Every Child’s Inheritance

“The Torah which Moshe commanded us is an inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov1 is the first verse from the Torah to which a child is introduced. As our Sages state:2 “When a child... learns how to speak, his father should teach him “the Torah which Moshe commanded us.”

This verse refers to the Torah as given by Moshe, who received it at Sinai. This includes the entire Torah, for “every new insight developed by an experienced sage was given to Moshe at Sinai.”3 This applies even to the mystical insights of P’nimiyus HaTorah to be revealed by Mashiach. For there are differences with regard to the extent to which various dimensions of the Torah have been revealed. At times, the revelation has been gradual, with glimmerings revealed in an earlier age, and the full revelation coming later.

But even when revelation was delayed, what was later revealed was “the Torah which Moshe commanded us,” for the giving of the Torah will never be repeated.

Thus no matter how deep a Jew delves in his Torah study, he must realize that he is learning “the Torah which Moshe commanded.” And this leads to an awareness that he knows only a tiny portion of the Torah, for its essence is infinitely deep.4

So the question arises: How is it possible to teach — or at least allude to — such a profound concept when dealing with a young child who is just beginning his study of Torah? Generally, we begin by teaching a child easy concepts, and then proceed to more difficult ones. This pattern continues until a person grasps all the concepts which he can comprehend. At that point, he is asked to proceed to “negative understanding,” i.e., he learns to appreciate how the true content of the Torah transcends our understanding entirely, and that he can hope to fathom only a small fraction of it. As one’s understanding develops, these concepts can be taught. When a child is first able to speak, however, it seems improper to convey such deep concepts to him.

This question can be resolved as follows: The essence of the Torah transcends intellectual comprehension entirely. This essence is, however, granted as an inheritance to every Jewish soul without distinction, even to a young child.

Following an ordered progression is correct with regard to subject matter that can be grasped on a rational basis. With regard to the essence of the Torah, however, this pattern does not apply.

The essence of the Torah transcends the intellect entirely. For G‑d invested Himself in the Torah. Thus by studying the Torah, a Jew acquires G‑d’s essence, as it were.5

This is not a restrictive process. On the contrary, G‑d has invested Himself in the Torah which every Jew studies. The nature of the subject matter is not a determinant.

Just as a person with an underdeveloped intellectual potential is incapable of grasping the essence of the Torah, so too is the most developed intellect inadequate. It is only because G‑d “chose us from among the nations” that “He gave us His Torah.”6 And so G‑d is to be found equally in the verses recited by a young child and the sophisticated concepts grasped by a sage, for the Torah is G‑d’s essential delight. When a young child reads its words, he expresses G‑d’s essence.

This is the intent of the verse: “The Torah... is the inheritance7 of the congregation of Yaakov.” The maturity of an heir is of no consequence; even a newborn is granted his share of an inheritance.8 Moreover, he assumes the position of his testator as if there was no difference between the two.9

So too, the Jews are G‑d’s children, as it were,10 and assume G‑d’s estate, for through the Torah, we acquire G‑d’s essence. This is “the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov,” i.e., even Yaakov (יעקב) — the level of the Jewish people that relates to the heel (עקב) — has the ability to relate to G‑d’s essence through the study of Torah.

What Will the Foundation Be?

Questions, nevertheless, remain: Although the essence of the Torah is manifest when a child reads it, why must the child himself be informed of this? What would happen if this concept was communicated afterwards, when he is older and more capable of understanding? In the interim, he could be exposed to those aspects which he is capable of understanding.

The answer depends on understanding a fundamental concept. The essence of the Torah transcends rational understanding; it revolves on the awareness that it is G‑d’s wisdom, and that “He and His wisdom are one.”11 When a person does not possess such a conviction, the entire foundation of the Torah is lacking.

The realization that G‑d and the Torah are one is not an additional concept necessary for comprehension of the Torah, and which can be preceded by easier concepts. It is the essence of the Torah. And for that reason it is taught to a child first, so that it can serve as the foundation on which his conceptual framework will be built.

All the Torah a child studies until he learns this truth will have an unstable base, for he will have become used to appreciating only the intellectual dimension of the Torah, and will find it difficult to understand that the Torah transcends the intellect entirely.

As is well known, intellect conceals those dimensions of the soul which transcend reason. Therefore, at the very beginning of a child’s intellectual development, he is given a foundation of spiritual truth. Afterwards, “even when he grows older, he will not depart from it.”12 Even when he is involved in the intellectual dimensions of Torah study, his understanding will be permeated by fear of heaven and acceptance of G‑d’s yoke.

Why the Torah Remains Closed
During Our Celebrations

It is a custom — and our Rabbis taught that Jewish custom is considered as the Torah itself13 — to celebrate with the Torah on Simchas Torah. We take a Torah scroll wrapped in its mantle, and dance with it around the reading platform. Since the Torah is associated with intellectual understanding, the celebrations of Simchas Torah should seemingly be associated with progress, quantitatively and qualitatively, in Torah study. And this study will lead to happiness.

Why is the very opposite done? Why is the celebration characterized by dancing with the Torah wrapped shut, so that it is impossible to study it?

It is true that one must also fulfill one’s fixed quota of Torah study even on Simchas Torah. But that is because one is obligated to study Torah every day. It is not customary to make an increase in Torah study on Simchas Torah; this is not the way the holiday is celebrated.

As explained above, the essence of the Torah transcends intellectual understanding. For this reason, even unlearned people share a connection to its holiness,14 and celebrate on Simchas Torah.

Why is the intellectual dimension of the Torah necessary? So that the Torah will permeate a person’s inner dimensions, and not remain merely an encompassing light. Comprehension internalizes the transcendent bond between the essence of the Torah and the essence of the soul, and makes it an active part of our consciousness.

