Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32 )
"Let my teaching be sweet like rain, my sayings should be accepted like dew, like the rain-winds that blow upon the vegetation, and like the pieces of rain upon the grass."
This is the way that Unkelos interprets the second pasuk in our parsha. From the first phrase we discover that the Torah is supposed to be sweet like rain.
Rain is sweet?
Oh boy is rain sweet! Let us try to imagine a farmer who has spent hours, upon hours, upon hours of plowing and sowing (and all the other labors associated with growing crops!) and is now anxiously anticipating the upcoming rain.
Now, let's go a step further and picture this same farmer having performed all his extremely time-consuming, strenuous labor only to be met with a terrible drought!
We can only imagine what his ecstatic rejoicing will look like when after a week of drought the anticipated rain finally comes! Oh how sweet rain can be!
Now, let's try another scenario, which was once quite common.
Picture the yishuv yashan in Eretz Yisrael at the turn of the twentieth century. If you needed water, you had to go to the well or cistern and get it, or pay the water-carrier to bring it for you. There were no pipes running through your house to bring water from distant bodies of water. You were completely dependent on the water reservoirs that were stored up during the rainy season, or the natural springs that bubble forth water even on a dry, summer day...that happen to be under less-than-affable Arab ownership!
After a long, hot, dry summer, if the winter didn't come with rain soon, one was at the mercy of the Arabs who would charge an enormous price for even small amounts of water. Back then, people did not take for granted having enough water to do neigel vasser in the morning! Let us just try to imagine the overwhelming joy that people then would experience when the delicious rain would come pouring down after a debilitating period of drought! Oh, how sweet rain can be...and in this example, it was delicious!
So then, rain has an association with great joy and ecstasy, as well as fulfillment of long-awaited need and drive.
"Sas ahnochi al imrasecha k'motzei shalal rav," says Dovid Ha'melech, "I rejoice over Your utterances as one who finds a great treasure!" Dovid Ha'melech is revealing to us the great joy and ecstasy that is available to one who learns Torah and plumbs its depths. Upon attaining yet another piece of Torah knowledge or discovering a new insight, one is overcome with a feeling of finding his soul's delight, of attaining that which brings him the utmost of joy.
There is another aspect to "as one who finds a great treasure", as well.
"If you will seek it out like silver and like hidden treasures search for it. Then you will understand awe of Hashem and knowledge of the Almighty will you find."
There's a hidden treasure out there! He's been searching for it now for weeks and weeks - he knows it's there and he is determined to find it. Unflaggingly does he search for it - day, after day, after day. With every passing minute of searching his heart beats with ever-greater anticipation for that moment when..."FINALLY, I'VE FOUND IT! IT'S FINALLY MINE!!!"
Learning Torah, working hard to get proper pshat, seeking out the deep and brilliant insights that it contains, and moving towards ever-higher vistas of yiras Shamayim is indeed an undertaking that evokes powerful anticipation and yearning. He knows that with every piece of Torah he attains, he becomes that much closer to the Borei Olam. Every time he acquires another sugyah, with each new insight discovered, he is filled with an indescribable chiyus, his sense of pleasure and satisfaction is unmatched.
"Let my teachings be sweet like rain" - "Toras Hashem temimah meshivas nafesh...Pekudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei leiv mitzvas Hashem barah meiras einayim, The Torah of Hashem is perfect and complete, it restores the soul. The statutes of Hashem are upright, they gladden the heart, the commandment[s] of Hashem are clear, pure, shining; [they] enlighten the eyes."
Learning Torah and upholding its statutes is not a matter of simply fulfilling one's obligations or perfunctory performance of dry rituals. Rather, it is an invigorating, exhilarating experience of true life - "For it is your life and the length of your days."
Obviously, there are times when one experiences ecstatic joy, and times when one carries a calm, more serious demeanor; but, the overall experience of Torah and mitzvos is one of an ongoing feeling of true, deep happiness and satisfaction in life - a joy that emanates from a continual feeling of living life with the utmost of purpose and meaning, a life of coming closer and closer to the Source of all existence.
The greater one's depth of appreciation for what Torah is, and the stronger his yearning for attaining its reality, the more powerful his sense of simchas ha'chaim will be upon attaining it.
"If you will seek it like silver, and like hidden treasures search it out, then you will understand awe of Hashem," - "I rejoice over Your utterances as one who finds a great treasure."
The more one recognizes that Torah is a great treasure and searches it out as such, the more one will feel rejoicing upon discovering it.
The truth is that it is actually a reciprocal relationship. The more one appreciates and yearns for Torah, the more one will work to attain its treasures, and the more one works to attain the Torah's treasures, the more one will appreciate its infinite beauty and value.
This is a pivotal concept to keep in mind as we stand only a few days of Yom Kippur. We are in or have just finished the period of Aseres Yemei Teshuvah when we are undergoing or continuing a process of evaluating our year and working to correct its mistakes and failures, as well as build on our successes and attainments.
We want to place and maintain ourselves on the upright path of truth and good; of following the guiding light that Hashem has given us in His holy Torah. It would be a terrible mistake to allow ourselves to think that we are engaging in a dry burden of difficult obligations and restrictions. Of course, we must be fully aware of what our obligations are, but just as important is to be aware that Hashem's Torah brings us the ultimate in simchas ha'chaim. We recognize that the restrictions that the Torah imposes upon us are to guard us from impediments to the fulfillment of our life's purpose - to shelter us from contamination and damage; and the empowerment of character growth and spiritual ascent that we obtain upon ensuring that we follow them grants us greatness and sublimity. And together with the mitzvos asei - at their fulcrum limud ha'Torah - is our delight of life. It is for our great good that Hashem commands us to follow His Torah, so that we may live a joyous life of fulfillment and purpose in this world, and attain the reward of eternal ecstasy in Olam Ha'bah.
1. Devarim 32:2.
2. Tehillim 119:162.
3. Tehillim 19:8-9.
4. Parshas Nitzavim 30:20.