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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Good hair day to you

Nazir 3

I had just arrived in Edmonton and was about to announce the new adult education program, when a lady called me with some advice.
“Don’t do a parsha shiur,” she said, “all the rabbis always do parsha.  We know the parsha already.  Teach us something new and different, would you, please?”

Mishnah: An allusion to the nazirite vow is like the nazirite vow itself.  For example, if one says, ‘I commit to turning it over (curling),’ he is a nazir.
The Gemara asks: How do you know that turning it over refers to hair? 
The Gemara answers: For the maidservant of Rebbe scolded a certain fellow, saying, ‘How long will you continue turning over (curling) your hair?’
The Gemara asks: Why don’t we say the vow-taker was referring to Torah study, as the verse in Proverbs declares, “Turn it over and it shall elevate you”?
Shmuel answers: We must be dealing with a situation where he was hanging onto his hair when he made the statement.

King Shlomo writes in Proverbs, “Turn it over and it shall elevate you.”  Ben Bag Bag echoes this sentiment in Pirkei Avos, declaring, “Turn it over and turn it over for all is in it.”  The meaning, explain our Sages, is that the Torah’s wisdom is limitless and every time you learn and relearn a piece of Torah, you gain new wisdom and inspiration.

What’s more, it’s not a just a deeper understanding.   Shlomo Hamelech teaches that your soul will be elevated.  The more you dwell on a verse or a concept in Torah, the greater heights your soul will soar to.   All too often, we ‘daven’ through our learning, in an effort to cover as much ground as possible.  But that’s not the way Torah-study works – Torah is more about quality, less about quantity.  It’s about going over and over the Wisdom of G-d until you become one with it.

In fact, the Kabbalists explain that there is no greater way to connect with the Almighty than Torah study.  How so?  Let’s compare human wisdom with Divine wisdom.  I have a brain, I have thoughts, I have my thought process.  But they’re all separate entities.  In contrast, if G-d is an utter unity, then G-d’s wisdom equals G-d Himself.  And so, when you learn Torah, you are taking G-d’s wisdom, i.e. G-d, and placing Him inside your mind.  There is no greater way to become one with the Divine.  That’s what Shlomo Hamelech means when he says that the more you “turn it over,” the more you shall be elevated.

How many times have you actually read the parsha?  Figure most people only live to eighty or ninety on a good innings.  That means you’ve read it at most eighty or ninety times.  Do you realize that in times of yore it was par for the course to review every Torah teaching one hundred times?  That’s even before you’ve started with the myriad commentaries!  There’s no end to the amount of novel wisdom that one can glean just from the weekly parsha, let alone our vast library of Torah literature.  Even those who spend a lifetime totally immersed in Torah study barely scratch the surface.

Turn it over and it shall elevate you.  Keep curling and curling that Torah.  The more you learn, the more you will realize how deep and vast the Torah truly is.  May your soul soar to ever greater heights as you dig deeper and deeper into the wellsprings of Divine wisdom!