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Revealing Secrets of the Torah

Avi Lazerson

The Zohar, the Jewish source book for all mystical teachings, relates that the celestial creatures come down to hear the new insights that our earth bound scholars have revealed (Zohar III:173a). In fact this is not a new mystical concept, the Talmud tells us basically the same thing, that those in heaven are amazed at the new insights that the earthly scholars have deduced from the Torah.

This, of course, is a wonder! How can it be that the understandings and deductions that man makes are a wonder to the celestial creations, the angels, and those souls in the next world? Do not those very heavenly beings know the truth of the Torah? Why are they delighted with the new insights that mere mortal man has discovered?

We are accustomed to thinking that the angels, who exist in close proximity to G-d, who see the truth as it really is, must understand much more than man. Therefore it is startling to hear that the angels are astonished (in the positive sense) from the learning and teachings of the earthly scholars. How can it be that the transient and limited man in this world can reach greater levels of understanding of the Torah (which is G-d's blueprint of the world and from which the world was created) than the angels who see the light of the infinite?

Yet in the understanding of this statement of the Zohar we can understand a deep yet fundamental point in mystical and Chassidic thought.

One of the fundamental ideas in mystical thought surrounds the concept that this world was not the first world created. A creation preceding this world was made - but due to an imbalance between various forces, that primordial world exploded. The holy sparks of energy that were invested in that world fell and then descended to this lowly world. That which was impure and profane captured those holy sparks. Today they are still scattered around the world and are combined with various objects and beings.

This is tied up with the concept of the tree of knowledge, which is really called "the tree of knowledge - good and evil". Before Adam ate from the fruit of this tree, good and evil were separate. Adam's work was to do the will of G-d on earth, which was drawing down into the mundane earth, holiness. This holiness would eventually reach a magnitude that it, like a magnet, would attract only the holy sparks, and automatically separate these sparks from the clutches of the profane.

When the snake told Eve that if she were to eat from this fruit, she would become like G-d, that was not a lie. The snake knew that G-d knew both good and evil, because he created both. However what he did not tell Eve was that the difference was that G-d could easily separate the good from the evil, since G-d was much above good and evil, she was not.

As we know, Adam chose instead to eat from the forbidden fruit. When he did this, the good and bad came into him and the job of separating the good from evil became much more laborious. Now good became mingled with evil and Adam's job became much more complicated. No longer would good have a separate existence from evil, but the two would lodge together as one.

This is similar to the statement in the Talmud that the Jewish people went into the Diaspora in order to gather in converts. Yet in another place in the Talmud, the reason given for the destruction of the Temple and our long and bitter exile was due to our sins! If we did not sin, we would not have gone into exile - what about the first statement that we need to go into the exile to gather in converts!?

But the answer is really simple. Had we behaved properly and not sinned, we would have still had the Holy Temple. Through proper service in the Temple, holiness would have been brought down there in a proportion that would have attracted those potential converts to come by themselves. Subsequently, they would have converted.

Once we sinned, the Temple was destroyed. There was no mechanism to bring the potential converts seeking the true G-d into Judaism except through our going into exile.

Similar to a man in a dark room who is looking for an object he left in a room. If he has an electric light bulb in the room, he can turn it on and the object will be seen clearly because of the light. But if he ruined his electrical circuitry, he must light a candle and exert himself considerably that the light of the candle should reach his object, so that it may be seen.

That is exactly the difference between the time of the Temple and the time of the exile.

Our job, as the extensions of Adam, in our time, is to hunt down those holy sparks and release them so that they may ascend back into the holiness from which they were hewn.

These holy sparks, which are in this world, are not just the true converts, but exist also in all physical and mundane objects. To release these holy sparks, we must examine each object in light of the Jewish law and act accordingly with them. As simple examples: when we ritually slaughter and eat meat according to the Jewish law, or when we engage in business and make a living according to Jewish law, or perform one of the many mitzvoth, - then we have successfully separated the evil from the good. The holiness is now released and the holy sparks rise up back to their supernal source.

Now the vital criterion for being able to raise up these holy sparks is defined by the Jewish law. We must realize that unlike civil law, which is a body of man made rules that are enacted and observed to enable the proper function of society, Jewish law is decidedly different.

Jewish law is really a means of carrying out the desires of G-d in this world. Hence the laws do not entail only individual and public welfare, but also the compliance with the desires and goals of G-d. As an example, by enacting legislation that we must drive on the right side of the road, we ensure individual and public safety and harmony. But we could have just as easily enacted legislation like that in England that we should drive on the left side of the road. This law is a convenience to provide for individual and public safety; it has no inherent good or bad elements in it. However, once the law is enacted, willfully acting against this law, becomes bad, since it allows the possibility of injury.

Jewish law is different in the essential aspect that Jewish law is not a matter of public convenience, but rather an exacting instruction for separating the good from evil, and the holy from the profane. As an example, the law requires that we sit in a succah on Succoth. There is nothing in this that overtly promotes the social benefit of either the individual or encourages public welfare. Yet in doing such an action, we are able to perform our divinely imposed task of raising up holy sparks to their source.

Now the root and source of all of the actions that we perform to enable this goal is found in the instructions from the Torah. By studying the Torah we are able to actually understand what action is required in all situations, simple and complex, to separate these holy sparks and raise them up. New situations constantly come into being, societies and physicalities change, we must always know what we are to do in each new situation. This instruction is derived only by learning from the Torah.

When the angels listen to the Torah scholars who are in the process of revealing what are the proper actions that man should do in order to live in the way desired by G-d in our varied situations, the angels are amazed. In heaven, the Torah is not revealed in all of its details as we know it. It is given in a pristine shorthand form, only the primary points are known, but their applications in today's life are dependent on the study of Torah.

Therefore, it is really obligatory on all, men, women and children to set aside time each day to study those laws. This will enable them to carry out their lives in a manner that permits them to always walk with G-d.


from the November 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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