“What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” Deuteronomy 12:32
The following is a description of my experience as an amateur writer, and somewhat a confession. First, I try to take ideas that are eating at my senses, attempt to write them down in the best way possible and then read it twenty times. Eventually, I get sick of reading my own words, so I share the writ with my friends and family. Some of the readers appreciate it and others are outraged (all have grammatical corrections to offer). Whatever, it keeps me busy for a few days.
I wrote an article recently about repentance. I felt that I accomplished to present a new perspective on this very important subject, so I shared it with a friend. After three minutes of quiet reading, he returned the paper and mumbled, “There’s no news here!” I was heartbroken, my whole excitement just collapsed on its face, it was a terrible feeling. I took the paper back unfolded it and reread it five times. To my dismay, I came to the same conclusion he did; it was all basic common knowledge and obvious points, no novelty whatsoever.
The next day I went to one of my mentors and expressed my frustration. Here I thought I was sharing novel ideas, it turns out I am just recording the alphabet all over again… He knew I did not come for advice rather for consolation, he smirked, and satirically said, “The Christian bible is called the New Testament!”
I then realized that our job is not, to come up with new ideas and original theories. Moreover, it would be a betrayal to our audience and ourselves. Instead of using the quill and ink to transmit the truth, we sometimes misuse our platform by blurring the lines between timeless wisdom and our own creativity. Unlike the ideas we fabricate, that are naturally subject to our times and location, God’s Wisdom is eternal, it never expires and is always relevant. The Word transcends modernity and is independent of passing trends; its message is identical on our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds as it was when etched on granite and transcribed on yellow parchment.
In fact, this concept is not news either. The Talmud, concerning Yonathon ben Uziel’s translation of the Prophets and Writings, asks,
“Is it not written, “These are the commandments”; from which we infer that no prophet has the power to make new ones from that time [so how could Yonothan introduce his personal commentary to the Bible]? Rather, it was forgotten and he reestablished them” Megilla 3a.
Furthermore, Ramchal, in his preface to Path of the Just writes,
“The writer says: I have written this work not to teach men what they do not know, but to remind them of what they already know and is very evident to them. For you will find in most of my words only things which most people know, and concerning which they entertain no doubts.”
While we can explore the depths and discover the secrets of the Torah, their apparent novelty is not a product of our brilliance rather of our previous ignorance. Perhaps it is like a dark room full of jewels and precious objects; until someone will turn on the light, the treasure will remain hidden. Moreover, when someone does turn that light on, he should know that the treasure was here before him and he contributed nothing to their worth. Nevertheless, he does deserve credit for making the treasure accessible to others after him. The sad thing is that the person entering the lightened room will not appreciate the light-kindler, for he was never in the dark…