Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Brightening our faces

from Shekalim 8b

A certain noblewoman once perceived that [R’ Yehudah bar Il’ai’s] countenance was radiant. She said to him: Old man, old man! One of the following three things is true about yourself: Either you are drunk with wine, or you are a usurer, or you are a pig breeder. He said to her: Let the spirit of that woman suffer agony! For not one of these three things is true about myself. Rather, my countenance shines because my Torah learning is accessible to me. For it is written thus: A man’s wisdom brightens his face. [Ecclesiastes 8:1]

R’ Abahu once came to Tiberias, and the students of R’Yochanan who were there perceived that his countenance was radiant. The students told R’ Yochanan: R’ Abahu has apparently found a treasure! [R’ Yochanan] approached him, and asked him: What new Torah teaching have you heard? [R’ Abahu] responded to him: I heard an ancient Tosefta. [R’ Yochanan] applied to him the verse: A man’s wisdom brightens his face.

The question I want to ask here is what wisdom brightens your face and the face of those around you?

Today, with so much anger and hatred within the world the searching for wisdom powerful enough to “brighten” our face seems either forgotten or lost in the onrush of horrible news. I love and admire those that study tirelessly the Talmud with the hope that their face will be brightened by this wisdom. But I also wonder, how this wisdom can be used to brighten the face of those in agony around us?

Clearly, the Talmud holds great wisdom that has maintained the Jewish people for thousands of years. What truths can we find within it for today's world and not just the Orthodox Jewish community?

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