An exclusive study of nigleh - the exoteric Torah, may equip the student with Torah-knowledge. He may acquire profound scholarship. Nonetheless, it allows also the possibility that the student-scholar remain separate from the Torah itself.

On a crude level it reflects the Talmudic metaphor of the burglar who prays to G‑d and invokes Divine blessing for his immoral activity. That criminal believes in G‑d. He believes in the principle and efficacy of prayer, yet he fails to apply that on the practical or personal level. He fails to sense the inherent contradiction in his pursuits, the radical dichotomy between his religious involvement and his personal life coexisting as two altogether separate and unrelated entities.

A more subtle and sophisticated dichotomy is seen in the following incident: There was a man who had studied halachot (the laws), Sifre, Sifra, and Tossefta, and died. R. Nachman was approached to eulogize him, but he said: "How can we eulogize him? Alas! A bag full of books has been lost!"

That man had studied the most difficult texts. He had become very erudite, yet he did not comprehend and absorb what he had learned.

He could quote chapter and verse, yet he and his quotations remained distinct from one another.

(Chovot Halevovot, Avodat Elokim, ch. 4. - Yoma 72b provides another source for negative possibilities from an exclusive study of the exoteric part of Torah. On the other hand, a study of pnimiyut Hatorah (the ma'or shebaTorah) precludes that dichotomy, because the ma'or of the Torah restores to the right path and goodness (Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7; Eichah Rabba, Petichta:2).

The Zohar notes that the word chamor (donkey) is an acronym for chacham mufla verav rabanan - a wondrous scholar and a rabbis' rabbi.' One can be known as the most wondrous scholar in the world, heading the most prominent academy to train rabbis and Torah- scholars, and expert in pilpulistic methodology; but if unaware of the soul of the Torah, if not touched and penetrated by the oil of the Torah, he remains an insensitive chamor, the proverbial "donkey loaded with books." He carries a whole library on his back, has stupendous knowledge at his finger-tips, yet is not touched by what he has learned.

A person like that may conceivably fall to the level of a naval bireshut haTorah - a scoundrel and rake within the domain of Torah: he may know, observe and practice all the codified requirements of Halachah, yet be and remain a reprobate, a lowlife.

Halachah is no less essential to the mystic than to anyone else. Where the Kabbalist or Chassid differs, however, is first and foremost in his approach, in his consciousness of the universal importance of Halachah and its dynamic significance. To him the study of Torah is not only a mitzvah on its own, or just a precondition for observing all other mitzvot. It is also the means to become transformed, for himself to become a Torah, a personification of Torah. One of the great Chassidic masters, R. Leib Sarah's, thus said that he traveled far and wide to come to his master, the Maggid of Mezhirech, "not to hear words of Torah from him, but to see how he laces and unlaces his shoes!" He saw in the Maggid that ideal personification of Torah, where every act and motion is an expression of the ideals of the Torah.