Every Friday night we say in Eishet Chayil, “Gimalat’hu tov vilo ra—She bestows good and never bad all the days of her life” (Mishlei 31:12). In the simple pshat, this is referring to the female gender; however, allegorically, it is referring to Torah.
Rav Avraham Genechovsky zt”l, previous rosh yeshiva of Tschibien, asked on the redundancy of the verse: If the Torah is good, then by definition it’s not bad. He answered that some things in life have good and bad elements attached to them, such as a dish of food that may have some good elements and some lacking. However, the Torah is not only good but it has no element of bad to it; it’s perfection.
Rav Avraham’s drash inspired me to another drash on the verse (Numbers 19:2) “Zot chukat haTorah asher tziva Hashem lemor; daber el benei Yisrael v’yikchu eleicha para aduma t’mima asher ein ba mum asher lo ala aleha ol—This is the statute of the Torah that the Lord commanded, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.” This verse has many allusions and hints to the Torah, one striking one that is based on what Rav Avraham said.
Certain words in this pasuk point to the fact that we are dealing with Torah. Firstly, the wording of the verse is saying: This is the “chok of the Torah.” Torah here is a noun, not an adjective (as in “Zot Torat…this is the status of”). The simple meaning is that this chok represents the whole Torah. However, on a simple level—based on drash—we can certainly say the verse is saying that what will be mentioned in this verse is “the Torah,” and therefore keywords ensue.
The word “take” refers directly to Torah as it corresponds to the verse (Mishlei 4:2) “Ki lekach (a taking) tov natati lachem, Torati al ta’azovu—For I give you a good doctrine; forsake ye not my teaching.” The end of the verse, “forsake ye not my teachings,” is evidence that the beginning of the verse is discussing Torah.
The verse discussing the chok continues: “Take a complete (tamim) red heifer.” The word complete, “tamim,” also references Torah, as we know the verse says (Tehillim 19:8), “Torat Hashem temimah—The Torah of the law of the Lord is perfect.”
Now, Rav Avraham’s chiddush illuminates the middle of the pasuk, as it says, “Bring this red heifer which must be complete, with no blemish” (tamim asher ein ba mum). The question ensues: if it must be complete then obviously it must have no blemish, similar to the original redundancy, “She bestows good and never bad all the days of her life” (Mishlei 31:12). The message is the same in both cases—that the Torah is not only complete but it has no blemish.
The verse ends by saying that no yoke (ol) may be upon it. This is a clear reference to Torah (connoting the idea of ol malchut shamayim), but a specific kind of Torah, a perfect Torah that was not worked yet, that has no ol on it, that exists in its purest form. (Should the verse be discussing an animal that had an ol on it, this would already be referring to human Torah that was worked through, but we are discussing with no ol. It’s our responsibility to be mekabel ol malchut shamayim twice a day and consecrate perfection in a manner that can be applicable to our lives, but this verse gives insight into the nature of Torah and its perfection.)
By Steven Genack
Steven Genack is an attorney and the former editor-in-chief of the Five Towns Far Rockaway News. He works in the kashrut division at the Orthodox Union and resides today in Passaic.