When a mind conceives and comprehends a concept… the mind grasps the concept and encompasses it. At the same time, the mind is enveloped by the concept, even as it grasps it and holds it within itself…
Thus, when a person knows and grasps in his mind a ruling of halacha from the Talmud or latter halachic works, he thereby grasps and holds and encompasses with his mind the Divine wisdom and will… while his mind is simultaneously enveloped within them. This makes for a wonderful union, like which there is none other, and which has no parallel anywhere in the material world—they [the mind and the concept] attain a complete oneness and unity, from every side and angle.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, ch. V
One of the keenest minds in the history of Jewish learning was Rabbi Shabbtai HaKohen (“The Shach,” 1622-1663), author of the Siftei Kohen commentary on The Code of Jewish Law.
It is said of Rabbi Shabbtai that when he would immerse himself in the profundities of talmudic law, the world would cease to exist. Late at night he would be seen strolling the rooftops of Cracow, oblivious to all but the arguments and counter-arguments coursing through his mighty mind. Once, he was seen to walk off the edge of a roof, across several yards of moonlit air, and on to the neighboring rooftop—without noticing a thing.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita, in relating this incident at a chassidic gathering, remarked:
“Do you think that this was a miracle? Not at all. There was nothing supernatural about the Shach’s mid-air walk. Rabbi Shabbtai thought not only with his brain, but with every fiber of his being; when he engaged his intellect, he was intellect. And intellect, of course, is not subject to earth’s gravitational pull.”
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber