary of Ramban.
  16. 16.Comm. of R.S.R.H. ibid.
  17. 17.Bereshit, Ch. 20, v.3, Ch,40 v.5 ff Commentary of R.S.R.H.
  18. 18.E.g. Bereshit, Ch.16; Ch. 28 v. 11ff Comm. of R.S.R.H.
  19. 19.Bereshit, Ch. 17, Comm. of R.S.R.H. & Coll. Writings IV 65 ff.
  20. 20.Shemot, Ch. 13, v. 1-6; Devarim Ch. 6, 4-9, Ch. 11, 13-21, Comment. of R.S.R.H. & Collected Writings, III 140 ff.
  21. 21.Shemot, Ch. 31, v. 17, Commentary of R.S.R.H.; Der Juedische Sabbath, Ges. Schriften I, 170 ff.
  22. 22.Bereshit, Ch. 32 v. 33, Comm. of R.S.R.H.
  23. 23.Shemot, Ch. 12, 14-17, Ch. 13, 3-9, Commentary of R.S.R.H.
  24. 24.Shemot, Ch. 23, v. 24, Commentary of R.S.R.H.
  25. 25.Vayikra, Ch. 23, v. 40, Comment, of R. S. R. H.
  26. 26.Vayikra, Ch. 23, v. 42-43, Comment, of R.S.R.H.
  27. 27.Bamidbar, Ch. 15, v. 37-41, Comment, of R.S.R.H., Coll. Writing III, 111 ff.
  28. 28.Bach & Bikure Ya’akov on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 625.
  29. 29.Nineteen Letters, Letter II. Horeb, Section 4.
  30. 30.Comment, of R.S.R.H. on Shemot & Vayikra
  31. 31.Bamidbar, Ch. 29 v. 2. Comm. of Midrashim and Rashi
  32. 32.Ramban ibid & on Devarim, Ch. 22. v. 6.
  33. 33.This explains his especially detailed exposition of the Sanctuary & the priestly service — the offerings — laws of purity and intermingling; Jewish Dietary Laws by Dayan Dr. Grunfeld.
  34. 34.Shabbat 3la
  35. 35.Comment. of R.S.R.H. on Vayikra Ch. 19, v. 18
  36. 36.Collected Writings III, 86 ff.
  37. 37.Comment. of R.S.R.H. on Shemot Ch. 12, v. 2. Bamidbar Ch. 28, v. 15, Comment. of Seforno and R.S.R.H.
  38. 38.Comment, of R.S.R.H. Shemot Ch. 12 & Vaykra Ch. 23.
  39. 39.Judaism Eternal I Ch. l. (p.3)
  40. 40.Coll. Writings III 96 ff.
  41. 41.The concept of metahistory was developed by R.S.R.H’s grandson, Yitzchak Breuer, Concepts of Judaism.
  42. 42.Bereshit ch. 1.v.11-13, Comment. of R.S.R.H.
  43. 43.Vayikra Ch. 19. v. 19, Comment, of R.S.R.H.
  44. 44.Devarim Ch. 22, v. 5-11, Comm. of R.S.R.H.
  45. 45.Coll. Writings 111 p. 181.
  46. 46.Coll. Writings III p. 175 ff. Vayikra Ch. 19, v. 19. comments, of R.S.R.H.
  47. 47.Shemot, Ch. 23. v. 19, comment. of R.S.R.H., Dayan Dr. Grunfeld: Jewish Dietary Laws 1.
  48. 48.He identifies the four levels &.colours of the ‘Cherubim’- tapestry of the Sanctuary — The pure vegetative element shesh with shor the form of the ox in Yecheskel 10:20; the crimson shani animal level with ari ; the purple human argaman with adam; and the sky-blue godly level techelet with nesher . This seems to contradict his view in Commentary on Bereshit, Ch. 1, v. 26 & Ch. 9 v. 15. that adam the red one is nearest to the godly as the least broken ray of the spectrum — nearest to the pure ray of light of God, & techeler the most distant from the pure light, losing itself in darkness.
  49. 49.Dayan Dr. Grunfeld, Introduction to Horeb cvii ff.
  50. 50.Foreword to Horeb
  51. 51.Movements in Contemporary Judaism, R. Joseph Elias, New York
  52. 52.The Mussar Movement, R. Dov Katz.
  53. 53.R. Yechiel Weinberg, Das Volk der Religion; ‘Seride Esh’ IV 372 ff.
  54. 54.By R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
  55. 55.By R. Bachy Ibn Pakuda
  56. 56.Vayikra Ch. 19v. 18-19
  57. 57.Coll. Writings 111. 175 ff. Comment. on Devarim Ch. 23 v. 11-12.
  58. 58.The Meaning of Kashrut — B. Horovitz, Jewish Study Magazine 12, p. 17.
  59. 59.Berachot 13 b; Pesachim 114 b; Rosh Hashana 28 b.
  60. 60.Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 98; Rav A. Carmell, Concentration in Prayer, Jewish Study Magazine 20, p. 12; B. Horovitz Jewish Prayer, Jerusalem Academy Publication.
  61. 61.Collected Writings I I I 111 ff.
  62. 62.Nineteen Letters, 18th Letter;Foreword to Horeb; M. Munk, Zum Problem ein. jud. Symbolik, Fests. Realschule, 1928
  63. 63.By R. Aharon Halevi of Barcelona; A Philosophy of Mizvot G. Appel.
  64. 64.Dayan Dr. Grunfeld, Introduction to Horeb p, cviii R. Dr. B. Cohen, Ex Profundis, Nachlat Z’vi I, 137 ff, 297 ff; Comm. of R.S.R.H. Br. Ch. v. 24, Vay. Ch. 11-12, 18; Bam. Ch. 19.
  65. 65.R.J. Breuer Aus den Vorarbeiten zum Horeb, Nachiat Z’vi V 142 ff mentions more sources from Zohar than from any other text. Dayan Dr. Grunfeld “Introd. to Horeb” cxx ff. There are many parallels to teaching of Maharal. Chief R. Jakobovits sees contradiction in H.’s admiration of Ramban the Kabbalist and H’s criticism of Kabbalah; but he opposed the abuse of Kabbalah.
  66. 66.Dayan Dr. Grunfeld, The Jewish Dietary Laws, 12 ff.
  67. 67.Dayan Dr. Grunfeld, “Introduction to Horeb,” cxxiii.
  68. 68.E. Munk. R. Hirsch als Rationalist der Kabbalah, Nachlat Z’vi 111.54 ff.
  69. 69.Dayan Dr. Grunfeld. Introd. to Horeb lx ff, B. Horovitz, Law & Morality, Jewish Study Magazine no. 14, 5 ff.
  70. 70.Kidushin 31 a, Bava Kama 38 a, 87 a.
  71. 71.Maharal, Tiferet Yisrael, 20.
  72. 72.Maharsha, Tosafot & commentaries on Kidushin 31a.
  73. 73.Magid Mishna on Rambam. Mishneh Torah, end of Hilchot Sukah.
  74. 74.Ch.2,4.
  75. 75.B. Horovitz, Jewish Prayer.
  76. 76.v. 4-5. Comm of Rashi, R.S.R.H. Torah Temimah.
  77. 77.v.-4, Commentary of Rashi, R.S.R.H. & Meshech Chochmah.
  78. 78.Bava kama 32 b — ‘To overcome his evil inclination of hatred’ — Tosafoth.
  79. 79.Devarim Ch. 4, v. 6— ‘will hear these hukkim, and will say only a wise and understanding people.’ (Comment. of R.S.R.H. Malbim)
  80. 80.Gaon of Vilna. Even Shlema, commentary on Mishle.
  81. 81.N. H. Rosenbloom, Tradition in Age of Reform, 152 ff. and throughout; M. Breuer, Juedische Orthodoxie, 62 ff.
  82. 82.Dayan Dr. Grunfeld, Introduction to Horeb, lxxix If. This explains his preference for Yehuda Halevi against Maimonides, despite the former’s nationalistic views.
  83. 83.Dayan Dr. Grunfeld. The Jewish Dietary laws. I Ch. 1.
  84. 84.Tehillim Ch. 145, v. 4 Commentaries of Malbim & R.S.R.H.
  85. 85.M. Breuer. Juedische Orthodoxie 51ff.
  86. 86.Dayan Dr. Grunfeld, S.R.H. & the Kabbalah, Introd. to Horeb. cxx ff.
  87. 87.E. Munk, R. Hirsch alr Rationalist der Kabbalah, Nachlat Zwi III 54ff. M. Breuer J. Orthodoxie 71-2.
  88. 88.Works of C. Jung; E. Fromm, The Forgotten Language; T. Tass-Thienenman The Interpretation of Language.
  89. 89.RB. Cohen. Ex Profundis, Nachlat Zwi 137 ff.
  90. 90.Y. Neumann. Judgement After Life, Jew Study Mag 31.
  91. 91.Works of C. Jung; R.B. Cohen, Ex profundis, Nachalat Zvi 1,137 ff.
  92. 92.Vayikra Ch. 23, v. 24. Comm. R.S.R.H.
  93. 93.Shemoth, Ch. 19, v. 16, H. Wouk, This is my God.
  94. 94.Shabbath Synagogue Service.

The Meaning of Kashrus



The Meaning of Kashrus


By Rav B. Horovitz

‘Kosher’ means that which is fit. Kashrus is, therefore, the science of how to live in a fit manner. The word Kashrus is related to the word Yashrus, which means righteousness, for in the widest sense Kashrus shows us how to live in a righteous manner - which is the practical way of Judaism. In the normal sense, Kashrus refers to the Dietary Laws.

Definitions and Prohibitions

These Laws described in the Bible and the Talmud prohibit:

(1) Types of animals for food: amphibians, insects, some species of fish, birds and animals.

(2) Parts of animals which are otherwise permitted; blood, limbs from live animals, fats.

(3) Permitted animals are prohibited under certain circumstances; where there has been no Shechita, or if the meat has been mixed with milk or forbidden food. These regulations go into great detail, so that even small proportions of the forbidden food should not he consumed. Utensils which have been used for forbidden food may not be used until they have been made Kosher.

The question is sometimes asked:

Why should we observe Kashrus?

G-d, who is the Creator of life, has shown us the pattern of how to live. Just as it is logical that we created beings are unable to understand our Creator completely, so is it logical that we should not be able to understand completely His revelation of how we should live. For absolute truth is beyond the relative reason of man which is bound by the dimensions of time and space.

We may compare this to an astronaut who is piloting a space-craft. He is given detailed instructions by the engineers of the space-craft concerning the pressing of knobs and pulling of levers. It is generally impossible for the astronaut to have a clear understanding of all the reasons behind these instructions, but he would endanger his space-craft and its passengers were he not to adhere to the instructions to the letter. So must we humans adhere to the instructions of the Divine Engineer though we may not understand the reasons deeply.


We find a similar relationship between the scientist and the laws of nature. This has been aptly described by the great scientist, Max Planck: ‘Every advance in science brings us face to face with the mystery of our own beings and the absolute spirit behind nature.’ Though we are granted understanding to experience the laws of nature, we are still faced ultimately with the mystery of G-d’s Being which lies behind these laws.

What the laws of nature are to the physical universe the laws of the Torah, i.e., divine revelation, are for the moral universe. We find the expression Chukah used for the laws of nature as well as for the laws of the Torah.

Only if we approach the fulfilment of the divine precepts in this way does it become a service of G-d. Otherwise, it is a service of human reason or other faculties which motivate human behaviour. The Mitzvos all have a purpose or a reason which may sometimes be beyond our understanding. In all legal systems the ratio legis does not change the essence of constitutional law. The same applies to the Law of G-d. The reason behind it may be studied, without affecting the necessity to obey the law in all circumstances.

We will study these reasons from the Bible and the Talmud, from the nature and the nurture of man. These must he regarded as effects of the law but not necessarily of why we uphold them, which is described above.

In our analysis of the various effects of the laws of Kashrus, we will start from the lower physical level and pass upwards through the gamut of human qualities.

Dietary Laws

Many modern men of science are rightly astounded by the vast biological knowledge which is revealed in the Biblical and Talmudical Dietary laws. The classification of the insects, fishes, birds and mammals and the characteristics by which they are classified in the texts, are followed by many modern zoologists (see, for example, the works of Furbinger and Gadow). The twenty-four species of birds mentioned in the Bible as being forbidden cover the 30,000 varieties of birds scattered over all the continents, described in the works on ornithology. The division into corviformes and geneformes, accepted today is also reflected today in these laws. The four mammals mentioned in the Torah as possessing only one of the two signs which render a mammal permissible, namely that only chew the cud, or that only have split hooves, are the only species known in this category to the present day. The Talmud comments upon this, ‘Was Moshe a zoologist or a hunter of game? From here we have a proof that the Torah is of Divine origin.’ The pathological anatomy of mammals shown in the Talmudical section Chulin is two thousand years ahead of its time (Dr. Katzenelenson in The Talmud and Medicine).

Scientific experts are equally astounded by the manifold hygienic effects of these and cognate regulations of our code. Health is considered a value in itself in Jewish law. We believe in the principle of Sanus et Sanctus, that cleanliness is next to G-dliness. We believe that a healthy body is required for a healthy mind. The only instance where a command of the Torah is accompanied by the word ‘Meod’ is ‘You should guard your life very much’ which means that you should be extremely careful to look after the health of your body. Therefore we have a principle that danger to health is more serious in Jewish law than religious transgression. There are, therefore, many health regulations incorporated in the Jewish law.

The dietary laws are obviously not meant primarily to improve health, but this is a by-product of their observance. It is, therefore, not surprising that great doctors and professors say that many of these laws should be introduced into civilised countries. Peter Frank, the founder of modern public health, went hack to this Code of Law for guidelines upon which to base his programme. Virchow, Dubois, Raymond, Bergman, Cortfield, Hosmer, de Mussy, Hebra, and many other medical experts all expressed their indebtedness to various aspects of the Biblical-Talmudical Code, not only with regard to diet, hut also with regard to social hygiene, circumcision, sanitation, laws of impurity and marital life.

The side-effects of observing these laws are also proven by the statistics of the lower rate of mortality amongst Jews in various ages and societies. An historic example was shown by the Black Death in the year 1348 at which time the Jews were less affected than the Gentiles amongst whom they lived, due to higher standards of hygiene which are a pre-condition and a side-effect of Kashrus. They were falsely accused, out of jealousy, of poisoning the wells.

Reasons for Kashrus

In general, the laws of Kashrus introduce a rhythm and a pattern into one’s eating habits. The avoidance of an unrestricted meat diet contributes towards health. The removal of all blood from anything that is consumed brings with it immunity from many diseases as blood is often a carrier of germs and infection.

Dr. Macht has written that ‘Modern pathology has shown that oysters and various mollusks are carriers of many deadly germs, such as Typhoid Bacillus. The eating of flesh of many mollusks and many other lower prohibited animals is likely to lead to urticaria and other skin infections of the nemotic type’. Borrell, Virchow and Herbst describe the trichina-like worms that are found in many of the prohibited birds which cause blood diseases. It has been demonstrated that hog meat is frequently infested with trichinae. It is also more difficult to digest this meat.

The post-mortem examination of these bodies ensures that there have been no lesions, in a manner superior to that which is used today by veterinary inspectors. Sir William Bayliss has recommended that similar inspections should he introduced generally.

Sir James Cautlie has justified the prohibition of the mixture of meat and milk on physiological and bacteriological grounds. The separation of meat and milk also introduces more order into the stomach and helps the efficiency of the digestive system. Many of the forbidden types of fat are carriers of disease, especially those near the intestines.

The duty of washing hands before sitting down to a meal, and they have, according to Jewish law, to be perfectly clean before the ritual washing, ensures the highest standard of antisepsis.

The Kashering of vessels which is often demanded in Jewish law is similar to the process of sterilisation of vessels which is performed in places requiring a high standard of public hygiene, and brings the Jewish home to this same standard of hygiene.

The salting of meat acts as a safeguard against decomposition and putrefaction (see the works of Dr. Dembo).


The act of Shechita consists of a clean and instantaneous cut of the blood vessels of the neck together with the wind-pipe and gullet. Some Gentile experts, understanding that this method improves the quality of the meat, consume only Kosher meat. They have stated that if our slaughterers were to be placed under the guidance of Shochtim, the duration of life would he increased

It is the most humane and painless method of slaughter despite the allegations which have been made by Anti-Semites. There are some countries today where, unfortunately, legislation has been introduced to prohibit it.

In Switzerland, for example, two Reform ‘Rabbis,’ Stein of France and Stern of Wurzburg, gave testimony many years ago that Shechita was not a religious rite, which was eagerly accepted by the Swiss Authorities who, until today, do not allow Shechita of animals. It is well known that the Antisemites and the Nazis who expressed great compunction against the humanity of Shechita, were cruel and sadistic in their killing of humans.

Leonard Hill, the Director of the Department of Applied Physiology of the National Institute of Medical Research has written that no death can be more merciful than Shechita. Lord Horder has stated:

‘The animal loses consciousness immediately... It is difficult to conceive of a more rapid and painless mode of death. F’or a few seconds after the cut is made, the animal makes no movement. Its body is then convulsed for about a minute… . the cut is made by knives so sharp and so skilfully handled that a state of syncope, with its associated unconsciousness, follows instantaneously upon the severing of the blood vessels, the rapid loss of blood and the consequent fall in blood pressure. The movements of the animals, which begin about ninety seconds after the cut and continue for about ninety seconds are epileptic in nature and are due to the bloodless state of the brain. Sensation has been abolished at the moment of the initial syncope. Careful and critical scrutinising of this method of slaughtering leaves me in no doubt whatever that it is fraught with less risk of pain to the animal than any other method at present practised.’

It is obviously the most humane method of slaughter. Since Judaism believes in the principle of being merciful to animals, and regards it as a religious transgression to be cruel to our dumb friends, it is even law that a person is not allowed to have his own meal before he has fed his domestic animals and pets.

The Humane Quality of the Dietary Laws

The dietary laws in general have the humanitarian purpose of inculcating merciful qualities into human beings: ‘What difference does it make to the Almighty whether one slaughters from the front or the back of the neck?’ ask our Sages. To which they reply: ‘‘The Commandments were given only in order to purify and elevate human beings.’ It is significant that all animals and birds of prey are forbidden. The two signs of pure animals are that they chew the cud and have cloven hooves, which distinguish them as possessing passive, patient and merciful qualities. The signs of impure birds are that they claw their prey in order to eat them. The ossifrage drops its prey from a great height in order to break its bones. The pelican preys upon its own flesh. These cruel traits are excluded from our diet in order that we not be affected by these habits. In a similar fashion, we are prohibited from consuming the limb taken from an animal whilst it was still alive.

There is, however, a far deeper effect which food has upon character. Psychosomatic medicine, which deals with the interaction of mind and body, has shown how the hypothalamus and pituitary glands together with the nervous system regulate mood and personality. A new science of psycho-dietetics has developed in recent times. As Martin Fritz writes: ‘Man has mental processes that cause him normally to pay more attention to the question of alimentation than any other problem’ (see also the works of Selling and Ferraro).

It is obvious that whatever a person eats affects him. This is seen especially from the consumption of alcohol and drugs. The Latin word to eat, ‘Esse’, is related to the verb meaning to be, as is also apparent from the German ‘Der mensch ist was er isst’ which means ‘a man is what he eats’. In Hebrew also, the word for eat ‘Achal’ means (in an etymological sense) taking into one’s personality (represented by the Alef), the food which one eats.

The body is regarded as the instrument of the soul. In the same way that a tree requires good soil for growth, a lamp good oil for light, and a craftsman good material, so does the soul require a body that will be passive to its aims and instructions. Therefore, all vegetables which are passive substances are permitted. Herbiverous animals which are tame and have passive and moderate instincts, shown by their long intestines, etc., are permitted, whilst birds and animals of prey and consumption of blood are prohibited.

The regular diet of the Isoko tribe of Nigeria is mudfish, monkey, pargolia, porcupine, cane rats, Gambian rats, palm weavils, and frogs. It is not surprising that they develop a blood-thirsty nature and become cannibals. There is something to be said for the theory that the sadistic and cruel nature of the Nazis was partly strengthened by the German regular diet of the blood-soaked meat sandwiches. By contrast, the Jewish diet leads to purification of one’s instincts and ultimately to holiness and self-control.

The instinct for food is the earliest and also the most basic one in the life of man. It is therefore essential to apply a pattern and discipline to this instinct in order to develop a good character. We find that the first Commandment issued to Adam was a dietary one. Perhaps we may say that the other two basic instincts which govern human behaviour, the sexual one and that for acquisition, are both an outflow of the basic instinct for self-preservation, namely, the propagation of oneself and the expansion of oneself through acquisition and power.

A man who plunges into non-restrictive nature may become an overstuffed cow, to become enslaved by natural vicissitudes. He can only become master of the world when he becomes master of himself. Self-mastery requires a policy of separation and limiting one’s interaction with natural phenomena. Man cannot create if he is always consuming. The use of one’s mind is only possible if one limits instinctive nature. Ancient idolatry, in which the worship of nature and beasts was predominant, led to a man becoming the tool and the slave of nature. The worship of the Holy G-d who is separate from nature and yet its master, teaches us to separate ourselves from the enslavement of nature and to become its master. This is shown in a practical form by the laws of Kashrus: ‘You should be unto me men of holiness and not eat Treifa meat.’ This expresses the purpose of Kashrus not as forms of escapism or suppression, but rather the utilisation of the natural world for the development of our moral character.

The Dietary Laws have a deep symbolical meaning. It is well-known that the subconscious mind is influenced by and in turn exerts influence upon behaviour through symbols. Much research has been made into the symbolical importance of food in our life. As the primary instinct which governs mankind, the one for food would obviously affect all areas of our symbolical life.

The act of Shechita proceeded by a blessing is a symbol of sanctification of the animal in order to bring it into the realm of holiness. The removal of life from an animal for human use is only permitted if it is first brought under the domain and into the ideals of Jewish Holiness.

