Beshalach – What is Torah?
I have seen the same story many times over. A son comes to Israel for a year before college. Many times they come to non-religious or even anti-religious programs by the time the year ends they have signed up to study Torah in a yeshivah for an indefinite period. The parental response is almost always the same. Part of this shocking response is an attitude that Torah study is not really studying. That is to say they believe that their is no intellectual, intrinsic, or any positive value in such ventures. Even if the parent agrees that living an observant lifestyle is not so bad they are often puzzled by the need to spend an indefinite amount of years studying Torah in a yeshivah.
A Midrash on our Perasha is a great springboard for a discussion on this subject. The Pasuk says:
Moshe led Israel from Yam Suf and they went out to the desert of Shur, and they walked for three days in the desert and did not find water.
The Midrash comments on this that they had left the ways of the Torah for three days since the Torah is likened to water. Just like someone does not stop drinking his whole life so a person must always study.
Other Midrashim elaborate on the comparison between Torah and water from this we can see what consists of a healthy attitude towards Torah. Just as water comes from the sky so the Torah was given to us by G-d. This is central concept in Judaism because we believe that G-d who made the whole Universe gave us the Torah. This is similar to a users manual for societal happiness written by the inventor.
Just as rain falls drop by drop becoming rivers so it is with Torah study. If you learn just a couple of tidbits every day in the end you will become a river of Torah knowledge.
When a great person is thirsty he is not embarrassed to ask an insignificant man for water. Similarly, a great person is not embarrassed to ask an insignificant man, who is knowledgeable in Torah, about Torah.
The Torah is also likened to milk, honey, oil and wine. It is likened to honey because it never becomes rancid. That is to say that Torah never loses its sweetness. This is opposed to those who believe that it is antiquated. Torah is more relevant today than ever before! Torah is likened to oil which brings light to the world. One might say that we now have electricity to light our homes. Do not forget that electricity comes from oil.
When a person is introduced to Torah study and enjoys it, it is hard for him to continue studying in a university where decadence is at least as important as the studies. Many who are new to Torah studies come to believe that much of university studies are irrelevant and do not prepare a person for life. While a crash course in Torah can help a person’s family life, his understanding of human behavior and teach him a lot of business theory. These are only a few of the subjects discussed in the Tanach and in the Talmud.
Although the student who abandons his parents plans by going to yeshivah may not have read all of the Midrashim used to prepare this paper, the attitude behind them are certainly found in virtually every yeshivah.