“Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” – Proverbs 3:17
The Torah is a religious manual that teaches us how to live our life. The Torah is a spiritual guide that tells us how to approach God. It is a source of wisdom and understanding – a path that leads to tranquility and peace.
“The Torah of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.” – Psalm 19:8
The Torah explains to us the nature of the human condition and the character of life in this world. By clearing away our confusion, it relieves our despair. It calms the turmoil created by our material consciousness, lifts the veil of ignorance and brings us peace.
According to the Ari, there is a Torah for this world and there is a supernal Torah in the higher realms. The supernal Torah is a Divine thoughtform in the Universal Mind of God. All knowledge, all wisdom is contained in this Divine thoughtform. It embodies all of God’s plans and desires for the universe. It is complete in its design and structure, and there is perfect harmony between all of its different parts.
The Torah that we possess is one emanation of the supernal Torah – the physical manifestation of this infinite and eternal Divine Idea. The purpose of the physical Torah is to transform the Jewish people into fitting instruments of Divine service. It is God’s vehicle to infuse us with His wisdom and understanding. It shows us how to purify our personalities and live in peace and harmony.
Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina: “Talmiday hachamim – wise scholars increase peace in the world.” – Brachot 64A
This is a very important truth. But what is a “wise scholar”? It is not simply a scholar who knows the whole of the Shulchan Aruch – the Code of Jewish Law – inside out. Nor is it a person who has gone through the entire Talmud and can quote chapter and verse. It is not even someone who knows the mystical teachings of the Zohar and the Ari by heart. A wise scholar is an individual who possesses deep wisdom and true understanding. A wise scholar will provide us with real answers to the fundamental questions of our existence.
Why are we here in this world? Does God really exist? Why is there so much suffering in the world? How can a merciful God allow all this suffering to happen? The ability to give credible answers to these and other crucial questions is the quality that we are searching for in our teachers and spiritual guides. It is the reason for this praise of the scholars of wisdom and their unique ability to increase peace in the world.
Study, then, is a path that will lead us to peace. As we enter into the teachings of spiritual wisdom they open up the inner reality for us and bring it to life. They expand our consciousness, deepen our understanding, free us of our doubts and fears and give us peace.
This is accomplished not by intellectual learning, though the intellect has a part in it, but through contemplation and meditation on the teachings of spiritual wisdom – on the teachings of the Torah.
Therefore, the Baal Shem gave his Hasidim specific instructions about the state of consciousness in which they should approach their learning. Here are a few of his suggestions:
- The rabbis said (Brachot 8A): “God has nothing in this world except the four amot [cubits] of halacha [Jewish Law].” When we sit down to learn, we should think in our hearts that God has contracted Himself into this very space where we are learning and that our learning brings God’s presence into the room.
- Each hour that we learn, we should break for a few minutes and link ourselves to God.
- During the learning, we must keep reminding ourselves before Whom we are learning. We must keep reminding ourselves of His presence at every moment and every hour, because the learning process can sometimes distance us from God.
- When we are learning a piece by a Rabbi, Hasidic Master or Kabbalist, we should visualize in our minds that this person is right there before us, teaching us. As he speaks, we should visualize that we are drawing into ourselves the spiritual livingness and power that is in his words. Whenever we reach a point of understanding from the teaching, we should visualize that we are drawing the spiritual force of this understanding into ourselves.
Rebbe Natan of Nemirov teaches that to draw down Divine inspiration requires many vessels. Each Jew is a partner in this spiritual work. Each is a vessel that holds a spark of wisdom to offer to the rest of Israel. Therefore, we will only receive the Divine inspiration in its fullness, when all of Israel lives together in unity and peace.
According to the Ari, each Jew has a letter in the supernal Torah that is the spiritual source from which he or she has come. Each of us is a spark of the Universal Soul. Each of us is one tiny glimmer in the Mind of God.
This Divine spark lies at the core of our being. We come into this world to reveal its light. When we link our individual minds to the Mind of God, our soul resonates with the vibration of the letter or spark from which we come. The more we link ourselves to God, the greater the sense of resonance and harmony within us. When we reach the place of perfect resonance with this Divine Idea, we will transcend our physical consciousness and merge into our supernal source. Then we will attain supreme peace.
Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav calls this process receiving the noam elyon – the supernal bliss. The emanation of supernal bliss expands our consciousness and fills us with the Divine presence. It reveals the glory of God within us and within the world around us.
An influx of noam elyon will also have a tremendous impact on the nature of our learning. Rebbe Nachman delineates two different states of consciousness in which we can learn: mochin d’Eretz Yisrael – the consciousness of the Land of Israel, and mochin d’Chutz La’aretz – the consciousness of the Diaspora. Mochin d’Eretz Yisrael, he explains, is learning that is intuitive and inspired, where we feel connected to God and everything just flows. Mochin deChutz La’aretz is learning that relies solely on the intellect, where we must struggle and push, utilizing logical arguments to try and reach a conclusion.
When we learn with the consciousness of mochin deEretz Yisrael, we are linked into the noam elyon – the supernal bliss. This kind of learning, Rebbe Nachman proclaims, can only be accessed through an open heart. It is chomat halev – wisdom that comes from the heart. It is a more elevated aspect of learning that lifts us up into the place of noam – of pleasantness, grace and peace. It is the highest fulfillment of the Biblical phrase: “Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.”
Psalm 119:165 states: “Those who love your Torah have great peace.”
The lovers of the Torah are the individuals who study and contemplate the Torah – who perceive its special beauty and wisdom. The lovers of the Torah are the people who long for the light of the supernal Torah – who yearn for the inspiration of the living Word of God. They will receive peace and give peace to others. May we be worthy to be numbered among them.
Copyright © 2008, by Yoel Glick