Parshat Hashavua: Drawing from the Wellspring of Infinite Life for All of Eternity

This guest Drash is by Rachamim Bitton of Jerusalem's Nahar Shalom Yeshiva located in the Nachlaot neighborhood.

tora-haazinu

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In this week’s Parsha, Moshe Rabbenu takes the heavens and the earth as witnesses to what will become of Am Yisrael throughout history. In this way, when we see that everything was already foreseen, we will know that the quality of our relationship with Hashem is the reason for any and all of our blessings or the opposite (bar minan).

At the end of these prophecies, Moshe instructs us what will bring success, blessings, pleasantness and pleasures in our lives.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם שִׂימוּ לְבַבְכֶם לְכָל הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מֵעִיד בָּכֶם הַיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר תְּצַוֻּם אֶת בְּנֵיכֶם לִשְׁמֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת:

And he said to them, “Set your hearts to all of the words which I bear witness for you this day, so that you may command your children to observe to do all the words of this Torah.

Rashi:
שימו לבבכם: צריך אדם שיהיו עיניו ולבו ואזניו מכוונים לדברי תורה, וכן הוא אומר (יחזקאל מ, ד) בן אדם ראה בעיניך ובאזניך שמע ושים לבך וגו’, הרי דברים קל וחומר, ומה תבנית הבית שהוא נראה לעינים ונמדד בקנה צריך אדם שיהיו עיניו ואזניו ולבו מכוונים להבין, דברי תורה שהן כהררין התלויין בשערה על אחת כמה וכמה:

Set your hearts: A person must direct his eyes, his heart, and his ears to the words of the Torah, for Scripture states (Ezek. 40: 4), “Son of man, see with your eyes, and listen with your ears, and set your heart [upon all that I show you]” [namely, the plan of the Holy Temple]. Now, here, we have an inference from major to minor: If in the case of the plan of the Holy Temple, which is visible to the eyes and which is measured with a measuring-rod, a person must direct his eyes, ears, and heart to understand, how much more so must he do so to understand the words of the Torah, which are likened to “mountains suspended by a hair” [i.e., numerous laws derived from a single word of the Torah]?!- [Sifrei 32:45]

כִּי לֹא דָבָר רֵק הוּא מִכֶּם כִּי הוּא חַיֵּיכֶם וּבַדָּבָר הַזֶּה תַּאֲרִיכוּ יָמִים עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ:

For it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life, and through this thing, you will lengthen your days upon the land to which you are crossing over the Jordan, to possess it.”

Rashi:

כי לא דבר רק הוא מכם: לא לחנם אתם יגעים בה, כי הרבה שכר תלוי בה, כי הוא חייכם. דבר אחר אין לך דבר ריקן בתורה שאם תדרשנו שאין בו מתן שכר, תדע לך שכן אמרו (בראשית לו, כב) ואחות לוטן תמנע, (שם לו, יב) ותמנע היתה פלגש וגו’ לפי שאמרה איני כדאי להיות לו לאשה הלואי ואהיה פילגשו, וכל כך למה, להודיע שבחו של אברהם שהיו שלטונים ומלכים מתאוים להדבק בזרעו:

For it is not an empty thing for you: You do not labor over it in vain, for a great reward is contingent upon it, for “it is your life” [that is, the reward is life itself]. Another explanation: There is not one empty [i.e., superfluous] word in the Torah which, if properly expounded upon, will not have a reward attached to it. You must know this, for [as an illustration:] our Rabbis teach, Scripture states, “And Lotan’s sister was Timna” . [What, one might ask, is the purpose of telling us this? Furthermore, an earlier verse states, ] “and Timna was a concubine [to Eliphaz the son of Esau]” . [Is it necessary for the Torah to state this at all? But our Rabbis explain, as follows:] Because Timna said, “If I am unworthy to become Eliphaz’s wife, I hope, at least, to become his concubine!” So why does Scripture enter into all these details [of her birth and marriage]? To teach us the greatness of Abraham, that rulers and kings yearned to cleave to his seed. [Lotan was a prince of Seir; thus the verse tells us that Timna was of noble ancestry; and yet, she preferred to be a mere concubine to Eliphaz, Abraham’s great grandson, rather than become a princess in her own nation.]- [Sifrei 32:46]

There’s a famous lesson from our Tanaic Rabbis in the Midrash rabbah on the words of this Pasuk:

(Bereishit Rabbah 1, 14):
“כי לא דבר רק הוא מכם” (דברים לב מז), ואם ריק הוא – מכם. למה? שאין אתם יודעים לדרוש, בשעה שאי אתם יגיעין בו. “כי הוא חייכם” – אימתי היא חייכם? בשעה שאתם יגיעים בו

“For it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life”

If it is empty, it is from you. Why? Because you do not know how to study if you do no devote yourself and toil in it. “Because it is your life” When is it your life? When you devote yourself completely to toil in its study.

These words of the Medrash are indicative of the purpose and proper intention for studying Torah, the way to study Torah, the Torah’s importance and power, and what type of blissful living we will merit through this way of studying torah.

The Medrash is teaching us that Torah is not just another subject of information that we must acquire. Torah is a spiritual experience. Torah is one of the greatest connections we can have with Hashem.

The Ramchal explains that when we study Torah, we are connecting to a tremendous revelation of Hashem, and that this revelation is then drawn to those who are studying the Torah. It is drawn into them and through them as they are enunciating the its holy words.

This light which is drawn to us through the proper study of Torah is the essence of life. Hashem is the essence of life.

What is life? What is the essence of the energy we call life?

Life is the opposite of death. Death is what happens when something becomes old, weak, and is not renewed anymore. It then just withers and dries out, becomes too tired, and weak because of its lack of life energy and so it dies away.

