Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hugging the Divine- Finding Hashem in the Torah we learn

The rosh yeshiva who I heard speak this past Friday night, was as brilliant as I’d been led to believe. Listening to him speak, one could believe the possibly apocryphal story which I’d heard about him, that a Soloveichik once said that they’d never met anyone else who who could think like that who didn’t share their last name. Still, as I tried to follow his brilliant analysis of a difficult Rambam, I felt like something was missing.

Thinking about it afterwards, I tried to reflect on how the shiur which I’d witnessed was any different than what I would have experienced had I listened to a lecture from a world-class physicist. While I imagine that in the latter case I would have been less familiar with the content of the lecture, I can still imagine that I could be mesmerized by their brilliance. I found myself thinking of ‘“What” has Brisk Wrought?’, an article Rav Moshe Lichtenstein wrote in the Torah U’Madda Journal nearly 20 years ago. In the Article, he spoke about the limitations of the Brisker Derech of learning, noting that they often stopped at the “what” of categorization, without moving on to the why. It is for this reason that while I’m often impressed by the analysis that comes from those well-versed in the Brisker Derech, I’ve rarely found it religiously edifying. In thinking about the rosh yeshiva’s shiur, I realized that for me, it felt like the Ribbono Shel Olam was missing, or that if he was there, it was with a separation of more than six degrees of separation with which we are all said to be connected. It was as if I was discussing the method by which a beloved friend’s favorite shoes are stitched, rather than talking about something more directly connected to my friend.

The next day, given the opportunity to attend another of the rosh yeshiva’s shiurim, I instead decided to learn with my regular chavrusa.It wasn’t a difficult choice. While I can’t say when I will again get the opportunity to hear a shiur of that caliber, it is during my weekly chavrusa in the Torah of the Piaseczna Rebbe’s Torah that I often experience the Divine.

As we sat learning Mevo Hashearim, the rebbe quoted a beautiful mashal from the Ba’al HaTanya used to explain why learning the non-esoteric parts of Torah also has value. When one learns Torah of any kind, one was is hugging Hakadosh baruch Hu who is found within the garments of Torah. Even if a particular approach involves hugging Hashem through more garments, one merely needs to keep in mind who it is who is wearing those garments. Ironically, it was here, in a chassidic rebbe’s defense of learning nigleh and not just nistar, that I found a way to frame the Brisker Torah which I had learned on Friday night. Even within analyzing the categories of the Rambam and focusing on a halacha which lacks practical application, one can, with the right focus, hug HaKadosh Baruch Hu.