Friday, August 8, 2008

Torah vs. Tefillah

Whenever one invests effort in serving G–d, he elicits a certain flow of divine revelation.[1] However, there is a difference between the level one reaches via Tefillah, prayer, and Torah.

Prayer centers around the person’s efforts at striving to reach G–d, from below to above. The Zohar[2] thus compares prayer to a ladder, which one climbs up to reach G–d. The level of G–dliness that one elicits through prayer is thus dependent upon and directly commensurate with the amount of effort that he invests.

In contrast, Torah study is primarily a revelation of G–d to man, from above to below. Thus, although it is necessary to invest effort at Torah study, this is merely a prerequisite for this flow of blessing. However, the level of G–dliness that one thereby elicits is completely superior to the person’s efforts, so much so that this flow is not attributed to his efforts at all.[3]

This also explains why the Torah is called a “Torah of kindness.”
[4] Why is the Torah specifically associated with the attribute of kindness? Kindness represents giving something that is unearned, underserved. Although the recipient may possess some worthy qualities, kindness entails giving without paying attention to those qualities, in a way that far exceeds the call of duty. Thus, the level of G–dliness that we elicit through Torah study, which far surpasses our worthiness, is described as kindness.

Thus far we have used the concept of kindness to describe the
origin in the higher spiritual realms of the G–dliness elicited via Torah study. In addition, the concept of kindness denotes revelation (in contrast to strictness, which denotes concealment). This is a second way of explaining the description of the Torah as a “Torah of kindness”: The unique quality of Torah study is that it elicits a raw, completely unfiltered revelation of G–dliness into this world.

In fact, in a sense this revelation of G–dliness via Torah continues the kindness with which G–d created the world. To explain, G–d is inherently good and kind, and this moved Him, as it were, to His first act of kindness—the creation of the chain of spiritual worlds.
[6] This especially required kindness because at the time of this decision there could not possibly have been any worthiness on the part of the recipients, for they had not yet been created.

However, ever since man was created, the worlds have no longer been created through divine kindness. Rather, their continuing recreation depends upon our efforts to submit to divine authority, especially on Rosh Hashanah.[7]

Nevertheless, G–d’s desire for underserved kindness is still manifest in the world—via the Torah. Through Torah study, G–dliness is revealed in this world just as it is revealed in the supernal realms.

However, the Talmud qualifies
[8] that only Torah studied lishmah, for its own sake, and with the intention of teaching it to others[9] is considered “a Torah of kindness.” Otherwise one’s Torah is “a Torah not of kindness.”

In the context of our discussion, this means that Torah study alone will not elicit this awesome revelation of G–dliness referred to as kindness. A certain degree of effort is required to make one a vessel for this blessing, i.e., for this G–dliness to come down upon the person in a revealed manner. The prerequisites are study of Torah lishmah and sharing one’s Torah knowledge with others.

This also explains why the duty to pray is only required at certain times, while the duty to study Torah is constant. A Jew is obligated to spend every spare moment of the day and night[10] studying Torah. Torah study elicits an infinite light, and this is reflected in the requirement of uninterrupted Torah study. Tefillah, in contrast, only elicits a limited light, so the time of obligation is also limited.

Adapted from the Frierdiker Rebbe’s Reshimas Chag HaShavuos 5675, with references and explanatory notes from the Rebbe.

[1] In the language of Chassidus, an Isarusa Dilesata, an “Arousal From Below,” leads to an Isarusa Dile’eila, an “Arousal From Above.”

[2] Zohar 1:266b.

[3] In the original, Isarusa Dile’eila mitzad atzma, “an Arousal From Above that comes of its own”.

[4] Mishlei 31:26.

[5] This G-dly light is revealed despite the fact that we cannot see it, just as a blind person can cause a light to shine that he is unable to see. The reason that we cannot see the light is that the coarseness of the physical world blinds us to it (see Tanya p. 131). However, in the age of Moshiach this coarseness will be removed, and we will openly perceive the reality of what we now accomplish (ibid. ch. 37).

[6] See beg. Eitz Chaim.

[7] Likkutei Torah, Rosh Hashanah 58:1-2.

[8] Sukkah 49b.

[9] This can also be accomplished by lending financial support to others to study Torah.

[10] Yehoshua 1:8.

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