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Inner Knowledge

Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30 )

by Rabbi Menachem Weiman

One of the most poignant and enigmatic sections in the Torah appears in this week's parsha:

This commandment that I am commanding you today, is not hidden from you, and it is not distant from you. It is not in the Heavens to say, "Who will go up to Heaven for us and get it for us and then we will hear it and do it." And it is not across the sea to say, "Who will cross the sea for us to get it that we will hear it and do it." Rather, it is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it. (Deut. 30:11-14)

We know that the Torah is not in Heaven or across the sea, because the Almighty taught us His wisdom. We have 24 books of the Bible, and we have an oral tradition with 60 sections of spiritual and moral instruction. So why would anyone say it's in Heaven or across the sea?

People have an infinite amount of excuses for not studying wisdom. Almost any rational person will tell you that they value wisdom high up on the scale of life's important commodities. But find me the people that are spending two hours or even one hour a day really pursuing wisdom. We all want it, but we don't pursue it the way we know we should.

True wisdom from the storehouses of the Infinite are apportioned to people based on their honest desire for it. Someone who spends five minutes studying wisdom, because that's really all they have available, is able to acquire much more wisdom than someone who goes to three classes a week but doesn't have the same desire.

Rabbi Yehudah Davis once told his students, "Do you think I'm any smarter than you? No. The difference between you and me is that I have a burning desire for truth."

In Talmudic times, a man named Elazar ben Hurkanos was already grown and didn't have the ability or the opportunity to study. He sat crying until his father asked why he was crying. Finally he admitted, "I want to study Torah." His father told him, "Don't worry. You'll get married, have children, and they'll study." Still, Elazar was not satisfied and sat crying, until finally the Almighty led him to the teacher that was able to open up his weak mind to Torah.

How many of us cry to understand the will of the Almighty? We might complain. We might wish for it, or pray for it. But how many of us cry? When you cry, it's an expression not just of emotion, but of how badly you want something.


God says that Torah is in your mouth and heart. How is it in my heart if I have to study to know it?

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in the introduction to Path of the Just, a treatise on character development and spiritual enlightenment, says that his book does not tell you new things. Yet the book is filled with amazing insights into human personality and the soul's inner workings! It seems that true spiritual knowledge is somehow hidden inside us. When we study, we bring it to the surface.

The Midrash says that Abraham was so desirous of spiritual wisdom that the Almighty opened up his kidneys and wisdom flowed forth. If we take this half-literally, the Midrash is telling us that a fountain of wisdom is in some way part of our natural state - but we aren't able to tap into it so easily.


The Talmud states that when we are in the womb, an angel comes and teaches us all of Torah. Then, when we exit the womb, the angel touches us under the nose and we forget it all. This tells us that the knowledge of all wisdom is hidden in our memory banks.

Our task in learning is not to learn new things, but to awaken ourselves to the truths inside us.

Spiritual Exercise:

Make a list of pieces of wisdom that you've "learned" that you feel like you subconsciously knew all along.

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