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The Blessings of Torah

11/21/2019 12:00:08 PM

Nov21

When one studies Torah, one comes to know the mind of God, as it says, “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and attain knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5).
-- Avot d’Rabbi Natan 4:1 (3rd c.)

There is, to be blunt, no understanding the Rabbinic Revolution without understanding this midrash.

Assume for the moment that you could know the mind of God. What else could compete? The prerequisites to knowing the mind of God don’t depend on being of priestly descent. Nor does knowing the mind of God require wealth. The revolutionaries removed the bouncers from the entrance to the Beit Midrash (study hall); Torah study was accessible to all, even (theoretically) women. No wonder Torah was compared to drugs — with such access to the divine mind, how could anyone not become addicted?

The weapon of the Rabbinic Revolution was midrash, the process of removing biblical words from their context and transplanting them into another context. In the biblical verse cited above from Proverbs, knowledge of God meant knowing something about God. Within the new Rabbinic context, our midrash cites the verse to prove that studying Torah allows us to attain knowledge of God, i.e., God’s own knowledge! Thus by studying Torah one comes to know the mind of God.

That’s the allure of studying Torah, and it was on full display last week in AJ’s Beit Midrash. Bruce Lipton suggested, on the basis of this midrash, that when we study Torah it frightens God because of the insights we glean into the divine mind. The fear of the Lord is not the fear that we have of the Lord, but the fear that the Lord has of our human potential for good and evil and our fallibility in putting that knowledge to use. The blessing of Torah is that the more we study together, the more likely we will be to assuage God’s fears.

Fri, October 23 2020 5 Cheshvan 5781