Rabbi Herschel Shachter
Rabbi Hershel Schachter

The Harp of Ten Strings

According to the Talmudic tradition[1], all the other nations of the world heard about the proclamation of the new religion on the occasion of ma'amad Har Sinai. They first heard about the first several dibros: I am you G-d etc., you may not worship any other gods, you may not swear falsely or even unnecessarily in the name of your G-d, observe Shabbos to strengthen the belief in creation, etc. Their initial reaction was, "there we go again, a religion like all other religions." Every religion preaches that it alone has the truth. But when Hashem continued to command about kibud av v'eim etc., they all realized that this is truly a unique religion, consisting of all three categories of mitzvos[2]: bein adam l'mokom (between man and G-D), bein adam l'chaveiro (between man and his fellow man), and even bein adam l'atzmo (between man and himself). The prohibition of lo tis'a've (desiring other people's belongings) is bein adam l'atzmo[3]. Man was created in G-d's image and the Jewish people were instructed to preserve that tzelem Elokim by working on their middos.

Our religion is all encompassing; it covers all human activities from the moment we wake up in the morning till the moment we go to sleep: how to bathe, how to get dressed, how to tie one's shoes, how to eat, etc. The aseres ha'dibros are the basis for all of our moral and ethical guidelines. The mishna in Pirkei Avos states that the natural world with all of its principles of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology is all a result of the asora ma'amoros proclaimed by Hashem at the time of creation. We believe that there is only one G-d. The same G-d who created the natural world also instructed us regarding all the moral, ethical, and religious principles. There can be no contradictions between science and the true religion, as both were instituted by the same one and only G-d. Yet, we seem to see a great discrepancy between these two worlds. We often see a tzadik v'rah lo or a rosha v'tov lo. If Hashem is truly in full control of everything, and He is good and kind, and cares about man, how can he allow the righteous to suffer and the wicked to prosper? This issue disturbed Moshe Rabbeinu and all the prophets[4] and philosophers of all ages.

On Shabbos we recite Psalm 92. The Psalmist refers to this chapter as a "shir" as opposed to a shira. According to the midrash[5], all the nine major songs of the past were referred to in Tanach as shira and only the song of the future - l'osid l'vo - is called a shir. Mizmor shir l'asid lo'vo l'yom shekulo Shabbos u'menucha l'chayei o'lomim. The day will yet come that we will play music on a harp consisting of ten strings (alei osor) implying that we will then understand how the ten basic principles of the natural world (the asora ma'amoros shebohem nivra ha'olam) not only do not contradict the ten basic principles of the moral, ethical, and religious world, but will rather blend in harmoniously together[6].

Amalek represents this "problem of evil" in the world, this apparent contradiction. Amalek is left over from the original tohu vo'vohu. The briya was never completed. We were instructed to wipe out Amalek, to remove this last bit of to'hu vo'vohu and to complete the creation. As long as Amalek is still around, "Hashem's throne is not complete"[7]. In other words, it appears as if He is unable to control the natural world. In the "end of days" Amalek will be subdued and we will all see how the ten basic principles of nature blend in harmoniously with the ten basic principles of the moral, ethical systems of thought.


[1] Kiddushin31A

[2] See Aderes Eliyahu of the Gra to Sefer Yeshaya (1-2)

[3] Regarding the prohibition of lo tachmod, there is a dispute between the Rambam and the Ra'avad. According to the Rambam, both lo tachmod and lo tis'aveh are prohibitions bein adam l'atzmo. But according to the Ra'avad, lo tachmod really belongs to the category of bein adam l'chaveiro because it is only violated if one takes away from the other person.

[4] Gemorah Berochos 7 A and B

[5] Tosfos Pesachim 116B

[6] Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi Zevin

[7] Rashi on his commentary the end of parshas Beshalach, quoting from the Michilta.

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