The Nineteen Steps: Class Notes 11/05/09
Avot is a celebration of human potential: God desires to be known by the Avot: The Lord of Abraham.
We may thrill at the potential but we have difficulty connecting, because we are so attached to limitations. We therefore turn to the second blessing: Empowerment – Gevurot.
We move back and forth between the thrill of potential and limitation in the same way we move between worlds. The Third blessing speaks of our ability to connect the worlds and use them to create a new reality.
In order to create the new reality we need Torah.
Torah is not a list of rules or information. Da’at Torah demands an intimate connection as in, “And Adam knew Eve his wife.”
We compared this to the story of two congregants who carried very old and worn letters in their pockets wherever they went. They each wrote a letter to each other when they were in the Warsaw ghetto so that they would remain connected no matter how distant. They carried these letters with them until their deaths in the late 90s. They read and reread the letters. They read what was written and what was not. They read between the lines and never tired of finding new levels of meaning in the familiar words.
The Torah is such a letter to each of us from God. Da’at is the ability to read the Torah with that connection.
Da’at is the difference between Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l answering a question that flowed through every cell of his body, or finding the answer on a computer search.
“Ata” – You – speaking to God in second person, something we would never do to a Rebbi, is God’s way to call us closer to Him when we begin to withdraw.
You – our close and intimate God, grant us such an intimate connection with Torah as a gift without any strings.
This is the only blessing that begins with acknowledgement. We offered two reasons:
1. One must appreciate wisdom in order to receive more. (Based on Daniel 2:26)
2. We speak as if God has already responded to our prayer even before we asked, simply because we intended to ask. We compared this to Taanit 8a, the story of Rabbi Zeira and accepting to fast for rain.
You teach us understanding: We accept life experiences as lessons in understanding. Instead of asking, “Why did God want me to be stuck in traffic on the way to a job interview?” Ask, “How did I react to the situation? How could I have improved my reaction?”
We then spoke of the interaction of Da’at and Binah in a marriage.
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