The Symbolism of Separation

The prohibition of consuming mixtures of milk and meat dishes is intended as a symbolical separation between the vegetal (the origin of milk) and the animal spheres. This belongs to the class of symbolical prohibitions of mixtures of diverse kinds, as for example, the prohibition of wearing a garment made of wool (animal origin) and linen (plant origin); the prohibition of mixing seeds of corn and vine; the prohibition of cross-breeding different types of animals; the prohibition of grafting different types of trees; and the prohibition of ploughing with different types of animals. These have the overall significance of teaching us the differing functions and purposes of various species. By recognizing the variety of functions amongst the species of the animal and vegetable world, we are asked to recognise within humanity the specific and unique contribution to be made by the various groups and individuals. It is important to note that the Commandment in Leviticus 19 “Thou shalt love thy neighbour like thyself’ is followed immediately by the Commandment ‘Observe my statutes: thou shalt not sow mingled seeds in thine field, neither mayest thou wear a garment made of Shatnez’ (diverse kinds). This is to teach us that the golden rule of the love of humanity should not mislead us to an egalitarian view of society, regarding all groups and individuals as having a uniform purpose and value. Instead, we should realise the functional value of the various groups and individuals. Love for humanity does not mean that we should show the same love and consideration to all human beings. We should show more love and expend more time and energy upon the welfare of our own family; then upon our own community; then upon our people; and then upon the wider circle of humanity with whom we have contact. Otherwise, the overall principle of the abstract love of humanity will dispel, as it has done in many communist societies, the true warmth of individual love. It is this concept of a functional love which is taught by the symbol of the prohibition of meat and milk, Sha’atnez, etc.

Cultural Meanings in Kashrus

The Laws of Kashrus have a deep cultural meaning. ‘It is manners that maketh man.’ Manners, however, are merely external whilst Kashrus is a deep, inner culture applied to the act of indulging in food. Civilisation is measured by the extent to which material acts such as these are elevated through culture. Washing of the hands before a meal, the preparations which have to be made, the specific manner in which one is obliged to eat, all transform the animal act of eating into a highly civilised and cultural act of human behaviour.

It is the instinct for self-preservation which makes men into competitors, and divides them into antagonistic groups and individuals. The Dietary Laws bind together the People of Israel into one unit whilst they are engaged in strengthening their instinct of self-preservation. This is especially shown by the Grace after Meals. It should, if at all possible, be said together with the addition of a special blessing by three or ten Jews who eat in one place. With this, as well as every aspect of the Laws of Kashrus, eating, which divides men, becomes a social act and binds them together.

The greatest problems that face the Jewish people today are those of assimilation and intermarriage. Close social contact with the Gentiles comes especially through eating. By following the Kosher diet, the Jewish people are separated from the nations and a firm wall is set up against assimilation and mixed marriage. All Jews who adhere to this diet thereby affirm their bond with the Jewish people past and present, in all countries of their dispersion. They show thereby, the Jewish principle of non-conformity: that they will not just follow and adapt themselves to their environment, but instead sanctify themselves to the holy task of becoming G-d’s people. The Dietary Laws are introduced by the phrase ‘You are Children to the L-rd Your G-d and therefore you are obliged to adhere to a specific diet’. This shows us that the separation demanded by Kashrus is of positive value. Through the corporate observance of Kashrus, we sit at the table of our Father in Heaven and learn to be guided by him in the control of our material life.

The Dietary Laws have a cosmic and universal value. They show us how to introduce holiness into all domains of the material world. ‘And every pot in Jerusalem shall he holy’- this signifies that the laws of Kashrus are ‘a pot- and pan-theism’ - the means of raising up to the highest potential all material forces which man possesses. It is a religion ‘breathing household laws’. It gives us the way towards man’s highest evolution. As it is said in connection with the Dietary Laws that ‘G-d is one who brings you up from the land of Egypt’ — this signifies the constant raising up to a higher level which Kashrus introduces into the life of the people of Israel.

In applying our intellect to the laws of Kashrus, we vindicated their value from the physiological, hygienic, humanitarian, psychosomatic, psychological, ethical, symbolical, cultural, social, universal and religious aspects. The various aspects are viewed as one by the Torah, as man is in truth to be viewed. It is interesting to note that many men of science today are turning to a new way of thought, as Dr Henri Baruk has described it in his essay on ‘Hebraic Civilisation on the Science of Man’, which treats the way in which man is to live in a scientific fashion, viewing man as a whole. The Laws of Kashrus bring the stamp of G-d’s moral unity and harmony upon all aspects of life, reflecting the unity and harmony of the nature of Man, stemming from the unity and harmony of G-d.

Kashrus thus leads to ‘Yashrus’ and preserves the Jew from ‘Tum’ah, ‘Timtum’ and ‘Temiah’ and leads to the highest evolutionary perfection both physical and spiritual. It makes man into a true homo sapiens as it is said - ‘You should observe the words of this covenant, Lema’an Taskil’ in order that you should act intelligently in all that you do.

It is aptly been said, and this may be applied to the Laws of Kashrus-

Sow an action — reap a habit,’

Sow a habit — reap a character,’

Sow a character — reap a destiny.’



Adapted from the Speech of Rabbi B. Horovitz at the 5th Anniversary

Dinner of the

Jerusalem Academy, October 7, 1975

I begin by giving thanks to Hashem for having granted us this great occasion, the fifth anniversary of the Jerusalem Academy. Our sages teach us that if a person has studied for five years and he sees a sign of success, then he should continue. Baruch Hashem, we have reached this stage. It has been a difficult road, but filled with Nissim from Hashem.

I wish to express thanks to all my beloved colleagues, without whose help this would not be possible. I wish to express thanks to all our supporters who have given us the material possibility and the moral encouragement to continue building up this vitally unique Yeshiva. I wish to thank all the previous speakers for their kind words concerning the work which Hashem has helped us to do. Above all I wish to express thanks to the Hubert Family, without whose initial sponsorship, constant encouragement and support, we would not have been able even to begin or to continue with this undertaking.

Noach and Avraham

Yeshivat D’var Yerushalaim represents the difference in principle, if not in actuality, between Noach and Avraham. In the corrupt generation of the Deluge, Noach walked with G—d rn inr ‘p’ nc (Bereshit 6:9). He saved himself and his family whilst everyone else drowned. In a morass of immorality, he was able to protect himself in a tightly sealed ark filled with light (ri:’n nvn ,ri) but was not able to save others. Avraham, from whom Am Yisroel stems, walked in front of G—d &7 rnr (Bereshit 17:1); he went out to the idolators and the corrupt nations and called upon the name of Hashem. This was symbolised by the tent of Avraham, which had a door on every side, open for all. The Teva (Ark), on the other hand, needed to be closed and secure.

Here we have the same parallel. The majority of Yeshivot fulfill the principal and important task of keeping our youth close to Torah and away from the negative influences of the secular environment. We must have a solid basis of Noach before we can progress to Avraham. We must be able to protect those who have been brought up with the light of Torah from childhood and see that it remains pure and protected from the weakening influences of permissive and atheistic society.

At the same time, we must not forget that the People of Israel were created to become a Kingdom of Priests (Shemot 19:6). It is out duty to progress from this stage and to concern ourselves with those who are drowning. We must have closed Yeshivoth so that nothing of the impurity of the environment will enter into the minds or hearts of our children. But we must also have open Yeshivoth so that those who are in danger of becoming lost entirely to any Jewish identity will find their way back. Avraham Avinu kindled a light in front of Hashem, a fire that warmed him, but was able at the same time to bring the warmth and the light of Hashem’s teaching to those who were still out in the cold darkness.

The Task of a Modern Yeshivah

Whether they come from Russia, the capital of materialistic-atheism, or from western society, a center of permissiveness, the majority of Jewish youth today are over-satiated at an early age with materialism and seek for some spiritual meaning in life. Therefore, there must be a place of warmth and light which will be open to receive them as they are and gradually bring them back to intellectual, emotional and practical involvement with the perfect program of life — the Torah — revealed to us by our Creator.

This is the program of Yeshivat D’var Yerushalaim, the Jerusalem Academy of Jewish Studies. We purposely keep the two names. The barrier today is so great that most of “the outsiders” who are in the cold, once they hear the name “Yeshiva” immediately identify it with the concept of the ark, which is closed to them. In order that they can find their way over the threshold, we have to keep the name “Academy”.

