You Shall Meditate on The Law Day and Night
It is written, “And her days were full to bear, and behold, there were twins in her womb” (Genesis 25:24). The word ./&; (twins) is written without the letter aleph, and Rashi explains in the name of the Sages that “this omission indicates that one of the twins was upright and the other was ungodly” (Bereshith Rabba 25:24). This does not preclude the possibility of humbly adding another interpretation.
Concerning Moses, it is written, “Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18). Why does the Torah state “forty nights,” given that a day includes nighttime, as it is written, “and there was evening, and there was morning, one day” (Genesis 1:5)? This latter passage indicates that daytime is the continuation of nighttime. In that which concerns the Temple, nighttime is the continuation of daytime, together forming one complete day (Chullin 83a). On the mountain, Moses was in the presence of G-d, as during the Divine service. Yet one way or another, if it is already stated “forty days,” what is the need to add “forty nights”?
To explain this, it must be noted that it is natural to be tired at the end of the day; it is normal to be exhausted at night because of the activities of the day. It is natural to regain one’s strength and to become energized by a refreshing sleep. As the Sages say, “night was created for the sake of sleep” (Eruvin 65a). However this does not apply to Moses our teacher. On the contrary, for him the night was in everything just like the day, in the sense of the passage, “Night shines like the day; darkness and light are the same” (Psalms 139:12). For Moses, this was to the point that he felt no fatigue or nighttime weariness. This was because of his great desire to learn the Law from G-d’s very mouth.
The Sages add that when he was on the mountain for forty days, during the daytime he studied Torah in the presence of G-d, and during the nighttime he reviewed what he had learned (Shemot Rabba 47:8). He did this in order to instruct the Children of Israel that they should reserve a time to contemplate Torah as much during the day as at night. If the Torah had not written “forty nights,” we could have thought that Moses, given his greatness and abilities, had in fact studied Torah most of the night, as it is written, “You shall contemplate it day and night” (Joshua 1:8), and that, despite himself, he perhaps rested a little and maybe even slept! This is why the Torah explicitly states, “forty days and forty nights.” It is in order to underline the fact that the nights were similar to the days, and that in the same way in which he diligently studied Torah with G-d during the day, he also studied it during the night, without feeling weary or tired.
Let us add to this that the will and desire to study at night, with mind sharp and eyes wide open, ensues from study during the day. The ability to fight against the natural hold of sleep and to study during the night is proportional to one’s efforts and steadfastness in Torah study during the day, and it in this way that man achieves that which the Sages promised him: “The one who studies Torah at night is crowned with a halo of Divine kindness the next day” (Hagigah 12b). Moreover, the one who contemplates Torah at night (which is to say, in this world – which resembles the night) is encircled with a halo of Divine kindness in the world to come, in the world that is perfect and eternal (ibid.).
It seems to me that this can be applied to the verse that states, “Happy are those who dwell in Your House; they will yet praise You forever” (Psalms 84:5). What is the sense of “they will yet praise You forever”? The answer is that one who contemplates Torah with diligence during the day has an enhanced desire to pursue his study at night, and this allows him to overcome his natural fatigue. In such a case, G-d gives him the strength to continue doing so. Studying Torah regularly every day, at fixed times, allows a person to overcome fatigue and to continue with renewed strength, as did Moses who studied Torah during forty days and forty nights in the presence of G-d.
To say that “Torah weakens a man’s strength” (Sanhedrin 26a) is to say that study weakens the tendencies of his evil inclination and diminishes his natural desires. Yet Torah strengthens a man’s spiritual impulses, which allows him to once again tap the energy of his youth and to devote himself to study with renewed strength.
We know that such diligence, over and above that which stems from natural strength, is possible in the study of Torah, and we encounter it not far from us, with the Sages of our time. The Gaon Rabbi Haim of Brisk was visited one morning by a woman who wanted his advice. Having found him deep in his studies, she sat down and waited … until the next morning – one entire day! She waited until the Gaon freed himself from his study to listen to her request. We have also heard stories of the extraordinary devotion of the Vilna Gaon, who slept but two hours a night! Only two hours!
