May 27, 2024
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Moshe reminds Bnei Yisrael of what occurred at Har Sinai: “Hashem commanded me at that time to teach you decrees and ordinances [a reference to the oral Torah—Rashi] that you shall perform them” (4:14). Simply speaking, it sounds like Moshe is saying that the Torah and the mitzvot are for the sake of performing them.

Interestingly, the words “that you shall perform them” are written in a somewhat unusual way: “לעשתכם אתם, la’asotchem otam.” Seemingly, the more accurate way of saying this would’ve been: “לעשות אתם—“la’asot otam.” Indeed, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (Oznayim LaTorah) points out that the writing of “la’asotchem otam” seems to be a contraction of two ideas: “la’asot etchem, that it shall make you,” and “la’asot otam, that you shall perform them.”

It seems Moshe intends to say that Torah and mitzvot are given in order “that you shall perform them” and in order “that it shall make you.” We see from here that Torah is what “makes you.” Torah is what makes a person. Since the context of this pasuk is referring to the oral Torah, it would perhaps emerge that it’s primarily the studying and fulfillment of the oral Torah that delivers such a result.

The Maharal says that without Torah, a person remains an incomplete creation, to the point where he becomes similar to any other creature of the earth. However, with Torah, which is the “wisdom of God,” a person rises above the other natural elements that roam the earth and instead becomes “a person.” A person with Torah is the ideal definition of “human.”

Hence, we see from here, in quite a literal sense, that Torah makes the proposed creation of “man” into a man, into a person.

Additionally, engaging in Torah in the ideal fashion can cause a great mystical makeover in a person. It can create such a remarkably positive shift in the entire essence of a person to the point where as Rav Sorotzkin says, he becomes “a new creation,” meaning he becomes a new type of person than he was before.

We see this from a statement in Pirkei Avot (chp. 6) which says: “Anyone who engages in Torah lishma (for its own sake) merits many things. Not only that, but it would’ve been worthwhile to have the entire creation of the world just for him. Such a person is considered a friend, and beloved; he loves Hashem and he loves people; he makes Hashem happy and he makes people happy. It [the Torah] clothes him with humility and fear/awe [of God]; and it makes him fit to become a righteous person, a devout person, an upright person and a faithful person; It distances him from transgression and draws him near to merit. People benefit from his advice, wisdom, understanding and strength … It gives him kingship and dominion and analytical judgment. The secrets of Torah are revealed to him [from Heaven], and he becomes like a wellspring that flows stronger and stronger, and like a river that never ceases. He becomes a modest person, patient of spirit and is forgiving of those who insult him. The Torah makes him great and exalts him above all actions.”

The section above describes a truly incredible list of admirable qualities and the magnificence and splendor one can reach when engaging in Torah for its own sake. These are only a handful of the benefits to be gained; This list hasn’t even exhausted its many other blessings.

We see from here that when a person engages in Torah lishma, he changes so significantly, becoming far more elevated and enhanced than he was before. He becomes majestic, a totally new and improved person with such positive attributes and lofty abilities. This is the mystical power of learning Torah lishma.

Indeed, Torah makes a person, and remakes a person, into a much better person.


Binyamin is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan and Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

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