Please note: this article is a continuation of a previous article, Eyes Red with Wine: Part 1.

Summary of Part 1

There are several basic types of love a Jew has for G‑d. The first, called "Ahavat Olam", or "Eternal Love", is aroused through contemplation of G‑d's greatness, in the sense that the entire universe is as nothing next to G‑d. This love can wane when one's contemplation gives way to other thoughts. The second, "Ahava Rabba", or "Great Love", is the deeply-rooted natural love of a Jewish soul for G‑d. Since the Jew is truly united with G‑d through his or her soul, which is literally a part of G‑d and never changes, this love likewise cannot waver.

Summary of Part 2

Revelation of this Great Love is accomplished through study of the Torah, which is compared to wine. This is the inner significance of the Talmudic saying "When wine [referring to Torah] enters a person, the secret [referring to the longing of their soul for G‑d] comes out". This in turn elicits yet a third, and still higher, level of love for G‑d, characterized by the person experiencing true delight in G‑d. The above is complemented by a person's scrutiny of their actions and motivations, and sincere efforts to assimilate the Torah into their own personality.

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Discourse, Part 2

Hidden love for G‑d - Great Love - can indeed be brought out and revealed, and this is accomplished through study of Torah, which is compared to wine. Just as wine enters a person's system and causes him or her to reveal what is in his or her secret heart, so it is with the Torah. The soul, source of one's "Ahava Rabba", "Great Love", for G‑d, expresses itself in day-to-day life through the person's thoughts, speech and actions. When the "wine" of Torah enters a person's system, when he or she makes Torah the object of his or her soul's thought and speech - through study and teaching of Torah - and actions - through actual performance of mitzvot - this stimulates the soul itself and brings its Great Love to the fore.

In a mystical sense, this happens in a manner alluded to by the verse, "You [G‑d] open Your hands and satisfy the desire of every living thing". (Psalms 145:16) The Hebrew letter yud is frequently found in mystical literature as a symbol for contraction and concealment - specifically, G‑d's concealing His full revelation from our perception in order that we not be overwhelmed. It is identified with chochma, the intellectual faculty which conceives new ideas seemingly out of nowhere, since this faculty is characterized by the new ideas being contracted into a single, hard-to-define, point - the "germ" of an idea - which still requires elaboration and expansion to be fully understood. The degree of G‑dliness "prior" to this condensation or concealment for our benefit may be identified with the faculty of "desire" or "will", since these terms represent an aspect of a person which transcends chochma and intellect. (At the most basic level, a person "wants" something not for any intellectual reason, but just "because".)

G‑d opens up the contraction represented by the letter yud….

In the above verse, the Hebrew word for "Your hand", "yadecha", can be understood as though it read "yudecha", meaning "Your yuds". The meaning is that G‑d "opens up" the contraction represented by the letter yud, and instead "satisfies the desire of every living thing". This latter phrase can be understood as meaning, "satisfies every living thing with 'desire'", that is, with the faculty of "desire" (in Hebrew, "ratzon"), which, as explained above, is that aspect of G‑dliness which is prior to His "contraction". The Hebrew phrase "every living thing" literally means "all life"; the verse is thus saying that G‑d opens up His contraction, with the result that all life - the G‑dly flow of creative life-force which animates all levels of Creation, spiritual and physical - is imbued, filled to satiety, with the lofty spiritual level of G‑d's desire (or "will").

This manifestation of the Divine Will implies an increased amount of G‑dly revelation at all levels of Creation; aspects of holiness which ordinarily are concealed are openly revealed under these conditions. With respect to a person's soul, this means that the Hidden Love - which we have been referring to as Great Love - is likewise brought out from its hidden state and openly revealed. And the factor which initiates this process - the "opening up of the yud's" and resulting saturation of all G‑dly life-force into the universe with G‑d's underlying will - is the Torah, which is itself the wisdom and the will of G‑d.

We are now in a better position to understand the symbolism of the verse "eyes red with wine". As explained above, when the wine of Torah enters a person, the secret Great Love within him or her for G‑d is brought out. This results in the person being rewarded by the bestowal upon them from above of a third type of love for G‑d, a love which surpasses both Eternal Love and Great Love and which a person cannot attain other than as a gift from G‑d. This degree of love is characterized by true delight in G‑d, and so is called "Delightful Love". 1

The two lovers…gaze at each other with total rapture until their eyes become bloodshot and red….

Delightful Love is sometimes symbolized in the Torah by lovebirds or doves, which delight in each other and stare at one another continuously (as in the verse: "your eyes are doves' [eyes]" (Song of Songs 1:15)). It is as though the two lovers "cannot take their eyes off of one another", and gaze at each other with total rapture until their eyes become bloodshot and red. This is also what is meant by the parallel verses, "my eyes are constantly upon G‑d", (Psalms 25:15) and "the eye of G‑d is upon those who fear Him". (Psalms 33:18) Our verse, too, referring to "eyes bloodshot from wine", is speaking of the degree of Delightful Love which results after one has succeeded, through the wine of Torah, in bringing out the Great Love "hidden" within one's soul. (This is also the level of love meant by the Kabbalistic expression, "to gaze at the glory of the King [G‑d].")

Delightful Love, as stated, is only experienced as a gift bestowed from above. This level is identified with Shabbat, a day which is associated with the lofty spiritual level of "delight" or "pleasure" ("ta'anug" in Hebrew), as in the verses "[if you observe Shabbat…] then you will delight yourself in G‑d" and "you will call Shabbat a delight". (Isaiah 58: 14 and 13) However, as the Talmud remarks, "One who toils on the eve of Shabbat will eat on Shabbat" (Avoda Zara 3a), that is, prior preparation is necessary to experience Shabbat properly. In our context, too, in order to experience the level of Delightful Love that is revealed on Shabbat, one must spend one's week in sincere worship of G‑d and toil in the effort to bring out both prerequisite levels, Eternal Love and Great Love.

