Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 2 January 2021 / 18 Tevet 5781

Learning Torah (Part 2)

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library

Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet!

(Sarah Louise Delany)

“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to occupy ourselves with words of the Torah. Please, Hashem, our G-d, sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth and in the mouth of Your people, the family of Israel. May we and our offspring and the offspring of Your people, the House of Israel, all of us, know Your Name and study Your Torah for its own sake. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who teaches Torah to His people, Israel.”

After having clarified that G-d wants us to be occupied with learning His Torah, the blessing then requests from G-d to sweeten those words of Torah so that we can enjoy them to their fullest. Like a delicious dessert, Torah needs to be savored and each “mouthful” needs to be cherished. Learning Torah is an activity that is supposed to encompass our very being. It should stimulate our intellect and, at the same time, should also kindle within us a spiritual passion. But this is not always so easy to achieve. The depth and breadth of the Torah are truly breathtaking and learning it so that its lessons are clear can be intellectually and physically exhausting. Ask anyone who exercises and they will invariably say that the most difficult part of exercising is actually beginning. Getting on the treadmill is often infinitely more challenging than the actual workout itself! Once the session begins, it actually becomes an enjoyable experience. And the feeling of exhilaration at the end of an exercise session is incomparable. It is not just the achievement of goals that leaves the exerciser feeling accomplished and proficient, it is the journey to get there as well. In fact, the entire experience can be described as sweet.

And that is what we are asking G-d to help us with. Intellectually, we may know that learning Torah is an unparalleled experience, but sometimes it can be hard to “get going.” So, we beseech G-d that He let us taste its unequalled sweetness. A sweetness that will give us the enthusiasm to want to “taste” it every day, over and over again.

What is fascinating is that the entreaty in the blessing is not just for each individual person. Rather, it is for the whole of the Jewish Nation. Why? Because the sweetness of the Torah needs to be felt by everyone.

In Psalm 19:11, King David describes the Torah as being “sweeter than honey.” But honey is considered to be the sweetest of all delicacies, so how can the Torah be even sweeter than that? Rabbi David Kimchi (1160-1235), one of the foremost commentators on the Bible, explains that it is the honey’s very sweetness that makes it impossible to eat too much of it at one time. Eating honey in large amounts makes a person feel nauseous.
Not so the Torah. In fact, the opposite is true. The more Torah that a person “consumes” — the better it tastes.

To be continued…..

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