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Understand the meaning of "Study Torah"


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#1 BCShakarov

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Posted 04 February 2012 - 10:26 PM

My path into BT'hood has been very enlightening. I won't give the details but I'm happy that I decided to become more observant and learn more about "our ways"
Which brings me to the question I had with my Rabbi as to what it means to "Study Torah"

I've always looked at Torah as beyond the scope of the just the written and oral. To limit it to that would mean that there is a finite attainable end. If I understand correctly, Torah is infinite. If that's true isn't secular study also a part of torah study?

Biology, art, archaeology - I feel close to the creator when I study subjects such as these yet my community shuns any study aside from "Torah"

As a BT, one of my goals is to make "Torah" study something regular, but why should that exlude everything else?

Can anyone else share their thoughts and opinions?

#2 LoveToLaugh

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Posted 04 February 2012 - 11:55 PM

Well there is a quote 'hafach bo v'hafach bo d'kulo bo', basically if you look into Torah you'll find everything. I believe if you are studying other interests for the purpose to bring you closer to God, its definitely OK and commendable to study Torah. You can look through Biology and get closer to God by seeing his amazing creations.

As to why the community shuns these subjects, there are a lot of things that the community shuns because of fear that it will be overdone and lead to the wrong things or whatnot. Which is unfortunate because it limits a lot of what people learn and are exposed to.
God, grant us the...
Serenity to accept things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all that we have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.

#3 Rentsy

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 04:35 AM

Well, the Oral Torah is truly endless in its depth.

Secondly, nature was written by God, and can teach deeper lessons about humanity's place in the world often more directly than texts. Furthermore, learning about life can teach you how to apply the lessons that you learn in books to your life. That sort of "life wisdom" is very important. Thirdly, knowing the complexity of the Creation as best we can can lead you to better appreciate the great wisdom of God.

Art is very special to me. Without going on to great length, the emotion that art conveys are part of the deeper level of knowing that translates into meaningfulness and action. Har Sinai was a sensory experience with audio and visual components, and God has commanded that we teach that to our children. The mitzva of Talmud Torah is derived from the 4th Chapter in Devarim, where Moshe tells the Jews to teach their children what it was like to be at Har Sinai.
רמב"ם הלכות תשובה פרק העשירי, הלכה ב

העובד מאהבה - עוסק בתורה ובמצוות והולך במתיבות החוכמה לא מפני דבר בעולם, לא מפני יראת הרעה ולא כדי לירש הטובה, אלא עושה האמת מפני שהוא אמת

הלכה ג

אהבה גדולה יתרה רבה עזה עד מאד, עד שתהא נפשו קשורה באהבת השם ... וכל שיר השירים משל הוא לענין זה

#4 moe says

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 11:48 AM

My path into BT'hood has been very enlightening. I won't give the details but I'm happy that I decided to become more observant and learn more about "our ways"
Which brings me to the question I had with my Rabbi as to what it means to "Study Torah"

I've always looked at Torah as beyond the scope of the just the written and oral. To limit it to that would mean that there is a finite attainable end. If I understand correctly, Torah is infinite. If that's true isn't secular study also a part of torah study?

Biology, art, archaeology - I feel close to the creator when I study subjects such as these yet my community shuns any study aside from "Torah"

As a BT, one of my goals is to make "Torah" study something regular, but why should that exlude everything else?

Can anyone else share their thoughts and opinions?

the designations oral and written torah refer only to the method of transmission. either the torah you are learning was written down, in tanach, or conveyed orally, from generations past. this does not speak to the question of "how much stuff," torah is, or is not. torah, even if reduced to a single verse, would remain infinite, if that one verse can teach an endless number of lessons.

walt whitman felt close to the creator by rolling in the mud. That doesn't make it torah.

regarding your issue with your community. it can be very hard for a bt to discern that which is "ungenumen," or generally practiced in a given community. regardless, while sensitivity to communal standards is important to a degree, questions of permissibility should be directed to your personal torah authority- your LOR. You may find that your perception has little to do with reality, or that it bears little relevance. You are not required to invite your community into your bedroom, to receive a permission slip for every subject of your own personal intellectual inquiry. It seems that you don't have a "derech," in learning, or generally in your approach to avodas Hashem. It will be exceedingly difficult, and imminently pathetic for you to attempt to carve for yourself a path haoleh beis kel, by keeping up with the jones's, or in this case, the kleins. It is not really possible to aquire the footing necessary to walk your own path in avodas Hashem, without spending a significant amount of time in yeshiva, where you can receive a particular approach to the topic generally, and establish connections with rabbeim who can guide you in the future. hatzlacha rabbah.
יושב בשמים ישחק השׁם ילעג למו

#5 Shemmy

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 02:21 PM

If you study the Written and Oral Torah (that is, truly engage them) and study "secular" knowledge, you're in great company. Many of our greatest minds (Rambam, ibn Paqouda, Ramhal, Shaddal, etc) didn't live in a world with a dichotomy between "sared" and "secular" knowledge. You don't have to either.

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#6 Snag

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 07:37 AM

You are in great company. Aside from the examples Shemmy gave, King David himself exclaimed, "when I see the heavens, work of your fingers, the moon and stars which you have set... Powerful in the Above is HaShem!" the navi also enjoins "raise up to the heights your eyes and see Who has created these!"
"Spiritual wants and instincts are as various in the human family as are physical appetites, complexions, and features, and a man is only at his best, morally, when he is equipped with the religious garment whose color and shape and size most nicely accommodate themselves to the spiritual complexion, angularities, and stature of the individual who wears it."

"The despotism of heaven is the one absolutely perfect government. An earthly despotism would be the absolutely perfect earthly government, if the conditions were the same; namely, the despot the perfectest individual of the human race, and his lease of life perpetual. But as a perishable perfect man must die, and leave his despotism in the hands of an imperfect successor, an earthly despotism is not merely a bad form of government, it is the worst form that is possible."

-Mark Twain

#7 moe says

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 03:22 PM

I'm sorry if I wasn't clear before. I really think you're super great if you feel close to God studying biology, however it does not require birchas hatorah first. It is not torah. That is not an opinion, it is absolute and undisputed halachic fact.
יושב בשמים ישחק השׁם ילעג למו

#8 Snag

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 04:16 PM

Would you make a birkas haTorah before studying the gra's treatise on trigonometry?
"Spiritual wants and instincts are as various in the human family as are physical appetites, complexions, and features, and a man is only at his best, morally, when he is equipped with the religious garment whose color and shape and size most nicely accommodate themselves to the spiritual complexion, angularities, and stature of the individual who wears it."

"The despotism of heaven is the one absolutely perfect government. An earthly despotism would be the absolutely perfect earthly government, if the conditions were the same; namely, the despot the perfectest individual of the human race, and his lease of life perpetual. But as a perishable perfect man must die, and leave his despotism in the hands of an imperfect successor, an earthly despotism is not merely a bad form of government, it is the worst form that is possible."

-Mark Twain

#9 BCShakarov

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 05:23 PM

IMO, Torah is designed to elevate the person beyond the physical realm by acting as the medium. We were given science as a means to understand the physical realm in a natural sense. But since EVERYTHING (Literally) came to be according to God's will, depending on the perception of the person, I think the sciences can bring that sense of awe and help a person want to learn Torah. ( it certainly did for me)

#10 Shemmy

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 07:07 PM

See the Moreh Nebuchim re: maasei bereshith.

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#11 moe says

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 08:30 PM

Would you make a birkas haTorah before studying the gra's treatise on trigonometry?

why would I do that?
יושב בשמים ישחק השׁם ילעג למו




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