Trust and Pleasure
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".
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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)
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
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
[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.