TO LOVE THE TORAH 2

C hapter 2

E v e r y m o m e n t l e a r n in g T o r a h s t r e n g t h e n s a

J e w ‘ s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h H a s h e m a n d e n h a n c e s

HIS SOUL, AND THIS IS THE QUINTESSENCE OE THE

MITZVA OE LEARNING TORAH

1. The first thing one has to know before beginning to learn

Torah is that there is a fundamental difference between the

Torah and other branches of knowledge. When studying any

other subject the purpose it to gain erudition, and whatever you

stand to benefit from the extra wisdom. Torah is different. Not

only is the actual knowledge incomparably superior to any

secular form o f knowledge; unlike any other studies or science,

the learning itself has an uplifting and improving effect on the

person involved in it.

2. The supremacy that learning Torah has over other sciences is

something which Hashem put into the very fiber of the universe.

It has been there ever since He created the world, so that every

instance of learning Torah and any knowledge o f Torah,

automatically reinforces the bond between of the soul o f a jew

and His Creator. It also brings forth the ‫עליון‬ ‫אור‬ , the Light from

Above, i.e. spiritual advantages which strengthen a person and

increase his ability to improve himself spiritually.

It is possible that at the time of learning you might not

always feel the inspiration from Hashem. Nonetheless, whether

perceived or not, it is always present, even if physical limitations

temporarily prevent you from being aware of it. in time you will

undoubtedly come to feel that Divine inspiration, at least

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partially; for it is only natural that in this world a person is

unable to appreciate more that a fraction o f what his soul really

gains from learning Torah.

3. it goes without saying that a man’s relationship with Hashem

and the brilliance o f the spiritual Light from Above can be

experienced on different levels. The intensity of the experience

will be determined by the quality of the learning. There are a

variety of factors that affect the way you learn and it is worth

knowing about them:

1. the duration of the learning

2. learning without interruption

3. concentration

4. learning with pleasure and yearning

5. understanding what you learn

6. repetition o f what you learn until you remember it for

some time.

To be sure, every time a person learns, without any

exception, he reaps spiritual benefits and the unification of his

soul with Hashem is intensified. There is no such thing as non-

productive learning. The above-mentioned points, separately

and in combination, all enhance the learning and add to the

extent of the spiritual gain.

4. The more you get used to learning, the more these feelings

are intensified and you develop a powerful inclination to learn

more and more. There may be setbacks, but the general

tendency is that the desire to learn grows progressively stronger.

Harav Aharon Kotler said that when a person has to close his

Gemara, for instance late at night when he goes to sleep, he

should not feel that he is leaving the Gemara, but that he is

being torn away from it. Which means that a Jew should feel

that the truth of the Torah’s light and the essence of his soul are

so closely intertwined that they have become a single entity.

5. in the second blessing o f the evening prayers it says: ‫הם‬ ‫כי‬

‫ולילה‬ ‫יומם‬ ‫נהגה‬ ‫ובהם‬ ‫ימנו‬ ‫ואורך‬ ‫חיינו‬ – “for they are our life and the

length of our days and we will speak about them day and night.”

Our Sages explain that the second half o f the verse is a natural

consequence of the first; as much as a person feels that the

Torah is his very life – that he lives only for Torah – to that extent

will the end of the verse – ‫נהגה‬ ‫ובהם‬ – be true, and the quality of

his learning will improve.

6. You should know that there is no pleasure in the world that

can even compare with the wonderful happiness that a person

feels when Hashem’s spiritual bounty. His ‫עליון‬ ‫אור‬ , comes down

to him. A human being is made up of a body and a soul, the

physical and the metaphysical, and it can be taken for granted

that the essence o f the soul is the dominant force. Worldly

pleasures and enjoyments are all physical ones; Hashem’s

exalted light shining on to a person’s soul is, by definition, an

entirely spiritual experience, and in comparison to it all physical

pleasures are insignificant.

