If you follow My statutes: I might think that this refers to the fulfillment of the commandments. However, when Scripture says, “and observe My commandments,” the fulfillment of the commandments is [already] stated. So what is the meaning of “If you follow My statutes”? It means that you must toil in the study of Torah [for the word for “follow” here, תֵּלֵכוּ, literally means “walk,” which is a strenuous activity (Gur Aryeh)]. — [Torath Kohanim 26:2]All of the blessings from Above are dependent upon this. Not only that, but when this devotion to Torah learning is lacking, the descent into spiritual oblivion has begun. See what Rashi has to say on Vayikra (26:14-15). An objective look at Jewish history reveals the stark truth of this Divine law. We have to set aside time every day and night for learning. Learning Torah requires great effort, and even affliction. "The Holy One Blessed Be He gave three good gifts to Israel, and all of them He did not give except through affliction, and they are: Torah, and the Land Of Israel, and the World To Come"(Berachot 5A). It is not the same as reading a paperback novel or your favorite blog. According what we put into learning Torah, so is the reward. "According to the suffering is the reward" (Avot end of ch. 5). This can be interpreted as the reward in The World To Come, but it can also be interpreted in more earthly terms. That is to say, you get out of it what you put into it. "The law of the Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul..." (Psalms 19:8) How much the Torah will revive your soul depends on how much time and effort you invest in learning. In general we must remember that the Torah is from Hashem. It is His way of letting us know His will. We pray to Hashem and ask Him for what we need and want. But do we try to understand what He wants from us? "He that turns away his ear from hearing the Torah, even his prayer is an abomination"(Proverbs 28:9). It's a two way street. On this Shavuot holiday, may we all merit to receive the Torah in happiness, and to serve Hashem in happiness. May we all strengthen our commitment to learning and keeping the Torah. May we succeed in learning Torah in depth and in breadth, the written Torah which is the "Torah of truth", and the Oral Torah which is the "eternal life" that Hashem "planted within us" (Shulchan Aruch). And may we purify ourselves and be worthy of learning the secrets of Torah as well.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Thoughts on Receiving the Torah
Not too long ago we read the Torah portion "Bechukotai". There we learn that it is not enough to keep the commandments. One must learn Torah with tenacity. That is the gist of Rashi's opening words on the portion: