Wednesday, July 11, 2007

talmud torah and the creative process: from he'elem to giluy

Unlike tefila, which emphasizes hisbatlus, talmud torah celebrates the human ego, the independent "I" that thinks and has the capacity to be mechadesh. Perhaps this is the meaning of the Midrash that “istakel b’oraysa u’bara alma”, that Hashem looked in the Torah and created the world. The process of talmud torah itself conceals Hashem and creates olam=he’elem, concealment, by emphasizing the human capacity for personal achievement. The Zohar teaches that the process of talmud torah creates new heavens - man's intellectual creativity is a surrogate for physical creativity, but really any act of creativity reinforces independence. "B'dvar Hashem shamayim na'asu" is read by the Sidduro shel Shabbos (3:1) to mean,“b’dvar Hashem”, by our engaging in talmud torah, “shamayim na’asu”, the heavens are created.

Why would we want to participate in creation? Doesn't creation, human independence and ego just conceal G-d? This brings us full circle from where we started from - nefila l'tzorech aliya. Paradoxically, instead of pulling us away from Hashem, talmud torah draws us closer. Precisely because we are endowed with creative ability and intelligence and feel that it is not just “toras Hashem” but “toraso", we pursue torah with even greater zeal, and in doing so come to greater appreciation of the ratzon Hashem and its beauty. Without G-d's concealment we would be automatons, and we would not have the opportunity to channel our independence, to excercise our bechira, to earn true dveikus devoid of nahama d'kisufa. Talmud torah is about transformation - turning pitfalls into opportunities for growth, turning our own egos to the service of Hashem, which in turns tranforms the world of he'elem into a world of giluy Elokus.

They key to this whole process is speech - the dvar Hashem, which explains the focus in creation on man as "ruach m'malela", a speaker. G-d speaks and creates worlds of he'elem for the sake of affording us the opportunity for independence; we use that independence to speak Torah and draw closer to Hashem. The "dvar Hashem" is simulataneously G-d's words and ours, which creates the bond of dveikus.

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