Selected Readings from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen, Orot ha-Torah / Translated by Bezalel Naor / Copyright 2012 by Bezalel Naor
Chapter I “Written Torah and Oral Torah”
1. The Written Torah we receive through the highest, most expansive channel in our soul. We feel from it the living, general light of all existence. Not the spirit of the nation created this great light – but the spirit of G-d.
In the Oral Torah we begin the descent to life. We sense that we receive this light through the second channel of the soul, the channel which approaches practical life. We feel that the spirit of the nation molded the Oral Torah in its distinct image. Here the Torah of G-d and the Torah of Man converge. And these two lights make a complete world, in which heaven and earth kiss.
Chapter II – “Torah Lishmah (for Its Sake)”
1. The wisdom of the torah is the divine revelation, according to His will, which comes from our striving and studying. Every Torah student actualizes the Torah which lies latent in his soul, and certainly the light which is created by the Torah’s connection to this soul is not to be compared to the light created by her connection to another soul. Therefore one is literally proliferating Torah by one’s learning, and since G-d desires that Torah be proliferated, the correct intention is to study out of one’s love for the great light which is the revelation of G-d’s existence, that it wax and wax . . .
4. One of the ways of studying Torah for its sake, is with the intent to enrich the Jewish People with great spiritual powers. The more the light of Torah, its love and respect, increase in the heart of one Jew, the stronger and more powerful becomes the nation. The individual soul of this person becomes enhanced and more whole, and sends forth branches and roots . . .
5. When we study Torah for its sake, we perform a kindness with the Jewish people. How? The spirit of the nation is strengthened through the Torah, which is the essence of the spirit of the nation. Every individual who studies Torah reveals new powers in the soul of Israel through the spiritual nourishment which he receives from Torah. (on the other hand) all weaknesses which develop in the spirit of Israel, have their source in abandonment of Torah.
Chapter III – “Specifics of Torah and Generalities”
1. The connection of Torah to G-d – this is the work of the very gifted few. We deal in specifics of Halakha, we know in a very general way that all the words of Torah flow from G-d. But the soul yearns and pines for G-d . . . And to uplift all the specifics of Torah to that level of soulfulness – this is the project of very great souls. To connect the lower, limited Torah to the higher, all inclusive Torah . . .
5. When Torah is studied with pure intention, then the exalted purpose of Torah extends to all its details, and great love goes out to the entire world. But when Torah is studied with impure intention, then the details of Torah stick out and the result is small-mindedness, perturbation and meanness, “and it were better were he not born”.
8. In the realm of Science it is equally correct to say “How tiny are Thy works!” as to say “How great are Thy works!” As astonished as we are by astrophysics, galaxies and stars, so we are thrilled by subatomic physics. And by taking into account both extremes, the macro and the micro, we come to an accurate appreciation of existence. And so it is in regard to Torah. The tiny details of Torah are no less important than the great, expansive ideas. The proper study of Torah combines both aspects.
Chapter VI “Study of Torah”
6. The practical studies of Torah are the food of the soul, they build her in the same way that physical nourishment builds the body. And the theoretical studies, the thought, the poetry, are the breath, the air of the soul.
Chapter IX “The Ways of Torah”
8. Sometimes a soul which is ripe for great spiritual studies, becomes saddened when it deals with specific laws and feels confined by them. However, the soul’s healing will not come by abandoning the practical Torah, but rather by learning to uplift those specific details to the spiritual source which is great and all-encompassing. At times this uplifting is accomplished by the intellect; at other times by the emotion; and sometimes by both working in consonance . . .
Chapter X “ The Mysteries of Torah”
1. When is it good to study the mysteries of Torah? When the inner yearning for G-d’s proximity is strong and intense, gives no respite to the soul and will be satisfied only by the secrets of Torah . . .
2. Not always is man right for spiritual revelations. Those many periods which are devoid of illumination are destined to be used for the practical studies of Torah. But as soon as the light of the soul bursts forth, we must give it free rein to expand, to imagine, to apprehend, to yearn . . .
Chapter XIII “The Torah of the Diaspora and the Torah of Erets-Israel”
3. The Torah of the Diaspora deals with the correction of the individual; the Torah of Erets-Israel is concerned with the soul of the entire People . . .
4. As part of the spiritual renascence which awaits the Torah of Erets-Israel, the borders between subjects and disciplines will shrink. The entire spiritual world will be beheld with an overview. Pilpul, renewal of the Land, Halakha, Poetry, Physical Education – all these which were seen in the Diaspora as disparate and contradictory –will now be bound together . . .
6. Only in Erets-Israel may Torah scholars work their way down from generalities to specifics. The all-encompassing intellect, enlightened by the inner holiness of the atmosphere of Erets-Israel, transcends all limitations. It overviews Aggada and Halakha, knowledge and action . . . And because the scholars of Israel are meant for this greatness, as long as they dodge their destiny and try to emulate the method of study of the Jews of the Diaspora, they will be weak in body and mind, and their uniqueness will remain unrevealed.
7. The Jewish People live in the Diaspora a life-style which lacks originality. All the more so Torah scholars, whose life is the spirit, cannot aspire to originality in the Diaspora. Communal concern, physical labpr, Halakha, Aggada, Talmud, Kabbala, Ethics, research, poetry, levity and seriousness, grammar and gematria, are all perceived as contradictory, through inwardly all are united. Spiritual harmony is to be discovered only in Erets-Israel. Real Torah is in Erets-Israel.