A story about Rav Soloveitchik says that he said he learned the most important thing in life from his mother – “to feel the presence of the Almighty and the gentle pressure of God’s resting upon my frail shoulders.”
Thoughts of the day during my reading of the Talmud: 1) I am amazed at the enormous effort that is spent to try to understand and live out the rules set down by God. This is about what happens when someone enters a house that is afflicted with impurity, which can make one tamei – impure.
But if HE WAS WEARING HIS GARMENTS AND HIS SHOES WERE ON HIS FEET AND HIS RINGS WERE ON HIS FINGER – then HE BECOMES TAMEI [impure] IMMEDIATELY. – BUT THEY [his garments, shoes and rings] REMAIN TAHOR [pure] UNTIL HE LINGERS in the house THE AMOUNT OF TIME THAT IT TAKES TO EAT A HALF-LOAF – of WHEAT BREAD RATHER THAN BARLEY BREAD – eaten while he is RECLINING AND EATING, the bread together WITH a RELISH.
Rashi’s commentary then says, “The ‘half-loaf’ is the amount of bread a person normally eats at one meal, for the reference is to a standard two-meal loaf . . . Wheat bread is eaten more quickly
than barley bread, and that which is eaten in a reclining position is eaten quickly, since the person concentrates fully on the food and does not divert his attention to other things. Similarly, eating the bread together with a relish hastens its consumption.”
When I view these efforts, often torturous efforts, to understand and “follow” the rules “correctly,” I sometimes think how could a loving God want people to struggle so much to understand and in so many cases “fear” God and God’s commandments?
Yet, what struck me today, was that I could also see these struggles as the attempt of a lover to decipher and understand and cherish a love letter. If one sees the Torah (Written and Oral) as this love letter from God, which is not simple and not perfectly clear because of the human agents necessary to create it [and I now would add -- because of the importance that Hashem placed on creativity] – then these struggles to interpret, to understand, to live out – are expressions of profound love and faithfulness.
Then when we study in this way and strive to hang onto every word, every nuance, every clue – these are the efforts of the lover striving to please and love his/her beloved.
It seems to me additional profundity comes when one can also see all of creation and each moment as another Torah, another opportunity to understand and respond to the actions and messages of our beloved.