In all printed chumashim there is a note that regarding the pasuk “kol holeich al Gachon” — “ everything that goes on its belly” (11:42) — the vav ("ו") in the word “gachon” (גחון) is the half-way point of the letters of the Torah. On the words “darosh darash Moshe — “Moshe diligently inquired” (10:16) there is a note that the half-way point of all the words in the Torah occurs between the words “darosh” and “darash.”. The pasuk, “Vayachgor oto becheishev ha’efod vayepod lo bo” — “And he girded him with the belt of the efod and adorned him with it” (8:7), is followed by a note that it is the half-way point of the Torah in pesukim.

What message do we learn from these three “mid-points”?

My grandfather, Harav Hagaon Tzvi Hakohen ע"ה Kaplan, said that it is implying three important lessons regarding limud haTorah — Torah study.

Firstly, all Jews must constantly study Torah. Our sages have emphasized many times that not only should one learn Torah, but one should toil in the study of Torah (see Vayikra 26:3, Rashi). It is common practice to gird oneself in order to lift a great weight. The pasuk “He girded him with the belt of the efod” indicates that studying Torah is a formidable task and should not be approached light-heartedly. To study Torah properly, one should gird himself, that is, prepare himself appropriately, namely with yirat Shamayim — fear of Heaven. Then, “vayepod lo bo” — Torah will adorn him and make him a beautiful Jew.

Secondly, the words “darosh darash” — “diligently inquired” — emphasize that to succeed in Torah, diligent and assiduous study is a prerequisite. One must immerse oneself completely in Torah and ignore all distractions.

To explain the meaning of “kol holeich al gachon” — “all that goes on its belly — Rashi writes: “This is a snake. The term gachon mean shechiyah — bending low, for it goes bent down, and falling on its stomach — belly.” Thus, “gachon” denotes “bending.”

In the word “gachon” — “belly” — the vav (ו) is enlarged. The letter vav has the numerical value of six and alludes to the six orders of the Mishnah on which the entire Talmud is based, and to the sixty tractates of Gemara (see Midrash Rabbah Shir Hashirim 6:1[8]), in mispar katan (“single numerals,” i.e. disregarding the zero).

The message conveyed through the third mid-point is as follows: If “vayachgor” — one has properly girded himself with yirat Shamayim to study Torah — and “darosh darash” — he studied diligently — and his perseverance has led to mastering the Mishnah and Gemara (an allusion of the larger vav in the word “gachon”) — he should exhibit the trait of “gachon” — “bending” — he should, nevertheless not become conceited and walk with his head in the air, but “bend” and humbly acknowledge that he has only reached a half-way mark and that there is much more to study and know.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, Hashem gave us a Torah Shebichtav — Written Torah — and a Torah Sheba’al Peh — Oral Torah — to explain and clarify it. The Torah begins with the word “Bereishit” — whose spelling begins with a beit (בראשית). Many have questioned why the Torah did not begin with an alef — the first letter of the Alef-Bet.

One simple answer is that a person should not be presumptuous that he knows the entire Torah, so he is told “You do not even know the alef, beginning of Torah.”

A similar message is implied by the Oral Torah. Every Gemara tractate starts on folio page beit — two — to indicate that the person should not be conceited and carried away with his knowledge because he doesn’t even know page one.

The main thing is to dedicate yourself to Torah study, and remember the words of our sages: “Lo alecha hamelacha ligmor” — “It is not incumbent on you to finish the work” — and for whatever you learn and as much as you know, “Ne’aman hu ba’al melachtecha sheyeshalem lach sechar pe’ulotecha” — “Your Employer (Hashem) is trustworthy to pay you the reward for your labor” (Avot 2:16), in abundant measure.