The late Ponevezer Ray, 7”T, once asked the question why is it that we find today that so often a young person from a totally assimilated background comes to a Yeshiva and, after a very short time, the Torah is something natural to him. So often we are amazed by our own students. We see what a natural love they have for Torah and Mitzvot although they have had no background. Where does this come from?

He answered that in the holocaust one million Jewish children were killed. What happened to the souls of those children? Most of those children were born and reared in very religious families. Those Neshomas are hovering in the atmosphere, and they are waiting for young Jews who will be ready to receive them, who will be ready to continue the holiness which was placed into them from birth and which they had for the first few years of their lives. Thus, we see in many of the young people such a natural love for Torah and Mitzvot that it is like watching a constant miracle.

We hope that the time will come when this miracle will be a total one that will cover the whole of our people and that we will be able to participate in a spiritual return involving the youth in Eretz Israel, the young Jews who come from Russia, and the young who come from the western world, and thereby we will all together witness the coming of the Meshiach. For it is not just we, the People of Israel, who wait for the Meshiach. The Meshiach is waiting for the youth of Jewry to return to G—d, and then the final redemption will come.

The Messiah: the Future of Israel and Humanity



Tuesday 4th Shvat 5767

The Messiah: the Future of Israel and Humanity

Last week the giant hand of the Doomsday clock of the greatest scientists of the world was moved from 11.53 to 11.55 towards midnight which represents Doomsday. With the following warning, ‘as scientists we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons, and we are learning how human interference is affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on earth. So say the scientists, including Stephen Hawking. As citizens of the world, we have a duty to alert the public to the unnecessary risks which we live with every day and the [perils we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change.

What can, indeed, guarantee the survival of man and the world? The response is given in the Bible which is the book that G-d has given to mankind through the people of Israel in order to bring about the survival of the world. The relationship between G-d who is the creator of the world and the creator of man, in that he has given freedom and a mission to man, by revealing his word to him in order that man should guarantee that this world remain a paradise. When man no longer listens to the word of G-d,       he was driven out of paradise with a mission that he and his descendants should keep to the divine codes for man has the potential to hear the voice of G-d, through conscience and through revelation; and if not it brings about the destruction of mankind and the world around him. So, as the human species became more and more corrupt, forgetting the revelation from G-d, after the deluge Noah remained as one who was close to G-d. And he was given the universal code of how mankind could survive. Unfortunately the nations descended from Noah were not sufficiently close to the moral principles which can guarantee the survival of man and the world until Abraham attached himself to follow closely, G-d and therefore he was given the blessing. That he should go to the land which is at the centre of three continents and there become the forefather of a nation and build up the state that should become a source of blessing to all families of the earth. This universal mission was expressed in the name-change of his grandson to Yisroel which means, it is a task of this nation to demonstrate to all human beings that it is G-d who rules all. And the further significance of this name is that to bring about such situations, it is a struggle for G-d. Just like in the physical world, where we struggle for life, it is the fittest that survive, and that continue to keep up the species, similarly also in the spiritual world. And this task was given to the people who were told just like Abraham means to become the teacher of mankind, today, the children of Abraham should become a special people for G-d, to become a kingdom of priests, that is a model for all peoples of the earth. By becoming a holy nation, in the desert of Sinai which was no man’s land, intended for all mankind.

And the gentile prophet Bilam proves there were higher spirits also amongst the nations of the world who realize that it is this people that guarantees and can bring about the survival of mankind and the world. And he foresaw that since Moses was not able to bring about a complete transformation of mankind, to recognize the kingdom of G-d, there would arise a star from this nation, the power of light, led by an individual, who would transform the people of Israel to become the one to demonstrate the right path to all human beings. At the same time he also foresaw that there will be opposition. Just like was already said at the beginning of the task of Abraham those who curse you will I curse. Those who bless you will I bless. Nations might arise and the most violent amongst them will be the nation that follows Ishmael. Because they are the ones that will rise in opposition to the people of Israel and will endanger the whole human species.

Then, the books of Moses describes, if the people of Israel will fulfil their mission in the world, enormous blessing will come upon them, the nations of the world will respect them and they will learn the path of awe of G-d from the people of Israel. Form the individual saintliness and from their national structure of society, which will be guided by the teaching of G-d.

And even when the people of Israel go astray, they always have the opportunity to return to G-d. It says, when troubles will come and exile because they have not been sufficiently observant of the special task which G-d has given them, there will always be a remnant that will return. And then G-d will shower them with blessings. And their position will always be as one that stands among the nations so that he nations will learn their message directly and indirectly. And when they will come into their land and build a spiritual centre, which is the Temple, that will become a magnet which will attract all people of true conscience to the teaching of G-d. When King Solomon consecrated the Temple he emphasized that the strangers who don’t belong to the people of Israel, they will also come and pray towards this house, and he said to G-d here in heaven true Do according to all the stranger calls to you for, that all the people of the earth may know your name ... (I Kings 8, 41-43) to follow the path that is represented by the people of Israel.

And similarly, Isaiah and Micah look forward to the time in the acharis hayamim, the end of the days, the period of time when one thinks the world might end, unless mankind returns to G-d, ‘that the mountain of the L-rd’s house will be established on the top of the mountains, shall be exalted above all hills”, which is not a geographical expression but a spiritual one. That mankind will recognize that the ultimate Everest of the human species is to reach the spiritual peak of closeness to the Creator. And many people go and say, let us go up to the mountain of the L-rd, to the house of the G-d of Jacob, who will teach him His ways and you will walk in His paths. Out of Zion shall go forth teaching to the whole world. And the representative of the nation of Israel who will influence mankind, he will judge among the nations and make decisions. And the peoples of the world will beat their swords into plowshares. They recognize that instead of using their energy and their possessions in order to bring destruction upon their fellow men, they will use it in order to relieve poverty. Nation will not lift up sword against nation and they will stop learning warfare. They’ll recognize education, has to be from childhood upwards dedicated towards love and peace for all human beings. How is this possible? How will it happen? It is clearly described in the Bible, it will happen through a great individual. And today we know that individuals who are totally dedicated to an ideal they have, almost like a mania, they can have an enormous impact upon human society. There is no-one who has felt this so strongly as the people of Israel from the hands of the tyrant in recent times. What have the people of Israel, and mankind, suffered from one person dedicated to evil? From the powers of Satan, like Hitler may his name be blotted out. And like others who have tried to follow that method, like Stalin. Like we see today, individual tyrants threatening the world, we see how much power can be given to individuals. The world today was never known before in human history and the Bible has the following basic principle, that the power of good is greater than the power of evil. Evil is only permitted here in the world as an obstacle for human beings to overcome, to strengthen their dedication to virtue and to the good. So there will arise a Messiah, Moshiach, from the root, to anoint with oil because oil is that which brings warmth and light. And that is why oil was used not only for the sanctification of all vessels used in the Temple but also, all the more spiritual leaders of the people, the Kings were supposed to be spiritual leaders, all were anointed with all. All have to be a source of enlightening the mind and warming the heart with the power of godliness.

