Torah lishma

Rabbi Stacy taught today about the books of the Jews.  It was good to hear words and terms that I’m familiar with.  It’s good to know that I’m really learning.  But there is so far to go.  When I was younger this would have dismayed me, to know how little of the path I’ve travelled and how long the path actually is.  But not so now.  It inspires me to know that there is still so much to learn and that the path goes so far and is so full.  It makes me kind of teary thinking about all of the amazing things that are ahead of me as I study.  What a sap!

She taught us the term Torah lishma.   Studying Torah for Torah’s sake alone.  I realize that my intention is not always pure enough.  Probably is never pure enough.  So part of my learning this year will be to learn, as best I can, to study Torah lishma.  Of course, as soon as I got the chance, I got right to my computer and did a google search on “lishma”.  That was after I’d failed at finding the word in my Hebrew dictionary.  I found some great discussion on a yeshiva site from New York (an orthodox boys school…likely a great source of future study for me!  I hope they won’t mind).  Sometimes, because I’m trying to blog on my reading, I get to the end of the week and don’t really study.  I just read the story.

So, in an effort to be more conscious about how I study Torah, I may do things somewhat differently.  I’m not sure how differently, or even what I mean by that, by maybe differently.  When I read Torah, I want it to be for Torah’s sake alone, not for blogging’s sake.  That seems a bit of a desecration (Torah for blogging’s sake).  So from now forward, I will do my best to set my intention a little differently, more consciously.  And to study Torah lishma.

Rabbi Stacy also taught us PaRDeS.  As I sat there listening to her I thought about the Contemporary Jewish Museum in SF and thought I remembered that they have a PaRDes wall.  So another google search (what did we do before google?  I love those brilliant people) and found this description of the 4 levels of textual study as depicted by the CJM:  literal, allegorical, personal and mystical.  Rabbi Stacy’s explanation clarifies the CJM terms for me. 

The P (Peshat) is the simple or direct meaning of the text.  The obvious.

The R (Remez) are hints at the deeper allegorical meaning.  Gematria also falls under remez (Jewish numerology…every Hebrew letter has a numeric equivalent and words with the same numeric value are thought to have further relationship).

The D (Drash) is the deeper interpretive meaning as related to other similar occurences.  The personal meaning.

The S (Sod) is the secret meaning or the mystical meaning.

I think at this point I’m certainly capable of understanding Peshat, and I can make a stab at Drash.  I hope that eventually I can learn more of the Remez and Sod meanings.  This must be what they mean by turning the Torah over and over.  It seems so simple to read and so easy to follow.  But that’s just the Peshat.  (I hope I’m using these terms properly.  If not, feel free to correct me.)  Then you’ve got to look at the same text from another perspective, turn it over, and dig out some deeper meaning.  Turn it over and over.

And that from a woman who rarely is willing to re-read a book.  Of course, the book was never the Torah.****

****!!!! there are exactly 613 words in my blog to this point!!!!  There must be some deeper meaning there, don’t you think?  Okay, now I’ve screwed it up and we’re up to 636.  But I truly stopped at 613 before I got all excited and wrote this bit after the stars.

2 replies
  1. Gematria Scholar says:

    Thanks for your clear explanation of the Pashat, Remez, Darash and Sod interpretations, which together spell (Pardes) or paradise. Hebrew Gematria is in the Remez category. Gematria is a fascinating subject and can shed a lot of light on many passages in the Tanakh.

  2. Leslie says:

    It is fascinating. When I began this project, I thought I’d read the Torah and be done, move on. I realize now that I’ll be reading Torah for a very long time. And I really love it! All the levels….mesmerizing.

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