Ratzon HaTorah, Yitzi Horowitz, LCSW
Lech L’Chah 2019
Chazal teach us that when Hashem created the world He looked into the Torah and created the world. Seemingly to mean that instead us understanding that the Torah exists inside the world, the world really lives inside the context of Torah. In other words, we tend to think of the Torah as a practical guide or list of do’s and don’ts for how we are to live our lives. The nature of the world is set and the Torah is there to show us how to navigate through it. We hope that the Torah doesn’t simply puncture our lives but permeate it (Hattip one of my wife’s seminary teachers for his witty line!). But we see the Torah as being something we try to live up to within the confines of our lives. But the truth is that the Torah isn’t there for us to simply navigate the world. What is more accurate is that the world is an expression of Torah. Hashem fashioned and created the world in the image of the Torah. The Torah is the muse for all of existence. The world is an expression of the Torah. Everything that exists, from earth to heaven, from nature to miracles, from the drudgeries in reality to the beauty of transcendence… it’s all in the Torah.
So what is Faith, then? The Rambam (Maimonides), Ramban and Sefer Hachinuch all quote Faith in a God who created and maintains the world as one of the 613 commandments found in the Torah. Placing its source in the first of the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord your God…” The Ba’al Halachos Gedolos (B’Hag there is much controversy the identity of the author of this work which is from the Geonic period. Some say it was authored by R’ Yehudai Gaon and others say it was Shimon Kayyara) explicitly states that Faith is not one of the 613 commandments in the Torah. The Ramban explains the B’Hag’s thinking as follows: Faith in God, in its very reality, is the purpose of all Mitzvohs and the root from which all commandments are born. And as such the B’Hag doesn’t count Faith in God as one of the Mitzvohs.
If I don’t believe in God then in my reality there is no God. If there is no God then there is no Torah and no commandments. This is rational. But the Ramban is saying that the B’Hag is teaching us something different here. Faith in God is the presupposition of all Torah. It sits are the root of all commandments, it is the blueprint of all Mitzvohs, it is the purpose of all Mitvohs,. It is the Soul of each Mitzvah. And by living our lives with the Torah we are somehow expressing and actualizing our Faith in God. Not simply out of discipline, but in some deeper way each ritual is somehow and expression of something deep inside us. An expression of Faith.
The Torah, in the form we know it, is a blueprint for us to understand, first and foremost, ourselves. Hashem made the Torah in our image. He made it for us. Not for angels and not for animals. It is human-centric. Once we understand ourselves through the lens of Torah, we can understand how the commandments in the Torah are applicable to our lives. No one can understand what they are supposed to do before they understand who they are. If I don’t matter then my actions do not matter. Knowing myself is a prerequisite for knowing what I am supposed to be doing with my life. This is why the first 1/3 of the Torah is the story of people. We learn their stories to understand ourselves. From Adam’s creation until us, as a people, leave Egypt we do not know who we are. The Exodus from Egypt is the climactic experience of self-awareness. As individuals and as a people. And it is at that moment that we start getting commandments. Now that you know who you are, this is how you are supposed to live.
If the world sits inside the context of Torah and the commandments of the Torah sit inside the context of Faith then Faith is not simply one commandment. It is at the root of everything in our lives. Faith is the beginning of self-awareness. If the Torah is fashioned after humans then Virtue and Sin (Mitzvohs and Aveiros) are created to help humanity navigate through the very real tensions that reside inside us. The very constructs of Mitzvoh and Aveirah are expressions of how life works. We are all filled with tensions that confuse us, challenge us and times even threaten us. Mitzvohs and Aveiros are guideposts that help us to make sense of our very real tensions. While we can debate whether we need religion to be inherently moral, the religious sense of sin and virtue is the first construct to help us make sense of “right and wrong”. And we need to know “right and wrong” if we are going to make sense of our inner tensions. Without it only chaos ensues.
So what is Faith? Faith is gifted to us by God Himself. Faith is about us finding the core of who we are. Faith is about finding our Soul. Because our Soul’s are not just one part of ourselves. Our Soul’s are the root that everything about us is fashioned from. My Soul caries the truth of my inherent Beauty. My Soul carries the truth that I matter. My Soul carries everything about me and everything about me is born out of and an extension of my Soul. My Soul is the presupposition of all I am. It sits are the root of everything I experience, every tension I am challenged with. It is the blueprint for everything I do and the purpose of everything I do. It is the core of every action. Even when I sin. Because every sin is also an attempt at trying to capture the feeling of “I matter”. Every action I take has a purpose. Sometimes I am confused and think that the way to express my Soul, the way to feel complete or the way to feel better about myself is to act on impulse. And this is sin- confusion of how to actualize my inherent self-mattering, my beauty.
By living my life with the Torah I am expressing and actualizing my Soul. Not simply out of discipline, but in some deeper way an expression of something deep inside me. An expression of my Soul. These are the first two words of this week’s parsha. God tells Abraham, “Lech L’Cha, go to yourself”. If you discovered your Soul, you have discovered me. If you see that everything in your life has one source, your Soul then you have discovered that all of live has one source, God. So go to yourself. Go be Yourself. In all of your journeys, in all your situations in life. Strive to be the best you are. For this is what life is all about. Finding ourselves. Finding ways to actualize myself in every situation I am in. May we all be zoche to find who we re. To be who we are. To find ourselves in the context of the beauty of our Souls, and to find the entire world in the context of the Torah and to find all of Torah in the context of Hashem. For that is what it means to live. And may we be zoche to the time when the true nature of everything gleams in the majestic building of the Beis Hamikdash in the center of the world, Yerushalayim b’mheira byameinu.
Ah gut Shabbos