Love What You Learn – Parashat Shoftim

August 27, 2019 at 3:40 PM , , ,

You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Is the man a tree of the field? (Devarim 20:19)

“The man a tree of the field” …If a Torah scholar is upright, you should benefit from him (alone – Tosfos) and not cut off from him. —Talmud, Taanis 7a

The Talmud interprets this verse as reference to a Talmid Chacham, a Torah scholar.

What is the correlation between fruit trees and Torah scholarship? Why can’t “the man” in this verse be a reference to someone who excels in any other area, such as in his fulfillment of the Mitzvos?

When one fulfills the Mitzvos, he obeys G-d’s demands of mankind; when one learns Torah, he absorbs G-d’s own wisdom within his mind. Consequently, another distinction can be observed between Torah study and Mitzvah observance. A central aspect in mitzvah observance is surrendering one’s own desire to obey G-d’s will. Although the ideal Torah study is when one’s study is devoid of any self-importance, but this surrender of self is not the primary objective of Torah study. The goal of Torah study is to unite with G-d by making His wisdom part of your identity. So much so, that Torah study even demands and justifies personal preferences; “One should always study the part of the Torah in which his heart desires (Talmud, Avodah Zarah 19a).”

The emphasis on enjoyment and personal drive in Torah study is, in fact, a natural outcome of the perfect unity with G-d achieved through Torah study – for the Torah is G-d’s delight as well. As the Torah’s proclaims (Mishlei 8:30), “I was His delight every day!”

This then is the reason that a Torah scholar is compared to a fruit tree. For what sets fruit apart from other produce, such as grain, is that fruit are not only a source of sustenance, but also of pleasure and enjoyment. Likewise, we study Torah not only as a duty, but also as a passion.

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