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By Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky | Series: | Level:

(The word for speaking or conversation is “dibbur,” whose root (dalet bet reish) is the word “davar” which means “thing,” as well as “dabar” which means to “lead” or “guide.” (For an example of the latter, which is a lesser used form of the root, see Tehillim 47:4.) What is the connection between the concepts of “thing” “speech” and “guiding”?

(The true power of speech, “dibbur” was given to man as a way to communicate higher level, more abstract realities in the lower level, more concrete, material world. Words are supposed to communicate the true essence of the “thing,” reflecting and concretizing to the outer world its inner reality.

(When used properly, words are spoken with a dimension of commitment and imperative. Since they are supposed to reflect reality, words must have true significance, reflecting what MUST be, if they are to embody the true power of speech, “dibbur.” Torah is the essence of “dibbur” since it communicates a system which is reflects the imperative of Divine reality, providing a guide to that reality.

(But speech can also be used in a corrupted fashion, where the words don’t reflect any imperative reality, when they are spoken to mislead, are ambiguous, or are simply strung together in a haphazard fashion. If they can represent “whatever,” and they communicate things that don’t reflect any sort of imperative reality, then they do not constitute true “dibbur.” There is a special attraction towards this kind of “dibbur” since it negates the concept of commitment and imperative, allowing one to interpret things as desired, detached from any objective reality, ultimately creating a system that has no limitations or imperative requirements. Commitment and imperative are things man resists, certainly in his material dimension. “No one is going to tell me what to do.” Discipline and structure are resisted by the self-centered and physical side of our existence. Communication built on such a system is represented by “leitzanut,” scoffing and mockery, where ideas, people, etc. are negated not because of compelling arguments reflecting reality, but simply by word manipulation, ridicule and derision. Western society, with its modern form of comedy on the one hand and literary deconstructionism on the other, gives us a good picture of the results of the culture of “letizanut.”

(Torah reflects the essence of “dibbur,” communicating a system of imperatives, where the words communicate reality. So speech which communicates reality within a system that acknowledges imperatives, embodies within it some dimension of “words of Torah.” Now back to the Maharal)

True Torah is studied when two people are communicating it to each other, since the completeness of Torah study requires that it be verbalized. (Thinking about Torah can be done even before the morning blessings for Torah study are recited. See Orach Chaim 47:4 and the Mishna Brurah. Also Eruvin 53b “One who reviews his Torah study silently, forgets it quickly.”) The verbal process requires two people. Since one person is able to do his study Torah without vebalizing the words, even if it is done with verbalization, this verbalization isn’t considered the essence of his activity, which is taking place mainly in his mind. Only when the verbalization process involves two people is it considered fundamental to the process, making this the complete activity of Torah study. Therefore, only when there are two people studying Torah together, is the activity considered involvment in words of Torah (“divrei Torah”). When one person does this, it can’t be termed “divrei” Torah.

This is illustrated by the language of the text “And [Avraham] said to his heart” (Breishit 17:17), “And Chana spoke upon her heart,” indicating that it is considered a qualified form speech when done through the thought process. Since an individual’s thoughts and the words he says to himself are equivalent, these words aren’t considered “words of (divrei) Torah.” Only when there are two people can it be called “words of Torah” (since the verbalization can never be identical to an individual’s thoughts). Therefore, the Mishna refers to two people as having between them words of (“divrei”) Torah, while an individual is referred to as sitting and being involved (“osek”) in Torah. The individual’s activity is called “involved” rather than “studying.”

It is for this reason that the language of the blessings on Torah study was constructed with the words “to be involved (la’asok) in words of Torah” rather than “to study (lilmod) the Torah.” The blessing was legislated for each individual, and the activity of the individual can’t be considered “study of words of Torah” but only “involvement in words of Torah.”

There is a further depth to this difference between two people and one person, which will explain why the Divine presence resides specifically between the two who are studying Torah. Immediately following the giving of the Torah at Sinai, the Jewish people were commanded to build a Mishkan, a dwelling place for the Divine Presence (“…make for Me a sacntuary, Shemoth 25:8). The relationship between these two elements is illustrated by the following Midrash (Shemoth Rabbah 33:1) on the verse “…and take for me Terumah” (Shemoth 25:2).

A king had an only daughter. One came and requested her hand in marriage. After the wedding, the new husband wanted to return to his home town with his new wife. The king presented a royal dilemma. “This daughter is my only one, and I can’t separate from her. On the other hand, she is your wife, so I can’t ask you to refrain from taking her with you. So I ask the following favor. Wherever you go, make a small cottage, in which I can dwell with you.

So, too, said G-d to the Jewish people. I have given you the Torah (viewed by Him as an only daughter). For me to be separated from it is impossible. So, every place that you go, I ask that you build Me a house in which I can dwell.

Why is the Torah referred to as G-d’s daughter? A daughter is the offspring (literally “consequence”) of the father, descending from him. So, too, the Torah is G-d bringing “Himself” into the world, with the Torah an extension of His essence, the way a daughter is the extension of the father’s essence. (The reason why the Midrash compared the Torah to a female descendant, rather than a male descendant, is a very deep matter, beyond the scope of these on-line shiurim. But it is significant and not coincidental.)

The “conventional wisdom” is that G-d gave the Torah to man according to what is appropriate for man. But if this were true, then the Torah wouldn’t be the source and the path for man to be connected with G-d. Rather, the Torah is the intelligence that emanates from the essence of G-d, which is why the Torah brings man closer to G-d, and why G-d is close to man as a result of his study of Torah. Wisdom is called a person’s offspring, as is explained by the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 1:7) in his interpretation the verse (Yeshvaya 2:6) “And with children of foreigners they contented themselves.” “Children” refers to the thoughts born from a person’s mind. The prophet is teaching us that the Jews were satisfied with ideas and offspring

The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, YeshivatDarche Noam/Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel for Women.