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Home » D'varim Parshah

Devarim: Heartfelt Thought

Submitted by on July 11, 2010 – 4:17 amNo Comment | 1,664 views

An Amazing Feat

It was on the first day of the month of Shevat, five weeks before his passing, that Moses sat down to teach the Torah. He had been teaching for nearly forty years; ever since descending Mt. Sinai Moses had done little, but teach. Still  he began a full review of the entire Torah, both the oral and the written traditions. (1)

He completed the task in a short five weeks. In addition he wrote thirteen Torah scrolls and translated the Torah into seventy languages; quite the feat even for a man as prolific as Moses. How did he accomplish this? Even with thousands of assistants five weeks is a rather short time to accomplish such a herculean task.

Zushe’s Prayer

The great Chassidic Master Rabbi Dov Ber of Mizritch, (2) summoned three of his saintly students, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Horodok (3) Rabbi Pinchas (4) and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (5) to present a complex question on a difficult Talmudic passage.

Retiring to the study hall, the scholarly students discussed the Maggid’s question. Wanting to join the discussion, the illustrious Rabbi Suzhe of Anipoli approached, but Reb Mendel turned him away. However, when Reb Levik of Bardichev approached Reb Mendel invited him to join the discussion.

Reb Zushe took note and retired to a quiet corner where he quietly cried, “Master of the universe, Zushe desires a portion in your Torah, but has none.” After pouring his heart out in prayer, Reb Zushe, who overheard the question that his colleagues had presented to Reb Levik, formulated an answer and approached Reb Schneur Zlaman.heartfelt thought - innerstream

“I am ashamed to present this answer in public,” he said, “but I would like to share it with you.” At hearing the complexity and depth of Zushe’s explanation, Reb Scheneur Zalman, exclaimed, “This teaching is worthy of the heavenly souls in the supernal academy.” In the presence of his colleagues, Reb Shchneur Zlaman related Zushe’s explanation to the Maggid, who accepted it and concurred. (6)

Open Heart

This story, rich in nuance, teaches us a particular lesson about the power of the heart. Zushe was renowned for his intense emotional connection to G-d. He was not the greatest scholar among the Maggid’s illustrious disciples, which led Reb Mendel to surmise correctly that Zushe was not summoned because the question was beyond his capabilities. Yet, it was Zushe, rather than the more scholarly disciples, who discovered the answer.

Reb Zushe did not answer the question on account of his intellectual ability; on the contrary, he did not study the question; instead he had poured his heart out in prayer. But because his heart was open, he was inspired and guided to a true understanding of Torah.

Each morning, in our daily prayer, we beseech G-d, “open our heart to your Torah.” We don’t ask for an open mind, but for an open heart. This is because we are not asking for success in understanding the Torah; for that we must apply ourselves and study. We pray that our hearts be inspired and truly moved by the privilege of studying G-d’s Torah. Open our hearts to your Torah; let us be filled with awe by the honor of opening our hearts to Divine ideas, let us marvel at the opportunity to wrap our minds around G-d’s thoughts

When our hearts tremble with excitement at the opportunity to connect with G-d, the Torah unlocks its doors to us. Not only are we granted access to its information, but to its author. Once we are connected with the author we perceive incredible depths that mere study of the book cannot yield.

Reb Zushe’s heart melted with a yearning to have a portion in G-d’s Torah. He was not perturbed over being barred from his colleague’s discussion; he was perturbed over being barred from the Torah and through that, from the Torah’s author. His intense desire to attach his tender soul to G-d opened his heart a strata of understanding that is glimpsed only by heavenly souls.

The others, scholarly and saintly though they were, did not possess Zushe’s purity of soul and power of emotion. They pondered the question with their minds, Zushe perceived the question with his soul. Who knows, perhaps it was to teach them this lesson that the Maggid summoned them in the first place.

The Torah is blessed

The Mishnah speaks of pious Jews who prayed for nine hours every day; three in the morning, three in the afternoon and three in the evening. If they prayed so long how did they succeed in Torah study, the Mishnah asks. Because they were Chassidim their Torah was blessed, the Mishnah explains.

Because they are Chassidim who pray for nine hours and who thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to attach themselves to G-d, their perception of Torah is of an entirely different order. When they see the words and hear the ideas of Torah, they penetrate immediately to the core of its meaning and understand it with total clarity. They don’t require hours and hours of diligence; like Reb Zushe they arrive at the truth in moments though others cannot reach it in hours. (7)

Five Weeks

We now understand how Moses covered such a vast area of Torah teaching in the brief five weeks before his passing. Saintly as Moses was throughout his life, there is no question that approaching the sacred moment of passing spurred him to ever greater heights. During these weeks, as he contemplated his imminent ascent to the heavens he was likely able to contemplate the Torah from the perspective that it is seen in heaven.

Once one grasps and communicates the core of an idea all its extent branches fall into place. Once the formula is explained it is not necessary to explain each piece of the puzzle. Moses covered so much ground because he was able to communicate the core of each idea and the students grasped the applications for themselves. Like the pious Jews of the Mishnah, their study was blessed.

When, in synagogue, we rise to open the ark let us rise not only with our feet, but also with our hearts. When we are summoned to the Torah let us encounter the author and pledge to heed His call.

Footnotes

  1. Deuteronomy 1:3.
  2. Reb Dov Ber was successor to the Baal Shem Tov and
    teacher of many saintly students including the names mentioned in the
    story.
  3. Reb Mendel was later tapped to succeed the Maggid; a
    position in which he served until he made Aliyah to Israel, where he
    lived out his remainder years and where he was interred.
  4. Reb Pinchas was later appointed Rav in Frankfurt;
    He is renowned for the two important works that he penned; sefer Haflaah
    and sefer Hamakneh.
  5. Who later founded the Chabad movement.
  6. Reshimos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe #186.
  7. Babylonian Talmud Brachos 32b.
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