a closing teaching

On the last page of Masechet Horayot, (14a) there's a difficulty: The Rabbis didn't know whether to take Rabah or Rav Yosef as head of their yeshivah. They broke it down like so: Is it better to have a Sinai (someone who knows the whole body of Jewish Halachah in a rigorous structured understanding) or a Oker Harim?(lit. one who uproots mountains, figuratively someone who has a very sharp mind and can see to the heart of any matter.)

Because of their great difficulty they sent word to Jerusalem to see what the Sages of Yerushalayim had to say on the matter. They said something very simple: Everyone needs the wheat merchant. (הכל צריכין למרי חטיא) What does this mean? Rav Steinsaltz (bringing a number of commentators) explains in his insights into the Talmud that this means that Even the Gold and Silver merchants need the wheat merchant in order to survive, but the wheat merchant can always live off his own stock. In simpler terms, the Rav possessed of a very sharp mind but a lesser knowledge of the Halachah will always ultimately need to rely on the Rav possessed of a complete knowledge of Halachah. His reasoning may be perfect, but his reasoning is only as good as the information he bases it on.

In the end the Rabbis weren't convinced and appointed Rabah (the uprooter of mountains) anyways, that isn't what interests me. What interests me is that the wisdom of Yerushalayim and the Torah of Yerushalayim is something totally different from that of the Exile.

What's more important? Studying and reviewing and delving into the knowledge of those that came before. That is the root of the wisdom of Yerushalayim. Generating knew knowledge and knew understanding is the Torah of Exile.

It's ironic that one would think things would be reversed, in Exile it would pay to hold on to what came from before, a pure untainted source. In Yerushalayim, close to the source (כי מציון תצא תורה) one would think that knew understandings and knew knowledge would be of primary importance.

Why is it the opposite? We, at are root, are created to pursue what is most inaccessible to us. This drive derives from our soul's constant desire to pursue HaShem, the most hidden. (a description of this can be found in Likkutei Moharan I:66 where he illustrates the idea: baiting a child to greatly desire something simply by giving it to them and then grabbing it away again.)

In Exile, where plainly all we have is what came with us, (namely our past) what we lack most, and so what we seek most is newness, new understandings new knowledge.

In Yerushalayim, where Torah flows freely and where Prophecy is rooted, new understandings, new insights, and new knowledge are all abundant. What we lack and desire in Yerushalayim is to connect to the past, to hold tight to the whole corpus of Torah and Halachah, so that we can clearly and safely navigate the torrent of newness that is life in Yerushalayim.


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