Shema: They Are Life To Those Who Find Them
“The entire Mitzvah that I command you.” (Devarim 8:1) This is the meaning of the verse, “For they are life to those who find them, and a healing for all his flesh.” (Mishlei 4:22) Anyone who finds words of Torah has found life. Alternatively, “l’motzeihem”- for those who find them, can be read “l’motzi’ehem”- for those who articulate the words of Torah with their mouths. Alternatively, “it is life ‘l’motzie’hem’- for those who bring them out”; that is, for the benfit of others. And a man does not need to to learn the words of Torah unless he brings them [motzeh] properly to their conclusion and their reason”. (Midrash Tanchuma, Eikev #5)
What does it mean to “find words of Torah”, and access its life-giving, healing power? This Midrash does not simply provide us with a clever play on words. It leads us through the nuances that can help us attach to the Torah’s life force. It is interesting to see how these nuances reflect major themes of the first paragraph of the Shema.
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart”- the words of Torah can only start to make an impression upon our hearts when we “bring them to their conclusion and their reason”. It is only when we derive practical applications from what we learn, and when we develop the “ta’am”- reason or taste for the words of Torah, that they can penetrate our hearts and infuse us with life.
“And you shall teach them to your children” -meaning, they are life for “those who bring them out for the benefit of others”. When we can sense the dynamic energy of Torah, we understand that it is expansive, that it must be shared and conveyed to others as a living legacy.
“And you shall speak them”;they are life for “those who articulate the words of Torah with their mouths”. It is not sufficient to think about Torah, or to contemplate its concepts in an abstract way. It is life to those who speak it, to those who breathe it, to those for whom Torah becomes part of their vocabulary.
And finally, in the literal sense, “for they are life to those who find them”; the finding is a reflection of the search that leads to it. “And you shall love Hashem your Lord with all your heart…”; there is no better way to express our love of God than to turn our lives into a quest to find how to attach ourselves to the Tree of Life.