Rabbi Elazar quoted this verse: "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the Torah of lovingkindness is on her tongue" (Proverbs 31:26). What is the intent of this verse? Is there a Torah of lovingkindness and a Torah which is not of lovingkindness? Torah which is studied on its own merit is a Torah of lovingkindness, whereas Torah which is studied for an ulterior motive is not a Torah of lovingkindness. And some say that Torah which is studied in order to teach is a Torah of lovingkindness, whereas Torah which is not studied in order to teach is a Torah which is not of lovingkindness.I used to think I had this one in the bag--after all, one of the things I love about learning is sharing with others! But I came across a passage in this month's J-BOM selection As A Driven Leaf which made me think again. A renowned philosopher asks Elisha ben Abuya:Sukkah 49b (Siddur Sim Shalom)
Can we withdraw into books and their abstrusities when men need insight into their souls, balms for their wounds, and healing of their sorrows? . . . if you and I were the gods, as Epicurus describes them, we might devote our lives to debating the question whether or not Platonic ideas exist eternally in realms beyond space and time. But we are flesh and blood. We dare not, for an intellectual luxury, forget our aches or those of our brothers.Steinberg's words (through the mouth of this Greek philosopher) point to my own shortcomings: am I content to retreat to a book when I should be transforming what little knowledge I have into something helpful to someone else? Messianic Jewish blogger Benjamin E. frames the question in the form of a challenge in the latest post on his new blog Living Torah (which I highly recommend!):
It seems like higher education is not going to take care of this one for us. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the higher education. In fact, It is vital that we be an educated community. I just want to suggest that it would behoove us to be about our Father's business and at some point that means stepping outside of our classrooms/meetings/conferences into the world...And we're not handing out those tracts again!How does a Torah of lovingkindness translate into real life? What does rising to Benjamin's challenge look like?