This clearly demonstrates that diligence in Torah study on the one hand, and the individual help that G-d provides for those who make the effort to do so, on the other hand, engender one another. G-d’s help multiplies man’s strength, allowing him to continue to the next day, day after day.
The Zohar speaks of amazing things concerning those who push themselves to study Torah at night, describing how G-d connects Himself to them. We shall cite some of these statements: “The one who puts the effort into understanding Torah attaches himself to the Tree of Life” (Zohar Korach 176a); “Know the Name of G-d and free yourself from the prison” (ibid. III:176a); “The one who occupies himself with Torah in this world will find many gates open for him in the world to come” (ibid. III:213a); “The one who studies Torah during the day and night acquires two worlds: The higher world and the lower world” (ibid. I:189b); “He perceives the unity of G-d” (ibid. III:9b); “It is as if he is on Mount Sinai and receives the Torah himself” (ibid. III:179b); “He will die from G-d’s kiss” (ibid. I:168a). All this is to say that the one who overcomes his fatigue in order to study Torah brings joy to G-d, to the point that it is stated that G-d kisses him and says, “See what a being I have made in My world!” For such a man, “commensurate with the effort is the reward” (Perkei Avoth 5:21).
In opposition to Moses, who studied Torah forty days and forty nights on the mountain, we find in the Torah a character that is completely different. Even though it is not the subject here, the comparison between the two will allow us to explain and understand the subject that we have been dealing with up to now. The person we are referring to is Ephron the Hittite, the man who sold the cave of Machpelah to Abraham.
At first Ephron told Abraham, “You are a prince of G-d in our midst” (Genesis 23:6) and furthermore, “Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham … before all entering the gate of his city, saying, ‘No my lord, hear me. I give the field to you, and the cave which is in it I give to you’ ” (vv.10-11). Apparently he acted with the formal respect due a representative of G-d, to whom he gave everything as a gift, free of charge. Yet when the time came to fulfill his promise, he revealed what his true intentions were: “A land worth 400 shekels of silver, what is it between you and me?” (v.15).
This shows us that Ephron, a cheat of Esau’s caliber, was lying openly. Just as Esau deceived people, Ephron passed himself off in public as upright and generous, yet this was in appearance only, as the end of the story proves. Ephron was one of those hypocrites “who speak much but do nothing of what they say” (Bava Metzia 87a), for their words are nothing but lies.
The world was destroyed by the flood as punishment for the crimes committed by men against one another. After the flood, G-d entered into a covenant with Noah, promising all the creatures on earth that there would never again be another flood. He designated the rainbow as a sign of that promise, as it is written, “I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13). If in the future G-d wanted to destroy the world again, “the bow will be seen in the cloud, I will remember My covenant between Me and you … and the water shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (vv.14-15). There will never be another flood.
Ephron, through his deception and baseness, could have provoked another flood if it had not been for the sign of the covenant – the rainbow in the cloud – preventing it. This is indicated in his name, 0&953, which (without the &) would have a numerical value of 400. This number, added to the 400 shekels of silver that he extorted from Abraham, comes to 800, the numerical value of the word ;:8, the rainbow. The rainbow must have appeared in the sky when Ephron deceived Abraham in the eyes of all the people of the city.
What is the meaning of the word ./&; (twins), written without the !? Rebecca went to the Academy of Shem and Eber (Bereshith Rabba 63:6) in order to ask them about her future and the meaning of the jostling in her womb. They told her that even though she was carrying twins – which usually means that the children will resemble one another – her children were completely different than each other: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your insides” (Genesis 25:23). This one will journey on his path in the steps of Moses, who studies Torah day and night, and that one will follow the path of Ephron the Hittite, who deceives and pulls the wool over people’s eyes.
In decomposing the word ./&; (twins), we get &; and ./. &; has the same numerical value as the name Ephron, which recalls Esau the liar. ./ doubled has the same numerical value as the name Jacob, a man similar to Moses, who studied Torah for forty days and forty nights without stop.