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Shabbat Parashat Vayeishev 5779

Ein Ayah: Broad Knowledge for those on the Verge, Not Beyond it

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 8:8)

Gemara: Rav Zeira found Rav Yehuda when he was by the entrance of his father-in-law’s home. He saw that Rav Yehuda was in a happy mood and that if he asked him any question about anything “in space” (i.e., in the world), he would give the answer.


Ein Ayah: There is a phenomenon of an elevated spirit to the point that it conceives all sorts of conceptions that exceed all boundaries, including the boundaries of the holy confines of the details of the Torah. Realize that the Torah is compared to a woman, as it is the practical, outward expression of the wisdom. In contrast, the wisdom itself comes from Hashem, Who is represented by the woman’s father.

When one has an elevated soul, the happiness exceeds all boundaries, and the whole world can be seen from the internal side of the wise spirit. The paths of wisdom break forth to be able to view everything, from the lofty to the lowest and most trivial matters. He can view not only matters that can be grasped through intellectuality and logic, but even things that seem to be improper for the developed mind to spend time thinking about, things that can be expressed in terms of air and space. These too will be illuminated by the great person’s mind when it “flies” beyond all boundaries.

This is represented by the metaphor of Rav Yehuda being by the entrance of the home of his father-in-law (i.e., Hashem), at which time his spirit was open to understanding everything without limitations. While he would naturally be focusing on lofty matters, the questioner would be able to take him to any matter, including those that are simple and insignificant, and Rav Yehuda would be willing to answer.

When one is on the verge of divine understanding, the flow of understanding could even take him to matters in the simple physical world. The abundant inspiration of the hidden world actually makes all of wisdom open before him. Everything becomes clear and unified. When one has both the highest thoughts and also connects to the most mundane things, this is described as a happy mood, and questions of limited depth are solved immediately.

It is different when the scholar goes beyond the entranceway but actually “goes into his father-in-law’s house.” While he enjoys his exposure to the light of Hashem and His goodness, he is no longer described as being in a good mood, which allows him to look from above to below, from the sacred world to the mundane world. Along with the spiritual enjoyment of one who is inside, there is a certain “heaviness of the head” and a joyous trembling, as the greatest lights shower down upon him, taking him to a place higher than the place from which he came. His thirst for Hashem and his fear, full of an appreciation of sanctity, grow. At the same time, he is distanced from the logic of mundane matters, as thoughts of the divine erase them. He is not able to answer questions about matters in “the space of the world.”

Therefore, the time to ask questions about matters of the mundane world is when one is by the entrance to the deeper levels. Then, questions can bring him to focus on solutions to simple dilemmas.

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