Questions and Suggested Answers
Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz
1. Why did the Torah employ two negative phrases "Not in Heaven", "Not beyond the sea" instead of resting content with one? Explain the reason for the order in which they occur.
If we accept the interpretation of R' Avdimi Bar Hama in the Talmud quoted by Rashi that these negative phrases imply that we should have an insatiable longing for Torah, then these two places cover the outer limits of our possible search for Torah knowledge. "It is not in Heaven" extends beyond our possible reach from the earth, and ""it is not beyond the sea" covers the farthest possible reach on earth. The expression relating to heaven relates to an intense, unrealized longing and love for Torah while the second expression "beyond the sea" is a longing and love that could be realized. Thus in reference to "beyond the sea" the Talmud derives the Mitzvah of traveling great distances in order to study with one's teacher.
Both expressions cover the locus of the universe and planet Earth in our pursuit of Torah learning.
Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem