by HaRav Mordechai Gifter zt'l, Rosh Yeshivas
The Secret of Torah
"If you shall go in My statutes -- that you toil in Torah"
Said Rovo (Shabbos 88): For those who go to the right,
the Torah is an elixir of life, while for those who turn
left, it becomes a veritable poison. Rashi explains: Those
who "go to the right" in Torah, are those who delve in it
with all their strength and toil to reveal its innermost
secret, like a man who uses his right hand, where his
strength lies. For these, the Torah is a lifegiving
We learn from these words of Rashi to what extent one is
required to delve into Torah -- that one be immersed in it
with all his strength, and toil.
We also learn the essence of Torah study: to know its
innermost secret. One must understand the significance of
these words if he wishes to understand how the lack of toil
in this area can transform the very Torah into a poison. A
truly puzzling concept.
The secret of Torah referred to here is not what we are
accustomed to referring to as that part which is mystic, as
opposed to the revealed Torah. Rather, it is the Torah that
we succeed in fathoming through our toil and which we were
unable to grasp before. All this is the secret of Torah. The
very study process essentially exposes the secret of Torah.
Even the knowledge that the student of Torah had before his
toil takes on a different significance, the deeper he delves
A small child learns the first verse of "Bereishis boro
Elokim" and understands it according to his undeveloped
intelligence. Before he learned it, it was a secret, and the
more he learns it in depth, the better he understands the
idea behind the words, from the simple explanation of the
words and on to the commentary of Rashi: "Said R' Yitzchok .
. . "
He can pursue his study further and grasp this verse
according to the Ramban, and he again studies it, more
deeply, and attains the explanation of Bereishis as
"with wisdom," according to the Targum, and so on
This is a gradual study that becomes deeper and more intense
as it goes along, level after level, in the exposure of the
secret portion of Torah. For as soon as the secret is
revealed to him, it becomes self-evident, pshat, a
simple explanation. One layer is exposed, to reveal [the
existence of] yet another hidden layer, which becomes exposed
A child begins studying gemora at a very superficial
level. Slowly, a newer world reveals itself to him -- that of
intensive study, be'iyun. He develops the analytic
approach and the study takes on a different form. It is a
revelation of a secret, an eye- opening initiation into the
Oral Tradition. Then this becomes the simple, self-evident
and logical approach with new frontiers of knowledge to
This is what is meant by the idea that the essence of Torah
study is to know the secret of Torah. Exposing level after
level to the point of simplicity.
HaRav Yosef Leib of Telshe zt'l taught that there is
actually nothing in Torah that is hidden and separate from
what is revealed. Rather, the hidden is one level deeper than
what is already revealed. Thus is it explained in the booklet
Emunah Uvitochon attributed to the Ramban which states
that the entire Torah is one single entity.
For this alone, the pursuit of Torah knowledge is completely
different from the study of any other science. A branch of
knowledge which is limited and finite must be studied with
limitations. It is acquired according to the nature of that
subject. But the Torah is infinite, boundless. The very
process of acquiring Torah defies bounds and limits. One must
pursue it with one's entire vitality and be immersed in its
pursuit; this is the only way to acquire Torah.
One who approaches the study of Torah as he would a branch of
science, is reducing it to a mere science, G- d forbid, and
he will find it lethal. Those who study it and approach it
"from the left," build upon what they have already grasped
and seek to draw the reality of Torah to their level, like
the fool. He wants the Torah to serve his purposes, to be his
tool, and will apply the laws of human logic that govern
other studies and sciences -- in vain.
Human pursuit of knowledge is governed by human logic. But
the Torah is the opposite of that logic. One can find two
verses that are diametrically opposed and he will not see the
third one that harmonizes the two. [For example] here the
Torah forbids and there it specifically commands, while the
resolution of a positive commandment superseding a
prohibitive commandment will evade him. [Or,] he will see an
inverted chronological order and not realize that this is
possible -- because his limited mind does not think that way.
He will not grasp the Divinely transmitted rule of "there is
no necessary chronological order in the Torah."
One who approaches Torah study "from the right," however,
will always be connected to the secret, to that which is just
beyond his comprehension. He will not reject what he does not
understand. He will persevere. He will draw himself unto the
Torah, and not try to make the Torah approach him.
Everything that he succeeds in grasping will cause him
pleasure in direct proportion to what he has revealed.
"Fortunate is the man . . . for Hashem's Torah is his desire,
and in His Torah he shall pore by day and by night"
(Tehillim 1). [Why?] Since his will and his desire and
everything he wishes will be bound up completely with the
Torah, even though it is still beyond him, and it is still by
Hashem, beyond his reach and ken, in a hidden, inscrutable
state. Even thus, he will derive pleasure from that Torah
knowledge which he has already attained and revealed. Every
moment devoid of toil in Torah, every moment of separation,
will be like a painful severance, paradise lost in this
world, even if temporarily. Reflect on this!
Man must understand and realize that Torah is not a product
of human intellect. It will always be beyond him; there will
always be more of the secret to reveal, to cleave to. Once he
fathoms this secret, then whatever he acquires in Torah
knowledge will be his possession for it will be bound with
Divine, infinite knowledge. He will not be bringing the Torah
down to his human level, but be striving ever to the Divine
revelation, to the eternal aspect of the Divine will of
Hashem as expressed through and in the Torah.
This is what we call daas Torah: this what our Torah
leaders in each generation have been privileged to experience
Gedolei Torah have the power of seeing the world of
the hidden Torah. While the lesser members of the generation
can only grasp what is already revealed, what is lowly and
insignificant, the gedolim can verily see and
experience what is hidden from others.
Those who cleave to Torah and are wise, do not reflect human
intelligence, but the Divine intelligence of the Torah.
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