torah, body and soul

Just wanted to briefly revisit my last post on Rambam's take on the written Torah.

I met up with Rav Immanuel Levy (mentioned in the former posting) again, and discussed the matter further. It turns out exactly as I posted last time, but actually even more broad.

Halachah as a whole does not learn out anything from the Written Torah directly. It ONLY learns halachah from mesorah, the Oral Torah that each generation receives from the former generation. Even in the Talmud, when they search for a biblical source for a teaching, they are actually searching for a mesorah that we learn a particular idea from a particular passuk. (passage)

In that sense, it is the Oral Torah that invests the Written Torah with the holiness of Halachah. That's an amazingly radical viewpoint that I've never heard nor understood before and it gives me a whole new window through which to view Torah study. When we are learning how a Jew is to act in ANY situation at all, we must connect that back to the Oral Traddition, or else we haven't clarified the matter at all. Halachah is an entirely oral phenomenon, completely rooted in the transmission from Moshe on down to the heads of today's Jewish communities.

The Written Torah is given to us to learn and to connect to God, but not to determine our life decisions. Written Torah is always learned l'shmah. (For it's own sake) This is totally profound.

The Kabbalah, which is actually an extension of the written Torah is likewise something that is totally and completely involved in relating to God directly, but cannot substitute the Halachah of how to perform the proscribed mitzwoth--just as insight into the Written Torah does not (cannot) have a direct effect on our performance of the mitzwoth.

In this sense, the Oral Torah is clearly the body that expresses what is hidden in the soul, the Written Torah. Just as our own bodies clothe and can express the desires and nature of our soul.

This is the Halachic perspective. It's not the perspective from which I was raised, nor is it the perspective upheld by my fathers exactly. (Having derived from Sepharadi and Hassidic origins) But it is an awe-inspiring perspective all the same.

It is interesting to apply the lessons of Tanya and Hassiduth as a whole to this Body and this Soul of Torah. Hassiduth is actually just that, the investing of the body with the soul. (Whether on a personal basis, or on the level of the Torah as a whole.)


Related posts

Blog Widget by LinkWithin