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19 Iyar 5763 - May 21, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Secret of Torah

by HaRav Mordechai Gifter zt'l, Rosh Yeshivas Telshe

"If you shall go in My statutes -- that you toil in Torah"

Said Rovo (Shabbos 88): For those who go to the right, the Torah is an elixir of life, while for those who turn left, it becomes a veritable poison. Rashi explains: Those who "go to the right" in Torah, are those who delve in it with all their strength and toil to reveal its innermost secret, like a man who uses his right hand, where his strength lies. For these, the Torah is a lifegiving potion.

We learn from these words of Rashi to what extent one is required to delve into Torah -- that one be immersed in it with all his strength, and toil.

We also learn the essence of Torah study: to know its innermost secret. One must understand the significance of these words if he wishes to understand how the lack of toil in this area can transform the very Torah into a poison. A truly puzzling concept.

The secret of Torah referred to here is not what we are accustomed to referring to as that part which is mystic, as opposed to the revealed Torah. Rather, it is the Torah that we succeed in fathoming through our toil and which we were unable to grasp before. All this is the secret of Torah. The very study process essentially exposes the secret of Torah. Even the knowledge that the student of Torah had before his toil takes on a different significance, the deeper he delves into it.

A small child learns the first verse of "Bereishis boro Elokim" and understands it according to his undeveloped intelligence. Before he learned it, it was a secret, and the more he learns it in depth, the better he understands the idea behind the words, from the simple explanation of the words and on to the commentary of Rashi: "Said R' Yitzchok . . . "

He can pursue his study further and grasp this verse according to the Ramban, and he again studies it, more deeply, and attains the explanation of Bereishis as "with wisdom," according to the Targum, and so on progressively.

This is a gradual study that becomes deeper and more intense as it goes along, level after level, in the exposure of the secret portion of Torah. For as soon as the secret is revealed to him, it becomes self-evident, pshat, a simple explanation. One layer is exposed, to reveal [the existence of] yet another hidden layer, which becomes exposed in turn.

A child begins studying gemora at a very superficial level. Slowly, a newer world reveals itself to him -- that of intensive study, be'iyun. He develops the analytic approach and the study takes on a different form. It is a revelation of a secret, an eye- opening initiation into the Oral Tradition. Then this becomes the simple, self-evident and logical approach with new frontiers of knowledge to conquer.

This is what is meant by the idea that the essence of Torah study is to know the secret of Torah. Exposing level after level to the point of simplicity.

HaRav Yosef Leib of Telshe zt'l taught that there is actually nothing in Torah that is hidden and separate from what is revealed. Rather, the hidden is one level deeper than what is already revealed. Thus is it explained in the booklet Emunah Uvitochon attributed to the Ramban which states that the entire Torah is one single entity.

For this alone, the pursuit of Torah knowledge is completely different from the study of any other science. A branch of knowledge which is limited and finite must be studied with limitations. It is acquired according to the nature of that subject. But the Torah is infinite, boundless. The very process of acquiring Torah defies bounds and limits. One must pursue it with one's entire vitality and be immersed in its pursuit; this is the only way to acquire Torah.

One who approaches the study of Torah as he would a branch of science, is reducing it to a mere science, G- d forbid, and he will find it lethal. Those who study it and approach it "from the left," build upon what they have already grasped and seek to draw the reality of Torah to their level, like the fool. He wants the Torah to serve his purposes, to be his tool, and will apply the laws of human logic that govern other studies and sciences -- in vain.

Human pursuit of knowledge is governed by human logic. But the Torah is the opposite of that logic. One can find two verses that are diametrically opposed and he will not see the third one that harmonizes the two. [For example] here the Torah forbids and there it specifically commands, while the resolution of a positive commandment superseding a prohibitive commandment will evade him. [Or,] he will see an inverted chronological order and not realize that this is possible -- because his limited mind does not think that way. He will not grasp the Divinely transmitted rule of "there is no necessary chronological order in the Torah."

One who approaches Torah study "from the right," however, will always be connected to the secret, to that which is just beyond his comprehension. He will not reject what he does not understand. He will persevere. He will draw himself unto the Torah, and not try to make the Torah approach him.

Everything that he succeeds in grasping will cause him pleasure in direct proportion to what he has revealed. "Fortunate is the man . . . for Hashem's Torah is his desire, and in His Torah he shall pore by day and by night" (Tehillim 1). [Why?] Since his will and his desire and everything he wishes will be bound up completely with the Torah, even though it is still beyond him, and it is still by Hashem, beyond his reach and ken, in a hidden, inscrutable state. Even thus, he will derive pleasure from that Torah knowledge which he has already attained and revealed. Every moment devoid of toil in Torah, every moment of separation, will be like a painful severance, paradise lost in this world, even if temporarily. Reflect on this!

Man must understand and realize that Torah is not a product of human intellect. It will always be beyond him; there will always be more of the secret to reveal, to cleave to. Once he fathoms this secret, then whatever he acquires in Torah knowledge will be his possession for it will be bound with Divine, infinite knowledge. He will not be bringing the Torah down to his human level, but be striving ever to the Divine revelation, to the eternal aspect of the Divine will of Hashem as expressed through and in the Torah.

This is what we call daas Torah: this what our Torah leaders in each generation have been privileged to experience and receive.

Gedolei Torah have the power of seeing the world of the hidden Torah. While the lesser members of the generation can only grasp what is already revealed, what is lowly and insignificant, the gedolim can verily see and experience what is hidden from others.

Those who cleave to Torah and are wise, do not reflect human intelligence, but the Divine intelligence of the Torah.

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