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Shavuot: Noam Elimelech: Intention

One’s principal occupation in the holy Torah ought to be for its own sake, for only through such study is one likely to attain knowledge of God, to recognize His greatness and His wonders, and to cleave onto the divine.


This is the meaning of, “and the Lord spoke all these words, saying, I am God, your Lord (Exodus 20:1),” God told us all of these words, namely, the Torah in its totality, just in order to say: “I am God, your Lord.” For it is the Torah which made it possible for Him to convey to us the perception of His divinity.

The Sages nevertheless relaxed somewhat the requirement of Lishmah by saying that one should always engage in the study of Torah, even if not for its own sake, for this will eventually lead him to study for its own sake (Pesachim 50b). The fundamental root and principal of Torah is still: for its own sake. The permission to engage in study with ulterior motives in mind is merely that man should not waste his time completely, Heaven forbid, and become bored.

This is the meaning of, “Here, my son, the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother (Proverbs 1:8).” The first part of the verse refers to engaging in Torah for its own sake, and it intimates the proper approach to achieve this. That is, when studying the Torah one should sense in it the message or reprimand and chastisement demanding of him to study for its own sake and with Attachment to God.

Through this kind of study one may be called a son to the Father, the Creator. The other part of the verse, “do not forsake the teaching of your mother,” is a dressed to study for selfish reasons, saying that in any case one must not totally neglect the Torah, Heaven forbid, and should study it even if not for its own sake. This sort of study, however, is merely as a receiver, not an emanator of spiritual bounty. (Likkutei Shoshana)

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