Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Torah, To What Can I Compare Thee?

Various biblical verses and rabbinic texts compare the Torah to different natural resources to teach us about the greatness of the Torah in terms that can be readily understood. After all, we relate to natural resources all the time.

In Proverbs 6:23, the Torah is compared to light because it illuminates darkness, and, when focused, can even reach deep recesses and far corners.

The Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, records how Torah is compared to rain “precisely to emphasize that its most important effect is to make each of us grow to our full potential.” (Rabbi Sacks' article)

The Talmud (Taanit 7a) compares the Torah to fire, wood/tree, water, milk & wine.

Fire (Jeremiah 23:29): Just as fire cannot endure alone, without fuel or air, Torah needs to be studied with partners who bring different perspectives, produce new ideas and sharpen logical arguments to withstand challenges.

Wood (Proverbs 3:18): Just as a small piece of wood can light an entire woodpile, small-time scholars (also known as students) are the tinder that challenge their teachers to become greater scholars.

Water (Isaiah 55:1): Just as water flows downward from a higher place, Torah can only exist in a person who receives it humbly from a "higher place," such as a teacher.

Wine and milk: These drinks last longer and “stay good” in earthenware vessels (i.e. a barrel). Similarly, Torah survives best in a humble person.

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