Sunday, September 6, 2015

Why We Learn Torah: Part 5 - God's Persepective

Rav Leibowitz

The truer perspective of reality that is gained through Torah study is likened by Chazal to the “perspective of God.”  As creator of the world, Hashem possess the most correct and truest perspective on reality.  Chazal teach that God gave man Torah so that man could acquire this perspective.  By studying Torah man begins to see the world from God’s perspective. 
The study of Torah is more precious to God than sacrifices, for when man studies Torah he knows the perspective of God (Avos de-Rebbi Nosson, Chapter 4)
The Torah records God’s perspective on reality, which is the reality.  When one studies Torah he aligns his thinking with the thinking of God, and his perspective with the perspective of God.    As we noted above, this is even true regarding the study of more “mundane” areas of Torah.  Even the study of tort law seeks to show Hashem’s perspective on torts, and this is the ultimate and absolutely true perspective on what ought to be.
Halacha is the wisdom and will of God – that which God wills to be when Reuven claims x… [God’s wisdom teaches that] the ruling should be y.  And even if this case never transpires, and these claims are never actually judged, since this is what God wills to be, in accordance with His wisdom (that if one claims x the ruling should be y),  behold when a person [learns this and] knows and understands in his mind this ruling as it is established in a Mishna, or Gemara, or codes – this person understands and grasps [with his intellect,] and unifies his intellect with the will and wisdom of God [to a degree]… This is an amazing unification [i.e. internalizing God’s will and wisdom] that is not comparable to any other… (Sefer Likutei Amarim Tanya, Chapter 5)
As the word of God, the divinely authored Torah provides a perspective into the “mind” of God.  A person who wishes to better know how an author thinks will read everything written by the author.  Every additional book or article provides more insight into the mind of the writer.[1] So too, a deep understanding and familiarity with the “work of God” provides a perspective into the mind of God.  By studying the laws of damage or theft, as outlined by God, one begins to understand God’s perspective on justice. 

Torah study provides a window into the reality of the world – in a sense revealing a glimpse into how God sees the world.  It sharpens man’s perceptions and aligns his impressionable thinking with God’s absolute thought.   It is man’s greatest path to truth, and to his own elevation.

Blueprint of Creation

Our Sages teach that the Torah was Hashem’s blueprint for creating the world.  The Midrash states, “Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world” (Bereshis Rabbah 1, 1).  Classically this is understood to mean that the Torah contains the DNA code for the entire creation.  However, it is important to stress that God did not need a blueprint or any architectural plan to create the world.  This point of this teaching is that the Torah contains within it the key to understanding the world.  Torah did not serve as God’s blueprint so that He could create the world.  Rather, it is the blueprint for us.  If we want to understand the world, then we have the Torah to consult.

The Maharal even suggests that this is an understanding of the teaching that Torah was “created before the world.”  The verse in the very beginning of the Torah reads, “Bereshis bara…” – “In the beginning, [God] created…”  The Hebrew word for beginning – בראשית – is interpreted by Chazal to be a reference to Torah: אין ראשית אלא תורה – Torah is the true beginning.   Indeed, the verse in Mishle 8:22 quotes the Torah as proclaiming, “ה' קנני ראשית דרכו” – Meaning that it was created before the world.  The Maharal explains that this concept of being created before the world means that Torah contains within it the “order of creation and how it runs.”[2]

Hashem gave man the Torah so that man could read God’s “book” and understand the world.  Through the study of Torah man gains a perspective of how the world ought to functions and how it is sustained.

[1] Torah Temimah, Shemos 20:2, Anochi #3
[2] This specific quote is from Netzach Yisrael, Chapter3, but the Maharal discusses this concept in many places in his writings.  See also Netiv ha-Torah, Chapter 1 for a fuller treatment.   

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