That is the concept of the Moshiach and it is said explicitly in the prophets that there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Yishai/Jesse, from the one who has raised up mankind to the depths of feeling in times of trouble, times of joy in closeness to G-d is the psalmist, King David. His whole life was one of turmoil and difficulties, he found his refuge in G-d. Until today, his word was so inspired, they have brought help and inspiration to human beings from all areas of mankind and from that power will come the Moshiach. ‘A branch shall grow out of his roots. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him’. The spirit of wisdom and understanding. That is a very high intellectual level as great as a counsellor might, he will also be able to translate the high intellectual concepts into practical advice, how to create practical changes of a concrete manner in society. He will have the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. It will all be inspired by his closeness to the creator. He will not judge according to the sight of his eye, superficially. He will judge with righteousness the poor and decide with righteousness for the meek of the earth. He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth which is a stronger weapon for good than any physical weapon. And with the breath of his slips he will slay the wicked. And righteousness will be the girdle of his loins. And faithfulness, the girdle of his reigns. The wolf will dwell with the lamb. That means the violent instinct of mankind will be controlled. Or become tamed. The leopard will lie down with the kid. They shall not hurt or destroy in my holy mountain and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the seabed. (Isaiah 11, 1-12) The holy mountain is in Jerusalem, the Temple and the teaching of the Temple. And this teaching shall spread to the whole earth. And even the deepest points in the earth will transform society so that not only will mankind in the world survive but they will flourish as they enter into a new era of a paradise. And who will lead them? It says in Ezekiel, David my servant shall be king over them. Or the one who is continuing the lifestyle of King David. They shall have one shepherd. This is if mankind follows the message of the prophets of the Bible. But the Bible recognizes that it might turn out differently. There might come powers in the world, especially if the people of Israel do not sufficiently fulfil their task, that they will base themselves on human power. Represented by Gog, which comes from the Hebrew word which means material roof, that is made to protect man. In contrast to the people of Israel who put their trust in G-d, who is spiritual. But, many of the nations they recognize and feel that the way we can survive      is through the power of man. It is said these nations in the latter the years might have in those days which are called the end of the days, they will come and start battling and fighting with weapons, weapons which perhaps can only be described in terms of non-conventional weapons, the way they are given with their metaphors in the prophet of Ezekiel and other places. And when the people of Israel will come back to their land, with an attempt to come back to our true mission, they are in that land which is the source of life of mankind, they will arise and they say no, we want to destroy you. The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, against his anointed they want to destroy them. They will say, as it says in the Psalms, ‘Come let us cut off this Bnei Yisroel from being a nation so the name of Israel may no more be remembered. We are to blot it out. They have consulted together one consent. They are all against you, the tents of Edom, and Ishmaelim.

Now Edom represents the western anti-semitic forces. Ismael, the Middle East, anti-Israel forces. And they are likely to want to gather together to want wipe Israel off the map, as it says in the prophets. So G-d says, that I am not going to allow. They will become destroyed. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their G-d from that day onwards. He describes the attempt of the people of Israel when we come back into our land to say, let us be like all the other nations. Have our own land and live with them in the union. Who says we’ve got to follow a special way of life? It is not necessary. So,  G-d will say, if you do that, it’s going to express itself in destruction. I’m not going to allow us to be totally destroyed. And I will bring a downfall to the enemies of the people. The nations shall know that the house of Israel went into exile for their iniquity, for they broke faith with me, that’s why I hid my face from them. And I gave them over into the hands of their enemies. And they fell by the sword. But in the end, G-d says, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole of Israel. Because I will be zealous for my Holy Name. The nation will no longer say that G-d is not interested in the survival of Israel. And that is why G-d says, there is going to be the following trend in society. It’s true that some will want to oppose Israel and oppose godliness. But the day will come, says the prophet Amos that I will send a famine upon the earth. Not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water. But to hear the words of G-d. And young people will wander from sea to sea, from ocean to ocean, from the north even to the far east. They shall run to and from to seek the word of the L-rd, but they wont find it. And he says, but at the same time I am going to bring back the captivity of my people, and they shall build the waste cities in their land. They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine. …I will plant upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked out of their land which I have given them, says the L-rd your G-d. (Amos 9, 14-15) Also, to solve this problem that from the teaching that will go out from the Land of Israel those human beings who are teaching for the truth, shall find it in Israel. They will find it in the teaching of Israel.

So we have a description of the coming of the Messiah given by Daniel. He will come like a man who comes with a cloud of heaven. He will come in a situation where the heavenly power will become stronger in the understanding of mankind than in one movement which spells out the future paradise for mankind. Because at that time I will convert the nations of the world to a pure language. That they will all call on the name of the L-rd, to serve him with one consent. , ‘It shall come to pass that many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the L-rd of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray to him. And in those days it will come about that ten men out of all the languages of the nations on the earth will come and take hold of the garment of a Jew, and will say to him ‘teach us your ways, for we know G-d is with you”. This is the concept that the Sages say is expressed through the law of fringes that Jews wear fringes, four, on four-cornered garments. In fact I know more than one Jew who knew nothing about Judaism and what triggered his interest was when he saw Jews wearing these fringes. What this teaches us, its significance is like this, the Jew who follows in the path of G-d feels himself enveloped by spirituality. And the fringes are there to represent the way that spirituality becomes part of the image of the Jew. Spirituality spreads out to the four corners of the earth. And ultimately, the concept of being a Jew is to be a kingdom of priests. That the power of spirituality will spread out and nations all over the world people will say, we want to grasp hold of you, help us, to enter also into the spiritual dimension. That we won’t all drown in the sea of permissiveness and external materialism, warfare and troubles. So this is a movement that is taking place in the world today, a movement to spirituality. Which can be strengthened through the teachings of the bible. That is one possibility. But there is also another description of the messiah. Not that he comes, bringing a heavenly power above. But he is a humble person riding upon a donkey. And the concept of the donkey represents materialism. Throughout the Bible, if one looks at it more deeply, it is the symbolic language of the Bible. In fact the tradition is that that donkey was the same donkey upon which Abraham, rode and saddled in order to perform his highest test of faith. The same donkey which Moses took to convey his glorious message, the same donkey that will also be carrying the Messiah. And it represents self-discipline, to control materialism. In Jewish tradition, the same word for donkey is also used to describe the physical aspects of life, that man can control his animal instincts on the highest level.

This also represents the difficulties of life. That it doesn’t come easy. It comes through overcoming all obstacles. The concept is he is coming here as a low down person, that means the generation when the messiah might come, if a Jew does not as a whole represent sufficient power to bring about the redemption then G-d will have mercy upon the Jewish people and mercy on mankind. He does not want the end of the world. He does not want a doomsday. Therefore G-d will bring such a charismatic figure and put into him such a strong spirit that it will overturn the spirit of mankind in the direction of following the voice of G-d. That is why the last word of the last prophet says that before the coming of the Messiah, so there is going to be an option laid in front of mankind. An option of survival or extinction. Of life, or death. And it will be dependant on the power of Teshuva, which means return. When the Pope came here to Israel last time, he came to the Western Wall and said, when he was at the Western Wall, he called upon all mankind to go and to, he called it the Hebrew phrase, teshuva. Return. Return to the voice of G-d. And return when you are at the brink, almost at midnight of Doomsday, it is called upon us that we should return. That is why all prophets always ended with a note of hope. The last prophet Malachi said, the people of Israel have to come back to the teachings of G-d. Take the message of Elijah which goes through all the prophecies that the people have to return. If not, I will come and smite the whole earth with Doomsday destruction. That is the last word of prophecy ever heard by mankind. Doomsday. What is the choice? That comes before the coming of the great and awesome day. It can be a great day which ushers in a new era of spirituality and morality which exemplifies all the teachings of the Bible and maybe we will come such a situation that we will have no choice because we will recognize that if we don’t follow that path then it means the midnight clock of the scientists will reach midnight, that’s the end. But we’ve got a choice. So let us all choose then, the path of the Bible which is the book of prophecy for all mankind which indeed brings many teachings from the past, but in order that the could be applied, and the way it applies is described in the Bible in the present, in the future, that all mankind will indeed experience the complete change through the power of the people of Israel, and through the strength of the Israel, Israel’s teachings. And all those who want to absorb the teachings of the Bible. In that way we will all, not just have survival, but we will have a new paradise for all human beings. Amen.




