A New Year, A New Year of Relationship to Torah
Shnayim mikra, v’echad Targum. Every week, to study the weekly parsha, twice in Hebrew and once with the Targum-translation.
Once Again, and Again
Once again, we are privileged to begin the Torah anew, and so it’s only fitting to reflect on an important halacha.
The Talmud states, and the Shulchan Aruch codifies, that there is an obligation to read the weekly parsha three times, twice in Hebrew, and once with the classical Targum translation.
“A person should always complete his parshiot, his Torah portions, along with the community: Shnayim mikra, v’echad Targum, twice in the Hebrew and once with the Targum … for all those that do so along with the community, his days and years are lengthened.” (Brachot, 8a,b) And, “Even though a person hears the entire parsha with the community on Shabbat, he is nonetheless obligated to read it to himself on a weekly basis, shnayim mikra, v’echad targum.” (Orech Chayim, 285)
People have a natural interest in looking for segulot—spiritual aides—for success and long life. Here, with this halacha, the sages of the Talmud have given us a clear way to access longer days and lives, and certainly there is nothing more certain than the words of Chazal.
A Deeper Look
Let’s reflect on what this might mean.
The study of Torah is our life; it is the very core of Jewish life, the heartbeat of our days. We need to know that just like our bodies need proper food and nutrition to be healthy and to grow, the same is true for the deeper aspects of our being. They too need proper daily “nutrition,” to be strong and to grow and fully develop. The deeper, operative principle is that no aspect of who we are is static, rather, we are always in a perpetual state of growth and development. The body, in all of it’s systems, is constantly using energy, burning calories, and therefore forever in need of replenishing it’s supply of “fuel” and energy. Just like a car needs gas, so too a person needs food to enable the body to renew it’s ability to move, grow, and progress. And the same is true on the level of the soul: Nothing is static, our souls are in constant motion, constantly striving for more depth, for higher spirituality, and therefore in perpetual need of the necessary spiritual fuel.
The Torah is compared to bread, water, meat, and wine. These aren’t arbitrary images, they are meant to convey something of the essence of Torah itself; that it is literally the nourishment that the spirit and soul of a person requires in order to be refortified and to continue to blossom and develop. And so, just like if a person denies his body the food and drink it needs, the result will be weakness and the inability to focus, the same is true at the soul level. The person will be plagued by an inner feeling of dulled, uninspired spirit, and by a deep, haunting sense of emptiness. These inner pangs of angst are the echoes of a hunger and thirst for divrei Elokim chayim— for the light, and spiritually resonant words of the Torah—that provide the unique sustenance the soul requires to be healthy, strong, and to illuminate each person’s life.
Every Day, Every Week
With this we can understand why a person needs Torah on a daily basis. Just like a person needs to eat every day, and can never say, “I’ll be fine today, after all, I ate yesterday and the day before,” the same is true with spiritual sustenance. The sustenance of daily Torah enables one to focus on what’s deeply meaningful, and to grow, soar, and experience joy and deep fulfillment. And, there is also a ripple effect. Not only does the individual benefit, but so does one’s family life and even one’s work life. One’s days will be “longer,” because the minutes and hours of life will be filled with so much more depth, richness, and vitality. A nourished soul’s day is like the difference that the body experiences between a day when it fasts, and a day when it eats well.
Longer days and lives aren’t just quantitative, but even more, they are qualitative. Because the reality is that when a person leads a more superficial life, a life less in touch with the beneath-the-surface essence of what life is truly about, then, qualitatively speaking, his days are shorter, his years and life are stunted.
Haven’t we all experienced, and don’t we all clearly know the difference between the quality of our days when they are fueled with inspiration, with a broad spirit, a higher vision, and a more loving and giving heart, and days when we are stuck in smallness, and constricted consciousness and spirit?
Thus: The weekly Torah portion.
Just like we all received the Torah together at Mount Sinai, so too the influence and impact of Torah flows to the nation each and every week. Because in truth, the giving of the Torah never ended; it’s renewed every day together with it’s transcendent, elevating ohr and impact. Renewed with it’s unique life giving—deep, inner life giving—light of spiritual sustenance and inspiration. That’s why our sages emphasized not only our weekly learning of the parsha, but that it be “along with the community.” We received the Torah together as a people, and we continue to receive, and be imbued with it’s light, together as a people.
All who “complete his parshiot, his Torah portions, along with the community,” prepare and enable themselves to receive the life-giving Godly nourishment that is there, each and every week, together with all Am Yisroel, waiting for each and every Jewish soul that, will thus undoubtedly merit longer days and years.
To receive weekly divrei Torah from Rabbi Sasson: Uh.firstname.lastname@example.org / Whatsapp: +972536240891 Translated and adapted by Shimon Apisdorf