Friday, June 10, 2016

Shavuos: Studying Torah is a love affair between the Torah and the Jew - as a relationship of a woman and her lover

Since Shavuos is the time of receiving the Torah for all Jews - in all generations. It is important to understand that Torah study is not simply mastering the text or the logic of the different views or even the final halacha.  It has nothing to do with the secular concept of scholarship. The essence of Torah study is a love affair between the Jew and the Torah. This deep passionate bond is described fully in the following quote from the Zohar.
Zohar (II 99a): How many human beings live in confusion of mind, beholding not the way of truth whose dwelling is in the Torah, the Torah which calls them day by day to.herself in love, but alas, they do not even turn their heads! It is indeed as I have said, that the Torah lets out.a word, and emerges for a little from her sheath, and then hides herself again. But she does this only for those who understand and obey her. She is like unto a beautiful and stately damsel, who is hidden in a secluded chamber of a palace and who has a lover of whom no one knows but she. Out of his love for her he constantly passes by her gate, turning his eyes towards all sides to find her. She, knowing that he is always haunting the palace, what does she do? She opens a little door in her hidden palace, discloses for a.moment her face to her lover, then swiftly hides it again. None but he notices it; but his heart and soul, and all that is in him are drawn to her, knowing as he does that she has revealed herself to him for a moment because she loves him. It is the same with the Torah, which reveals her hidden secrets only to those who love her. She knows that he who is wise of heart daily haunts the gates of her house. What does she do? She shows her face to him from her palace, making a sign of love to him, and straightway returns to her hiding place again. No one understands her message save he alone, and he is drawn to her with heart and soul and all his being. Thus the Torah reveals herself momentarily in love to her lovers in order to awaken fresh love in them. Now this is the way of the Torah. At first, when she begins to reveal herself to a man, she makes signs to him. Should he understand, well and good, but if not, then she sends for him and calls him “simpleton”, saying to her messengers: “Tell that simpleton to come here and converse with me”, as it is written: “Whoso is a simpleton let him turn in hither” (Prov. IX, 4). When he comes to her she begins to speak to him, first from behind the curtain which she has spread for him about her words suitable to his mode of understanding, so that he may progress little by little. This is called “Derasha” (Talmudic casuistry, namely the derivation of the traditional laws and usages from the letter of Scripture). Then she  speaks to him from behind a thin veil of a finger mesh, discoursing riddles and parables-which go by the name of Haggadah. When at last he is familiar with her she shows herself to him face to face and converses with him concerning all her hidden mysteries and all the mysterious ways which have been secreted in her heart from time immemorial. Then such a man is a true adept in the Torah, a “master of the house”, since she has revealed to him all her mysteries,.withholding and hiding nothing. She says to him: “Seest thou the sign, the hint, which I gave thee at first,.how many mysteries it contains?” He realizes then that nothing may be added to nor taken from the words of the Torah, not even one sign or letter. Therefore men should follow the Torah with might and main in order that they may become her lovers, as has been described. ‘ “And if he take him another...

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