Thursday, January 24, 2013

Benefit of study Agada & Kabbala - even without understanding/ Noda B' Yehuda

Tzlach (Introduction): There is a critically important benefit of learning agada of the Talmud and medrashim - the profound thoughts of our Sages - which they presented in a concealed and obscure manner. They obviously were fully aware that such profound secrets would not be totally comprehended even by a very wise man. Nevertheless despite all the concealment there is in fact a major benefit when we should merit that it should be fulfilled in us  "He kissed me with the kisses of His mouth". And that the exalted spirit manifests itself in us and we hear the words of the Living G-d. Then we will comprehend and know the great good which we obtain by the means of our study of the words of agada even though we don’t properly understand them.  
 Let me explain how one can benefit from studying material he doesn't understand. A child when he starts school - the first thing the teacher does before beginning formal learning - is to teach him the forms of the letters.  He teaches him what letter is an aleph and which is a beis - as well as all the rest of the letters. Once the child has mastered the letters he teaches him the different vowel sounds. When the child has mastered the letters and the vowels he teaches him the combination of the letters and the vowels. All this requires tremendous effort to master something which seems to have no inherent value. In fact in the child had a mature intellect he would find this study boring and repulsive. He would view himself as slave occupied in a totally meaningless task. He would object and say that he sees no significance in knowing whether the letter is read as oh or ah. He would protest simply because he is not able to comprehend the great accomplishment of knowing how to read. Therefore ironically we find that a child - because of his inferior understanding - is actually superior to this task to a mature mind. He is able because the weakness of his understanding to study the letters with great enthusiasm and fully master them This is obviously a critically important accomplishment. 

In fact there is a true story in which there were highly educated men traveling on a ship and with them was a pregnant woman. When the ship was well out to sea a great storm arose that transported the ship to a certain place which was uninhabited and had never been seen by man before. In that isolated place the ship broke up and the men and the woman were saved by going on the dry land. The remained there many days. After the passage of time the woman  gave birth to a boy. He grew up there. The men did not have any books with them. Nor did they have any writing material. When the boy grew up he was taught various knowledge by the men. The boy did not know anything about reading and writing at all - since he never saw it. Then one day one of the men came to him and said to him - I am going to teach you something. He began by teaching him the letters of the alphabet and how to pronounce them. He taught the boy in the same way the small children who first start school are taught the letters. However this boy who was born in the ship who already had grown up. He objected and demanded to know what the significance of this study was. He began to angrily argue with the teacher and denounced the study as a complete waste of time. He demanded to know what possible benefit came from studying the letters since it was pure mechanical memorization without any wisdom or intelligence. However the teacher told him that when they returned to civilization the boy would be able to read books as a result of mastering the alphabet and then he would appreciate the great good that is the result of this knowledge. Consequently he forced the boy to learn despite his objections - until the boy had mastered the alphabet. Eventually G-d had mercy on these people and they saw a ship which rescued them. When the boy returned to civilization he found there books of profound wisdom which he was able to study because of his mastery of the alphabet. He learned new things which he had never conceived of. Only then he realized and appreciated having learned the alphabet. He expressed his deep appreciation and gratitude to the teacher who had forced him to learn the alphabet. 

This is the moshol. This itself is the nimshol regarding Agada which have been taught to us by our Sages. All of them are in fact allegory which conceal within them great light. We unfortunately lack the ability to see this light and understand it. However without the superficial awareness we have from the agada it would be impossible for us to see this light and understand it in the future. In other words the agada is the material for the form that will be comprehended in the future. Nevertheless we have to realize that the agada which introduces us to this wisdom is in fact very far from being the wisdom itself. It is comparable to the relationship of the alphabet that the child learns to the wisdom contained in the holy books. In the future when the material is separated from its form then we will grasp and understand how wonderful it is that we learned the relatively superficial lesson of the agada. Without the preliminary superficial understanding obtained from the agada it would be impossible to understand - when we are in Heaven - the words of the Living G-d which are concealed in the agada. It will be at that time that we will understand and give thanks to our Sages who taught us the agada. We will then be able to recognize the great good that has done for us through the study of agada that are included in the Talmud and medrashim. 

Similar to this I heard in my youth from the great tzadik Rabbi Noach Levi of Brody concerning the 10 Sefiros and other issues of kabbala - all of them are merely introductions that are comparable to learning the alphabet with a child. By means of our exposure to them in this world we will merit in the Future World when the materialistic aspects have been removed from us - we will be capable of grasping and understanding their wisdom and give praise and appreciation to our G-d. It is then we will truly comprehend the profound secrets of the Torah. We will  know the truth. The ways of G-d are upright and the righteous go in them. Amen

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.