In our previous article, we began exploring the nature of lashon ha’ra and the unique nature of speech in general. Speech holds the power to create relationships, lift people up, expand people’s minds, and enable genuine communication and connection.

I will never forget what happened that night. After going to hundreds of lectures, and giving quite a few myself, I thought I’d seen it all. But I had never seen anything quite like this. To give you a little background, there are protocols for the introductory process of a speech. At major events, like the one taking place that night, there are always two microphones. The first is for the person who gets up to introduce the main speaker. After finishing his introduction, he walks off with his microphone, and the second microphone is waiting on stage for the main speaker.

In our previous article, we began exploring the deeper nature of Nadav and Avihu’s sin. While we began by sharing some of the more practical approaches, Rashi quotes a midrash that fundamentally shifts our perception of Nadav and Avihu. The midrash explains that Moshe already knew that two of the holiest people in klal Yisrael would die on this very day, the day of the Chanukas HaMishkan. Moshe originally thought that these two people would be Aharon and himself, but it turned out to be Nadav and Avihu instead (Vayikra 10:3). This midrash makes it clear that Nadav and Avihu were on a tremendously lofty level. If so, how could they have done something so egregiously wrong – something that resulted in such a harsh heavenly punishment?

As we begin the new Torah cycle, let’s take a moment to contemplate the deeper purpose of Torah. Some may refer to the Torah as a history book; others may think of it as a book of law or a source of Jewish wisdom. While these are all true, they only scratch the surface of the Torah’s true nature. Torah is not simply a guide to living a life of truth within this world; it is the blueprint and DNA of the world itself. Our physical world is a projection and emanation of the deep spiritual reality described in the Torah. This is the meaning behind the famous midrash, “Istakel b’Oraisa u’bara alma – [Hashem] looked into the Torah and used it to create the world” (B’reishis Rabbah 1:1). Torah is the spiritual root of existence; the physical world is its expression.

A boy is born locked inside of a small house with no windows and no way out. He is provided with food and clothing, as well as books and some toys for entertainment, but that is all. He never once sees the outside world, never once sees anything beyond his extremely limited surroundings. Raised in such a way, he comes to believe that this house is all that exists. One day, someone comes along and breaks down the door to the house, letting him out into the world for the first time. Naturally, he is in absolute awe of what lies around him. The grandeur, the sheer magnitude, and the marvel of the surrounding world astounds him and leaves him wondering how he ever considered his previous existence to be a full life.