Kabbalah/Chassidut

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Trust and Pleasure

by Yehoshua Metzinger

 

If someone were to ask why the giving of the Torah at Sinai is a significant event, the answer would seem simple, yet, at the same time, difficult. One would have to answer by discussing the greatness of Torah, but to fully describe the greatness of Torah is an impossible task. However, two aspects related to the giving of the Torah are discussed in a Midrash, where Torah is referred to as "trust" and "pleasure", as in the verse "I will be a source of trust and a pleasure for Him every day, rejoicing before him all the time in his universal land".

The aspect of trust, in Hebrew "oman", is reflected in caretaking, providing for all of our needs as one looks after a child. But wasn't this the task of Moses, the shepherd of the Jewish People, rather than the Torah itself? And how can it be said that Torah plays the role of a caretaker?

When Moses was confronted with the task of satisfying the hunger of the Jewish People, he appealed to G-d, "From where am I going to bring meat?" It wasn't that the task itself was really too much for Moses; after all, he performed miracles, under G-d's direction, in Egypt. Rather, the task of providing for the physical needs of the Jewish People was not Moses' true calling; his purpose was to provide for their spiritual needs. The Jewish People were fed with manna, the spiritual food, which came down from Heaven in the merit of Moses. The manna actually represents Torah descending from the highest level to nourish even those on the lowest levels. Moses was on such a high level that he could not descend to the lowest levels and thus provide every individual with physical and spiritual nourishment. Only the Torah is able to make such a descent and to be an oman, something we can depend on for our physical, as well as spiritual, existence.

The offering of the Omer period is associated with two kinds of sustenance. On a simple level, the straw and the grain of the barley is food for animals and the source of vitality for the animal soul (nefesh behami) in humans. The offering of barley is a tikun for the animal soul within us, that it may bring its traits to a higher level and dedicate even the lowest aspects of its nature to the service of G-d, rather than allowing itself to chase after its own desires. The more elevated aspect of the human soul, however, does not need the same tikun as the animal soul, and it is fed during this period in a different way.

According to the Zohar, the divine souls of Israel were born on the seventh day of Pesach during the parting of the Red Sea. But just as a baby can't begin eating bread on the day it is born, so, too, these souls also required a period of nourishment with milk so they could develop certain attributes and grow in wisdom. The Omer period is like breastfeeding, and it is during this time that the soul receives intellectual nourishment.

It is said that a child is not able to speak the name of his father and mother until he tastes bread for the first time. Likewise, once the soul has been weaned from the milk of the Omer period and has developed its traits, it is able to eat wheat bread, the food of the divine soul, which is offered at the time of the giving of the Torah, on Shavuot.


Bread represents both the Written and the Oral Torah, which were given at Sinai. The wheat bread offering represents the perfection of the barley offering, which was given during the period of the Counting of the Omer for seven weeks. Once the soul's wisdom is developed and receives the Torah, then it can experience a higher level of nourishment. It is at this point that one feels the oman, or the trust, that comes from this sustenance.

Once a person is fed spiritually and experiences oman, or trust, he can then rise to a level of faith, in Hebrew "emun". Once he has faith in G-d, he can rejoice in the Torah, as King David writes in Psalms, "Your laws are like songs to me". Actually King David was punished for referring to the Torah's laws as songs; G-d caused him to make a crucial error in the way the Ark was carried. King David made the mistake of describing only the external aspect of Torah, and not the internal aspect, which is associated with Supreme Pleasure.

When a person enjoys a particular melody, he can listen to it again and again without becoming tired of it. King David was comparing this enjoyment of music to the learning of Torah laws, even of the seemingly arbitrary laws that are beyond our understanding, such as those concerning the red heifer or the prohibition of mixing wool and linen. Even if one does not comprehend the reasoning behind these laws, the acknowledgement that they come from the Supreme Will, beyond the intellect, can bring one sublime pleasure.

To discuss how high the Supreme Will beyond chochma (intellect) is, we need to consider the levels of chochma. Chochma is the level of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), within which there are many more levels. The souls rise from one level of chochma in Gan Eden to another as they gradually gain wisdom. This is what is meant when the sages say that Torah scholars have no rest; they are constantly progressing to higher levels of knowledge. On the highest level of Gan Eden, the soul is able to receive a ray of the Infinite Light.

It is similar to when we rise from level to level in praising G-d during prayer, we reach the point where we say "Yistabach shemcha" ("May Your name be praised"). Why do we praise G-d's name? Because it is a separate exalted existence, beyond levels, where it encompasses all the worlds. It is also the origin of the ray which our divine souls receive at the highest level of Gan Eden. "His Name" (shmo) corresponds to, and has the same gematria as, ratzon, the Supreme Will, which is above chochma but which clothes itself in chochma.

This supreme Will descends through 620 pillars of light. Just as a pillar connects the roof with the ground, so the Torah descends all the way to the earth in many manifestations. This is the reason why King David rejoiced and compared the laws of the Torah to songs, because they come from a level of Will beyond intellectual understanding. He was punished only because his comparison of laws to songs did not adequately reflect the greatness of the supreme Will.

The Will, as high as it is, is still only the external aspect of the mitzvot. A higher level than the Will is the supreme Pleasure that G-d takes in the mitzvot, which is the purpose of the Will. The Will is related to G-d's "back", and it is possible to catch a glimpse of this supreme Will. However, the inner dimensions, the supreme Pleasure of G-d and true reasons for the mitzvot, are hidden from us, as stated in the verse, "My face will not be seen". (Ex. 33:23)

The difference between the back of the head (related to the Will), or neck, and the face (related to the supreme Pleasure) is similar to their differences on the physical plane. The neck has one smooth section of skin that covers it, and there are no divisions within it.

Similarly, all mitzvot are equally aspects of G-d's will; one mitzva is not more representative of G-d's will than another. However, the face has many divisions and separate organs: eyes, ears, nose, mouth. Each organ has a specific function and provides the person with a different form of pleasure: seeing, tasting, etc.. Although all mitzvot are products of G-d's will in the same way, they provide different kinds of Supreme pleasure: for example, the mitzva of mezuzah pleases G-d in a different way than the mitzva of the red heifer.

Usually, this aspect of the face, the supreme Pleasure, is concealed from us. Shavuot, the time of the giving of the Torah, is special in that G-d speaks to us "face to face" revealing His supreme Pleasure. This is the reason the souls of the Jewish People expired with every utterance of the Torah; a different aspect of supreme Pleasure was being revealed with every word, overwhelming any soul within a body.

The Jewish People experienced a desire to go beyond any perception of individuality and to become entirely one with G-d. Once our souls have been weaned from the "milk" of the sefirot, and experience the emun that comes with nourishment from bread and Torah on Shavuot, we can witness a revelation of joy in Torah that can take us beyond our limitations.

 

[Adapted from Likutei Torah by Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Chabad, p. 34 ff.]

Yehoshua Metzinger of Nahariya, a former counselor at Ascent, is now married and living in Jerusalem.

 


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