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Thought for the Day: Love of Torah as Path to Love of HaShem and Beyond

I once had a conversation with a born-again/evangelical xtian that really touched a nerve.  Usually they just spout so much claptrap and drivel that it's not worth the breath or time to respond.  (Actually, I often take great pleasure in getting their veins to pop... but that's another story.)  What did she say that stopped me in my tracks?  "You just like Orthodox Judaism because its so intellectually stimulating!"  Of course Orthodox Judaism is intellectually stimulating and of course I love that about it.  So far so good.  What took the wind out of my sails was that little word, "just".  I had made a leap of faith to Orthodox Judaism precisely because of its intellectual honest.  I have, in fact, often described my conversion to Orthodoxy as a natural progression in my search for Truth.  Just as I had turned away from other science to physics and then away from other branches of physics to General Relativity, so to I had turned from physics to Orthodox Judaism.

And what's wrong with that, you are still wondering?  I'll tell you what's wrong with that.  Do you see the word "G-d" or anything about divinity at all in the above?  I have always had this nagging doubt that I had turned Truth into just another avoda zara.  I know all about mitzvos and halacha and philosophy and mussar; and I love learning all about those.  But there is this mitzvah to love G-d, you see.  I have read all about it; I can describe it, all its halachos, and all of its ramifications with the best of them.  One thing I can't do.  Feel it.  When I was charged with loving Orthodox Judaism just because of its intellectual depth...  I heard "j'accuse" and a voice deep inside with deep embarrassment, "Guilty, as charged."

Then last night, while learning Michtav mei'Eliyahu, vol 2, pg 27, "Geder Luchos haShn'i'im", I was given the gift of life.  I cannot do justice to the ma'amer here, but I urge you to learn it inside; it's only about one page, a few paragraphs, but it's life altering.  The message was the the first luchos were entirely from HaShem; meaning that only a person who had already rid himself of worldly passions could accept Torah.  The second luchos were hewn by Moshe Rabeinu and written by HaShem; meaning that you work with what you've got, and the acceptance of Torah will change you.  Whereas learning lishma before the cheit ha'eigel meant loving HaShem and therefore loving his Torah, the situation after the cheit changed.  "bara yeitzer hara, bara torah tavlan" -- HaShem created the yeitzer hara and He created Torah as its antidote.  Learning lishma now means learning Torah because you love Torah; but then very Torah will also cure you of the yeitzer hara; so that you will then come to love HaShem.

The fact that I haven't gotten there yet, says R' Dessler, is because I need to put more effort into my learning to increase both the intensity and depth of my investigations.  Oh; is that all.

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