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Monday, 17 March 2014

How to have a spiritual experience

Sukkah 41

What is the most intense way to cleave to G-d?  How about if you were to clutch a Torah Scroll whilst in the midst of prayer?  That way you’re in communion with the Almighty and physically bound to the word of G-d!

Shmuel teaches that it is forbidden to hold onto anything while praying, lest one concentrate on the item he is holding instead of focusing on his prayers.   Nevertheless, any item that assists one’s prayers is permissible to be held during prayer.  The obvious example would be a siddur (prayerbook).  How about a lulav?

Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok tells of the men of Jerusalem who would hold the lulav throughout their prayers, proving that a lulav is an essential prayer item and therefore permissible.  In fact, the Mishnah teaches that we wave the lulav during parts of the Hallel prayer – clearly we see that the lulav is essential to prayer. 

A Torah Scroll, however, is forbidden to be held during prayer.  Since it is not essential to prayer, it presents itself as a potential distraction to prayer and therefore problematic.  So while one might feel all spiritual and on a religious high by embracing the Torah while praying, he has acted erroneously. 

If a lulav can help one’s prayers, why can’t a Torah scroll? After all, isn’t the Torah Scroll the holiest item we have?

The Torah is designed to be learned.  Some people feel that they can have a religious experience with the Torah by performing all sorts of nouveau ritual acts with it.   But the Torah does not want our ritual acts.  The Torah does not wish to be paraded around the synagogue.  It desires but one thing – to be read from and studied intensely.

The Zohar states, “The Torah and Holy One blessed be He are completely one.”  The meaning of this Kabalistic teaching is that whereas, our wisdom and our brains and our heads and bodies are all distinct entities; for G-d, who is an utter unity, there is no distinction between His wisdom and Himself. 

Torah is the Almighty’s wisdom, which is equal to the Almighty Himself.  Therefore, when you learn Torah you imbue yourself with G-d, i.e. you become one with Him!  There is no greater way to connect with the Almighty than to learn Torah. 

Prayer is extremely important.  You must have an ongoing conversation with G-d.  But if you want the ultimate spiritual experience, learn Torah!  You will become one with G-d! 


When you learn Torah, not only do you imbue yourself with G-d by internalizing His wisdom in your mind, but at the same time your entire being is brought into the light of the Almighty.  And so you become enveloped internally and externally by G-d – that is the ultimate spiritual experience!  That’s how you cleave to the Holy One blessed be He.