Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

The Balance Between Different Elements of Torah Learning


Various Rabbis

How do we know that the metargem (he who translates the Torah reading into Aramaic, according to the old practice) should not raise his voice above that of the koreh (he who reads)? It is as it says: "Moshe would speak, and Hashem would answer him with a voice," i.e., according to Moshe’s voice (Shemot 19:19) ... If the metargem cannot raise his voice, the koreh should lower his while reading.

Ein Ayah: The end of the gemara indicates that the koreh and metargem should speak at the same volume. However, the greater emphasis is on the rule that the metargem should not be louder than the koreh. What is the significance behind this balance?
The Torah’s impacts upon Israel in two ways. One is through the Torah’s special quality and sanctity, whose light raises the soul until the person is closer to Hashem’s sanctity and light. This occurs even if one does not understand and is just exposed to the Torah. The second benefit from Torah comes from knowing its content, which teaches the community and the individual the straight path to take in life. This leads one to a good life and the world to come. The koreh and metargem correspond to these two elements. The koreh invokes the sanctity of the Torah on those who listen even without understanding. The translation get across the information the Torah has to relay.
If one shifts the weight to either element, it affects the balance between the elements and can cause pitfalls; true success comes when they are balanced equally. If one stresses Torah knowledge, he will be like those who study Torah without first making a beracha, a phenomenon that was responsible for "the Land being lost" (Nedarim 81a). In this way, he somewhat equates the Torah with other forms of wisdom, which can extinguish the special light of Torah and blind people’s eyes from seeing the aura of its sanctity. On the other hand, if one focuses too much on the Torah’s innate sanctity, he weakens his resolve to serve Hashem with great understanding and depth, both in the Torah’s halachic and philosophical elements. This is damaging not only because one lacks the knowledge, but because the impact of the Torah’s sanctity correlates to the effort put in to knowing the Torah.
The metargem, who represents Torah knowledge, must not be louder than the koreh because this might give the impression that knowledge is foremost, as it is in other realms of human knowledge. On the other hand the koreh should not be louder and thereby indicate that the emotional side of appreciating the Torah should come at the expense of expertise in its study.
There is a further, surprising insight, which the gemara hints at when it says that if the metargem cannot read with a robust voice, the koreh should lower his voice. At times, there is a difficult religious atmosphere in which people have trouble realizing the Torah’s sanctity because they are distant from true knowledge of Hashem. Then, we are instructed to forgo the ideal of stressing the spiritual element of the Torah. Rather one must then employ the rabbinic dictates of "if only they left me but kept My Torah," "a person should always learn [even] for not the right reason, as from learning for not the right reason one will come to learn for the right reason," and "the light that is in it will return him to the right path" (Yerushalmi, Chagiga 1:7). Eventually he will see the Torah’s sanctity. In the meantime, the approach toward teaching the group is to lower the religious demands before coming to the Torah so that people will get at least a basic knowledge of the Torah’s content and know what to do.
The idea of sanctity and knowledge going hand in hand emanates from Sinai, where, the gemara says, Hashem’s voice (the sanctity) and Moshe’s voice (the information) were as one. The more effort one puts into the knowledge the more he will feel the sanctity. This is a message to be learned by all generations.
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