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Why can't the Torah be modified to adapt to the times?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

Let's start with a simple question: The Torah specifically tells us (Deuteronomy 4:2) "You shall not add to the word that I commanded you, nor shall you subtract from it."

Why, pray tell me, doesn't the Torah allow for changing times and customs? Why does our all-knowing G-d, who certainly knows what the future will bring, tell us that the laws of the Torah are not subject to change? In fact, one of our Thirteen Principles of Faith, penned by the great philosopher Maimonides, is the belief that the commandments of the Torah are permanent and irrevocable.

This is not a small detail in Judaism; rather this is at the very core of our belief-system. To understand the answer to this question we must first examine the essence of the Mitzvahs. Mitzvahs all emanate from G-d's supernal Will (Ratzon). True will transcends logic and intellect, and this is evident in many Mitzvahs which don't have (and never did have) any logical reason, such as the laws of Kosher, Shatnez, the Red Heifer, etc.

Intellect is a creation, as much as everything else in this physical world, and therefore just as G-d Himself transcends creation so too He transcends intellect
And although the Torah does state the reasons for many Mitzvahs, these are not the primary reasons for the commandments and they are not the primary reason why we fulfill them. Rather, the word "Mitzvah" means command, and that is why we do them, because we were commanded to do so.

[Now you might be thinking, "Why should I perform a Mitzvah which doesn't make sense? Why would G-d be commanding us to do acts which defy logic and rationality?" But the truth is that such questions arise do to the fact that in the human consciousness, intellect is the greatest faculty which we possess, and (almost) everything of value is dictated by the laws of logic.

Anything which does not agree with the laws of logic is considered childish and irrelevant. This is all true in human terms, for G-d created us in this fashion, but G-d is not limited by the Laws of Nature with which He created us. Intellect is a creation, as much as everything else in this physical world, and therefore just as G-d Himself transcends creation so too He transcends intellect.

Kabbalah tells us, that to G-d, intellect and a stone are of equal value for both are merely creations. Therefore, according to the teachings of Kabbalah, the Mitzvahs, which are G-d's will, actually stem from an infinitely higher level than the Torah, which is G-d's wisdom!]

Now back to our question... If G-d were to want us to do Mitzvahs because of one reason or another, then if the conditions which caused G-d to tell us to do the Mitzvah would change or cease to exist, the Mitzvah would become "outdated" and extraneous. But if Mitzvahs are a product of G-d's intrinsic Will, how can it be changed by the times?

To properly understand the abovementioned concepts it is essential that you join a class on the subject of Chassidut. Contact your local Chabad rabbi to find a Chassidut study group in your area.

Related Categories

Torah » Modifying Torah

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