Dear Reader,

This week, we welcome the new month of Shevat.

The beginning of the book of Deuteronomy records that Moses “began to expound the Torah.” Rashi explains that “expounding” means that Moses translated the entire Torah into 70 languages. He began to do so a little more than a month before he passed away, on the first day of Shevat.

Why was it necessary for Moses to translate the Torah into 70 languages when the Jewish people all understood and spoke the holy tongue of Hebrew, in which the Torah was written?

To translate means to make something that is inaccessible accessible. So, you and I might ask good ole’ Google to translate a word, phrase or article for us from a foreign language so that we can understand the message it is conveying.

We might also “translate” thoughts or ideas by bringing them down to the level that another person could comprehend. A professor of physics might “translate” the laws of physics by bringing examples and teaching them in a way that his students can grasp these rules and ideas. Or a parent might “translate” a concept or word for her child by teaching its meaning, showing how it’s used in a sentence and how it can apply to his or her life.

Moses translated the entire Torah into the 70 languages of the world even though his direct audience would not understand these translations. He did so to teach a fundamental lesson before his death—that the teachings and lessons of the Torah were relevant to all people, at all times, in all situations.

He was showing, too, that the wisdom of the Torah is applicable and relevant in all areas of our world, and can serve as a source of light and illumination. By being the first one to translate the Torah into a secular tongue, Moses made it easier for the Jewish people of future generations to continue this process.

Moses taught that we can take a worldly language—something that is not inherently holy—and use it to communicate G‑d’s truth. Moreover, he taught us that we can, and must, do this in all aspects of our lives, even and especially the mundane ones. We can “translate” Torah’s ideals and principles to affect every arena in our dealing with the world—from eating to earning a living to interpersonal relationships—and thereby elevate them to holiness.

By doing so, we change the nature of our world and bring out the inherent purpose for which it was created: to make a home for G‑d in our lowly, mundane, physical world, infused with the light of Torah.

As we enter the new month of Shevat, can you share ways that you “translate” the Torah’s wisdom to apply it to your personal life and reality?

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW