Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Very Short DT for Bechukosai

Written for a school Newsletter:

ויקרא פרק כו פסוק ג

אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ

If you walk in my statutes...

Rashi interprets this phrase to mean: If you toil in Torah. The Maharal in his commentary, Gur Aryeh, to this phrase explains further that the Torah here uses the verb “to walk” because it connotes travel – indeed, hard travel, by foot – from place to place. Our toil in Torah should be directed at traveling ever deeper, from level to level, in our understanding of the Torah. It is to stress the all-encompassing importance of this process, explains the Maharal, that the Torah here refers to chukkim – the statutes of the Torah, such as parah adumah and shatnez, that have no readily apparent explanation. It is even in the study of these statutes that we are encouraged to travel ever deeper – even though the comprehension of these statutes is harder than the comprehension of other parts of the Torah – to reach more profound levels of understanding.

The Maharal, of course, anticipates the question: “Are not these statutes beyond human understanding?” He explains that when our Sages state that chukkim posses no readily apparent rationale does not mean that they are totally incomprehensible. Rather, they are, perhaps not completely within the grasp of our reason, but by dint of steady, repeated “walking” the path of understanding, we too can attain a significant understanding of the chukkim.

A critical component of our Torah education is the pursuit of understanding, imparting the profound reasons – both in the legal and the philosophical realms – that underly the laws, traditions and texts of our holy Torah. It is incumbent upon us not just to teach and learn the “what,” but also – and, more importantly – the “why.” Only when Torah is learnt and taught in this manner, when its full name: תורת אמת – The Torah of Truth - is perceived, noted and realized, will it penetrate the depths of a person's mind and heart.

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