The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Light Within

וירא אלקים את האור כי טוב"

The Pasuk above says that Hashem saw that the light was good. Light was the first thing to be created – nothing else existed and yet Hashem saw that the light itself was good. This is rather strange. There must be something intrinsically good about light, even if it has no practical application.

Throughout the year we will have an article focusing primarily on Mishlei – indeed a study of Mishlei can throw some light on this question.

Mishlei was written by Shlomo Hamelech. Mishlei literally means proverbs. Classical philosophers defined a proverb as a collection of metaphorical apothegms by which obscure and profound concepts are made accessible by reference to easily under-standable ideas. At times Mishlei can become very obscure but when studied deeper – true pearls can be seen.

In [כג - ו] of Mishlei it says ”כי נר מצוה ותורה אור“ . The individual commandment is compared to a lamp which requires oil and a wick in order to burn, simi-larly a mitzvah only has force as long a man's spirit is contained in his body. The Torah on the other hand, is light itself, general, diffuse and intangible; radiating in a man's spirit long after his death. Fundamental to both Torah and the Commandments is a proper way of living. In order to appreciate the essence of light, in order to see that the light is good; we need to conduct our day to day lives correctly. This is achieved by listening to reproofs of moral instruction. R‟Hirsch tells us this is precisely what Mishlei is – Musar - warnings that restrain a man from unwise conduct. In the first six Pesukim of Mishlei, as an introduction to the Sefer there are 9 kinds or levels of wisdom shown.

The 1st one is חכמה which literally means wisdom. חכמה splits into תבונה and בינה - understanding and insight. For the 2nd there is שכל which is the mental ability to acquire and keep wisdom. Thirdly דעת meaning knowledge. Fourthly עצה - a plan or design. For the fifth מזימה which can mean consideration or reflection. Finally then there is ערמה meaning shrewdness and תחבולות contrivance.

A study of the mitzvah of לא תחמד through these levels would look like this:
By learning the prohibition we have exercised שכל in order to gain חכמה . If we were to go deeper and were to acknowledge that lusting after forbidden things harms us morally – we have exercised בינה and gained תבונה . Indentifying the nature of possible attractions and our reactions to them would involve us implementing דעה and gaining דעת . If all of these thing leaves us determined to fulfil לא תחמד then we have come across עצה . And then if when reflecting upon our resolution – we devise further plans to remain faithful, then we have used מזימה . Furthermore if we decide not to merely repress our reactions but to avoid the situation altogether then we have used ערמה ethical shrewdness to teach ourselves self-control and limitation. Finally if we were to combine several varying plans of attack in order to fulfil the mitzvah of לא תחמד then we have devised תחבולות - stratagems for victorious endurance.

According to Mishlei the type of character that is formed in this process is called ’ערום - חכם - נבון‘ - this is someone who is able perceive the goodness of light amongst the banality of modern life. A sliver of what Hashem was able to perceive at Bria'at HaOlam.

So as we start the cycle of Parshiot anew- may each and everyone of us become someone who is able to see the light of Torah and be able to understand that sometimes the practical application is not everything - sometimes it is just enough for the light to illuminate our Neshamot.

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