This is why on Simchas Torah we dance with the Torah wrapped in its mantle. We thus emphasize that the Torah transcends our understanding, and this becomes a source of happiness. Our happiness does not stem from the Torah’s intellectual dimension, but rather from the fact that reading and studying it binds us to G‑d’s essence.15

We dance with our feet. The feet are identified with faith, which expresses the essence of the soul.16

Our celebration and dancing with the Torah while it is wrapped initiates our Divine service in the new year. The month of Elul — and in a different way, the unique days of Rosh HaShanah, the Ten Days of Teshuvah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Shemini Atzeres — are days of preparation, characterized by teshuvah. When does the Divine service of the new year begin? Simchas Torah.

At that time, the Jewish people are like a young child that must be educated. And that education begins in the spirit of the verse “The Torah which Moshe commanded us...,”17 emphasizing the importance of kabbalas ol. This lesson has an ongoing effect throughout the year. Even when we focus on the intellectual dimension of Torah study, our efforts will be permeated by faith and kabbalas ol.

Becoming the Torah’s Feet

The above concepts also help us understand a statement made by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe. He would say that on Simchas Torah, the Torah also desires to dance around the reading platform. The Torah, however, has no feet, so the Jewish people become its feet, carrying it around the reading platform.

What is meant by becoming the feet of the Torah scroll? That the dancing on Simchas Torah expresses a Jew’s commitment to accepting G‑d’s yoke to the extent that he is no longer an independent entity. The feet are given over to the head. As soon as the head desires something, the feet respond.18 Indeed, when the feet behave like independent entities, and hesitate before carrying out the will of the head, it is a sign of sickness.

By becoming the “feet of the Torah scroll,” a Jew subsumes his identity to the Torah. He resolves to carry out its directives spontaneously, as a natural expression of who he is. And this resolve extends over the entire year to come.

There is another element to the analogy. The feet complement the head, taking it to places which it could not reach on its own.19 So too, in the Jew’s relationship to the Torah, by accepting its yoke with joy, we bring it to a higher level.

This is why the plural is used in the expression “the season of our rejoicing.” For just as the Jews celebrate with the Torah, the Torah celebrates with the Jews. For it is the Jews’ celebration with the Torah that lifts the Torah to a higher level, and enables it to celebrate.

An All-Encompassing Month

As mentioned above, the fundamental element of Simchas Torah is joyous dancing. Nevertheless, we connect this celebration with the reading (and thus the study) of the Torah,20 for the dancing is done around the platform where the Torah is read. Moreover, the celebrations are introduced by reciting the verses of Atah Horeisa. Seemingly this is a fusion of opposites: a celebration associated with both kabbalas ol and Torah study.

To explain: The month of Tishrei is an all-encompassing month, generating power for our observance of the Torah and its mitzvos during the entire year to come. Therefore, this month must include a connection with the Torah. This connection must embrace, moreover, not only the foundation of the Torah, kabbalas ol (which is expressed in joyous celebration), but also actual study. Thus on Simchas Torah, the foundation of kabbalas ol is emphasized through joyous dancing, but verses are read to link us to the actual study of the Torah.

A Complementary Process

There is another factor. Kabbalas ol influences our conceptual processes. For our powers of understanding to perceive the truth, they must be based on kabbalas ol. For when the essence of one’s being is connected to holiness, it has an effect on all the soul’s powers of expression.

The connection is also complementary. Extending kabbalas ol into one’s conceptual powers brings fulfillment to the essence of the soul.21 For if one’s essence is expressed only in faith and kabbalas ol, one’s personality and thinking processes remain separate from G‑dliness. There is a dichotomy between what the person believes and the way he thinks. G‑dliness cannot be comprehended by such a person, and can affect him only in an encompassing manner.

When, by contrast, a person feels at one with his faith, he is at one with G‑d. His faith affects the way he thinks, and even the way in which he carries out his mundane activities.

For this reason, we associate the dancing of Simchas Torah with the reading of verses from the Torah. For the study of Torah complements and validates our Simchas Torah celebrations.22

When the Mind Is Shaped
By That Which Is Above the Mind

That the expression of a faith which transcends rational thought must be coupled with rational thought is made clear in the first verse recited before the hakkafos: “You have been shown to know that G‑d is the L‑rd; there is none aside from Him.”23

“You have been shown” [every Jew has been given the power to see, and sight is a faculty beyond the power of understanding] “that G‑d is the L‑rd.” Moreover, the wording “you have been shown,” rather than “you saw,” indicates that this act is not dependent on the Jews’ will. Instead, they were granted the vision as a result of the essential bond between their souls and G‑d.24

These visions are “to know,” for the vision which transcends our powers of understanding must also affect our powers of knowledge. For if our powers of knowledge were to remain unaffected, it would indicate that the vision — and the oneness with G‑d which is its source — is incomplete. When one is truly at one with G‑d, every power and capacity is involved.25

This is alluded to in the conclusion of the verses recited before the hakkafos: “Out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of G‑d from Jerusalem.”26 Zion and Jerusalem are physical places. How can they become the source for “Torah” and “the word of G‑d”?

This, however, is the contribution of the Torah, that the essential vision alluded to by the phrase “You have been shown” will affect mortal intellect, and life in the material realm. Our material existence will be merely a representation (the meaning of the name Zion)27 of G‑dly truth. For in truth, material reality has no independent existence; “there is nothing aside from Him.”

This leads to Jerusalem (ירושלים), which in Hebrew is a composite of the words ירא שלם, meaning “complete fear.”28 Material existence will be permeated by the fear of heaven, for through the Torah we will come to appreciate that even amidst physical reality, “there is nothing aside from Him.”

(Adapted from Sichos Leil Simchas Torah, 5722)