CLERGY CORNER: Shavuos

Posted on 01 June 2017 by LeslieM

Was there Torah before Torah was given? It says in Zohar (Teruma) that G-d looked into the Torah and created the world. What does that mean? There are many stories in Torah that imply that, indeed, there was a Torah before the Torah was given:

Noach bringing in different number of kosher animals … How did he know which were kosher?

Avrohom, our forefather, fed his visiting angels matzo as part of their meal. It was Pesach. Isn’t Exodus an event that happened some 700 years later? What was he celebrating? They hadn’t rushed out of Egypt yet.

Jacob put on Tefillin. In a very curious manner, the Torah tells us a story how he created spots on branches, and the Zohar says it was his way of putting on Tefillin.

The famous Yeshiva that Jacob studied in on his way to his uncle was the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, Noah’s sons. Were they studying the Talmud?

Yehuda went before his family to build Yeshiva in Egypt. What did they study in his Yeshiva?

King David gives up an opportunity to kill Saul when he is chasing him. He says “the primordial analogy says, “Bad comes from bad people” … “See, I’m not bad.” With that, he refers to Torah. What does that mean? The Torah does not speak as an analogy. It speaks of fact, stories, laws, history, morals, etc. — very factually. And why primordial? Primordial means the first, preceding. Kabbalistically referring to the Being that always was — G-d. The Torah is an example or analogy for G-d.

What is an analogy? When trying to explain a topic which may be out of reach to the listeners, one will clothe his thought in a tangible example. When trying to explain a complicated mathematical equation, one may try with a simpler one first to give a handle with which to use. G-d is not relatable to the human creation. The Torah is the means which he provided us to then identify with Him.

The Talmud tells us it was heard in the Heavenly abode, lucky is the one who comes here with his Torah. The Torah that we study is material. The life of the world to come is holy and spiritual. How would bringing our material world Torah to the holy higher spheres help or be meritorious and anyway?

The answer is that the Torah we study here is an analogy for higher levels. If we have our Torah with us, we have an analogy with what to be able to understand higher and deeper levels. With each level that we advance, we enter another truth. But we also enter another analogy for an even higher truth. So the ultimate truth, permeating all planes, all levels, clothes itself in different analogies throughout that journey. When we understand the Torah on the first level we’ve understood and grasped the truth there. When we come to the second level, that first one is now only an example. When we reach the third level, the second level becomes only an analogy with which to understand the third. And so on and so forth. It’s the same with the Torah.

Jacob studying, putting on Tefillin, was not about the way we have it now. It was about the truth which Tefillin relates to us. Tefillin has a message — why black, why square, why these passages, why on your arms and your head? On one level, we can say it’s to bind us, our minds and our hearts, to G-d.

On a deeper level, we can say it is referring to two modes and methods of serving G-d and bringing out each one in its unique way. The arm one is bound, an active wording in the brocho. This refers to one’s emotions, which one does not have control over. They roam around; they react. One is not fully in control of them; therefore, we bind them as an active command to continuously ensure they are bound to the service of G-d. The mind one represents our intellect. We can control where our thoughts go. We allow them to develop as we choose. That’s why the Mitzvah is to have them on your head. It’s something you can control from the outset. So even though we speak of leather, paint, ink … we really refer to emotions, intellect, service of G-d — the same with all the other examples.

The actual story of the Torah is also the means to the deeper meaning behind it. There’s a story in the Talmud, of the sage Yonatan Ben Uziel, when he would study Torah, any bird that flew over him would burn [because he studied it at the level it was revealed on Mount Sinai].

Rabbi Mayor Schapiro, founder of Lublin yeshiva, explains two types of students. The first one would analyze the story asking what are the legal implications? Would he be liable to repay the bird? Was it a direct cause? Was it indirect? What stage of indirect was it, etc? The second student would look at him and say you missed the whole point. Although those are good questions, the point is the sanctity of the student of Hillel. The point is the holiness that he has attained. The story is only hinting to a much deeper reality.

When we study Torah, we need to be cognizant of this. We need to open our eyes to this duality that is within the Torah. It’s not about face value. It’s about what’s insinuated and being taught deeper. We need the simple understanding too. But we also need to open our eyes to the deeper realities of divine wisdom within. We need to recognize that these are all different words being used to express G-dliness. These are different clothing used to tell us of the divine reality.

The Torah being given changed nothing; it just gave us better expressions to be used for simplicity’s sake. We now put on real Tefillin and affect our emotional and intellectual service of G-d. The Torah is an analogy for the primordial being. Now go and study it.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of the North Broward Beaches. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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