Headquarters of the Oral Torah (from Parashat Vayera)

Excerpt from The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Genesis, Part I.

What’s the difference between Torah SheBichsav (Written Law) and Torah SheBa’al Peh (Oral Law)? Torah SheBichsav is that I know what God wants of me; Torah SheBa’al Peh is that I don’t know exactly what God wants of me, but I know He wants something so deep and so infinite.

What is learning all about? Anybody who ever tasted Gemara knows that good learning is that it’s so clear to me that it’s so much deeper than whatever it says in writing. When God says to Avraham Avinu, “Slaughter your only son” (Bereishis 22:2), Avraham Avinu mamesh didn’t know what God wants, but you know what he did realize? God wants something unbelievable from him. “I don’t know what He wants, but whatever I thought God wants of me, He wants so much more, so much more.”

Chevreh, let it be clear to us. Noach knew that God wants you to be good and holy, so if you are not good and holy then you are of. “Vayera elav Hashem,” when Avraham Avinu got a taste that God wants something deeper from him, deeper than all of this, it suddenly became clear to him that maybe he knows nothing about Sdom.

Sometimes you meet people who are not capable to take out ten cents for another person, but they are ready to die for another human being. I remember in the Six-Day War, soldiers who I knew from private life. In those few days of the Six-Day War, they reached the highest level of mesirus nefesh.

What do we know . . . what do we know.

We don’t know.

Listen to this, God says to Avraham, “I want you to sacrifice your son.” So the outside of Avraham knows that since God says so then you have got to do it, there are no two ways about it. What does the inside of Avraham think? Avraham Avinu knew in the inside of the inside that it is impossible that God really wants this of him. God doesn’t want human sacrifices, it just can’t be.

Imagine if somebody I love very much and who loves me very much tells me they want me to jump of the top of Rockefeller Center. So since I love them so much, I am ready to go up there and throw myself down, but you know what is going on in the inside of the inside of me? “Gevalt, Ribbono Shel Olam, it can’t be, it just mamesh can’t be. If they love me so much how can they tell me to do such a thing?”

Now listen to this, there is a certain kind of holiness where you do something holy and you get holier, and if God forbid, you do wrong, you get less holy. So there is a certain level I can reach by action, but then there is another kind of holiness where action doesn’t reach, ac­tion simply does not reach. The only thing which reaches is when God is testing me. You know what I’m doing when God is testing me? I am mamesh crying before God, “Please tell me what You really mean.”

Now listen to this.

Imagine I need a pair of tefillin and I am crying to God, “Please get me a pair of tefillin.” Okay, that’s a high cry. Does it compare to Avraham Avinu’s crying to God before the Akeida, “Please enlighten me. Master of The World, I need You to enlighten me right now.”

Now let’s go even deeper. At least Avraham Avinu heard from God directly that he should put Yitzchak on the altar, and when God speaks to you it means that there is a little light in your head. He knew the

motions, he knew what he had to do. He had to take Yitzchak and put him on the altar. That much was clear to him, the rest was not clear to him. Look at our father Yitzchak, he trusted Avraham Avinu, but he did not hear God’s voice saying that this is what is needed to be done. So his father tells him that he has to go through the same motions. He has to lie on the altar and let his father mamesh kill him. He knows that he does not know what to think and that he mamesh knows nothing in the world.

Friends, open your hearts a million miles deep. Can you imagine how much they were crying that God should enlighten them in the strongest way? mamesh, the greatest light Avraham and Yitzchak ever saw, and believe me friends, they saw a lot of light in their lives.

That day, gevalt, what they saw of God, how much they knew what it is to serve God.

Reb Mendele Vorker says the deepest Torah in the world.

Everybody knows that prophecy only reaches you when you are be’simcha (Shabbos 30b).

So when the angel came and said to Avraham Avinu, “Al tishlach yadcha el hana’ar” (Bereishis 22:12), don’t kill Yitzchak – imagine if Avraham Avinu would have not been be’simcha at that moment. You know, God forbid, what would have happened? He wouldn’t have heard, God forbid, that he wasn’t really supposed to slaughter his son. It would be the end of all of Israel.

Do you know how deep this is?

Sometimes at the saddest moment of our lives, if we would have been happy, we would have heard a voice from heaven telling us what to do.

Noach didn’t pray for his generation and he doesn’t know how to turn

on people to God. The one time we see that Avraham Avinu is talking to pagans, he is turning them on.

I want you to know something so deep. Inviting a guest is maybe Torah SheBichsav, since it says, “Ve’ahavta l’reyecha kamocha” (Vayikra 19:18). When someone is hungry you give them a piece of cake, but to run out and slaughter three oxen? This is Torah SheBa’al Peh.

It’s awesome.

I want you to know something deeper. Torah SheBichsav was given to the world; Torah SheBa’al Peh, this inside of the inside, was only given to us Yidden. So when did Avraham Avinu get Torah SheBa’al Peh? After the bris. Ahh, mamesh gevalt, did they have a feast.

What’s the Torah of Torah SheBa’al Peh? You do things on your own.

You know friends, if I want to know if a person is an idiot, I don’t ask him to chew over to me what he learned. He remembers what someone taught him, that’s not the question. The question is, can you say any­thing on your own?

All the Rebbes say the same thing. God is very happy when we learn what God said, but He’s like a father and a mother. They’re not happy if the children chew over what they said. Parents are happy when their children say something on their own, gevalt.

This is mamesh Avraham Avinu, bringing down this Torah of running for guests on his own.

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