Sunday, July 24, 2011

Torah Possession Includes its Handoff

The "Ethics of Our Fathers" starts out saying,
"Moses accepted the Torah from Sinai and transferred it to Yehoshua"
"משה קבל תורה מסיני ומסרה ליהושע"

A previous post explained this verse regarding the decline in Torah intellect over the generations, from that of Moses to ours, from the "brain" generation to our "heel" generation. We learned this from the Maharal's explanation of the different verbs used in this verse, to "accept" and to "transfer", when either verb on its own would have sufficed.

The Rebbe sheds a different light on why this verse invokes both verbs. It says, "Moses accepted the Torah ... and transferred it ...." Says the Rebbe, this verse teaches us that in order to acquire Torah, the way to do it right and effectively requires that the person first assume an accepting attitude, as in "Moses accepted", when he was in totally receptive mode vis a vis G-d.

One cannot learn Torah unless he lays aside his ego to totally accept everything Torah has to offer, without the interference of any pre-conceived notions or hidden biases. The Hebrew term for this conceptual attitude is "Bitul" (ביטול), self-cancellation.

It's like the need to empty out any dirt from a cup before pouring clean water into it, otherwise the clean water too will become dirty. It is like the planted seed in the ground that first must undergo a deterioration before it can sprout and become a plant. It is like the steps backward taken by a highjumper before he makes his jump, so he can clear a higher altitude. In other words, it is a descent that must be taken for the sake of a yet greater ascent.

This preparatory self-abnegation requires a slight exertion, but is well worth it because of the greater space it provides for Torah knowledge. One final analogy from organic chemistry: It's like the extra energy input required by a chemical reaction, to achieve its "activation energy" level, so that it yields a much greater energy discharge than was available in its previous state.

But even with a good attitude upon entry for studying Torah, says the Rebbe, there is still another important facet before its effective conclusion. Studying Torah well, on its own, cannot constitute its completion, until the next stage too is practiced, namely, transferring to someone else what you learned. Learning for oneself is not the ideal. It's best if what you learn you can then pass on to someone else. That's when you will have completed your learning properly and that's also when you'll know best you actually "got it".

First you must be in "receptive mode"; But afterwards, you must also be in "transmit mode". To keep Torah for yourself is not the ideal way to learn Torah.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the comment at WHT!!..this is so true my friend...being receptive and being willing to transmit ...it's all in God's Hands !

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