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Finally, Rabbi Infinity gives away his key secret: How does he manage to teach the deepest Kabbalistic secrets of the universe to a four year old? It's all, you see, in the letter Lamed.

The Secret of Learning Lamed

The Secret of Learning Lamed

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I'm not sure what the word "teach" means, or whether it really exists. Semantically, it should be possible for a teacher to say, "I taught the pupils, but they didn't learn!" But does it make sense? And if it doesn't, why is there such a word?

In Hebrew, you don't teach. You can cause learning, you can assist learning, or you can learn with someone. They are all forms of the same verb—which happens to also be the 12th letter of the alefbet.

And it's the tallest one, too. Because that's what learning is all about: Reaching up to grasp something way beyond where you stand now. As for teaching--I mean, learning with someone--you also do the same: You reach down to touch someone who stands in another world from your own. And to do that, you need to reach very deep, to discover a point that transcends all those boundaries of you, other, his place, your place, worlds and reaching.

That's another reason why teaching is really learning: To bring someone else to learn, you must be learning yourself. And your learning must far exceed the learning of the other. Here's how it happens:

First, you learn something. You ponder and examine it for many years. Like, say, how to teach--I mean, learn. Eventually, you have your whole, unique world worked out, in which all of these thoughts fit somehow in place--never perfectly, always growing, but somewhat consistent nonetheless.

Then one day, you find yourself in the lab with a bright five year old granddaughter, and she asks, "How do you learn Kabbalah?"

You look at this little girl, and her mind is in an entirely different world than yours. You want to give her all the answer--not just a brush off. But to do that, you need to put aside your lexicon, your imagery, your set of metaphors--all the ways you understand this concept, and find some way to give her the essential concept that you have for yourself.

Which means, first and foremost, discovering what that essential idea is. That's the process called tzimtzum (we talked about it in the bagel, remember?) All the light of your understanding is put aside, leaving just that essential idea.

Next, you need to find a place in your own mind where you can imagine the mind of this little girl. And then you start slowly building bridges--parables, analogies, imagery and tight little explanations--until you connect that essential point with that whole new world it needs to enter. And then you can say it, and help it enter. (Or make an animation out of it.)

Now look what you gained: Before, you understood it in your own abstract world. Now you understand it in the concrete world of a small child, as well. Before, you understood the explanations and information. Now you grasp the central point--a point so essential, it can enter an entirely different world and remain the same nonetheless.

And another thing you learned: You can now have some inkling of what it means to create a world. For what you just did, that's essentially what the Boundless-Isifier-of-All-That-Is does to generate entire worlds out of absolute nothing: He imagines up worlds and then brings them into being by connecting them to His Infinite Light with a single, essential point, a point that can never be grasped or known, and yet through which all is known.

A.k.a., the Yud. As it says, "You made all of them with Wisdom!"

Written and conceived by Tzvi Freeman. Rabbi Freeman is available for public speaking and workshops. Read more on his bio page.
Music by The Piamentas
Rabbi Infinity played by Andrew Torres
Animation and SFX by Pilar Newton of Pilar Toons
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (7)
February 6, 2014
art and dreams....ideas
a lot of my paintings come from my dreams and inspiration, Kabbalah feeds this need to express...and from it, a mirror into my mid.
Amichai Schneller
St.Cloud MN
November 11, 2011
teach, learn, lamed
I found this video to be priceless. I once heard that wisdom from heaven cannot be taught to a person but has to be caught by the person seeking it. It took me a while to get a hold of the meaning behind that. This video seems to further confirm it. Thanks!
Lisa Aubert
Long Beach, CA
February 26, 2009
Is this a general rule or is it specific.
Is being able to first view a student in as a person that does not think of any of the things that you think about or for the matter the way of thinking and then finding the essenital point etc. only related to the teaching of kabalah, or is it related to all forms of teaching as well?
Ari Edson
thornhill, On.
January 16, 2009
kabbalah
I am totally blown away by the whole concept of Tzvi Freeman video. learning the Lamed. I played it several times to understand exactly what is being said and loved it each time. It is brilliant and the voice overs are superb. it truly touched my heart . compliment Tziv on an outstanding piece of work. so beautifully done every jewish child should watch it....and understand it.
marcia schlesinger
cape town , south africa
January 13, 2009
The Secret of Learning Lamed
I "teach" Math, Social Studies and Spanish to 6th grade.
I enjoyed the article because it is absolutely true. I can try to communicate what I know, explaining in different ways, with different aids, but that doesn´t mean kids are learning.
Anonymous
January 13, 2009
Rabbi Infinity, you make me want to forget how to speak the language English. Should I want to forget how to speak the language English. If I am speaking the language English does that mean that I agree with the parts of the English language that are inconsistent with the Hebrew of the Torah?
Ari Edson
Thornhill, ON
January 12, 2009
'Learning'
This post is beautifully written, and echoes my life-long endeavors to help my piano students learn.

The excitement shining through a child's face when she/he 'gets it', is priceless, and fulfilling in itself. I do not tell them what or how to do something, I point them in the right direction, and gently guide them.

I will remember this short essay on Lamed, and thank you for sharing it.
Diane Malcha Oser
Trail, Canada
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