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Amidah: Review of Da’at Part One: From You

Transcribed and Prepared by Chava Janovsky: So this all means that we are already discussing things beyond our immediate knowledge. This concept is essential to learning Torah. If I think Torah is simply information then I don’t have Torah. Torah is not just information; Torah is infinite. Therefore to understand Torah, you need to in the beginning absorb a certain amount of information, but Torah is not information. Torah is to be able to connect to the words of Hashem in the same way that a husband and wife can connect to each other. This connection is what is referred to as “daas” – Adam KNEW his wife – “vayadas.” Daas Torah is a person who when they learn Torah, the connection is as real as the most intimate and powerful connection between husband and wife. That is something that comes only as a gift. “Ata chonane l’adam daas.” You give us daas as a gift without any strings.


So if I open a Chumash and want to learn Hashem’s Torah, if I only want information, that is nice and it is good information to have, but it is not Torah. It is Torah when I understand there is daas where there is intimate connection.

This point is illustrated by a story from my experience in a very interesting shul where I was the Rabbi. Once I described in drasha in a shul with a very interesting mix of people: survivors, Hollywood types, etc. I asked people for the most important document they ever read in their lives. People gave many answers. some said their Visa to come to the US, some said their release form from the DP camp, some said their marriage license. For everyone who made a suggestion I said no (which of course they expected).

Interlude about the Tallis

Until one person, a man, stood up. And this guy was incredible; he was the one in the story of the Tallis. When I came to the shul and put in mechitza at the shul and took out microphone. So the shul went from 750 families one week to his fourth week at the shul – the following week, only 5 families. So they were a little concerned about future of the shul… that’s really a bad Rabbi. But then a lot of young frum people started coming. One of 5 who stayed with shul was vice president of the shul. He sat on the deos with the Rabbi. This young yeshiva guy came over and told him the tallis he was wearing was not kosher. So this man said – “Rebbe, (he loved having a real frum Rabbi there) are you going to tell me this tallis is not kosher…?”

I gotta tell you, from a halachic standpoint this tallis hadn’t been kosher in 200 years. But there was something special about the tallis and I didn’t want to stay anything. So the man asked me if he should tell the story about about the tallis. I had no idea what the story was but asked him to tell the yeshiva bachur the story. So he said he wore this tallis under his uniform in Auschwitz. And then said “are you going to tell me this is not kosher?” He didn’t do other mitzvahs, but never let go of that tallis… so this guy, Max said…

Max and Bella and the Love Letters

So Max stood up and took out a crumpled old yellow letter out of his pocket and his wife yelled out – “NO” and he said: “Yes darling.” They wrote letter to each other when they were sent into the Warsaw ghetto so if they were ever separated they would have something to keep of each other. He kept the letter the whole time in Auschwitz and read it over and over; he kept the letter with him all the time his whole life. And his wife had his letter to her. So he said: “This, Rabbi, this is the thing I read most closely in my life.” And I said: “EXACTLY; this is what a Sefer Torah is, this is what a Chumash it.” It is Hashem’s way of saying: ‘I wrote this sefer for you.’” It is a love letter from Hashem. When read a love letter, you read it over and over again for every detail. You look at what is being said, what’s not being said, you read between and over lines, you read again and again. Can you imagine what these letters meant to Max and Bella? That is what any sefer of Torah is; that is daas. That’s why it is the same word as intimacy.

So back to what we focus on when we say “Ata Chonane L’adam Daas…” We just spoke about fact that we fluctuate from the celebration of potential in Avos bracha, to the empowerment of the second bracha because we have so much troubled holding onto our potential. But then we literally understand that it makes sense that both coexist because that is the world of kedusha. Because we have to connect different worlds to get to a world that is eternal – beyond time and beyond space, we have to hold onto different worlds to connect the worlds above and below. How can we access such a world that is eternal and above and beyond space? How can we connect worlds above and below? How access such a world?

Do you think I can give you rules, like say that those 10 rules could always help us maintain perspective of way to connection heaven and earth and be able to connect in such a way to connect to eternality beyond space and time with the 3rd kadosh? Is it rules or beyond anything that can be spelled out in black and white? Is it something we need to know, KNOW deep deep inside in most intimate way that we relate to it? Which one is it? That is daas. We understand that we will never approach the world of kedusha and do what we can with the world of kedusha and the 3 kadosh if what we want is information; if what we want is black and white rules about what to do. We won’t do it.

How to Do It

So what are we going to do? No problem: the answer is: “You, Hashem.” What did we say happens every time what happens when we say “Ata.”  Ata means you are standing in front of Hashem directly. But what happens when stand in front of Him close enough to say “You” which would never say to a Rebbe or some to a parent? (I never said “you” to my father). But to Hashem I say “You.” So how close am I being? So how can say “You” to Hashem if you don’t say “you” to your Rebbe?” How can you say “YOU” to Hashem? Because what happens when feel that close to Hashem? “Ratzo,” we pull back. But He wants “rasho,” for us to come back. Every time we say “Ata” it is Hashem saying don’t pull away, come back. Ata – we are overwhelmed with the potential of Avos, the empowerment of gevourah, and the challenge of the 3 levels of kedusha. But Hashem is telling us not to pull away. He is telling us to come back. “Ata chonane l’adam daas:” You give us as a gift without any strings attached: daas, the ability to use the Torah You wrote for me and for you and for everyone here to connect with such intimacy and in such a powerful way that now I can be use what I have already said in davening.

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