Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pinchas 5634 Third Ma'amar

... בְּכָל יוֹם בַּת קוֹל יוֹצֵאת מֵהַר חוֹרֵב וּמַכְרֶזֶת וְאוֹמֶרֶת אוֹי לָהֶם לַבְּרִיוֹת מֵעֶלְבּוֹנָה שֶׁל תּוֹרָה שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ עוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה נִקְרָא נָזוּף שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר נֶזֶם זָהָב בְּאַף חֲזִיר ... / Every day an echo – bas kol – resounds from Mount Horeb (Sinai) proclaiming and saying, ‘Woe is to those who insult the Torah.’ For one who does not occupy himself in Torah is considered an outcast, as is stated, ‘A golden nose-ring in the snout of a swine …’ (Mishlei 11:22) ” (Avos 6:2)

This mishna does not seem to flow easily. What is the connection between the pasuk in Mishlei and one who does not occupy himself with Torah? Furthermore, why is the Torah insulted by one who does not occupy himself with it. Firstly, a person who does not learn Torah is reflecting more upon himself than upon the Torah. Secondly, it seems strange to ascribe anthropomorphic qualities to the Torah.

The Sfas Emes explains that since the Torah was given to Israel, it remains with us even if we ignore it. We actually make this declaration when we say referring to the Torah, “חַיֵי עוֹלָם נָטַע בְּתוֹכֵנוּ/He planted within us and everlasting life.” The Torah remains with us because it is more than simply a physical scroll containing the five books. The Torah is a spiritual mechanism by which God brought the world into existence and keeps it in existence.

When we received the Torah, we received the power to affect the world through our actions and learning. This is the meaning of the pasuk, “כֹּחַ מַעֲשָׂיו הִגִּיד לְעַמּוֹ .../He told His nation the power of His works …” (Tehillim 111:6) Telling us means giving us the ability to draw the Torah’s holiness into the physical world or, God forbid, to prevent its holiness from affecting the physical world. In this sense, through our actions we strengthen the Torah or weaken its power in the is world. The Tanna makes a point of telling us that the bas kol originates on Mount Horeb, the place we received the Torah, in order to stress that it is because we received the Torah that it is affected by our actions.

The pasuk from Mishlei that the Mishna cites likens the Torah to a gold ring in the snout of a swine. The ring remains in the swine’s snout even as the swine wallows in filth. It becomes dirty with the swine. When we leave Torah for a life devoid of spirituality, we remain connected to the Torah. However, it becomes dirtied, so to speak, because of us. The spiritual power of the Torah in the physical world is affected.

We find this same idea in a pasuk regarding the daily burnt offering in this week’s parsha, “עוֹלַת תָּמִיד הָעֲשֻׂיָה בְּהַר סִינַי לְרֵיחַ נִיחַח אִשֶׁה לַה'/A continual burnt offering, as the one offered up at Mount Sinai, for a spirit of satisfaction, a fire offering to God.” (Bamidbar 28:6) Why does the pasuk refer to the burnt offering that was brought on Mount Sinai at the time of the giving of the Torah? There is no apparent connection between this and the daily sacrifice.

The sacrifices that were brought in the Beis HaMikdash elevated the entire Creation bringing it closer to God.[1] How were we able, through the sacrifices, to bring the Creation closer to God? The Sfas Emes explains that by comparing the daily burnt offering to the one that was brought at the giving of the Torah, the pasuk is teaching us that we received the supernatural ability to affect the world through our actions at the giving of the Torah.[2]

The Sfas Emes gives another answer explaining why the Tanna brought the pasuk from Mishlei. The Sfas Emes explains that the gold ring represents the tools, more precious than gold, God gave us to serve Him and occupy ourselves with His Torah. These are our senses, wisdom and intelligence. Not taking advantage of these precious tools is like placing a beautiful gold ring in the snout of a swine.

Finally, the end of the Mishna states, “... וְהַלֻּחֹת מַעֲשֵׂה אֱ-לֹהִים הֵמָּה וְהַמִּכְתָּב מִכְתָּב אֱ-לֹהִים הוּא חָרוּת עַל־הַלֻּחֹת אַל תִּקְרָא חָרוּת אֶלָּא חֵרוּת שֶׁאֵין לָךְ בֶּן חוֹרִין אֶלָּא מִי שֶׁעוֹסֵק בְּתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה ... /… ‘And the tablets are the work of God, and the writing is God's writing, engraved on the tablets’ (Shmos 32:16); read not ‘engraved’ (charus) but ‘liberty’ (cheirus)---for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah …”

Most people lead very busy lives and cannot seem to find the time to study the Torah. How is it possible to fit it in? How is it possible to maintain the calmness of mind necessary to study properly? The Tanna is teaching us that this is the attitude of one who has not yet occupied himself with the study of Torah. The act of occupying ourselves with the study of Torah frees us to study Torah by removing all of life’s troubles and bothers. The decision to become free is ours.

[1] Zohar 3:5a

[2] See Nefesh HaChaim 1:4 for detailed discussion and sources in Chazal for this.

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