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9.9.12

Learning Torah according to the Gra

According to the Gra and his disciple Chaim from Voloshin Learning Talmud is the goal. It is the service that all other aspects of service are merely means to bring to. There is no  basis in reason for this which makes it work. It is based on faith. [They have plenty of support for this thesis from the Talmud itself. But they make it more clear that what you would think from reading the Talmud. And I tend to agree with this in principle, but I have a few preconditions. Learning Torah has to be not a means of making  a living. And it should be done with Musar (books of ethics).]

The problem with this path is an test that I have. It is:  If a certain service in fact unites one with God, then it has to be visible by the person's actions. This puts a big hole in the learning Torah for money path- since there are some people for whom this does not work.

The problem is I actually felt the holiness that is at the center of the learning Talmud path. So I do not want to discount it. Rather, I think when the Torah is used as a mode to be making money, it turns into its opposite. It becomes a source of negative value.


My own idea here is that the one highest service to God is what is called in Torah, "Attachment with God" (or as this is often referred to as the Highest Awe of God. In my way of thinking all services of God are to bring to attachment with God. [Attachment with God is a commandment in the Law of Moses and is mentioned twice in Deuteronomy as a command in and of itself. It is also counted in the list of the commandments of the Rambam. ]


Yet, I also have another idea which seems to contradict this. It is that a person's portion in the next world depends on his actions towards his fellow man. And that attachment with God is simply the way that one's personal actions will in fact be good and not just appear good.

So what we have is in the Torah itself there seems to be a hierarchy of value. We have the things that the Torah clearly considers to the the fundamental essence of Torah-- the Ten Commandments. However you read it these two tablets of stone are clearly the climax of the Torah and what it puts all its energy into.

The rest of the commandments are clearly secondary. But we do find that the Torah and later prophets stress keeping all the commandments which includes everything that God says in the Torah. Most have to do with building the temple and also bringing the Jewish people into the land of Israel and  laws of property and how God wants society to function when the Jews arrive in Israel

To understand the Gra and the idea that everyone word of Torah is worth more than all the mitzvot we need two things. One is to recognize that all  a person's deeds depend on what he thinks. The next step is Hegel. We can understand empirical reality to flow from the Mind. [In that way Hegel is  close to the Neo-Platonists]