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Divine Wisdom for Dummies

Wednesday, 29 May, 2019 - 3:58 pm

Do you remember when the “for dummies” series and “the complete idiot’s guide series were all the rage? Like “Windows for Dummies” or “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Calculus.” We are about to celebrate a holiday during which the very first “for dummies” or “the complete idiot’s guide” book was released.

I refer of course to Shavuot, the festival that celebrates the giving of the Torah. Torah is the single greatest gift bestowed upon humanity. There are many facets to the Torah that make it unique and inestimably valuable. To name a few: It furnishes us with the tools for purposeful living. It provides us with the means to connect to Hashem. It offers us insights to human nature along with the wisdom to shape and refine ourselves properly. It supplies us with the implements with which to create a just and ethical society. Torah contains the mysteries of the universe and our Creator. Torah sharpens the mind and heightens the intelligence.

Torah is also “Divine Wisdom for Dummies” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to G-dly Living.” An oft used metaphor for Torah is water. Our sages explain that water flows down the mountains to form the springs and streams from which we draw our supply. In a similar sense, Torah originates as Divine Wisdom, which then “flows downward” to become invested into human intelligence, describing physical phenomena and experiences. Just as the water remains the same despite the downward journey, so to Torah retains its essence as Divine Wisdom despite its manifestation as a book about the human condition.

Now Divine Wisdom is, as its name indicates, Divine. That should place it onto a level that renders it out of reach for us finite humans. Yet, somehow when we study Torah, even as it discusses civil law, history or human ethics, we are grasping Divine Wisdom. This marvelous, almost paradoxical, capacity was given to us at Sinai, when Hashem made the Torah accessible to the Jewish people, and through them, to all of humanity. So seize the opportunity that is available to each and every one of us at all times, but especially when we relive the giving of the Torah on Shavuot.

To paraphrase the blessing echoed by the Rebbe each year in anticipation of Shavuot, “May we merit to receive the Torah with joy and inner meaning.”

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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