Waters of the Talmud
Adapted from a discourse
of the Alte Rebbe by Rabbi Yossi Marcus
droplets upon tender green; like raindrops upon the grass
deshe v’chirvivim alei eisev.” —
Deut. 32:2 [Translation follows Arizal.]
A Lesson in Biblical Hebrew
Deshe and eisev both
Si’eerim and r’vivim both
precisely, Arizal explains, and so it is written in Shoroshim, “The Book of Roots,”
deshe refers to young budding grass just beginning to show in the ground,
while eisev refers to fully-grown blades. S’eerim refers to a very
light spray, thin like hair, sei’ar; r’vivim refers to thick raindrops.
Light droplets help the young blades grow; full raindrops cultivate the mature
Zohar (1:18b) says that deshe and eisev are two types of angels.
[Angels are the spiritual antecedents of
vegetation. Just as vegetation grows from small to large, so the angels grow in
stature when they are engaged in the fulfillment of a Divine mission. (See Mi
There are those that are created each day and do not last to the next and there
are those that were created during the Six Days of Creation and remain in existence
to this day. These two types are referred to in one of the morning prayers when
we speak of G-d as He who “creates ministering angels, and whose ministering
angels all stand at the heights of the universe…” The first reference to angels
refers to the type that do not last and G-d creates them—present tense—on
a daily basis. The second reference refers to the angels that remain existent
at the heights of the universe throughout time.—Tzemach Tzedek’s gloss.
which does not bear seed—i.e., does not have permanence—refers to the angels that
revert to nothingness. Eisev, which bears seed—i.e., possesses permanence—refers
to those angels that remain in existence. See Zohar ibid.])
is called rain. And just as there are two types of rain, there are two levels
in Torah: Mishna and Talmud. The laconic Mishna is light rain. The heavy Talmud
is thick raindrops. And just as the thick rain yields mature blades so the study
of Talmud yields much more than the study of Mishna alone. Through Talmud study
you can achieve salvations for the soul and reveal the soul’s love and awe of
the Divine in great measure.
ground yields produce in two ways, paralleling deshe and eisev—or
Mishnah and Talmud.
you plant wheat, for example, the growth that ensues is of the same kind as the
seed that is planted, though it far exceeds the seed in degree. As in the saying:
“No man plants a se’ah except to reap many kur.”
is a statement of Rabbi Elazar (Pesachim 87b). He cites the verse in which
G-d says of the Jewish people, “I will sow her for Myself in the land” (Hosea
Rabbi Elazar explains this to mean that G-d exiled the Jewish people among the
nations—“planted them in the land”—so that converts would be added to them. He
planted a se’ah to gain many kur. (Of course in the mystical interpretation,
“that converts would be added to them” refers also to the “conversion” of the
sparks of the world of Tohu that were scattered throughout the world. See our
essay on Vayishlach.)]
second type of growth is like the growth of fruit trees. In this case, the seed
that is planted in the ground cannot at all be compared to the fruits it yields.
The fruit is literally a new being.
two types of produce parallel the two types of Divine “produce” that man evokes
through the investment of his actions (itaruta d’litata, itartuta d’li’eila).
One type of Divine reciprocity is comparable in kind to the investment man makes,
though it far exceeds the investment in degree.
level of Divine reciprocity is not comparable at all to man’s investment. This
level of “produce” stems from an extremely sublime place that is utterly distinct
from the nature of man’s investment.
growth of wheat can be compared to the study of Mishna, which does not produce
within its student the ability to create something new. The student gains much
in degree, but cannot create new insight. This is the non-reproductive
deshe, which is nourished by the light rain of si’eerim.
study Mishna is to study only what is written, like taking spring water from the
surface. To study Talmud is to dig deeply in the ground and thereby extract water
from the spring. In Talmud study, a new flow is brought forth from the source.
The spring is compared to Chochmah, which transcends
Binah (Tzemach Tzedek gloss).