Friday, August 19, 2005

Torah Talk is the Best Form of Interaction

Continued from previous page

Those who have not tried Torah study might think that one needs to be a Torah nerd or a religion nerd or a mighty intellectual to enjoy learning Torah. The truth of the matter is that Torah study is an easy door into pleasant and gratifying social interaction with other people. Take it from Moses, who was a socially awkward loner before the giving of the Torah, but who became gratifyingly involved with 600,000 other people through the gift of Torah.

Here are some forms of conversation that do not give pleasure to the soul: malicious gossip, empty chit-chat, socially stratifying posing, talk merely to fill time and relieve boredom.

Such talk leaves one feeling empty and lonely; it creates distance rather than intimacy.

But a good conversation on a Torah topic is pleasant and gratifying because it is never just about the book itself; Torah conversation is always about important issues of life and spirit. When you engage in a Torah conversation you reveal your inner depths to another person, you are truly heard, and that other person reveals his or her own inner depths to you. You enter into a genuine relationship with another human being. That is the purpose for which human beings possess the power of speech. When that purpose is fulfilled, we feel fulfilled.

For centuries, Jewish men passed their spare time in the Beit Midrash, the study-house, engaging in Torah discussion. They did so not only to build their minds and improve their virtues; they attended the study-house for a gratifying social experience. (Regrettably, until recent times women were excluded from this experience.)

The human soul yearns to know and be known by other human beings. Nothing is so pleasant as a meaningful social interaction with another person. Torah opens up the human mouth, and also the ears and the heart - for speaking, for listening, for mutual understanding.

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