Life is about renewal. Renewal of life energy in each moment is the ideal and highest form of living. It is the life of vigor, happiness, joy, blossoming.

The source of this renewal is an eternal and infinite source of being. As much as the ability to be, to exist, is limited, then there is a lack in renewal. If there was no limits to the being then it would not just be right now a continual of the past, it would be constantly new. Constant novelty is a sign of infinite being.

If there is lack of being then the being must rely on its past, when it had the power to be, in order to draw its continued existence. When this past existence dries up and has no more ‘being’ left, then its present state would just die.

If there is infinite being and existence, every moment there is a revelation of new and more being. The truly infinite being is Hashem.

As much as we connect to Hashem’s infinite being is how much we will merit to be an endless expression of Hashem’s life and light, and eternally draw from that endless being.
This is the definition of ‘life’, חיים, according to the Torah.

According to the Kabbalah, חיים has the same numerical value of the names of Hashem represented by the Tefillin and the higher levels of consciousness which come from and bring to higher levels of inner wisdom.

Inner wisdom is wisdom and knowing that comes from a recognition of the deeper and more inner parts of our higher self. It is the knowing of Hashem, and by extension, the knowing of our Neshama.

The Torah, with its many different levels of knowledge and understanding, is this light. It is a mechanism to draw from the inner wisdom, light and life from the infinite One, blessed be He.

Even the Halachot of the Torah are only here to give us the vessels to accept within us the higher levels of understanding, and to be propelled into that connection.

All of this, however, is only possible as much as we study Torah with this intention and for this purpose. If we study Torah with an awareness that we aren’t just trying to accumulate information but that we are intending to connect ourselves here and now to a deep cognizance of the deeper and inner source of life, of Hashem.

When we learn with this intention, we open ourselves up to be completely present in the here and now and to recognize the novelty of life that is being drawn to us from Hashem through the Torah in this very moment.

If, however, we study Torah and think it to just be any other information that just happens to be given to us by Hashem, that just happens to be Jewish, that just happens to be called the tree of life and the source of our life, then would be blocked from the tremendous revelation available to us in the moment.

When we study Torah in the right way we are being true to ourselves. Torah is called Truth because only as much as we are true to who we really are right now, and when we study the Torah we intend to draw life and inspiration through its advice, answers, and solutions from Hashem to us, here and now, to our current experience, to help us in this very place, from here, to turn to Him, to connect to Him, to be healed and rectified by Him, that’s how much we will have a clear revelation of life energy be drawn to us to animate and give life to our current state.

If we think the Torah is empty and its meaning limited, we will be limited in the same degree from being to access the eternal life energy of Hashem contained within.

If we lack interest in Torah, if we find it boring and irrelevant, it is only a sign that we aren’t studying the Torah with the proper awareness.

This is the meaning of the Pasuk and the words of Rabbi Akiva in the Medrash Rabbah.

(Bereishit Rabbah 1, 14): “כי לא דבר רק הוא מכם” (דברים לב מז), ואם ריק הוא – מכם. למה? שאין אתם יודעים לדרוש, בשעה שאי אתם יגיעין בו. “כי הוא חייכם” – אימתי היא חייכם? בשעה שאתם יגיעים בו

“For it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life” If it is empty, it is from you. Why? Because you do not know how to study if you do no devote yourself and toil in it. “Because it is your life” When is it your life? When you devote yourself completely to toil in its study.

The word ריק as it’s spelled in the pasuk, without a yud in the middle, is the word קר, ‘cold’, spelled backwards. This is because when Torah is being studied in an empty way, with a lack of awareness about its true greatness, a lack of awareness of the novelty in this moment, the life being presently given to us through it, the learning is cold and lifeless. One of the signs of life is heat. Death is cold and lacking of the highest element, the element of fire. The element of fire is the physical representation of life. It is the proper combination of fire and water- שמים, which is made of אש ומים, with earth-the vessel, which is the charactheristics of life. These are the two witnesses at the beginning of the Parsha:

הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וַאֲדַבֵּרָה וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ אִמְרֵי פִי:

Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!

Studying Torah with an awareness of what we are doing, with the proper intention, and having the right purpose in our hearts, allows us to connect to its infinite life, its fire.

Hashems says (Yirmiyahu 23, 29)
הֲלוֹא כֹה דְבָרִי כָּאֵשׁ נְאֻם יְהֹוָה וּכְפַטִּישׁ יְפֹצֵץ סָלַע:

Is not My word so like fire? says the Lord, and like a hammer that shatters a rock?

The Chidushei HaRim explains that we have Sukkot right after Yom Kippur because only after we have properly and completely been purified, as we all have on Yom Kippur, and all the distractions and separations between us and Hashem have been removed, can we completely enter the Mikvah of the Sukkah, where we are completely immersed in Hashem’s light from every side, from every direction, completely surrounded and permeated by Hashem’s light.

This is also a lesson for us about Torah study. When we sit to learn Torah, the Arizal teches us that we must first take into account anything that we carry with us that is a distraction and a barrier between us and Hashem. This means that become mindful and scan ourselves on the inside and remove those distractions. This is called Teshuvah, returning to our pure state. We then completely immerse ourselves in the Torah with the intention that we are immersing ourselves in Hashem’s light, in the essence of life. and that in this moment, for where I am right now, there is a lesson and a message for me and how I can connect to real life.

May we merit completely connection ourselves to the light of the Sukkah, and completely immersing ourselves in the life of the Hashem contained in the Mikvah of the Torah, so that we are renewed in each moment with vigor, happiness, joy, and divine inspiration until the coming of mashiach speedily in our days Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!
Chag Sameach!

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