Saturday, February 10, 2007

How Did the Torah Exist Before it Happened?

Could you explain to me how Jacob could study Torah “in the tents” if Torah was given to Moses centuries later? And could you explain how Jacob could study the Torah in which he, too, is a character?

Hi! Thank you for the interesting question. The Ramban explains in his introduction to the Torah that the Torah was created before the world, black fire written on white fire. Even so, he says that that doesn’t mean that its form was fixed. He has an interesting way of describing this: He says that the spaces between the letters weren’t assigned yet. However one understands that, the idea is that the Torah is not just a record of events. It is the embodiment of the relationship between Hashem and His world.

As the world progresses, and human beings use their free choice, Hashem’s relationship with us progresses and changes as well. I don’t know exactly what the Torah looked like in the time of Jacob; it wasn’t the same as the Torah we have today, because we weren’t the same. Some things had already happened, like the creation of the world, the flood, and Hashem’s relationship with Abraham and Isaac. And some aspect of it is surely fixed and always was. Other parts, like Mount Sinai, and the sin of the Golden Calf, and the people of Moav hiring Balaam, were yet to be, and were still up to people’s free choice. The Torah continued to develop and reflect our relationship with him until it reached its final form by the death of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Best wishes,

Michoel Reach