This aspect of our subject - that Delightful Love and the high spiritual level of delight which is bestowed only after achievement of the two relatively lower degrees of love - is alluded to by the Talmud's exposition of our verse, "eyes red with wine". (Ketubot 111b) It also affords us an interesting and enlightening insight into the fact that although the narrative portions of the Talmud (as opposed to the halachic, or analytical, legislative portions) can appear to the superficial reader as "light material", they are in fact filled with a wisdom and spiritual content so profound as to require shielding behind the veil of the narrative form.

In the passage in question, the Talmud speaks in praise of the wines of the Land of Israel. Among the points made is that one cannot erroneously suppose that Israeli wine is not flavorful, for the verse states, "eyes bloodshot from wine"; the Hebrew word for bloodshot is "chachlili", which can be separated into the components "cheich" (meaning "palate") and the word "li" (meaning "to me") repeated twice. The Talmud expounds from this that the wine of Israel is so flavorful that any palate that tastes it must exclaim, "to me, to me" - as if to say, "give me more!" or "this is to my liking!"

Torah…is the nourishment of the soul….

The deeper significance of this exposition, however, is that the palate is that organ which senses the taste of wine (or anything, for that matter) and derives pleasure from it. It is a symbol for that spiritual level known as "delight" or "pleasure" - the same level we identified earlier as associated with Shabbat. Thus, "the palate which tastes the wine" - the spiritual level of delight having been elicited by the wine of Torah bringing out the prior two levels of Eternal Love and Great Love - "will exclaim, 'to me, to me'" - that is, will absorb into itself ("to me") and elevate to a higher spiritual level each of the two successfully achieved prior levels. Now, we said towards the beginning that wine and milk each represent a particular quality of Torah; the conclusion of our verse, "…and teeth white with milk", alludes to the "milk" of Torah.

Milk nourishes the body and promotes growth. Torah is also called "nourishment (see Tanya, chapter 5) for it is the nourishment of the soul. However, nourishment needs proper digestion in order to be beneficial. Teeth perform the necessary act of grinding up and finely chewing one's food in order for it to be truly digested and nourish the body. Similarly, before a person can properly assimilate the spirituality of Torah, making it truly a part of himself - just as food becomes a part of themself, he must perform the act of "chewing up and finely grinding". He must thoroughly "grind" and thoroughly examine his own behavior - including his thoughts, speech and actions - and underlying motives in whatever he does; he must determine to work very hard at developing true love and fear of G‑d, and not fool himself. Once the person has done this, the spiritual benefits of Torah serve to nourish their soul and their qualities of love and fear of G‑d; this is symbolized by milk, which nourishes one's limbs and promotes growth.

Each individual element is actually a composite of all nine….

This is more than mere imagery. In a mystical sense, one's spiritual "limbs" (which are nourished by the "milk" of Torah) are the "emotional" attributes of one's soul, those qualities known in Hebrew as chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod and yesod. These can be grouped in threes: the first three are collectively referred to by the initial letters of their names, which form the acrostic chagat; the latter three, by the same device, are referred to as nehiy.  Furthermore, each of these emotional attributes encompasses within it something of the three "intellectual" attributes of the soul, chochma, bina and daat, which gave rise to and perpetuate it. (For example, love of G‑d, an aspect of the emotional attribute of chesed, is aroused by intellectual contemplation of G‑d's greatness.) This grouping of three is also known by an acrostic formed by the initial letters of its components: chabad.

So far, we have a total of nine elements to the spiritual "limbs" of one's soul: the three-pronged groupings of chagat and nehiy, as well as the chabad,which sustains them. However, each individual element is actually a composite of all nine. In other words, chesed, for example, is not a simple attribute, but is comprised of the chesed aspect of chesed; the gevura aspect of chesed; the tiferet aspect of chesed; and so on. Thus, the original nine elements of the "limbs" grow into nine times nine, or 81, elements. Now, it is known that each of these elements may also be viewed as possessing three more facets: the head, middle and end of each. Therefore, the 81 elements now become 81 x 3, or 243. Finally, as explained in Kabbalistic texts, the source of all this growth stems from the five spiritual levels known as the five attributes of chesed (the "five cheseds"), which transcend them all and whose nature is to bestow bounty and growth. These 5 cheseds (or "chasadim" in proper Hebrew) combine with the 243 we have so far, making a total of 248 "emotional limbs" of the soul - the number of limbs in the physical body, corresponding to the number of positive mitzvot in the Torah.

The above may seem confusing, but it is simply a technically detailed description of the manner in which the aspects of one's soul referred to as the "limbs" of the soul may be said to "grow" to the point at which they correspond to the so-called "limbs of the King [G‑d]"; that is, the 248 positive mitzvot of the Torah. The Jewish soul is "designed" so as to be able to achieve this goal: to make one's soul a true vehicle for the expression of the Torah, each aspect of the soul mirroring the spirituality of a particular mitzvah (and corresponding also to a physical limb of the body), so that the Torah literally unites with one's soul and "nourishes" it like food is absorbed within and thereby nourishes the body. This is what is meant by the "milk" of Torah, which, like actual milk, helps the limbs to grow.

Finally, this effect of minute examination of one's actions ("teeth") resulting in nourishment and growth of the soul ("milk"), causes one's "teeth to be white from milk". This expression refers to the fact that the beneficial effects of the "milk" of Torah will be such as to not merely grow one's character traits quantitatively, but also cause them to shine with quality, like teeth that are bright white.

Copyright 2001 Yitzchok D. Wagshul /
adapted by Yitzchak Wagshul from a discourse in Torah Ohr

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.