"You shall honor the face of the elderly" (Lev. 19:32)

The word for 'elderly', ['zakein'] allows for a play on words signifying] 'he who has acquired' [in Hebrew ,'zeh she-kana'] wisdom [i.e. Torah knowledge]." (Compare the commentary of Rashi to this verse; also Kiddushin 32b)

[What is the meaning of the term "acquisition" as applied to Torah? The word] "who has acquired" is [used in the same sense] as in the verse, "they that grasp the Torah" (Jeremiah 2:8) namely, one who grasps [it] in the memory center of the brain and upon the slate of whose heart it is constantly engraved.

In other words, the person has so thoroughly absorbed Torah knowledge, it so pervades his very being, that it is literally ever-present within him.

This is in accordance with the saying of our Rabbis, of blessed memory: "Who is a true Torah scholar? Anyone who, when he is asked [about any] matter of Jewish law, [answers - even if the answer is found in an obscure source]." (Shabbot 114a; Kiddushin 49b). For then, it is a mitzvah to stand before him even at a time when he is not engaged in Torah [study].

The Holy One, blessed is He, dwells constantly within him, even when he is engaged in worldly matters….

[The reason for this is] because the Holy One, blessed is He, dwells constantly within him, even when he is engaged in worldly matters, since the Torah is engraved upon the cerebral memory center within his soul and upon his heart.

Chassidic philosophy explains that every bodily faculty is rooted in the soul. Thus, we may speak of "the cerebral memory center, that is within his soul" - that is, at its root source in the soul.

And, "the Torah and the Holy One, blessed is He, are entirely One" (see Zohar, page 87b, and Zohar I, 24a; II, 60a; also compare Tikunei Zohar 406 and 424).

For this [reason], every good-hearted man whose heart prompts him and whose soul yearns to cleave constantly to Him, and [who yearns] that G‑d should dwell constantly within him without any interruption or separation ever, even for one moment, should acquire for himself the Torah in the cerebral memory center of his soul [Nefesh].

For then, even if he engages in bodily necessities, the Torah is of the status of "the Hidden Realm" within his soul, for there shines within it [the letter] yud of the name Havayah.

Kabbalah and Chassidut speak of the Hidden Realm (Alma D'itkasya) and the Revealed Realm (Alma D'itgalya) in various contexts. For example, thought - which is internal to the thinker and has not been communicated to others - is associated with the Hidden Realm, whereas, once a thought has been expressed as speech and thus made known to others, it is said to be of the Revealed Realm. In one sense, the Torah generally may be associated with the Hidden Realm. There is a well-known teaching that "the Torah comes from wisdom" (Zohar II:121a; see also there, 85a), that is, that the spiritual source of the Torah is G‑d's attribute of chochma, "wisdom."

Wisdom, like "thought", is of the Hidden Realm, and is associated with the letter yud of G‑d's four-letter name, Havayah. Thus, as stated in the text, a person whose memory is steeped in Torah, who has the Torah "resident" within him at all times - even when engaged in necessary worldly pursuits - has something of the G‑dliness of the letter yud of G‑d's name shining within him always, even if only in "hidden" form while he is outwardly occupied with worldliness, for this (the letter yud and the G‑dly Wisdom it represents) is the source of the Torah.

Note, however, that in another context, we can speak of the Written Torah (i.e. the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographa) as the "Hidden Realm" and the Oral Torah (the entire corpus of Jewish knowledge, including the Mishna, Talmud, philosophy, legal codes, etc.) as the "Revealed Realm" - as in the text at the end of this discourse.

That is why, in the Torah portion [beginning] "Consecrate unto me every firstborn", is written (Ex. 13:9), "and for a reminder between your eyes" - as is known.

One's goal should be to saturate one's memory with Torah….