Once G-d’s existence is acknowledged, it follows logically that the Purposeful Designer would, in creating a free and conscious creature, have revealed to him the purpose of his life, and the manner of achieving this purpose. A G-d who cares about man is likely to have revealed Himself to His favorite creation.

Furthermore, it is impossible to find the purpose of life within life itself. Therefore, man must go to the transcendent sphere to find it. The Almighty reveals His Being through the mind and emotions, nature and history, but the most direct revelation is by means of prophecy, whereby G-d reveals His Will. The Torah (Teaching) revealed to Moses, represents the objective Will of G-d. This blueprint for civilization, recorded in the Pentateuch and transmitted through Jewish tradition was revealed by the Omnipresent Eternal, and has universal and eternal application.

‘Even communication of man with man is not understood. Why should we think it impossible for G-d to speak to Moses loud words capable of being heard by man, simply because we cannot understand how this can be done by a Being devoid of man’s speaking and hearing? We can no more understand how the mechanical action of our sensiforous organs arouses consciousness of that which is present in somebody else’s consciousness by means of loud, spoken words. Even matter and force are not understood clearly, and transcend human understanding.’ (S. Hirsch). To the Divine Torah, we apply the principle: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord’ (Isaiah 55:8). The Torah transcends human reason. Much as the contradictions that appear in the sphere of nature and life are solved in the ‘noumenal’ world of G-d, so also are the apparent difficulties in the Pentateuch resolved by realizing that the Torah is beyond external reasoning. It is only the ‘outer garment of the Torah’ which is completely within the reach of reason.

It is in this sense that man is commanded not to go after your own heart and your own eyes after which you go astray (Numbers 15:39), i.e., not to follow materialistic reasoning. The serpent representing materialism began its ugly work by sowing seeds of doubt into man’s mind, saying: ‘Did G-d really speak?!’ (Genesis 3:1).


An ethical system which is not divinely founded gives little motive or power for the good life, and is bound to be relative and subjective, uncertain and unstable.

Revelation: Witnessed by All Israel

The people of Israel, numbering millions, attained a prophetic height at the foot of Mount Sinai, when they heard the first part of the Ten Commandments declared to them by G-d. By allowing the people to hear the very same words that G-d spoke to Moses, a basis was provided for the people to believe in Moses as G-d’s permanent spokesman, ‘that the people may hear when I speak with you, and will also believe in you forever’ (Exodus 19:9).

The whole nation was thereby brought to the conviction that the Torah was the Revelation of G-d. The Torah, itself, predicts that the truth of the Revelation at Sinai would be challenged in the course of history, as is happening today: ‘Lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your children and your children’s children… the day that you stood before the Lord your G-d at Sinai’ (Deut. 4:9,10).

The fact of Revelation is assumed as basic by the Prophets. ‘The whole line of prophets, from Moses to Malachi, is based upon this same assumption, and shows unanimity of thought that cannot be a delusion’ (Sanday). An unbroken chain of live Jewish historical tradition, extending over three thousand years, is based upon this Revelation.

The outstanding trait of the Jews throughout history is their ‘stiff-neckedness.’ ‘The hard-hearted scepticism of the Jewish mind shows that they must have been overwhelmed by a shared experience such as the Revelation at Sinai to depart from the vicious immoral cults that held the surrounding nations in their grip’ (Biberfeld). The Jewish people accepted the Torah only because they were convinced of its Divine source and authority.

Uniqueness of Torah

The uniqueness of the Torah is evidenced by the fact that it was in violent conflict with the tendencies of the environment and trends of the age. It formed a sharp contrast to the surrounding nations and could not have arisen from them. The Babylonian civilization was based upon corrupt polytheism and magic. Egypt’s idolatrous cults, land-owning priest-caste, and embalming (based on the concept of physical immortality), were all in opposition to the spirit of the Bible.

Leading modern scholars state: ‘Between Judaism and the coarsely polytheistic religions of Babylon and the old Egyptian faith, there lies an impassable gulf. I can only find one explanation, unfashionable and antiquated though it be. In the language of a former generation. it marks the dividing line between Revelation and unrevealed religion’ (Sayce). ‘If you wish to show the divine superiority of the Bible, place it among the sacred books of the East’ (Mueller). ‘The new discoveries support the claim that Israel was in, but not of, the ancient world’ (Pritchard). ‘The uniqueness of Biblical Revelation has been emphasized by contrast and comparison to the newly understood religions of ancient peoples’ (Elder). Magic and mythology, so prominent in ancient oriental literature, are entirely absent from the Bible.

The Bible possesses an objectivity unmatched by human documents. Nowhere do we find the blunders of people, of its kings and leaders (including Moses and David) so clearly condemned as in the case of the Hebrews, nor do we find elsewhere such unbiased reports of defeats. The Bible is the only historical record that places that places universal values and objective truth above nationalism. No other nation would have made the humiliating claim that it had descended from slaves.

The people of Israel cannot be regarded as the source of the Torah, as they were not up to its standard. They were a stiff-necked people, difficult to educate, immersed in idol-worship, as is shown by the sin of the Golden Calf. We must distinguish between the Torah, and the life of the Israelites. which sometimes reflected the influence of the time, such as elements of polytheism and promiscuity.

The modest, truth-loving Moses, who protested against the acceptance of his task, could not have imposed upon the people. The Torah stresses that he was, by nature, a poor speaker, lacking self-confidence, one who required recourse to the advice of the Midianite. Jethro, in order to administer justice among the people. Moses would not have led the people to wander into the desert, not knowing how to feed them and where to lead them, for forty years, unless by Divine command.

Hidden Structures and Number Patterns

The Divine Designer of the pattern of Nature (that which is revealed through His works: — ‘How great are Your works, 0 Lord, how deep are Your thoughts’ (Psalms 92:6).

Anyone contemplating the vastness, grandeur and harmony of the multiple phenomena of the cosmos, recognizes the One who created and constantly sustains the Universe: ‘How great are Your works.’ The scientists who discover the deeply hidden mathematical formulae and associations in astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences, thereby demonstrate the power of the Divine Thinker and Mathematician in the cosmos:

‘How deep are Your thoughts’ and mathematical links. (‘Thought’ = mahshava, root ‘hashav’ to reckon, to bind together.)

The Divine Designer of the pattern of Morality (that which ought to be is revealed through His words: — ‘The Teaching of the Lord (the Five Books of Moshe) is perfect, it inspires the soul’ (Psalms 19:8).

Anyone studying its religious, philosophical, ethical, psychological, social, legal, historical and scientific aspects is inspired by its truth and harmony, and recognizes its Divine Author. The scholars who have delved deeply into the text of the Torah, have found hidden harmonious structures and numerical associations and patterns which demonstrate the Divine Thinker and Mathematician behind the Torah: Uncover my eyes, so that I may see hidden marvels out of Your Torah’ (Psalms 119:18).

The early Torah scholars were called ‘scribes’ or ‘calculators’ because they counted the letters of the Torah (Talmud).

Six represents the three dimensional concrete world of Nature — Creation in 6 days = 6 directions of the material phenomena.

Seven, multiples of seven, and seven squared occur: in repetition of key words and phrases; spacing of letters to produce hidden code-language; as sign of complete retribution; in connection with oaths — it has the same Hebrew root — hishave’a’, in sanctified time periods: Creation, Sabbath, Festivals, Sabbatical and Jubilee Years, nuptial rejoicing, period of mourning, purification process; sacred vessels such as the Candelabrum.

Seven = the centre point, which is abstract, but co-ordinates the six = The mind, the noumenon, the image of all the six directions as one unit = The Mind which conceives and co-ordinates the Time-Space of the Cosmos and brings harmony to the variety of phenomena. It appears to be the symbol of Divine harmony; the word sheva may be connected with save’a = satisfaction, fulfilment, completeness. It has a parallel in Nature in the seven colors of the spectrum and the seven notes of the seven octave.

