Shavuot - Dig Deeper
Shavuot is the day we celebrate the Torah’s birthday. For over 33 centuries have the Sages of Israel studied this sacred work. You would think that by now every possible understanding of the Torah would have been squeezed out of it. However, herein lies the problem. To read the Torah and to understand its surface teachings is an accomplishment achieved by many.
Yet, a point long emphasized from the days of the Biblical prophets to the teachings of the holy Mekubalim of today - there is much more to Torah than meets the eye. Like the depths of the ocean, the Torah conceals many secrets. Indeed, even with tens of thousands of religious texts written over the centuries, the true essence of Torah is as much a mystery to us today as it was 33 centuries ago.
What do we really know about the Torah? Granted, we know the 613 Laws that G-d has commanded us to observe. We know the stories about our ancestors, we have learned many moral lessons, and know all the beautiful tales. Yet, is this all the Torah?
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, the great Talmudic Sage and author of the holy mystical Zohar states, that if all there was to Torah was it’s stories and morals, it would be quite an unimpressive book. Indeed, Rabbi Shimon says, if all there was to Torah was its surface, we could write a better Torah ourselves, today. However, Rabbi Shimon advises us, this can never be so. One must never underestimate the depths of the Torah. For as it is recorded in Pirkei Avot, “all is within It.”
Just what this “All” is has never been fully determined. Because in spite of all the study in Torah accomplished over the last 33 centuries, even the holy Mekubalim, the masters of mysticism admit, that the Torah has such depths, that even our deepest scans have just scratched the surface.
In this last century, human technology has leaped forward more than in all of human history combined. Our understandings of science & cosmology, matter, energy and light have taken us from investigating the super-strings that underlie all subatomic particles to the big bang and the beginning of the universe.
It is rather hard starting at the bottom rung of a ladder and to try to climb all the way to Heaven, especially when the ladder twists and turns (like the double helix in DNA), making the proper direction ever more so impossible to decipher. Wouldn’t it be nice if indeed, “Someone” (at the top of the ladder) made contact with us and that He gave us some instructions on how to properly ascend? Well, this contact was made, at Mt. Sinai. We received full instructions for the evolution of the human race and our guide how to ascend to the stars. We have only one minor problem in achieving these lofty goals - we haven’t figured out how to decipher the whole message yet. Torah is and always has been an anomaly to anyone who hasn’t bonded with it in the mystical sense, as described above.
Maybe what we need today is a new, non-surface approach to Torah study. We should acknowledge the profound depths concealed within the Torah and thus endeavor to study Torah with scientific discipline and inquiry. By this, I do not mean, G-d forbid, to insult HaShem by denying the validity and necessity of fulfilling the surface level Laws and moral lessons. On the contrary, I mean to explore HaShem’s Torah, beyond the surface, while still in full observance of the mitzvot, to explore for the secrets of creation and science.
The Midrash teaches us that G-d looked into the Torah and created the world. If the Torah contains everything, as it does, than I expect “everything” to include all the laws of science, physics, chemistry, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, metaphysics and everything else. There is much more to Torah than the surface level understanding of how to observe the commandments and to live moral, righteous and holy lives. The Torah reveals to us the Mind of G-d, the very thoughts, ideas and desires of our Creator.
Indeed, Torah does contain all this knowledge and more. Even in the story of the Garden of Eden, hidden gematrias (numerical values of words) form the Fibonacci numerical sequence for the creation of spirals. This mathematical formula is the basis of every spiral pattern in the universe from the shell of a snail to the entire Milky Way galaxy. All this is hinted to in the numerical values of the words spelling out the surface level Garden of Eden story. Who knows what else awaits our discovery? Who knows what questions we have not even thought of yet to ask, all the more so to seek their answers in the Torah.
In light of the awe and wonder of Torah, knowing as we do its extraterrestrial origins, how is then that its surface messages, i.e., the 613 commandments and moral guidance are all ignored repeatedly by people who should know better. Agreed as human beings we have human frailties and earthly passions. We do not always think with our heads. Sometimes we don’t think at all. I understand a person succumbing to earthly passions. As bad and wrong as it is, it is at least understandable. What I cannot understand is why we humans do not take advantage of our greatest gift and potential – our human minds.
The purpose of HaShem giving the Torah to Israel on this Shavuot day was for us to study and learn it. By doing so, we would be opening long lost avenues in the mind, enabling us to expand our consciousness. Indeed, Jewish scholars have always been a cut above the rest. This is because of both, what we study and how we study. There is a secret method to the madness of constant Torah study.
As we approach Torah’s birthday, I ask that we contemplate Her wonder. I ask that we contemplate what it is that we are missing that we cannot know until we open our hearts to knowing. I ask that we give Torah the best birthday present She could ever receive from us – our compliance to HaShem’s mitzvot.
The Torah is indeed a living, vibrant and passionate FEMALE soul. We know Her best as the Shekhina. This is why Rabbis know the Torah in the same way as Adam knew Eve. The bond is one of passion. The study is energized by elevated libido. Once the earthly passions are disciplined, libido (sexual) force ascends into the heart, creating passion, love and desire to know the ways of HaShem. After years of study and observance of the mitzvot, one’s inner and outer being is transformed. One becomes a new individual, an evolved soul.
This is path of the true Talmid Hakham, the sincere Ben/Bat Torah. Yes, women can also experience this level, even as did Sarah, Rivka, Rahel and Leah. Their life stories serve as examples to women how to live exemplary lives crowned by the mitzvot of the Torah. After all, the Shekhina dwells in them, more so than in we men. That is why we men must make extra efforts in Torah study and mitzvot observance – to attain the level and feeling of heart that is more natural to occur among women.
With all the turmoil in world Jewry and in Israel this special birthday holiday, let us take pause to remember the important things in life. Let’s seek a glimpse of the “big picture.” Shavuot tradition (with its source in the holy Zohar) dictates that we stay up all night long studying Torah at this most auspicious time. According to the Kabbalah, there is a special order of readings for this night called the Kriyat Mo’ed, which sets into motion an alignment of spiritual energies which we call the Sefirot. I know that not everyone is aware of the Kabbalistic meditations for Shavuot. I know that not everyone has access to the order of the Kriyat Mo’ed (special readings). Nonetheless, make this night a special one.
Rabbi Haim David Azulai (the HiD’A) writes in numerous places that Shavuot night IS NOT a night like all others, therefore, what we study on this night should NOT BE what we study on all other nights. He very clearly states that Shavuot night is not the time to be studying Gemara or to read Mishnayot. For those of you with the opportunity to do so – don’t miss your chance to touch the soul of the Shekhina this night, in that special way that only the Mekubalim can know. For the rest of you, regardless of what course of study you take – stay up the night – daven with the netz (sunrise) and take a little time out during the night to talk to HaShem, to contemplate His Majesty, to wonder about all the secrets of the universe locked up and concealed within the Chumash (Torah) that you hold in your hands.
Give to Torah, a beautiful birthday present. Study Her, explore her, make love to her with your minds and your souls. Observe her mitzvot and see and feel how wonderful being bonded with HaShem can truly be.
Rabbi Ariel Ben Tzadok
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