Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Torah Heals Languages

Sfas Emes blog

The first Midrash[1] on this week's parsha explains a pasuk in Mishlei (15:4) "מרפא לשון עץ חיים/A soothing tongue is a tree of life." Certainly speaking soothingly to someone has a positive effect and depending on the situation can truly be a lifesaver. Chazal, however, understood this pasuk as referring to Torah. "עץ חיים/A tree of life", alludes to the Torah. The Zohar[2] explains that just as the trunk of a tree gives life to all the parts that hang from it, the Torah gives life to everything that exists. Everything that exists "hangs" from the Torah. This is because God first created the Torah and then used it to create the world[3]

The Torah is more than words written on parchment. The Torah is a powerful spiritual force that permeates the Creation. Every part of the Creation contains a spark of holiness, a spark of the Torah. In this sense, the world is akin to a garment or covering that contains the Torah. 

This concept applies to everything in existence including the nations of the world and their languages. The seventy languages of the nations are also creations. When the Torah is explained in a language other than the holy tongue, that language becomes like a garment and a vehicle for the Torah. The holiness of the Torah shines out through that language and the language itself is affected and is elevated. In this sense, Chazal interpret the pasuk in Mishlei as, "The Torah heals the tongue - languages." It is for this reason that Chazal[4] permitted the Torah to be written in all languages (as opposed to Tefillin and Mezuzos which are permitted in the holy tongue only.) 

This is the reason that Moshe Rabbeinu interpreted the Torah into seventy languages as we find, "... הואיל משה באר את התורה הזאת .../… Moshe began to explain this Torah …" (Devarim 1:5) Rashi on this pasuk explains that Moshe Rabbeinu interpreted the Torah in seventy languages. The languages already contained a spark of holiness. Everything in this world contains some holiness. By translating the Torah into the seventy languages, the enlightenment of the Torah elevated those those languages and made them usable for holiness. In effect, Moshe Rabbeinu unlocked the languages of the nations for holiness.

The Sfas Emes applies this concept to each of us. As we've said, everything in the Creation contains a spark of the Torah. It must in order to exist. Certainly a member of the nation of Israel has a strong spark; he has a nefesh/soul within him. Our nefesh/soul is just one part of our soul. It is the lowest part, in a manner of speaking. It is attached to the ruach/spirit. The ruach/spirit, in turn, is connected to the neshama/soul. The two higher parts of the soul do not reside within us. Instead, they can be understood as connecting us to the highest spiritual realms. 

The Sfas Emes teaches that by introspecting and accepting the holiness within ourselves, we merit additional holiness that comes from without. He learns this from another pasuk in Mishlei (5:15) "שתה מים מבורך ונוזלים מתוך בארך/Drink water from your own cistern, and flowing water from your own well." A well differs from a cistern in that a well contains water that flows from elsewhere whereas a cistern's water is static. The pasuk is teaching us that our nefesh/soul that resides within us is static until we introspect and receive its holiness, until we drink from its waters. Then it becomes like a well whose waters flow through it from elsewhere. We then receive enlightenment from outside ourselves, from the highest spiritual realms, from the throne of glory, the Shechina. 

[1] Devarim R. 1:1
[2] Zohar 3:96a,202a
[3] Zohar 1:5a - Introduction
[4] Devarim R. 1:1

במדרש מרפא לשון עץ חיים מרפאת הלשון כו'. איתא בזוה"ק שנמשלת התורה לאילן שיש בו ענפים ופירות ועלין וקליפות לבד גוף האילן שכולן אחוזין בו. כמו כן התורה נותנת שפע וחיות לכל הבריאה. וכ"א יש לו דביקות כפי ערך קדושתו. כי באורייתא ברא קוב"ה עלמא. וכל הדברים הם כמו לבוש לנקודה הפנימיות. והלשונות שמתפרש בהם דברי תורה הם ג"כ רק לבוש כי המאמר היא התורה עצמה ומתלבש בלשונות אחרים. ועי"ז מרפא הלשון. לכן התירו שיכתבו ספרים בכל לשון. וכתי' הואיל כו' באר כו' התורה כו'. פרש"י בע' לשון פירשה להם וכ' באר שכפי התרחבות הארת התורה במלבושים החיצונים יותר שמתקרב הכל להפנימיות עי"ז נפתח המעין הפנימי ביותר. כתי' שתה מים מבורך ונוזלים כו' בארך. כי הקב"ה נתן בטבע עצמו של כל ברי' נקודה קדושה. בפרט באיש ישראל שיש לו נפש קדוש. ונק' בורך שדבוק בגופו וכפי מה שמקבל הארת הנפש וממשיך כל מעשיו אחר זו ההארה. כן ניתוסף לו רוח ונשמה יתירה ונפתח מעין שאין לו סוף וזהו ונוזלים מתוך בארך. ולכן ג"כ אחר כל המסעות במדבר שהמשיכו בנ"י הארה קדושה לתוך כל המקומות הללו אח"כ הואיל משה באר כו':

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