In the previous three articles, we have discussed those issues pertinent to the fundamental creation (article 1), overcoming my shortcoming as a receiver (article 2), overcoming my shortcoming as a creation (article 3), but I said there that there is more to creation than just having children. Lets’ explore this issue further!
The Mishna in Tractate Avos (1:2) tells us that there are three pillars upon which the world stands: Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chassadim. As we discussed gemilus chassadim in the previous two articles, we’ll focus on this one on the aspect called Talmud Torah.
What is the relevance of Talmud Torah to creation, you ask? I’m so glad you asked that question! Let’s discuss that!
The Mishna (Tractate Pe’ah 1:1) that Talmud Torah is the equivalent of them all (all of the mitzvos mentioned previously in the Mishna which are all truly tremendous, but Talmud Torah is the equivalent of them all). Of all of the mitzvos, it is one of the truly great ones. King of them all.
But the question is why? What makes Talmud Torah so essential? Why is it a pillar of the world? As we mentioned previously if there is no Talmud Torah – there is no kemach, (flour). The world’s continuance is dependent upon the existence of Talmud Torah in the world!
The answer is quite simple: if you want to be like the Creator – do what the Creator does! Well, what DOES the Creator do with His time? Why He learns Torah, of course!
In the holy Zohar (Volume 2 161a), it tells us that when HaShem created the world he “looked in the Torah and created the world.” He did so not because the Torah pre-existed Him, as it did not. As it says in Mishley (8:2) HaShem acquired me at the beginning of His way, which our sages, ob”m, explain to mean (Tractate Nedarim 39b) that it was one of the seven things created before the world. No, the Torah was created as the world’s blueprint. But it’s much more than that!
To understand what the true meaning of Torah is – we first need to ask ourselves what it’s purpose is! So what do we need the Torah for?
Many people think that the Holy Torah, being the “Word of G-d,” is a clear-cut no-other-way-to-read-it type of document. However, nothing could be further from the truth. From its inception, we find that the Torah was made/written in a way that allowed for interpretation… if you had the “keys” used to interpret it. There are ambiguities, logical inferences, and many other types of keys and clues that the Torah uses to allow for its interpretation.
It was made this way intentionally.
We can understand this from the words of our sages, ob”m, in Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2 and in the Talmud Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 4:2 who said that the Torah was given over to the hands of the sages of the Sanhedrin, who numbered 70 sages + 1. If a dispute arose as to how to understand what the halacha is then, it is put to the vote among the 70 sages and the majority rules. Why is this? Says the Yerushalmi “so that the Torah should be explained 49 ways tamei (impure) and 49 ways tahor (pure).” [49 being a seminal number, as our sages, ob”m, say that there are 49 gates of wisdom in the world]. They also tell us that Moses, our teacher, was taught all of the entire Torah “even that which a venerable student is going to make [in the future].” (Midrash Rabbah Vayikra 22). If the Torah was meant to be a static document – how are these things possible? How is it possible that in Tractate Chagiga 3a the Gemara states that “it’s impossible for a beit hamidrash (=house of learning) to be without a new teaching (chiddush)”?
The answer is because the Torah was made to have many interpretations… as long as you keep to the rules and regulations handed down from Sinai which explain to us the rules and limitations of interpretation.
It’s not just that HaShem “looked in the Torah and created the world” as a blueprint. He looked into the world and created it according to His own interpretation of the Torah.
The Gemara, in the famous sugiya (topic) of tanuro shel achnai (Bava Metziah 59b) (an oven that was cut up like an achnai, [for brevity I’m not going to explain the topic thoroughly]) that when an argument erupted among the sages whether the oven was tahor (pure) or tamei (impure), despite the miraculous “proofs” that were brought by Rabbi Eliezer (henceforth R”E) to prove his ruling because all of the other sages disagreed – the Halacha was ruled according to their opinion. This follows the above rule that the Halacha follows the majority. They continued to hold fast to their ruling despite the fact that one of the “proofs” brought by R”E was that a heavenly voice (a REAL one, not some hallucination) said that the Halacha was like R”E! Why did they do this? I mean, a heavenly voice! Who could argue with that? Isn’t that a clear-cut case of G-d’s will? Said Rabbi Yehoshua, (R”Y), the Av Beit Din (=the most prominent sage of the Sanhedrin) that, no, we don’t follow heavenly voices. This is because the Torah itself says “lo bashamayim hii” (=it (the Torah) is not in heaven) ))Devarim 30:12). It is not (any longer) the property of heaven that heaven should make a ruling on it which should have any effect on how we live the Torah in this world. When R”Y pronounced “lo bashamayim hii” and ruled against R”E and the heavenly voice, a second voice came from heaven announcing nitzchuni bonai, nitzchuni bonai (=My sons have won me over! My sons have won me over!)
