Most Jews experience at least some form of Torah study. If you grew up secular, you probably studied the Pentateuch, the key books in Prophets, some of the more notable poems in Psalms, and little else. If you grew up observant, you studied much more intensively the texts of the Tanach (Pentateuch, Prophets, Writings), as well as many other Torah related texts such as Mishnah and Gemarah.
How the Torah Opens Our EyesDreamstime
But observant or not, chances are you missed out on the purpose of studying Torah, and therefore did not understand the meaning of the text or how it should affect you. To really understand the Torah, you need to study it not in order to learn the history of our people, its morals, or how to observe its commandments. The Torah is a tool for breaking the boundaries of our perception and allowing us to see the system that manages the whole of reality. But to expand our vision, we need to change ourselves from self-serving individuals into caring and connected human beings who love others as themselves.
What Limits Our Perception
All of reality runs on the balanced interaction between two forces—positive and negative. These forces manifest in giving and receiving, connecting and disconnecting, inhaling and exhaling, day and night, and all the other opposites that complement one another. Without this balance, our universe would not be as it is and our existence would not be possible.
But we, humans, are different. The Torah says that “The inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21), and “Every inclination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil” (Gen 6:5). Without the positive force, we cannot grasp the full picture of reality and therefore make our choices based on a completely skewed worldview. Today we are at a point where our self-centered grasp of reality has become a ticking time bomb, and the timer is almost down to zero.
Yet, we have a proven remedy that can implant within us the qualities of the positive force. Once we acquire it, we will know how to manage our lives beneficially for ourselves and others. Our forefathers called this remedy, “Torah.” According to the Talmud, God said to Israel: “My sons, I have created the evil inclination [egoism], and I have created for it the Torah as a spice. If you engage in Torah you will not be given to it” (Kiddushin 30b).
How the Torah Opens Our Eyes
It is written in Midrash Rabah (Eicha): “I wish they left Me and kept My Torah, for by engaging in it, the light [force] in it would reform them.” The force (or light) in the Torah is the positive force that is absent in us and which balances all other systems in nature. When we study the Torah, we come in contact with it. Then, much like electrical induction influences objects in its field, our nature takes on the qualities of the force field that surrounds it and acquires the positive force. Once we acquire it, we begin to see the true, expansive reality around us. We grasp why things happen and how to conduct our lives and our society in a way that brings balance and prosperity to everyone.
As our perception expands beyond the limits of personal perception, we begin to see the design and direction of all of reality. Our perception transcends time and place and, in a sense, we become eternal. While our biological bodies do not change, as our perception of ourselves detaches from our bodies, they become unbounded by biological existence or expiration. My teacher, the RABASH, used to say that for such people, death is like changing a shirt: you slip out of an old body and into a new one.
Acquiring New Qualities
The Jerusalem Talmud writes, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Rabbi Akiva says—this is the great rule of the Torah” (Nedrasim 30b). In order to reap the benefits of the Torah, you need to create the force field mentioned earlier. Just like a sports team, you need other people next to you as “practice partners.” With them, you hone your giving skills and adjust yourself to the positive force until it begins to change you from within. Alone, such a change is so opposite to our nature that it will never happen, since “Commanding one to love one’s friend is bewildering for it is innately impossible” (Torah Temima, Vayikra).
Torah in the Time of Crisis
Since the study of Torah opens our eyes to the full system of reality, at a time when egoism is devastating our world, understanding how to manage it is vital to our survival. Now we must present the real Torah: the force that reforms us. The more we stall, the more the world will hold us responsible for its crises. And the worse the crises become, the more people will hate us. We may call this anti-Semitism, but humanity calls it, “the truth.” It makes no difference that the stories anti-Semites tell about us are false; all that matters is that we are indeed responsible because we haven’t provided the correction method for the ego. The rest are details.
Now, in the time of crisis, we must debunk the myths around the Torah and begin to see it for what it is. As Baal Hasulam writes, “Torah refers to the light [force] clothed in the Torah, as our sages said, ‘I have created the evil inclination, I have created the Torah as a spice.’ This refers to the light in it, since the light in it reforms it.”
Now we must understand what we are required to do for the world, what message we must convey and how we must conduct ourselves as individuals and as a nation. We must understand that we are Israel only when we are united and strive to love our neighbors as ourselves, because then we are in touch with the positive force in the Torah and can convey it to the world. If we engage in Torah in order to balance our egoism, we will eliminate Jew-hatred, humanity will make it through the crises, and we will balance the entire system of nature. But only if we do not stall…