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The More the Merrier

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Rabbi Chanania the son of Akashiah would say: G-d desired to refine the people of Israel; therefore, He gave them Torah and mitzvot in abundance….

Talmud, Makot 23b[1]

The purpose of creation, say our sages, is to “make a dwelling for G-d in the lowly realm” of our physical world.[2] To this end, the Almighty invested His wisdom within the teachings of the Torah and formulated the mitzvot to express His will. When man employs his physical mind to study and understand Torah, and when he uses the elements of his physical environment to observe the mitzvot, he fashions of these “lowly” substances an abode to house the manifest presence of his Creator.

But why so many mitzvot? Why so many dimensions to Torah? We have positive and negative commandments. The mitzvot also include logical laws, logic-defying laws, and everything in-between. We have intellectual mitzvot, emotional mitzvot, agricultural mitzvot, business mitzvot, mitzvot dealing with food, dress, housing, and family life. The Torah includes every medium of teaching known to man: stories, legal codes, numerological calculations, history, philosophy, ethics, poetry, metaphorical and mystical works.

G-d is the ultimate singularity. Would it not have been more appropriate for Him to express His wisdom in a single venue? To have man fulfill His will with a single mode of action?

This is the question that Rabbi Chanania addresses in the above quoted mishnah: Why an abundance of mitzvot? The answer: G-d desired to refine the people of Israel. G-d desired “a dwelling below,” and the “below” is diverse and multifaceted.

So if the “below” is to truly become a dwelling, then the divine presence must permeate its every aspect. If the human mind is to house the divine wisdom, then every genre of thinking must be employed. If the physical life of man is to become a vehicle for the fulfillment of the divine will, then every facet of life is to be involved. The refinement of man, down to his every element and component, is crucial to the realization of G-d’s purpose in creation.

This is an excerpt from “Beyond the Letter of the Law” by Yanki Tauber published by The Meaningful Life Center.


[1] This mishnah is studied at the conclusion of each weekly lesson of the Ethics of our Fathers.
[2] Midrash Tanchuma, Naso, 16; see Tanya, ch. 36.

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