Our Torah is Altogether Pnimiyus
We learn in Yoma 38, "The House of Garmu is censured
for not having agreed to teach the method of baking the
Lechem Haponim; the House of Avtinas, for not being
willing to teach the process of preparing the
ketores, and similarly Hagris ben Levi, who was
skilled in singing and did not want to teach it to others.
Likewise, Ben Kamtzar did not wish to teach how to write
[simultaneously with pens placed between his fingers].
The gemora goes on to tell that in time, it was
discovered why they refused to impart their skills and
knowledge to others: "Lest those who are unworthy acquire
these skills and use them for idol worship . . . " Upon
learning this, R' Akiva said that henceforth, it is
forbidden to speak ill of others, except of Ben Kamtzar, who
was able to write Hashem's Name simultaneously by placing
four pens between his five fingers." Regarding this man, he
was unable to find a redeeming answer and attributed to him
the verse, "The name of the wicked shall rot."
The question arises why he did not offer the same answer as
was given for the first three. Could he not have said that
he, too, feared that someone would use this skill for
purposes of idolatry?"
The Meiri explains that incense, bread and the art of song
were, indeed, employed for idol worship — which cannot
be said of writing the Ineffable Name of Hashem
simultaneously. This is a holy Name, and the talent cannot
apply to anything else, since all that the idolaters do is
only for show, for appearances' sake.
The Meiri is teaching us a vital principle through an
expansion, a reversal, of this very statement: everything
that is external, that is only for appearances' sake, is
idol worship. Whatever is intrinsic and internal — is
The Rambam extends this principle in his "Letter to Yemen":
"The difference between our religion and other religions can
be likened to the difference between a living, sentient
person and an idol or statue fashioned by a craftsman,
either from wood or metal in human shape."
Only an utter fool would mistake the latter for the former,
not knowing their separate inner workings. But a wise man
can differentiate between the internal value of the one
compared to the other. He knows that as artistically
fashioned as the idol may be, it is nothing inside. But a
human being is a marvelous creation, an extraordinary
example of the Divine wisdom that it represents. The Divine
design is reflected in a person's nervous system, the
organs, the circulatory system, the capacity of motion and
Similarly, our Torah is a creation full of vitality; it has
a very rich pnimiyus. All other religions,
lehavdil, are empty, devoid of inner content,
including all of their `commandments,' warnings and
The pride of Torah scholars is the quality they embody,
their soul, their inner treasure. Chazal tell that Dovid
Hamelech had four hundred comely youths who went forth in
golden accouterments. They headed divisions that made great
noise to confuse the world in battle (Kiddushin
76). This seems to contradict another saying of Chazal
that the armies of Dovid Hamelech were manned by soldiers of
fine lineage, dating generations back, upright, worthy men
who required no special examination.
The explanation is that Dovid Hamelech only used the comely
youths to make an impression. But the true soldiers, the one
who actually fought his battles, were wholly upright,
outstanding, well-born young men who never went about with
golden accouterments. They were of the caliber of Benoyohu
ben Yehoyoda who smote a lion within the confines of a pit
on a snowy day, as related by Chazal (Brochos 18).
This means that he broke the ice and immersed himself for
purification . . . and studied Torah with utmost
True bnei Torah were never impressed by golden
accouterments, or lured by any other material things which
are tantamount to idols and idolatry. Our pride is the inner
worth, not the superficial glitter. We are like the legions
of the House of Dovid, the dynasty of Moshiach who will rule
over the entire world and will excel in humility. Moshiach
will make his initial appearance as a pauper, astride a
The entire world is on one side and the bnei Torah on
the other. Familiar is the saying oft repeated by my father-
in-law, Maran the Gavad of Brisk: A parable to a
train which went off the tracks and began falling. It was in
danger of overturning and crashing down a steep incline. A
fool inside the car climbed up on a bench, hoping to save
himself. Could his act be of any avail?
The train of the masses of the Jewish people has swerved off
the tracks long ago. The masses have left the straight and
narrow rail. Can we, the bnei Torah, hope to save
ourselves from overturning by climbing up high inside the
train? Surely, it will not help a whit!
Our only way of getting back on the track is to get onto
another car that is upright, and traveling along the right
way, ascending towards Beis Keil . . .
The world of the ben Torah rises up against a
miserable, distorted, depraved world, strong and stalwart.
In our days, one cannot become a good Jew without adhering
to Torah, without being a Torah student in yeshiva, be it
for more or less. All of those who are loyal to Judaism are
in fact bnei Torah, and they must know that we must
debark from the general train of the masses which has since
gone off the track. We must follow our own track, with its
straightforward direction which is our guideline throughout
The external world has nothing of the spiritual richness
which we possess. Everything they have to show is mere show,
only external, superficial, flamboyant, while our wealth is
internal, intrinsic. We are a living entity, complete with
soul, intellect and heart.
Still and all, there is a noteworthy difference between one
who dedicates his entire life to Torah and one who does not.
We know that the four species we take on Succos exemplify
the four types of Jews in our nation. There are the scholars
and the boors, the genuine do-gooders, and the ones without
much redeeming qualities, without `taste' or `fragrance.'
But all are bound together to form one whole unit —
and this is the secret strength of the Jewish nation and its
survival. Note however, that three species are bound up
together, while the fourth, the elite esrog,
continues to remain unique unto itself.
This comes to teach us the designated place for Torah
scholars in the midst of the masses. We do, of course, try
to draw all of the strata towards Torah, to reach all of the
levels and bring them close to the Shechinah. But we
cannot be an integral part of the hoi polloi. This is not
superiority but a deep cognizance that only by remaining
distinct can we preserve our uniqueness and continue to
elevate and improve ourselves.
" . . . may blessings descend upon the heads of all those
who take an initiative and toil to augment the honor of
Torah. I do not come, G-d forbid, to detract an iota from
the prestige in awarding prizes for excellence, which is
merely a sign of the times. But let us always remember that
the image, the stature of a ben Torah, is
crystallized from within, through the yeshivishe spirit, as
it has always been, in the atmosphere and ambience of a
qualitative life of Torah."