TORAH LISHMAH – OUT OF THIS WORLD
first Mishna in the sixth perek of Avot reads. ×›×œ ×”×¢×•×¡×§ ×‘×ª×•×¨×” ×œ×©×ž×” ×–×•×›×” ×œ×“×‘×¨×™× ×”×¨×‘×” ×•×œ× ×¢×•×“ ××œ× ×©×›×œ ×”×¢×•×œ× ×›×œ×• ×›×“×™ ×”×•× ×œ×• . × ×§×¨× ×¨×¢, ××”×•×‘ ×•×›×•’ Â Anyone who learns Torah Lishmah, [for its own sake] will merit many things. Not only that, but the entire Universe was worth creating and keeping spinning for his sake. He can be calledÂ a friend of G-d, loved by G-d, etc.
What exactly is Torah Lishmah, for its own sake? And what are the “many things” that the Mishna promises him that he will merit?
The common denominator of these two, Torah Lishma and its reward, is that they are both “out of this world”.Â Â Both are on a level far beyond anything in our human experience, far beyond the grasp of the human mind.
For example, try explaining how chocolate tastes to someone who never tasted chocolate.Â You can explain what it is not. But to explain what it is, is impossible. “Is it sour?” No. “Is it salty?” No. “Is it sweet?” Yes. “Oh. So it tastes like sugar!” No. Sugar is just sweet. This has a richness to it, aÂ blend of smoothness and bitterness . You just cannot know how it tastes unless you taste it! It just can’t be described!
Torah Lishmah and its reward are the same. You can explain what they are not, but you cannot explain what they are. You cannot explain the experience of learning Torah Lishma. It is too abstract. It is not learning because you want a rabbinical position. It is not about learning to become smarter. It is not about learning to get a good shidduch. So, what is it? It is learning for the sake of learning, to connect to G-d, to understand His Word and to live by it. To totally disregard myself, and place G-d in the center of my thoughts.Â To be willing to change everything about me, to become a G-d-like human.
then, what do you get for learning Torah, the real way? “Lots of stuff”. Why doesn’t the Mishna tell us what one will merit? The answer is that no words can describe the benefit of being G-d like, for it is the greatest reward, in and of itself. That reward, fulfilling your life’s purpose and the purpose of the world through learning Torah, is the apex of human experience.
G-d implanted in every human being a need to fulfill a purpose, and when that need is not fulfilled, the person feels emptiness. Nothing can cure that emptiness, unless the person fills it with his own, special purpose. And the purpose of every Jew is none other than learning Torah Lishmah.
Learning Lishma is something like taking off in an airplane: you soar aloft, and the earth below becomes a miniature village, with tiny houses and thread-like highways.Â Life takes on totally different proportions when viewed from above the clouds. The problems of life, jealousy, happenstances,Â worries of making a living, whatever else, just become so small, because you are being G-dly. There are no words that can explain this, for no words can describe something that is literally out of this world. G-dliness. It is so out of this world, so out of focusing on human interests, and so much about focusing on G-d’s interests.
And that is ×“×‘×¨×™× ×”×¨×‘×”, a lot of things. Being G-dly.Â A person becomes so G-dly through learning Torah Lishmah that G-d listens to him and runs the world according to his requests. The Or Hachaim has a beautiful twist on the words of our Rabbis, ×”×©×•×ª×” ×ž×™× ×œ×¦×ž××• ×ž×‘×¨×›×™× ×¢×œ×™×• ×©×”×›×œ × ×”×™×” ×‘×“×‘×¨×• Â Literally meaning , Someone who drinks water out of thirst, makes the Shehakol blessing. Â But the Ohr Hachaim gives the words of this halacha a new twist: Our Rabbis teach that Torah is comparable to Water. With that in mind, we can reinterpret the statement mentioned above – Someone who learns Torah solely to quench his thirst for Torah – G-d blesses him that whatever he says will come true.
Can you become more G-dly than that?