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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Ki Tavoh 50-4

When you come

Deuteronomy 27:1-10

And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime. You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the LORD your God is giving you, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey, ’just as the LORD God of your fathers promised you. Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime... And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law.”

Deut. 27:2-4, 8 NKJV

Why writing on lime?

The Eternal commands the sons of Israel twice to set up stones in the Promised Land and whitewash them with lime, then to write on them the words of the Torah clearly.

I won't deal here with the different commentaries on how and where those stones were erected. I just want to point out the Hebrew word translated as lime, sidשיד. Lime or plaster was used to cover the stones in order to be able to write on them easily and quickly. Writing on plaster is much easier than writing on stone. However, some questions arise: Why would the Eternal want them to write on a material that wouldn't resist time passing as much as stone – Wouldn't the letters of the Torah be erased in time? Why wouldn't the Eternal want them to write directly on the stone?

An answer could be that they wouldn't have enough time to write on the stone, but I don't think that's a valid enough reason. How wouldn't they have time to write such an important thing? It's obvious that the Eternal didn't want them to write on the stone, but that the people would learn to copy the text from copyist to copyist and keep the oral tradition of its interpretation.

It's interesting to note that the oral tradition teaches that they wrote not only in Hebrew but also in the 70 languages of all the original nations. This teaches us that the main current of Judaism is interested in the Torah going out to all nations, and it's not correct to forbid the sons of Noach to study the Torah. What must be done is to teach them the meaning of the commandments that are for them and for the sons of Israel so that they learn to fear the Eternal, understand the role of the chosen people, and appreciate their ministry before the Eternal.

If the Torah was translated and written on those large stones in the 70 languages, then the seven nations who lived in the land of Kenaan had the opportunity to know the reasons for their expulsion. Besides, all the other nations could have sent scribes to make a copy of the Torah and find out what the Eternal had said and done; and thus learn about the commandments for the sons of Israel and for the rest of the world.

Another important reason for which I think they had to write the Torah on stones is that the conquered land had to be subject to the words of the Torah. The Torah was written to be lived in the Land of the promise and by writing it on natural elements of the land, a proclamation was sent to heavens and earth: "Now the Torah of the Eternal is what rules this country."

Besides, little by little, the rain and the wind would take the words of the Torah so that they would be absorbed by the soil and spread by the wind to the four corners of the world. In this way, the lime would serve as an element to spread the words of the Torah around the world.

The word sid שיד, lime – has the same letters as shaddaiשדי  – one of the names of the Eternal which means All-sufficient or Almighty. So the lime would serve to proclaim the Sufficiency and Power of the Eternal upon the Land of Israel and the entire world through the words of the Torah that rule over the whole world.

Blessed be the Eternal for the Torah He has given to the whole world!


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