In a Torah exposition written by one of our Sages, every point in the text is unified with every other. For example, we don't insist that someone starts to attend a class from the scheduled beginning. Generally, people are also encouraged to enter the class anytime according to what is best for them even if it is after several study sessions. If as students we didn't start studying a text at its beginning, we work through the text from where we can start until the end, resume at the beginning, and study the text until we reach our personal starting point. To the extent that a text's content assumes previous information, we are now prepared to work through until the end with a more complete understanding. Nevertheless, we have already successfully examined the text's end even before its beginning. We disregard the handicap of missing earlier information since we don't regard a Torah text as really having a beginning and an end.
practical terms, Maimonides wrote his Code on sheets of paper
(or parchment). Each
Even the Torah scroll has a beginning – the first letters and words of the Book of Genesis. We stitch each succeeding page of parchment adjacent to the previous page, and so on. In practice, Torah scribes are allowed to write later pages before earlier ones. Two scribes can divide the assignment, if only to speed up the completion of the new Torah Scroll. Even so, both scribes are always writing – really copying – the text of Scripture from a previously written Torah Scroll. Eventually, all the pages are stitched together in their order to form a unified Torah Scroll.
You can think in terms of a roll of microfilm as a scroll like the Torah Scroll. The microfilm reader lets a user scan through pages instead of having to turn pages one by one. Using microfilm, we have a sense of how a paged document can be experienced as a scroll.
If we were to unroll the entire Torah Scroll into a circle (a large circle indeed), we could bring the last words of Deuteronomy next to the first words of Genesis.
— based in part on an idea taught in the Book of Formation - Sefer Yetzirah, Chapter I, Mishnah 5 (part 2)
The laws gathered in Chapters 11 and 12 of The Book of Judges are sometimes called "The Laws of the Messiah."
The contents starting from Chapter 8, Ruling 10 and onward, are a transition into "The Laws of the Messiah." The previous laws concern the early wars for entering the Land of Israel (Land of Canaan) and for establishing a form of government headed by a Jewish king. Mostly these rulings do not apply to King Messiah.
"The Laws of Kings" are complete, as is the entire composition [the Mishneh Torah / Code] –
Blessed is He Who spoke and the Universe came into being, both its details as well as its entirety.
Finished and complete, may
G-d,Creator of the Universe, be praised.
* Generally, printers have missed
printing this verse: “. . . In the name of the L-rd, G-d of the world.” However, Rabbi Bluming's
critical edition begins with both this verse from Genesis
and with the verse from Psalms. So does Moses Hyamson's
critical edition. This essay, relating the end of
Maimonides' Code to the beginning in one study, is
based on the premise that students of the text are unlikely to find
any edition that opens with the verse
Nevertheless, we notice that the Hebrew words for
We still need to know, though, whether Maimonides himself composed the postscript or whether a copyist or a printer added it. Only then can we connect this end with this beginning.
I've translated only the last ruling of this
last chapter, Law 5 (above), since
it closes with a verse from Isaiah that is a
Generally, the subjects of the last two chapters of Maimonides' Code are –
(According to Rabbi Shmuel Tanchum
Rubenstein, ed. Mishneh Torah
The conclusion of the Code can only be taken as an ending in the sense that Maimonides had reached the point where he had accomplished his intention. He had before him a unified composition ready for publication, entire and complete. As he writes (see the complete postscript above) –
"The Laws of Kings" are complete, as is the entire
composition . . .[This work is] finished and complete, may G-d,Creator of the Universe, be praised. ^
Maimonides opens this entire
composition – known by the Hebrew name Mishneh
A Torah composition like the Code
seems, to an ordinary student, to be linear like works of
Similarly, the conclusion of the Code can only be taken as an ending in the sense that Maimonides had reached the point where he had accomplished his intention. He had before him a unified composition ready for publication, entire and complete. Again, see what he writes in the postscript.
When Maimonides opens the composition of his Code with an epigraph from Psalms, "when I examine all Your commandments," one emphasis here is all Your commandments. He tells us that he will not be ashamed when he has studied the entire Torah – all the instructions for fulfilling all the commandments. In this composition, the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides gathered together everything that he had learned from the Torah. He now prepares to teach us what he knows about all the commandments. In the Introduction he writes:
This composition gathers together the entire Oral Torah, [and when a person learns the entire set of fourteen books in the Code] he or she knows the entire Oral Tradition – all the rulings and laws of the Torah, even those which we cannot fulfill now [because they depend on having the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, because they depend on all Jews living in the Land of Israel, and so on].
Specifically, Maimonides' Code concludes with laws about King Messiah, laws that relate to the future but not to now. However, the subjects of the last two chapters of Maimonides' Code do relate to the present in at least three points. As listed above, 1) "belief in the Messiah and the messianic era are embedded in Scripture;" 2) "to gloss over issues concerning the Messiah's arrival and his rule as king is to dismantle the structure and integrity of the Hebrew Scriptures;" and 3) "it is unwise to calculate a date when the Messiah will arrive."
In addition, since we expect the arrival of the
Messiah at any moment, how to identify the real Messiah is a
fourth issue that relates to contemporary life. Actually, this
ruling and the other three rulings have been ongoing,
Studying the laws of the Torah that relate to the future, though, is also part of the Torah even though we have no opportunity to follow and obey these laws. Studying the laws about King Messiah completes the content of the Code which is "gathering together the entire Oral Torah" in one composition – "when I examine all Your commandments." Then, Maimonides tells us, "I will not be ashamed." He is not ashamed since the Torah has been his teacher and he has been a diligent student.
Even beyond this, the last single law itself,
number 5, is intimately connected with
the idea of "all Your commandments." During the Messianic Era,
Maimonides writes in this last law – Halachah
The Torah is
Our responsibility to complete our
contribution to the construction of Creation is by studying the
blueprint, which calls for the fulfillment of all of
Shalom, the end of war, is also the
collective end of personal struggles associated with the Torah.
On one hand, we resist temptations to violate the negative
commandments – activities that we are not supposed to do.
On the other hand, we also end this struggle by genuinely
immersing ourselves in the pleasure of engaging in
One purpose of the Torah is to end quarrels. In the Chapters of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot 1:12) Rabbi Hillel teaches us, "Be among the disciples of Aaron [the first High Priest]: loving peace, pursuing peace, loving your fellow [even the seemingly worthless ones], and bringing them near to the Torah." Maimonides translates this idea into a family message and then into a universal message –
Peace in the house and peace between a husband and a wife are [so] great. The reason that the entire Torah was given was to establish peace in the world, as it says, "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace." (Proverbs 3:17)
The Hebrew word shalom is related to another Hebrew word that means completeness – sh'leimut (shlay MOOT). Shalom as a greeting is a prayer and a personal blessing. Sh'leimut is the state of realizing shalom. The Torah is the means to this end. A prayer from the Holiday prayer book reads –
You are 'Shalom' and Your name is 'Shalom'. May it be your will that You bestow upon us . . . life and blessing to be preserved as peace – shalom.
Preservation of peace is the realization of
peace in our lives, the outcome of a prayer and a blessing. Note
that 'Shalom' is one of
Adapted by Nathaniel Segal from —
Likutei Sichot. Volume 27. "Vayikra" (Leviticus). pp. 259-260.
By His Holiness, Grand Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
The Lubavitcher Rebbe
Also from the Book of Formation - Sefer Yetzirah