Letter of the Law

Most of us will agree that the commandments of the Torah are divine and righteous. It is only reasonable that we should make all efforts to observe them in the most literal and meticulous manner possible.

But sometimes we neglect the literal observance of a commandment because we feel that we understand the reason behind it. We may think that although the Torah’s words are divine it is ultimately their purpose that it is binding.

However, this could not be less true!

The Sages of the Land of Israel  (Sanhed 2:6 13a) teach us that Solomon neglected various commandments because he felt that the meaning and not the actual words of the Torah that have force. For example, he allowed himself to have many foreign wives because he felt that the prohibition was never intended for someone of his composition.

However, in doing so he was not only abrogating the individual laws which he neglected but effectively the Torah in its entirety.

The lesson that the Sages of the Land of Israel teaches us here is that it is God’s commandments as formulated in the Torah that have ultimate force.

The words of the Torah are absolute and literally binding. Even if we think we understand their purpose we must never deviate from their literal observance.