God, His Torah, and Israel are One 

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06 Jun 2024

There was a custom that existed in some shuls, going back some time, where they would put ostrich eggs on top of the Aron HaKodesh. It was based on the notion that the focused ostrich stare can cause the chicks to hatch, imparting the lesson that prayer to G-d must come with intense focus and concentration.

It may be posited as well that prayer can help one reach the pinnacles of the Aron HaKodesh. This is based on the verse (Tehillim 81:11), “…Open your mouth wide and I will fill it,” and the Gemara says this is referring to Torah (Berachos 50a). It may be said that to reach the “page” level of 50 in Berachos and surpass the highest level of 49, prayer is a necessary tool.

Besides the power of prayer by which to request to be filled with the greatest understanding of the Torah, there is certainly a level of hishtadlus to put in. No one says that a daf Gemara comes easy. My late relative, Rav Avrohom Genechovsky, zt”l, who had the Torah on his fingertips with a true love for the Torah, noted that to reach the sweetness of the Torah takes time. He says it can be bitter and difficult in the beginning but once the initial barriers are broken, it’s pure beauty and song.

A key element to the Oral Law is the understanding of it. My uncle, Rabbi Genack, notes in his sefer that Rav Elchanan Wasserman was once talking in learning with the Griz, and Rav Elchanan said that maybe they should look inside the Gemara because of the idea that letters themselves bring wisdom. The Griz responded that such an idea only applies to the Written Law and not the Oral One. When it comes to the Written Law even if you don’t understand the meaning of the words, one still gets rewarded for saying them. But when it comes to the Oral Law, saying the words brings no fulfillment of the mandate, the only way to fulfill its requirement is by understanding the meaning and concepts.

One piece of advice that the Chazon Ish gave to reach the depths of learning was quoted by Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l. The Chazon Ish said to learn a piece of Gemara twelve times without looking at any of the Rishonim or Acharonim on the page, but rather to analyze it based on one’s own understanding. He said that by using this method a person will ultimately come to ask the same questions of the Rishonim and Acharonim. Rav Gustman, zt”l, was known to read the Gemara without first looking at Rashi and Tosafot in order to see the sugya through fresh eyes and come to his own understanding and questions before looking at the commentators.

The wonder of Shavuos is that it’s preceded by Bamidbar. In Bamidbar there’s a counting of all of Israel, cementing the notion that we are all individuals that are part of a nation. My first cousin, Rabbi Yaakov Nagen (Genack), notes that each person has their own letter in the Torah, and we are always changing and thus changing our letter. Most importantly though, as the Zohar says, “God, Israel, and the Torah are One,” which accentuates the idea that we need to mimic G-d and be a nation of one as well. Obviously, the potential is there, and we can merge with G-d and His intellect through cleaving to focused prayer and learning in depth.