Hebraic Studies - Why Should I Learn Torah?

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Why Should I Learn Torah?

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham

 

Please Note: On this page I will show the four letter blessed *“Memorial Name” of the Almighty in Ivrit -  - Y-H-V-H, which we usually pronounce as “Adonai” or “HaShem”. At all times treat the most blessed Name with sanctity and when we even see the Name, we should say “blessed be His Sanctified Name.”

 

*“This is My Name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.” Shemot - Exodus 3:15.

 

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The question frequently asked of me is as follows; “Why should I learn the Torah, and what benefit will I receive from learning it”. It really amazes me that a Jew asks me this, for is it not the most important thing we should know as part of our faith.

In Judaism the very heart is the wonderful mitzvah of being able to the study of our beloved Torah, for obviously it is more than just the Law, for it also contains so much detail of our very beginning, when G-d gave the land to Avram

“And  said to Avram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are, northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land that you see I give to you and your descendants forever.’” Bereshis - Genesis 13:14-15.

And of course as we continue we will also read about the miraculous Exodus from Mitzraim (Egypt) in Shemot - Exodus!

The truth is we should have a better understanding of the teachings that are so vital of our Hebraic faith. This philosophy must bring to light the ultimate good that man is able to attain from the adherence from living a way of life based on what we are taught in the wonderful Torah.

Here we see a part of an open Torah Scroll

 

Excellent  Torah editions containing the Five Books of Moshe - Moses, in both

Hebrew and English are available from any Jewish Bookstore by various publishers

Judaism is not just a religion, and by religion I do mean doing those things that we as humans normally tend to satisfy the normal instinct in us. Obviously, many forms of this satisfaction are prohibited in the Torah, and may even be deemed to be evil. Judaism considers its greatest adversary the unbridled religious emotion of man. This sadly can reach in the ultimate manifestation of idolatry. Judaism is a unique metaphysical and philosophical system. Its insistence on knowledge as the only means of determining its practice and the worship of our blessed Creator and this distinguishes us from all other religions. Judaism demands of man a certain level of knowledge and understanding their faith and those things that G-d has taught us so long ago!

Remember studying in English or whatever your language is will be just fine

But do try to learn Hebrew whenever it becomes possible!

Obviously falsehood is equated with evil, whilst truth and living a good life, combined with knowledge and understanding of the Torah makes us a better and a faithful person. And friends, it is precisely for this reason that we were given the Torah. Maimonides explained in the laws concerning those who were converting, when we speak to a prospective convert we tell him, “There is no such thing as a truly righteous person other than he who has knowledge of the Torah and who keeps the Laws and understands them.”

Judaism is the only faith that views knowledge as being indispensable for its practice and maintains that man finds his deepest fulfilment in knowledge.

“Say unto wisdom thou art my sister and to understanding shalt thou call a close relative.” Mishle Shlomo - Proverbs 7:4.

Countless passages of the Torah and the prophets attest to this fact. For this reason the Jews were not supposed to believe in the Torah without witnessing the event at Sinai. Two passages of the Torah make this point exceedingly clear:

“Behold I will reveal myself to you in the thickness of the cloud in order that the nation shall hear when I speak with you and also in you will they believe forever.” Shemot - Exodus 19:9.

“The day that you stood before  your G-d in Horeb when  said to me ‘Gather for Me the nation and I will let them hear My words in order that they shall learn to fear Me all the days that they live on the land, and that they may teach their children.’” Davarim - Deuteronomy 4:10.

As we well know there were many of the Israelites that lacked in religiosity and even abandoned the beneficial and knowledgeable ways of the Torah for a life of sheer nonsense, folly and sadly even idolatry. They were often rebuked for their misguided religiosity as in Yeshayahu - Isaiah 1:11-15 and 48:1-6.

We must understand that falsehood is the enemy of the Torah, thus always remember that knowledge and understanding our beloved Torah is our stronghold.

is the true G-d; He is the living G-d and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.’” Yirmyahu - Jeremiah 10:10-11.

- Judaism does not fear honest scientific inquiry. Although we have never had what we may call ‘a Galileo episode.’ Indeed not one of our “baaley mesorah” (authentic Torah scholars) has ever suggested the denial of any scientifically demonstrated conclusions about the natural world. The most absurd idea imaginable to Judaism is to suggest that we deny our senses or our minds. It would mean the denial of the event of Sinai, the very basis of our Torah. No true Torah scholar has ever suggested the denial of what we see with our eyes and what is conclusively proven with our minds.

The true religion can only find support from all sources of knowledge as all knowledge has as its source one Creator. What Judaism does scorn is pseudo-intellectualism, rash decisions stemming not from man's "Tzelem Elokim," his divine gift of intellect which the Creator has endowed him with, but from alien sources which lie deeply rooted in man's instinctual nature. All roads of true inquiry lead to one conclusion, the existence of the Creator and the realization of our inability to comprehend His greatness. As Albert Einstein once stated, ‘Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, a spirit vastly superior to that of man and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.’

