In this week's parshah, the Torah tells us of the "wayward and rebellious son" who does not heed the instruction of his parents. Our sages tell us that the detailed requirements for this status are so intricate as to render its attainment virtually impossible. Indeed, according to one opinion mentioned in the Talmud, there never was and never will be a "wayward and rebellious son."

Why, they asked, did the Torah speak of such completely hypothetical laws? So that it can be made great and glorious, they answered.

The essence of the question remains unanswered. How does this glorify the Torah and make it great?

Two Dimensions

Torah has two dimensions, a body and a soul. The body of the Torah is its vast corpus of information, from its legal structure and ethical instruction to its historical value and mystical significance. The soul of the Torah is the access it offers to its author, G‑d.

Both the internal and external dimensions of Torah are valid. However, when engaging the body it is possible to forget the soul. It is easy to view Torah as a remarkable body of law, ethics and history and forget that it is the living word of G‑d.

It is possible to absorb all its information and none of its sanctity, to be enriched by the book and be left untouched by its author. In other words, it is possible for the Torah to lose its inner greatness and glory in the eye of its beholder.

The Torah therefore engages in a discussion of no practical relevance. When the scholar becomes aware that there is no practical value to the study of this portion, he is left with only one reason to study it: his awareness that Torah is a medium through which we, its students, connect with its author.

This portion thus ensures the Torah's greatness and glory in the eye of its beholder.