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Shir ha-Shirim XVIII Part Five: Sefirah 41 Print E-mail

RamchalShall I say that just as wine is sometimes bad for the head and the body, so are the words of the Torah as well? Not so, since it is compared to oil; just as oil makes the head and the body feel pleasant, so the words of Torah make the head and the body feel pleasant, as it says, “Your word is an oil lamp for my feet (Psalms 119:105).”

 

Shall I say then that just as oil is bitter at first and sweet afterwards (the olive is bitter, while their oil is sweet), so are the words of Torah? Not so, since it is compared to milk and honey: just as these are sweet throughout, so are the words of the Torah, as it says, “Sweeter also than honey (Psalms 19:11).” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1.2.3.5)

Torah is compared by the verse to wine, and therefore we know that it can potentially cause damage similar to wine. We protect our Torah study by growing beyond “water” and “wine,” to oil, as the verse says, “A lamp for my feet is Your word and a light for my path (Psalms 119:105) The lamp, the container, with its oil and wick, is separate from the flame. The two together offer light. The lamp is the Nukavah, the female aspect of Torah; the flame is the “Zachar,” the external male. Together, they bring the light of the Divine Presence.

A person must begin by making himself an appropriate vessel for Torah learning; clean and pure, holy and reaching up to stir the Heavens with his efforts below. The flame, the Stirrings from Above, the gift from Heaven, the words of Torah fully empowered, finds the appropriately prepared lamp, and ignites the lamp. Together they bring the light of the Divine Presence to the world. (Ramchal: Tehillim)

The “Torah as oil” approach is to prepare ourselves as pure vessels to receive the flame of Torah.

Even the “Oil” approach has potential danger: “Shall I say then that just as oil is bitter at first and sweet afterwards, so are the words of Torah?”

The answer is to now add another approach: since it is compared to milk and honey: just as these are sweet throughout, so are the words of the Torah, as it says, “More desirable than gold, even more that great quantities of the purest form of refined gold; sweeter than honey, and the drippings of honeycombs (Psalms 19:11).” We can approach the pleasures of this world as commoner. The commoner seeks gold, while royalty desires spun gold, much finer, and more precious. The same applies to one who seeks Torah; he can seek as a commoner, “Katnut,” or as royalty, “Gadlut.” The person who experiences life on a basic level can experience Torah as more desirable than gold. The person who approaches life as royalty, can experience Torah as more than the finest spun gold.

Once a person has achieved either, “More desirable than gold,” or, “even more that great quantities of the purest form of refined gold,” he can then be nourished by Torah. The former, the common person, as “sweeter than honey.” The royal person will be nourished by the sweetness of Torah as, “the drippings of honeycombs.” (Ramchal: Tehillim)

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