"Consecrate unto me every firstborn" is one of the four Torah portions which, written on parchment in accordance with Jewish law, form the content of the leather boxes worn as tefillin. Kabbalistically, each of these four portions is associated with a divine attribute, corresponding to a particular letter of the name Havayah. The first of the four (in terms of its placement within the tefillin is the above, "Consecrate…", which corresponds to the divine attribute of chochma, associated with the letter yud of Havayah. Chochma and its corresponding letter, yud, represent the Torah. Thus, it is appropriate that the portion of Kadesh contain a reference to "memory" ("a reminder between your eyes") - since one's goal should be to saturate one's memory with Torah.

And with this [insight], a rationale may be understood for what is written in the Laws of Torah Study in the name of the Sifri: that it is a mitzvah for each and every one to know the entire Torah, consisting of all 613 mitzvot and their specifics, etc. Namely, [it is] to draw the light of G‑d upon all 613 faculties of his G‑dly Soul, in [all] their particulars.

All of a person's faculties derive from the soul. In particular, the Torah identifies 613 specific faculties, each associated with a particular part of the body (thought with the brain, sight with the eye, etc.). Each stems from a spiritual function of the soul. These in turn correspond to the 613 mitzvot of the Torah; each mitzvah serves as the channel for the spiritual "nourishment" of one soul-faculty, and, through the soul, for the bodily faculties as well. Knowing the entire Torah, then, encompassing all details of all 613 mitzvot, unites one's entire soul with G‑d. (The term "G‑dly Soul" refers to the Jewish soul which is "actually a part of G‑d above".)

And [this is] in accordance with what is written: "All of you is beautiful, my love, and there is no blemish in you" (Songs 4:7). [The expression] "all of you" is precise, for also the supernal source of this drawn-down [spirituality] is comprised of 613 [aspects], and is called "Man", [as in the verse] (Ezekiel 1:15), "And on the likeness of the throne was a likeness of the appearance of a Man, etc."

The five books of the Torah of Moses…are the source of all of the Written and Oral Torah in their entirety….

Song of Songs is an allegorical love song between the Jews and G‑d. Just as a person is comprised of 613 aspects, as explained above, "nourished" through the mitzvot of the Torah, so do the 613 mitzvot themselves each express one of 613 specific manifestations of G‑dliness, which are their Heavenly source. In this sense, Jewish mysticism speaks of G‑d (as He manifests Himself through the 613 mitzvot) as the "Man upon the throne" of Ezekiel's vision. Thus, knowing the entire Torah also implies being united with all of G‑d as He manifests Himself through the 613 mitzvot.)

To summarize, we have said that, ideally, one should acquire a thorough knowledge of the entire Torah, for this unites one's entire soul with "all" of G‑d (in a manner of speaking).

Yet, due to the stress of the times and the shortness of spirit; the [limited] intellect of the [person who would] grasp and the depth of the [material to be] grasped [it is difficult to succeed at the above. Therefore,] in any event, at least one should try to get the strength and fortitude to acquire and to engrave upon the cerebral memory center of his soul, the five books of the Torah of Moses, which he wrote from the mouth of the Almighty, for they are the source of all of the Written and Oral Torah in their entirety - as is known [in illustration of this point], that Rabbi Akiva used to expound myriads of laws from each and every calligraphic flourish [of the special Hebrew letters used to write a Torah].

Only, they [the detailed laws of the Torah] are greatly concealed in the Hidden Realm. [Accordingly, one needs to acquire at least some openly revealed Torah knowledge as well.] And from the Revealed Realm - that is, the Oral Torah - in any event, at least, one should acquire and engrave [in the cerebral memory center of his soul] the Order of Kodshim, which is called "Wisdom" in the words of our Rabbis, of blessed memory, and [which] atones for a person's sins, as the Arizal, of blessed memory, wrote.

The Oral Torah is generally classified into the six Orders of the Mishna, each of which contains numerous individual tractates that deal with particular subjects. The broad subject matter of the Order of Kodshim is the laws pertaining to sacrifices.

Adapted by Yitzchak Wagshul from a discourse in Likutei Torah
Copyright 2001 Yitzchok D. Wagshul / www.likuteitorah.com

Translator's disclaimer: The Hebrew original contains much more than could possibly be presented here. Thus, for those with the ability to learn in Hebrew, this synopsis should not be considered a substitute for the original discourse.