While I do usually spend daily effort and attention to Talmud (oral Torah) and Tanach (written Torah), what really appeals to me at this point in my life is generally described as Kabbalah, our “mystical” tradition.
No, I have no dreams to become a KABBALIST, some sort of “sorcerer”. I don’t want to make a golem, sell charms on the internet nor be ordained as an exorcist. (I don’t even know if there are living today, any of our people with those “powers”, although I’m sure that there have been eras when certain extremely-rare and special personalities have gone beyond our mundane world.) Nonetheless, this area of our tradition makes up the bulk of my Torah learning.
I’m certainly not trying to understand the “mind of God” because, obviously, that’s an impossible, and impossibly arrogant, undertaking.
So, why do I spend so much of my time and intellect to study the unknowable and impractical? Does it benefit anyone or is it merely for my personal amusement?
First, let’s review some of the concepts I discussed in a previous article, Basic Spiritual Mechanics. Every thought, action and even emotion we perform in our everyday lives affects spiritual realms beyond our own perception which, in turn, affects our experienced universe. Thus, I have to assume that reading, contemplating and learning anything will create a sequence of neural activity in my own brain and, on the most basic level, this particular configuration of electrical energy will generate a related pattern of energy in these “upper realms” which will then cascade back into our world and, to some degree which is probably below any threshold of perception but real nonetheless, change our world.
I assume that Torah study, in general, generates patterns which ultimately benefit our world. I also assume that each soul is uniquely rooted, and thus attracted to a unique area of Torah. Years of honest searching as we study hopefully will lead each of us to exactly what we’re most connected to. There are those whose hearts lead them to Tanach (roughly, the Old Testament), some to Halacha (legal study), others to Talmud, to theology, to philosophy, to social issues and more. While a background in all areas of Torah are required to more-than-superficially understand any one area, and while this neural activity will occur in all of them as well (just as it will with secular study and all other mental activity), when we focus on our own unique ד’ אמות, dalet amot, four cubits (which describe one’s personal “space”), that neural activity, these lights, will be most intense, having the maximum effect we’re able to create.
Again, while realizing that our individual contributions to bettering the world, either through Torah study, additional mitzvot and other good deeds we undertake, will likely be too small to perceive, they’re are still significant. They are, like everyone else’s, necessary-but-not-sufficient elements for our great Tikun Olam, partnering with God and each other in bringing Creation to perfection.
I certainly hope that my studies do go beyond merely filling my time with an enjoyable activity.