Rabbi Yosi was going on his way; Rabbi Hiya met him. He said to him what the Colleagues established about that which is written concerning Eli [the priest]: "And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli, that the iniquity of the house of Eli shall not be purged with sacrifice or offering forever" (I Samuel 3:14), that it cannot be purged with sacrifice or offering, but atonement can come through words of Torah. Why? It is because words of Torah are superior to all sacrifices. As has been explained, (Menachot 110a) it is written, "This is the Torah of the burnt offering, of the meal offering, and of the sin offering, and of the guilt offering." (Lev. 7:37) Torah is equal to all sacrifices in the world. He replied: This is surely so. For even if a penalty of Heaven is decreed against he who toils in Torah, the penalty is torn up [and cancelled] because the study of the Torah for G‑d's sake is better for Him than all sacrifices and offerings.

Come and see: man becomes pure solely through words of Torah. For this reason, words of Torah can never be defiled since it exists to purify the unclean. There is healing found in the Torah, as it is written: "It shall be health to your navel and marrow to your bones." (Prov. 3:8) And there is purity in the Torah, as it is written: "The fear of G‑d is clean, enduring forever." (Psalms 19:10) What is meant by "enduring forever"? That it remains constantly in that state of purity from which can never be removed.

He said to him: Now, it says, "the fear of G‑d"
[purifies] not 'the Torah'. He replied: This is surely so, as Torah comes from the state of gevura [as it says "a fiery law He presented to us", which is an aspect of fear and awe]. He said to him: You learn [that awe comes] from there [gevura]? [But] it comes from here [awe comes from chochma] , as it says, "The fear of G‑d is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalms 111:10) and it is written: "fear of G‑d is pure" and the Torah is called 'Holiness' [and not purity] as it is written, "for I, the L-rd your G‑d, am Holy." (Lev. 19:2) And that is [referring to] the Torah, which is the supernal Holy Name.

[R. Hiya maintained that malchut is called pure, and the Torah, which is tiferet, is called holy]; one who toils in it becomes pure [of one's sins, immediately from the aspect of malchut which is pure] and after [he continues to toil in Torah only for G‑d's sake], he becomes holy [from the holiness of the Torah, which is from the aspect of tiferet] as it is written: "You shall be holy" [i.e. in future tense]. It does not say, 'be holy,' but it is written, "You shall be"; truly you shall be [as a promise, not a command, if you continue to toil in it selflessly]. He replied: This is correct [that one is first purifed from sin and only afterwards becomes holy] as it is written, "and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests [through the purification from the side of malchut], and a holy nation" [through the sanctification from the side of tiferet]. (Ex. 19:6)

BeRahamim LeHayyim: What does the above mean to you, and why is it revealed to you now?

The praises of Torah study are never ending. If we could internalize its words, and live our lives according to both the law and the spirit, we would never do, see, or think any evil. More so than physical cleanliness, the Torah purifies us with a cleansing fire. We are recommended to be warmed by the fire of the Sages, but beware of their glowing coal lest you get burned...as all their words are like fiery coals. We must come close, but not get overly familiar. The fear of G‑d, and the respect for His Sages, purifies us.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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