Fools See Someone in a Good-Looking Garment and They Look No Further

by tillerofthesoil

image “Rabbi Akiva says: Torah speaks in the language of men” (Sifre, Bemidbar 112).

“These verses may be read literally, but words of Torah are sealed. How many words of wisdom are concealed in every single word of Torah! The pathways are known; for Torah does not consist of dreamy words, transmitted to whoever interprets them and conducted by the mouth—nevertheless, requiring appropriate treatment. Now, if this is so with dreams, how much more do words of Torah—delights of the Holy King—need to be followed according to the way of truth!” (Zohar 2:95a, Sava de-Mishpatim).

“Come and see: For a king of flesh and blood, it is undignified to engage in common talk, much less to write it down. Now, would you ever imagine that the supernal King, the blessed Holy One, had no holy words to write, with which to compose the Torah, so that he had to collect all of these words about commoners—such as words about Esau, about Hagar, about Laban with Jacob, about the donkey, Balaam, and Balak, about Zimri, and all the other stories that are written—and make a Torah out of them? If so, why is it called a Torah of truth (Malachi 2:6)—Torah of YHWH is perfect; the decree of YHWH is trustworthy; The precepts of YHWH are just; the command of YHWH is lucid; the awe of YHWH is pure? And it is written: more desirable than gold… (Psalms 19:8-11). These are words of Torah! But surely it is called Torah of YHWH, Perfect Torah, and every single word comes to demonstrate other, supernal matters. The wording of the story does not come to signify itself, but rather to signify something about the totality, as has been said…

Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘Woe to the human being who says that Torah presents mere stories and ordinary words! If so, we could compose a Torah right now with ordinary words, and better than all of them. To present matters of the world? Even rulers of the world possess words more sublime. If so, let us follow them and make a Torah out of them. Ah, but all the words of Torah are sublime words, sublime secrets! Come and see: The world above and the world below are perfectly balanced: Israel below, the angels above. Of the angels is written: He makes His angels spirits (Psalms 104:4). But when they descend they put on the garment of this world. If they did not put on a garment befitting this world, they could not endure in this world and the world could not endure them. If this is so with angels, how much more so with Torah, who created them and all the worlds, and for whose sake they all exist. In descending to this world, if she [Torah] did not put on garments of this world, the world could not endure. So this story of Torah is the garment of Torah. Whoever thinks that the garment is the real Torah and not something else—may his spirit deflate! This is why David said: ‘Open my eyes, so I can see wonders out of your Torah,’ (Psalms 119:18) what is under the garment of Torah.

Come and see: There is a garment visible to all. When those fools see someone in a good-looking garment they look no further. But the essence of the garment is the body; the essence of the body is the soul. So it is with Torah. She has a body: the commandments of the Torah, called ‘the embodiment of Torah.’ This body is clothed in garments: the stories of this world… [Fools] do not look at what is under the garment. Those who know more do not look at the garment, but rather at the body under the garment. The wise ones, servants of the King on high, those who stood at Mount Sinai, look only at the soul, root of all, real Torah. In the time to come, they are destined to look at the soul of the soul of Torah. … Happy are the righteous who look at Torah properly! As wine must sit in a jar, so Torah must sit in this garment. So look only at what is under the garment. All those words and all those stories are garments” (Zohar 3:149b-152a).

“Happy is the share of one who engages in Torah constantly! What is written of him? But the Torah of YHWH is his delight, and on His Torah he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree (Psalms 1:2-3). Why is this adjoined to that? Well, whoever engages in Torah day and night should not be a parched tree, but rather like what? Like a tree planted by streams of water. Just as a tree has roots, bark, pith, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit—these seven types amounting to ten, and ten to seventy—so words of Torah have a simple sense, midrashic meaning, a hint alluding to wisdom, gimatriyya’ot, hidden mysteries, sealed mysteries, one above the other; unfit and fit, impure and pure, forbidden and permitted. From here on, branches spread out in every direction. He shall be like a tree, surely! And if not, he is not a master of wisdom” (Zohar 3:202a, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Sheva Netivot ha-Torah translated in Idel, Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia, p. 82-109).