Rav Kook Torah

VeZot HaBrachah: A Torah of Fire

“God came from Sinai... He brought them a Law of fire from His right hand.” (Deut. 33:2)

Why is the Torah called Eish-Dat, a ‘Law of fire’? And what does it mean that the Torah came from God’s ‘right hand’?

God’s ‘Right Hand'

The right hand is ordinarily the stronger arm. The metaphor of God using His ‘right hand’ to transmit the Torah is meant to indicate that the true power and foundation of the universe lies, not in the physical world, but in its spiritual side. The relative importance of the world’s spiritual reality may appear counterintuitive, but may be understood better when one considers, by way of analogy, the relative strength of human intellect and spirit over brute physical force. The Torah is rooted in the more powerful realm of the spiritual — God’s ‘right hand.’

The Clarity of the Moses’ Prophecy

Furthermore, these poetic metaphors of aish-dat and God’s ‘right hand’ convey the unique clarity of Moses’ prophecy. Moses’ prophetic visions were more precise and purer than those of any other prophet. The Sages wrote that Moses saw through an aspaklaria me'ierah, a ‘clear lens.’ What does this mean?

Prophecy is ordinarily attained through a combination of two faculties: the intellect and imagination. Prophets need images and parables in order to grasp and then transmit their prophetic messages.

Moses’ prophecy, on the other hand, was based solely on intellect. His prophecy was perceived through a ‘clear lens,’ without the murky vision of the imagination (Guide to the Perplexed, II:36). For this reason the Torah of Moses is called Eish-Dat — a ‘Law of fire.’ His prophecy came from pure intellect, like a blazing fire that purges and removes all impurities.

When Ezekiel described his prophetic experience, he said, “God’s hand was upon me” (37:1). Unlike Moses, Ezekiel did not speak of the right hand. In fact, he specifically meant the left hand. Ezekiel utilized his powers of imagination - the weaker, less distinct left side — in order to grasp his prophetic vision.

The Torah of Moses, on the other hand, was based on the more powerful right side. It flowed solely from the strength and clarity of Moses’ cognitive powers. His unique Torah was thus a “Law of fire from his right hand.

(Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, pp. 347, 335)