If every word in the Torah is important, what’s the significance for us of the many details and measurements given in Torah concerning the the altar and the table and all the implements and vestments of the Mishkan? Also, why do we have to know the details of exactly how many Jews were in the Wilderness?
This man wants to know, if every word in the Torah is important, so what is the significance of all the details of the measurements of the Mishkan and all the details in other subjects in the Torah?
You have to realize that there are a number of cases when these measurements are of utmost importance to us, even today. First of all, there’s a question of corroboration. If we want to know the reliability of a document, so we try to find contradictions in the document. Now, when somebody wants to write a false document so he puts in as few details as possible so that it should be more difficult to catch him in a self-contradiction. Cunning liars always speak as little as possible. That’s why if you have to lie on the witness stand, you try to say as few words as possible – it’s good advice by the way; it might happen someday. What do you do if you’re being cross examined? The less information you volunteer, the better off you are because when you say more things it’s easier to trip you up. “Aha, you said this and this before! Now you’re contradicting yourself!” That’s an important point.
L’havdil elef havdolos, in the New Testament, when it tells about a certain miracle, details are omitted. It says things only in general: Oso Ha’Ish was standing on a mountain and he was transfigured and he looked like something that came from above and the people fell down and worshipped him. And that’s the whole story – just a very general picture.
But let’s have some more details! After all, such a big event – at least the way they describe it – there must have been a number of the Jews who didn’t approve, who didn’t agree with what is described there. What did they say? Let’s hear it! It’s a queer thing that in all these stories, the only witnesses were the believers. You mean to say that the majority Jews in Eretz Yisroel believed that? The majority didn’t believe at all! All the sages disbelieved and the people were with the sages.
It’s an interesting thing; in all the stories not one sage ever was present. Why didn’t he have Rabbon Gamliel present, or Dosa ben Hurkenus present, or any of the old sages. After all, such an important event. So let them disagree – but at least they should be there. No! In all the stories, everything is made as simple as possible so that it shouldn’t be complicated; there shouldn’t be any questions – that’s the way a liar tells a story.
The Torah on the other hand purposely tells details upon details and that’s one of the ways of validating the Torah; by means of cross-checking. It’s amazing how much information can be gained by checking one place against another. For instance, you want to know how precise the number of 600,000 Jews leaving Egypt is. 600,000 males – that’s a big number and apikorsim like Ben Gurion and others denied it. But in a close check you see that the donation of machatzis hashekel that they gave as a donation for the Mishkan could only come to such big sums if it came from 600,000 people. It’s been calculated – even gentiles calculated it (see Bechoros 5a). It was only possible from a huge multitude. So when you cross check you are able to verify the credibility of these reports.
Now, the measurements for the Mishkan and the keilim are not only given here; they are mentioned more than once. They’re related once in the command to do it and they are related later when it relates how it was done, how it was fulfilled. Again and again, a number of times. And therefore this gives us an excellent opportunity for cross checking. But that’s just one of the reasons for writing these things in the Torah.
When the Torah tells us the genealogical tables of the nations – the Torah tells us who begot whom and how the nations fanned out from one individual to a number of families – that gives credibility to the Torah because you see here a logical sequence how the families spread; how all the Semitic families came from Shem and all the Hamitic came from Cham and you understand the relationship between the families, and therefore it gives plausibility because in days of old, when people were closer to the sources, it was easier for them to check on these things. So one of the reasons is to help verify the truthfulness of the Torah.
There are other reasons by the way because Torah is not merely what we think it is. Torah is also a spiritual entity and Hakodosh Boruch Hu planned that these words together all spell out His names in various combinations. That’s an important lesson. In one place (Sukkah 45a) Rashi tells us that in a certain verse there are 72 letters – it’s three verses and the 72 letters make up one of the of the names of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. The Torah is צירופי שמות – the names of Hakodosh Boruch Hu in many different combinations. And so when the baal korei gets up and he reads the words, he is creating a certain entity that enters into existence. Now, that’s already a mysterious concept but it’s just as true as any other concept. And just by means of reading the Torah a certain spiritual achievement is achieved.
The Derech Hashem teaches us that when you listen to the baal korei so the words of the Torah are lifted off the sefer torah by the mouth of the baal korei and they enter your ears and your mind and your soul. That’s why it’s important to listen because it has an effect. So whether it’s for some purposeful, some utilitarian purpose, or whether it’s for some spiritual purpose, every letter of the Torah is put there intentionally.
TAPE # 259 (April 1979)