יַעֲרֹ֤ף כַּמָּטָר֙ לִקְחִ֔י - תִּזַּ֥ל כַּטַּ֖ל אִמְרָתִ֑י - כִּשְׂעִירִ֣ם עֲלֵי־דֶ֔שֶׁא - וְכִרְבִיבִ֖ים עֲלֵי־עֵֽשֶׂב׃
May my discourse come down as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, Like showers on young growth, Like droplets on the grass. (Deut. 32:2)
This exquisite verse is understood by Rashi (based on Sifrei Devarim 306:17) to serve as testimony that the Torah is “ is life to the world as the rain which is life to the world “. Rashi adds another comment explaining that the Torah is compared to dew since everyone benefits from that. Rain, on the other hand, may be an annoyance to some (like travelers). Torah is good for everyone!
This beautiful interpretation is expanded on by Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. He notes that the comparison to rain reminds us that just as the benefit of rain is not recognizable immediately after it falls, so it is with words of Torah. No doubt we gain from our involvement in Torah study, but sometimes the effect takes a little while to sink in.
Of course, the end result is that just as rain ultimately does lead to growth, so does Torah.
This idea is reminiscent of the comments of Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain on these verses:
שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהֹוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽד׃
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one.”
וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
וְהָי֞וּ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיּ֖וֹם עַל־לְבָבֶֽךָ׃
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon your heart...
He asks: Why does the pasuk say “on your heart”? We want the words to be absorbed into our hearts. Why settle for the Torah resting on our hearts in a superficial way?
He offers a fascinating answer by noting that most of the time people are not ready to absorb the richness of the Torah. Spirituality and inspiration are hard to come by.
That being the case, our gut reaction may be to give up. Yet, that is not the proper approach. We must sustain our engagement in Torah study, letting the Torah teachings sit “on our hearts” until the moment of inspiration comes. He refers to zmanim mikudshim Holy Moments. Eventually time will come when our heart will open and all of the torah will seep in and be “in our hearts…” What a vivid, powerful and inspirational image!
We never know when the moment of inspiration will come when we realize how we have benefitted from Torah study (or Mitzvah). Our tradition does promise us that it will come and bring insight and meaning to our life.
Rabbi Barry Gelman is the Director of the Bobbi & Vic Samuels Center for Jewish Living and Learning (CJLL). Rabbi Gelman teaches a number of classes at the ERJCC and is working on injecting Jewish content to existing programs as well as developing new programs to highlight the beauty and relevance of Judaism.