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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Models of Torah V - The Torah as Light

Light is not only the source of life and the vehicle for manifesting the physical world, but also is a common metaphor for positive emotion and spirituality. We yearn for enlightenment and wait for the redemptive twilight, shed light upon and illuminate difficulties, delight and brighten up someone's day, shine and beam with radiance, and ignite the spark in someone's heart and soul.

The examples from our own tradition are numerous: Moshe encounters a burning bush and his face shines with light; Sinai is ablaze with lighting and fire, and the Mishkan contains the fire of G-d; David ha'Melech sings "in His light we see light" (Tehillim 36:10) and that "light is sown for the righteous" (97:11); and the prophets await the day when the Israel and the entire world will be inundated with light (Yesheyahu 30:26; Zecharia 14:7.)

Torah too is called light - Ner Mitzvah v'Torah Ohr (Mishlei 6:23; also see Tehillim 119:105) Our Sages understood that just as light refracts into different hues so does the Torah split into seventy different facets (Rashi on Shemot 6:9, based on Yirmeiyahu 23:29). Furthermore, just as a candle does not lose its strength by lighting another candle so too a teacher does not lose his wisdom from teaching a disciple (Netziv, Ha'amek she'elah, based on Devarim 33:2).

But light is not merely a metaphor for spirituality. Mystics and survivors of Near Death Experiences see the light, and healers perceive and work with energy. The Torah, too, is not only compared to light - it is light.

The Ramchal (Derech Eitz Chaim) continually reminds his readers that the Torah is Ohr mamash - real and perceivable light. The light from Hashem Himself (Derech Hashem 4:2:5) Accordingly, the Ramchal (4:2:7) takes on Sukkah 28a literally: Yonasan b Uziel would generate enough energy while learning Torah that if a bird would fly over his head it would be burnt. On a lesser leve, it is said that the doctors of Rabbi Akiva Eiger were flabergasted - how could such an old man have so much energy? The secret is that this hidden light (Tanchuma, Parshat Noah 3) gives life (Tehillim 36:10).* This can be compared, l'havdil, to a Qi gong or Tai Chi master who through certain outer and inner meditative movements can generate powerful energy.** The Jewish version of Tai Chi - our ruchniyot - is Torah u'Mitzvot. And through this light the Torah cleanses the mind, heart (Kiddushin 30b), and body (Eruvin 54) of a person.

*Recently a healer in Jerusalem who I am fortunate to know told me that the light he saw in the Torah scroll gave him renewed pure energy after a particularly dark and difficult patient.

**Attention has particlarly been drawn to the parallels between the placement of Tefillin and Acupuncture points (I once heard that Rebbe Nosson in Likutei Halakhot discusses this). See here and here.


HaEven said...


A former Rebbe of yours in his kuntrus matza tova mentions the pasuk in sefer tehilim (119:105) That the torah is “Ner Liragli Divarecha, Vior Linisivasi.” He asks What is the difference between a candle and light? The answer is, a candle iluminates a short distance, while light covers a vast area. If one is lost at night and lights a candle they will be able to see what is going on in front of them. However, they will have to wait for daybreak, the real light to see what lay ahead.

So to the Torah, it teaches us both the short term and long terms in illuminating our lives.

With the help of the almighty,


Anonymous said...

In his drasha on the unique beauty of Shabbos Chanukah, Rabbi Wachsman discusses the concept of Ohr as exposing/revealing the real essence of that which cannot be seen in the darkness. Without light, we can feel the chomer of an object, but will not be able to see what it is, what it's real function is. He compares this to a room of equisite furniture. Without light, we will bump into the furniture and fall. The furniture becomes obstacles. But when the light in the room is on, they are masterpieces. Without light, all we have is the physical shell of something, and we could toil to figure out it's purpose and identity, but we will fail. Without Torah, the world is full of objects, beautiful objects, that become stumbling blocks that we will crash into. With light, Torah u'mitzvos, we can perceive that which would be concealed if we were left with just the chomer.