Why did this happen? It is because in this world we follow the interpretation as based on the rules of Torah learning even if that would contradict G-d’s own understanding of how it should be ruled!
Only a truly great G-d could create a Torah, His Own Holy Word, and allow for it to be open to interpretation!
So a man learns from his masters how the Torah is to be learned. He learns diligently from a very young age, (at 5 he starts studying the mikra (=the written Torah. The 5 books and the prophets and writings)) and for the rest of his life, he continues to learn all of the other aspects of the Torah. During his learning, he concludes, based on the rules and the teachings that he received from his masters, that the Halacha should be ruled differently. That’s fine. We are 100% ok with a diversity of understanding in the Torah. HOWEVER, it should be clear that in the times when there was a central religious authority among the Jewish people, (=the Sanhedrin), we could not allow for a diversity of practice among the Jews. This is so “that the Torah should not become as two Torahs”. That the practices and general customs of the people should not show a separation, or even worse, make a separation between them. (A topic for another time)
But on the level of the individual not only is rigorous honesty encouraged – debate is almost demanded! It is part and parcel of our Jewish identity! As the saying goes “Two Jews – three opinions!”
There is nothing that a Jew loves more than a good debate!
That is because we demand that each and every Jew have an individual religious experience and connection to HKB”H through His Torah.
That is the purpose of Torah.
So why is the Torah so fundamental in this world? Why is it one of the pillars of existence? Because only through it can a person actually become an individual in his religious experience in this world! Which is one of the purposes of this world: Be a Creator!
How do we go about being a Creator? Why? It’s so simple! Like I said at the beginning! If you want to be like Him – do what He does! HaShem, Himself, learns His own Torah, as it says in Mishley (8:30) “And I will be unto Him as an AMMUN (=teacher), I will be a plaything every day, He plays with me in front of Him all the time.” Not only does He learn His own Torah he also learns our Torah! As our sages, ob”m, tell us in many places, (Tractate Gittin 7b, for example), that HaShem learns the sides of the arguments of the sages. They also teach us (Tractates Avos and Berachos) that even if there is only one person sitting and learning HaShem Himself comes to hear the words of Torah said by this individual. That is how important the Torah learning of one individual is. Why is this? Because when we learn the wisdom of HKB”H and we interpret it according to the rules and the laws that we received from our great sages, ob”m, we, ourselves, are creating worlds! We are filling worlds with the potential of chessed, rachamim and all of the other attributes of HKB”H. We, via Talmud Torah, become Creators!
Therefore our Sages, ob”m, tell us in Tractate Sanhedrin 100a explaining the verse in Mishley 8:21 which says “to give as an inheritance to those who love me yesh and their granaries I shall fill.” That “In the future, which will come to pass, to give as an inheritance to those who love Him yesh ( “there is”. יש in Hebrew, whose numerical value (Gematria) is 310), that is 310 worlds. Where do these worlds come from? From the love of those who love Him, which is expressed via Talmud Torah, of course!
So when it comes to the issue of “How do we overcome the shame and the upset of receiving the Heavenly Chessed from G-d, when He is a Creator, whereas I am just a creation”? The answer is: use your life to learn Torah! In this, you become just like Him! A true creator.
An addendum to anyone who may be reading this who is not Jewish. Our sages, ob”m, teach us in Tractate Sanhedrin that it is forbidden for a non-Jew to learn any Torah that does not pertain to the seven mitzvos of B’nei Noach, (the seven Noahide Laws). [No idol worship, No murder, No forbidden sexual relationships, No eating a limb severed from a live animal (even if the animal itself is slaughtered at a later point), No stealing, No cursing G-d, or even just using His name and the positive commandment to set up a judicial system].