By Rabbi Heshy Grossman
Each of the vessels in the Mishkan represent a different aspect of Divine
service, physical manifestations of our connection to a spiritual dimension.
The Aron HaKodesh in the innermost sanctuary is container of the Torah
SheB'Ksav, G-d's revealed word, while the Menorah, whose light is kindled
by man, reflects a different sort of light, the hidden radiance of Torah
For numerous people, the thought of Torah study, and Talmud in particular,
conjures up negative feelings of their childhood years, being forced to sit
upright in a classroom for far longer than their attention span allowed,
analyzing a subject of little interest.
Why is learning Gemara, the embodiment of the Oral Law, so frustrating to
so many people? Perhaps, we should ask why the reverse is likewise true:
how is it that so many can study Talmud for hours on end, with little
interest in anything else?
In our shiur this week, we will discuss this issue, defining the unique
nature of a Blatt Gemara, a world that never ends.
"....'Ner Hashem Nishmas Adam - the candle of G-d is the soul of man'
(20:27) Said HaKadosh Baruch Hu: let My candle be in your hand, and your
candle in Mine. And what is G-d's candle? This is the Torah, as it says:
'Ki Ner Mitzva V'Torah Ohr - the Mitzva is a candle and Torah is the light'
(Mishlei 6:23)...." (Shmos Rabbah 36:3)
From a rational perspective, it should be inconceivable for man to truly
grasp a higher dimension, much less physically express the word of G-d.
This is the function of a Mitzva, the link of mortal man to his Creator.
Every Mitzva is a vehicle carrying out its exalted task, actualizing the
latent religious potential of all material life, expressing the Torah that
regulates our world.
While a Mitzva is clear and defined, bound by earthly measure, the Torah it
expresses is epheremal and infinite, unrestricted by the natural
constraints of physical law.
The Mitzva is the physical candle, while the Torah is the light that
illuminates our lives.
"The verse compares the Mitzva to a candle and the Torah to light....sin
can extinguish a Mitzva, but sin cannot extinguish Torah..." (Sotah 21a)
Good deeds are a means for man to bring a modicum of otherworldliness into
his daily routine, but this elevated consciousness can be easily dissolved
and distracted by the faults and missteps of sins that are all too frequent.
Torah, however, is the light itself. Permanent and indestructible, the
Torah is not affected by the sins of mankind. By definition, Torah can
never change. While Mitzvos compare to physical form, the material
components that encompass the coordinates of life, Torah is the existence
itself. More than rules and prohibitions, Torah is the basis and structure
at the heart of our world. In its absence, we cease to exist.
Just as light cannot be separated from its source, G-d and His Torah are
inseparable, and every word grants man a portion of eternity.
"....and if you have toiled in Torah, there is much reward to be given to
you... Rebbe Eliezer ben Ya'akov says: one who fulfills even a single
Mitzva has acquired for himself a single advocate...." (Avos 4:12-13)
One who studies Torah acquires 'much', while for the performance of Mitzvos
one is compensated in precise measure, one defender for each deed..
Mitzvos are limited, fixed and determined within the boundaries of physical
space. Though they express the immeasurable will of G-d, each particular
Mitzva has its own time and place.
Torah is a Klal - each part containing a glimmer of the all-encompassing
whole. The aggregate total is greater than the sum of its parts, and with
every bit man acquires he merits a grasp on a world bigger than his own.
The study of Mitzvos is clearly delineated, with a clear order from start
to finish. Talmud, on the other hand, demands an immersion with no end, its
study being constant, and preferably uninterrupted.
We study Mitzvos in order to know what to do, and to understand the
difference between right and wrong.
Talmud is studied for its own sake, and for no reason.
The Gemara contains the inner workings of G-dly wisdom, clarification of an
intellect above our own. It defines the whole man, permeates his life, and
suffuses spirituality into every fiber of his being.
It is for this reason that Yeshiva students study forever, and Kollel never
ends. They want a part of eternity, an immutable, perpetual consistency, a
world with no time, and no place, where all of life is one.
Ironically, all of the above leads the average person to a certain
When studying Halacha, one is aware of the material he is required to know.
He senses when he needs review, and feels confident when his work is complete.
Talmud is quite different.
Many are those who walk out of a Rosh Yeshiva's shiur disillusioned and
confused. After having spent hours tackling a difficult Sugya, satisfied
with his understanding of Rishonim and Acharonim, a few minutes with his
Rebbe demonstrate that he hasn't even begun to comprehend the subject at hand.
Suddenly unsure, he no longer knows what exactly is he supposed to know,
and when is he finished? Every question just adds to the confusion, and the
varied opinions and approaches only complicate the picture.
He is the Ner, and he lives in the dark.
The Gemara relates to a different sort of world, where every thought is
interconnected, and every idea leads to another. But modern man understands
only a material existence, where every moment stands on its own, and the
only constant is incessant change.
The Gemara assumes that every student knows all of Tanach by heart, and has
all of Shas at his fingertips.
Every Mitzva is a Prat while the Torah is the Klal - "Ein B'Frat Ela Mah
The student of Gemara knows this: If he understands one point truly well,
this idea helps him comprehend all others. And even more, he sees this one
concept everywhere he turns.
The Torah is One, and it elevates man to a level beyond himself.
Carried above the limitations of ego and conceit, lifted beyond the
darkness of a world that cannot see, man kindles the light that illuminates
"Ner L'Ragli Devarecha, V'Ohr L'Nesivasi"
JerusalemViews, Copyright (c) 1999 by Rabbi Heshy Grossman and Project