Why are the demographic categories of the Jewish people divided into two distinct pesukim?
What is the underlying dynamic of the conversion process?
Today you are all standing before HaShem your Elokim — your leaders, your tribal chiefs, your elders, your law enforcement people, every man of Yisrael. Your young children, your women, and the righteous converts in your camp — even the lumberjacks and the water-carriers.
— Devarim 29:9,10
Yisrael-the Jewish People; and Oraysa-the Torah; are one.
— Zohar III:73
Our nation is a nation only through her Torah
— Rav Saadiya Gaon
When our Masters entered the vineyard at Yavneh, they said,”The Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, as it is said, “Behold, HaShem Elokim says ‘days are coming and I will send forth a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of HaShem.’” (Ahmos 8:11). And it is said, “And they will roam from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will flail about back and forth to seek the word of HaShem, and will not find it.” (Ibid 12). … Rabi Shimon bar Yochai said: Heaven forefend that the Torah should ever be forgotten in Yisrael, for it is written, “for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their descendants.” (Devarim 31:21) Then how do I interpret, “they will flail about back and forth to seek the word of HaShem, and will not find it”? They will not find a clear halachah or a clear Mishnah in any one place.
— Shabbos 138B-139A
There is a one nation scattered abroad and divided among the nations in all the provinces of your highness’ kingdom …
— Esther 3:8
Rabi Yohsi of the Galilee said “ There is no ‘elder’ other than one who has acquired Torah wisdom”
— Kiddushin 32B
In both the written and oral Torah a rich and diverse metaphorical imagery exists to describe the relationship between K’lal Yisrael– the Jewish People; and Torah. Torah is alternatively described as our sister, our bride, our legacy, our primary topic of conversation, our obsession, our “tree-of-life” lifeline — and more. The relationship is layered and complex and every metaphor illustrates a different facet of K’lal Yisraels rapport with the Torah.
Yet there is one teaching of our sages that seems to go beyond describing a multifaceted relationship between two disparate entities and, instead, portrays the fusion of K’lal Yisrael and Torah into a single being. Torah is not something that we enjoy a relationship with, Torah is our alter-ego … our secret identity. Accordingly there are direct corollaries between what happens in the life of K’lal Yisrael and in the texture of the Torah.
To use a somewhat coarse allegory to correspond to the subtle abstraction being allegorized; one could not stab Mr. Hyde in the heart and express surprise at the news of Dr. Kekyll’s death nor could one feed a starving Dr. Jekyll and be disappointed that Mr. Hyde had survived the famine. As they share an identity what happens to one must happen to the other.
The Maharal of Prague utilizes the truism of the shared identity of K’lal Yisrael and Torah to explain the Gemara in Shabbos 138-9: “how do I interpret, ‘they will flail about back and forth to seek the word of HaShem, and will not find it’? They will not find a clear halachah or a clear Mishnah in any one place.” On the one hand, just as Klal Yisrael, while battered and beaten in a seemingly interminable exile, is ultimately indestructible, so is the Torah. A Torah forgotten is a Torah annihilated and destroyed. But on the other hand, explains the Maharal, just as Klal Yisrael is a the one nation or, more precisely, the nation of oneness, scattered abroad and divided among the nations so too is the Torah , the truly integrated discipline, disorganized and scattered unlike any other field of study. The Torah cannot remain intact and integrated as its alter-ego, Klal Yisrael, suffers dispersion and disintegration as a result of galus.
Another classic application of this truism is provided by the Izhbitzer at the beginning of our Sidra.