8 (7 x 7) + 1 = 50 = The Supernatural dimension, represented by miracles, and the miraculous Revelation of Torah.

10 = the number of plagues, Divine words of the Decalogue, minimum number of righteous people to save the city, number of units for measurement of Sanctuary, separation of a tenth in tithing. The word ‘eser’ may be connected with ‘osher’: wealth, abundance, unity in multiplicity.

7 x 10 = 70 nations, souls of Jacob’s tribe, elders of Israel = transformation of individuals to group harmony.

26 = the numerical value of G-d’s ineffable name, and its multiples, especially 26 x 10 x 7 = 1820 as a hidden formula. This is the number of times G-d’s name is mentioned in the Torah. Recently, many remarkable hidden messages have been uncovered by the mathematical and computer analysis of numbers of words, letters, numerical and digital values of letters and words, and spacing of letters.

The Divine origin is proven, since no human agency could possibly have introduced such intricate mathematical structures at such unimaginable depths while preserving a normal and readable narrative on the surface. A change in only one letter would suffice to throw out all these very delicately balanced, intricate and interlocking calculations. To produce such a system would lie beyond the range of the most powerful computer’ (Rav Aryeh Carmell, z’t’l’).


Archaeological discoveries are continually establishing the astonishing accuracy of innumerable details of the Bible. Archaeology shows how unique was the religious insight of the Hebrews, and provides cause for the belief that in the realm of religion they were indeed a chosen people.’ Nowhere has archaeological discovery refuted the Bible as history.’ The careful accuracy of the Bible has been repeatedly confirmed. The writings as an historical source are absolutely first-class’ (Elder).

The traditions of ancient peoples concerning Creation, Paradise, early man, the longevity of pre-Diluvian man, the Flood, etc., as well as the religious and legal heritage of antiquity, corroborate the Biblical account which has retained these traditions in their original purity, and refers to Divine Revelation of Laws and Truth to Adam and Noah. It has been shown that all men are members of one family, that mankind spread over all the continents from one starting point, and that the cradle of the human race was in the region of Mesopotamia. The Tower of Babel, the common origin and later confusion of languages; ‘the table of nations in Genesis 10 which shows a remarkably modern understanding of the linguistic situation in the ancient world that stands absolutely alone in ancient literature’ (Albright), have been confirmed by recent discovery. Many details from the lives of the Patriarchs — Ur of the Chaldees, the Battle of the Kings, the destruction of the Cities of the Plain, names of persons. places and general background in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, and the famine of Egypt, have found corroboration. The same applies to the Egyptian enslavement of Semites, the building of ‘city-stores,’ the oppression, the plagues, the Exodus, the desert wandering, the fall of Jericho, and the conquest of Canaan, as well as hundreds of names and details from the background of this period which are mentioned in the Pentateuch.


Science is confirming many aspects of the Bible. The Scriptures assume that the Universe is immeasurable, that some of the innumerable stars have dark bodies, that the earth is a globe suspended in space, and that there are Laws of Nature. The Bible speaks in language relating to man, as we do ourselves, so it speaks of the sun ‘rising.’

Many scientists today confirm the fact that G-d created the world. Modem scientists write: ‘Mosaic cosmogony is in amazing accord with modem astronomical cosmogony’ (Armellini). ‘No scientific description of the existence of the Universe, and of the man who does the explaining, has superseded the first words of the Bible: In the beginning  G-d created the heavens and the earth!’ (Moulton). ‘The Creation Chapter is a marvellous anticipation of the modem view of creation as moving from the less to the more articulate, and reaching its consummation in man’ (MacFadyen). It is a ‘picture of the universe passing from the more random to the less random state, each step showing a victory of anti-chance over chance’ (Jeans).

The order of created beings is in accord with scientific discoveries. Formless energy was followed by light independent of the sun, which is now known to come from outer space. This first act of creation might explain why the equivalence formula for energy and mass is related to the velocity of light — e=mc2. ‘There are two kinds of waves, bottled-up ones which we call matter, and unbottled waves which we call radiation or light. These concepts reduce the whole universe to a world of light potential or existent, so that the whole story of creation can be told with perfect accuracy and completness in the words ‘Let there be Light!’ (Jeans). The creation of the firmament was followed by sea and land formation, grass, herbs, trees, fish, reptiles, birds, mammals and man. This order is confirmed by geological and biological discoveries. ‘The sciences of geology and biology were unknown in the time of Moses, and yet he writes as if he knew both’ (O’Connell). ‘There was no such knowledge available then. Here we see the marks of Divine Revelation’ (L.T.More). Albright has stated: ‘Modem scientific cosmogonies show such a disconcerting tendency to be short-lived that it may be seriously doubted if science has yet caught up with the Biblical story.’

The great knowledge and understanding of physical phenomena, of agriculture, botany, zoology, genetics, medicine, hygiene and many other branches of science, are most astounding. Some laws of the Torah reveal ‘modern’ scientific knowledge. The lists of birds and mammals in the Dietary Code cover species in outlying countries only recently discovered. The categories of permitted and prohibited mammals are entirely comprehensive. ‘Was Moses a zoologist?’ asks the Talmud. ‘From here we see that the Torah is from Heaven.’ Recent research has demonstrated the ‘advanced ecological wisdom inherent in the laws of the Torah of Moses regarding the green belt of cities, the Sabbatical cycle, the intermingling of plants and animals, the dietary laws, and the laws of purity and impurity’ (A. Hutterman).

Laws of the Torah

Many of the laws of the Torah can only be understood as being directives from a Transcendent G-d. Divine origin must be assumed for such laws as the Sabbatical and Jubilee prohibitions on agriculture, which depend upon G-d’s blessing for their fulfilment. No nation of its own accord would have invented, or accepted from a man, such a rigorous discipline, covering every aspect of life. ‘It is utterly impossible to assume that the Jewish people at any time, because of fraudulent and obscure documents, should have accepted a law governing every detail of human life, and yet have remained faithful to it for thousands of years’ (Biberfeld).

Science of Man

The Torah is a comprehensive, unifying guide for all aspects of life, individual, national and universal, theoretical and practical, hygienic, social, economic and political, metaphysical, psychological and pragmatical, ethical, legal and religious. ‘One may say without hesitation that the Torah is the most complete science of man, and above all the most coherent and unified’ (H. Baruk). It is built upon the harmony of man, as science is built upon the harmony of nature. It is a science of how man is to live; unique in the annals of humanity.


The application of reason to the Torah reveals its thorough reasonability; so much so, that it has with some justice been termed the ‘Religion of Reason.’ ‘Observe, therefore, the words of this Covenant…in order that you will act with reason in whatever you undertake’ (Deut 29:8). The great wisdom inherent in the teachings and regulations of the Torah has been praised by Jewish and Gentile men of wisdom throughout the ages, and especially in modern times, when scientific research has shown the truth of so many facets of these life-directives. This was predicted: It is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations, when they will hear all these statutes, they will say: ‘this great people is surely a wise and understanding nation…For where is there a great people that has such righteous statutes and judgements like the whole of this Torah?’ (Deut. 4:6,8).

Living Faith

The truth of the Torah and its inherent Divinity reveal themselves to everybody who fulfils it and lives by it: ‘The righteous shall live by his faith’ (Habakkuk 2:4). ‘The commandments of G-d are of goodly understanding to all those that fulfil them’ (Psalms 111:10). This ‘pragmatic’ test of truth is of especial significance in the Jewish way of life which sees little value in theory without practice. It is this that makes the Torah into a ‘Tree of Life.’ We must therefore conclude that the Torah is Divine Revelation.