7. in Tehilim (chapter 42) David Hamelech says: ‫על‬ ‫תערג‬ ‫כאיל‬

‫לאלקים‬ ‫נפשי‬ ‫צמאה‬ .‫אלקים‬ ‫אליך‬ ‫תערג‬ ‫נפשי‬ ‫כן‬ ‫מים‬ ‫אפיקי‬ …. – “Like a

deer yearns for flowing waters, so my soul yearns for You

Hashem. My soul thirsts for Hashem, The Living G-d; when will 1

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come and see Hashem’s Presence?” A man’s soul experiences

thirst in the same way as his body does. His physical being

thirsts for water, and his soul thirst to be with Hashem. If

someone would offer you all the riches in the world, but make it

conditional on not drinking for a month, would you not refuse?

– for what is money worth if you are going to die o f thirst? The

thirst your soul feels for Hashem’s proximity and His spiritual

light is exactly the same. How can worldly enjoyments quench a

spiritual thirst? The only way in which yearning for spiritually

can be satisfied is by learning Torah and keeping its mitzvos.

8. However, in order to reap the full benefit of the brilliant light

that comes from Torah-learning, it is important for a person to

know about it and always be aware o f it. Learning Torah brings a

Jew’s soul closer to Hashem. It is a proven fact that the more a

person knows about the power Torah has to unite a his soul

with his Creator and the spiritual benefits of His exalted light,

the more he stands to gain from it. Even though those forces are

present whether he is aware o f them or not, knowing about

them has the effect of increasing their potency.

9. in his commentary on the Orach Chaim, there is a passage

written by the Bach which has disturbing implications. He says

that, “the reason why the Children of Israel were exiled from

their land was because they studied the Torah only to gain

knowledge, and they were not concerned with the spiritual

bounty and the closer relationship with Hashem that learning

Torah leads to. Thus there was something fundamental lacking

in the way they learnt.” We should learn from this how

important it is not to ignore the aspect of learning Torah

because it brings us closer to Hashem.

10. The above passage contains a very important message and it

is the responsibility o f teachers and educators to make every

effort to give it over to their pupils. The students must be made

aware of the concept that every moment o f learning Torah

consolidates a person’s relationship with Hashem and makes

him more worthy o f receiving His spiritual bounty. If the

teachers manage to ingrain it in the hearts o f their students, it

will act as a powerful incentive to help them relate positively to

learning Torah and the quality of their learning will improve

tremendously.

11. Simultaneously – at the same time as explaining how

learning Torah brings one closer to Hashem – it is important to

stress the significance o f a close relationship with Him. One has

to make every student realize how much a Jew’s soul – his own

soul – yearns for His exalted light and for spiritual growth.

It says in the Mesilath Yesharim (chapter 1) that whenever a

person sees anything that might help him improve his

relationship with Hashem, he should take advantage o f it and

pursue it with all his might. Conversely, from something that

might distance him from Hashem, he should flee as if he was

running away from fire. The Mesilath Yesharim also mentions

that a person has to know that the only good thing in the world

is being close to Hashem and any other things that people might

consider good are really worthless.

In the above chapter we have elaborated on the aspect of

what a man gains from learning Torah. In truth, the ultimate

level of perfection is to learn Torah for no other reason than to

please Hashem, to give Him ‫רוח‬ ‫ת‬ ‫ח‬ ‫נ‬ . Nevertheless learning for

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the reasons discussed in this chapter is a very great thing

indeed. Even someone who has reached the sublime level of

learning only to please Hashem should be aware of the concept

o f drawing closer to Hashem and His exalted light. The

difference is that he will be doing it for Hashem’s sake, not for is

own pleasure. In fact, the above reasons for learning can

themselves help one reach the lofty level of learning to please

Hashem. When one feels close to Hashem and basks in His

exalted light, that itself makes you want to please Hashem and

give Him ‫רוח‬ ‫ת‬ ‫ח‬ ‫נ‬ .