There is one portion of the Torah that is singled out from all others in terms of religious significance, the Shema (Davarim - Deuteronomy 6:4). We are required to recite it twice daily. We are further required to bind this portion to our arms and to our heads (men laying Tefillin) and to place Mezuzah’s on our doorposts. It is obvious, therefore, that of all the portions of the Torah, this one is considered to contain the most crucial and fundamental message.

The first statement, (and when we say it we will say it like this) “Hear O Israel,  our G-d,  is One,” contains three ideas: 1. The existence of G-d, 2. His Oneness, 3. and the fact that He relates to us.

However the Shema as written in the Torah continues like this;

“You shall love  your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Davarim - Deuteronomy 6:5-8.

The third statement, “And these words” further encourages us to study the Torah. Rashi tells us that this third statement teaches us how to accomplish the injunction contained in the previous statement. He said, ‘And what is this love? Because through this, the study of Torah, one will come to recognize the Holy One blessed be He, and you will cling to His ways.” Rashi's source is the Sifri. Maimonides in his “Sefer Hamitzvot,” being the Book of the Commandments, in the third positive commandment elaborates, “He commanded us to love Him, may He be exalted. This means that we should analyze and ponder His commandments, His words, and His works until we comprehend it and we enjoy in its comprehension the ultimate delight.”

This is the love that is obligatory upon us. The words of the Sifri in this matter are, “It says ‘and you shall love  your G-d', but I do not know how one loves G-d. The Torah therefore tells us, ‘these words which I command you shall be upon your heart.’ This refers to the study of Torah, because through it you recognize the One who spoke and caused the universe to come into existence.’” The commandment to love G-d present a serious problem, we may ask, “How can one love G-d?” There are those who cannot take the commandment at face value and we may ask why not? The answer may be rooted in Judaism’s idea of G-d.

The G-d of Israel is inherently unknowable and indefinable.

“To whom can you liken Me that I may be compared, saith the Holy One.” Yeshayahu - Isaiah 40:25.

His essence is removed from any created existences that man is able to know. How then can we direct the emotion of love to an unknowable entity? Love requires an object. Thus the very commandment to love our Creator can be a monumental dilemma. The Sifri explained that the Torah anticipated this question and that it did give us a solution. It is true that we cannot apply love to G-d as one would to an ordinary person we know. There is, however, a path we may take in order to fulfil this commandment. When we study G-d’s Torah and when we contemplate His works we become filled with ecstasy over His great love for His people Israel and his immense wisdom. Therefore as we studied and read the Torah and discovered all that our G-d has done, we will have come to realise how great He is and all that He had done for us, and you will then attain the delight and enjoyment and then the love for our G-d will obviously follow for He has obviously loved us! This concept of the love of G-d is unique. It is not like the love of an object as G-d is not an object that is apprehended by the mind. It is only similar to love in the sense that one is drawn towards G-d, for I know, I long for Him, and desires to approach Him. This desire can only be attained through the study and appreciation and delight in partaking of His’ infinite knowledge. If one does not study Torah, if one does not take delight and marvel at the beauty of G-d's wisdom, one cannot be overcome with the longing to reach forth towards the source of all wisdom and knowledge, the Creator of everything that exists. It is for this reason that the love of G-d is in direct proportion to one’s knowledge of our Creator and what He has done for His people, being our forefathers. It cannot exceed our knowledge for it is only the experience that results directly from our knowledge and understanding of the Torah that is defined by our study of the Torah as how we will love our beloved G-d. All other emotional expressions of love are extraneous and are not considered as a component of the mitzvah.

Obviously, we cannot will ourselves to love G-d it all comes together with the performance of the mitzvah, and the fulfilment of a mitzvah which are two separate entities. The performance is the study, the analysis, the understanding of G-d’s laws. The fulfilment is found in the enjoyment and delight one experiences while learning, which causes one to turn towards G-d, to long for Him. I am reminded by the words of Melech Dovid - King David;

“My soul thirsts for the Almighty the living G-d.” Tehillim - Psalms 42:3.

Why should one study Torah? Because it is only through Torah that one can fulfil the one commandment and that is the end goal of the entire Torah, the love of our G-d.

“You shall love  your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Davarim - Deuteronomy 6:5.

I trust we will now understand the reason why it is so important to study the Torah? As we have learned, it is because studying the Torah will brings us close to the source of all reality, the Creator of the Universe, that is the heaven and the earth and everything that is therein.

So, why study Torah? Because through the study of Torah we will attain the highest possible state of human existence, the very purpose for which we were created. It is for this reason we were endowed with the “Tzelem Elokim - his divine element. All else that a person may do in life is only a means for the state of mind derived from the learning of the Torah. It is the most satisfying state of human existence attainable; one that gives us true happiness. According to Judaism our lives was specifically designed for this experience. For all our energies are involved in a sublime joy and appreciation of intellectual beatitude. And as such it is the most gratifying experience possible for us all as Jews!

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

 

 

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