Contact Us
The Arizal explains secrets about the transmission of the commandments.

1:1 The Force of Transmission

1:1 The Force of Transmission

1:1 The Force of Transmission
The Arizal explains secrets about the transmission of the commandments.

In relation to the passage of the Mishnah: "Moses received the Torah from Sinai [and transmitted it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly]", it was pointed out that with regard to Moses, the expression "received" is used, whereas with regard Joshua, the expression "transmitted to" is used.

It would seem that it would have been more consistent either to speak of both of them as having "received" or as having been "transmitted to." Furthermore, the next two stages - the elders and the prophets - are not spoken of as having received or having been transmitted to. Finally, the prophets are said to have "transmitted" it to the Men of the Great Assembly. Why not follow the precedent and simply say, "and the prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly?"

..."transmitted to" implies being acted upon forcefully.

It was answered that "transmitted to" implies being acted upon forcefully. As it is written, "and [the conscripts] were handed over from amongst the thousands of Israel" in connection with [the conscription for] the war against Midian.

The word for "were handed over" (yimasru) is the same verb used in the Mishnah quoted for "transmitted" (masrah, masru).

The Jews had to be conscripted by force [to fight the war against Midian] since they knew that Moses would die thereafter. As it is written, "Avenge the vengeance [of the Israelites against Midian] and then be gathered [unto your people]."

...Moses had to transmit it to Joshua again forcefully...

Thus, the verb in question denotes involuntary transmission.

Therefore, inasmuch as our holy Torah "is longer than the earth [and wider than the sea]", Moses had to transmit it to Joshua again forcefully, for Joshua was unable to receive it all on his own. Only Moses had the power to receive it easily. But Joshua received it only on Moses’ power, beyond his ability.

As for "and Joshua to the elders": Since he was transmitting it to many people, his own power was not required, for amongst many people, one will remember most of what he learned, another most of what he learned [and thus they will all, together, cover the subject]. It is therefore not as difficult as it is with an individual who has to remember the whole Torah by himself.

The same pertains for "and the elders to the prophets," a transmission from the many to the many.

But as the generations wore on, human intellect diminished, until even transmission from the many to the many required power. It is therefore stated that "the prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly."

Thus, it never happened that one individual [was responsible for] knowing the whole Torah other than in the cases of Moses and Joshua.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah parashat Ekev; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.

Rabbi Yitzchak Luria […Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.); Yahrtzeit (anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Elohi Rabbi Yitzchak, the
G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Elohi [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood, said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, writer, editor and anthologist living in Jerusalem. He is a co-founder of Ascent Institute of Safed and one of the first contributing writers for He has recently produced two monumental works: "Apples from the Orchard: Arizal on the Weekly Torah" (available for purchase from KabbalaOnline here) and a Chumash translation with commentary based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Kehot).
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining
Related Topics

The larger, bold text is the direct translation of the classic text source.

The smaller, plain text is the explanation of the translator/editor.
Text with broken underline will provide a popup explanation when rolled over with a mouse.