For those who are not well-versed in Torah learning, it may appear that given principles seem idealistic or that mortal human beings are too imperfect or complex for various goals. The book of Proverbs (3:18) assures us, "It [the Torah] is a tree of life to those who hold tightly to it, happy are its upholders."
The Torah says (Deuteronomy 8:3), "Man does not live by bread alone but by all which comes from the mouth of G-d." This does not mean that, together with your plain, dry bread, go have a big juicy steak. It means that man must live by the Torah ("which comes from the mouth of G-d"). It is not enough to live a material or technical existence (represented by "bread," the most basic food). The word Torah means "instruction." In Hebrew there is another word for "instruction:" limud. What is the difference between "limud" and "Torah"? Limud means to instruct in order to KNOW. Torah means to instruct in order to DO.
The Torah is a pro-active, practical book of instruction to know what to do, to know what our obligations are, and to know wisdom that enables one's life to work.
The Torah is totally clear and definitive as to what it wants, values and directs, as it states (Deuteronomy 12:28), "Observe and understand all these words that I command you in order that life will go well with you and with your descendants for ever after because you do that which is good and correct in the eyes of G-d." Although this may sound harshly autocratic, the intent is totally loving, as is made clear in Deuteronomy 14:1-2, "You are the children of G-d...to be the chosen people from all the nations on the earth." A father sets down the rules so that the children, who he loves, go in the right way.
A midrash (Likut Sipurim) relates that a heretic came to the Talmudic sage Rabbi Akiva and demanded, "Show me a clear proof that G-d created the world!" Rabbi Akiva said to come back tomorrow. He did. Rabbi Akiva said, "What are you wearing?" The heretic replied, "A suit."
"Who made it?"
"Show me a clear proof that a weaver made the suit!"
"How could there be a suit without a weaver!"
"How could there be a world without a maker! Just as a house proves there is a builder, a suit proves there is a weaver and a door proves there is a carpenter, the world proves there is a Manufacturer."
The Torah is the Manufacturer's instruction manual for the world. And, it is on the ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY of the Manufacturer. The Torah is entirely designed for mankind's good, as King David wrote (Psalms 34:9), "Taste and see how good G-d is, happy is the one who trusts in Him." You accomplish nothing to abstractly philosophize about the taste of steak. When you eat it, you know what it tastes like. You accomplish nothing to abstractly philosophize about Torah. You have to "dig in" and taste it. You have to live it. Happy is the one who trusts in G-d.
When the Torah appears to be difficult or challenging, it's because it is real. Anything cheap or easy doesn't last. Attaining true and lasting value and accomplishment can't come cheaply or easily. Something meaningful requires effort and investment. The second chapter of Pirkei Avos tells us, "Do His [G-d's] will in order that He do your will as if it were His will and cancel your will for His will in order that He cancel the will of others for your will." When approached and acted upon properly, the Torah is the guidebook for success in life.
"It [the Torah] is not in Heaven that you should say, 'Who will go up to Heaven for us and bring it to us that we should understand it and do it?' It is not across the ocean that you should say, 'Who will cross the ocean for us and bring it to us that we should understand it and do it?' Because the word of G-d is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it (Deuteronomy 30:12-14)." One can learn, or ask a scholar who has learned, and find G-dly instruction and imperative that applies to every moment, relationship and situation of life. Sometimes the demands or standards seem high. By adapting to them, the Jew raises himself. We do not drop the requirements or standards of the Torah to suit our convenience. We loyally establish our norms by, and subjugate our will to, what the Torah says. We never lower the Torah, we always elevate ourselves. When questions of law or ethics concern interpersonal disputes or relationships, the Torah will objectively set forth the obligations for both parties. By their loyal adherence to the instruction, wisdom, standards and requirements of the Torah, they subjugate their positions and will to divine resolution.
Every moment of life is a test given by G-d to each individual for the purpose of passing it and moving on successfully to the next (Mesilas Yesharim)! G-d places the situation of each moment before us in order to present us with the use of free-will choice to handle each moment and situation as if we each are at a crossroads. We may choose to go one way or the other. One way is wrong and evil. It is the way of the evil inclination and the material world, the will of self, the path to destruction of the eternal soul. The other way is "good and correct," as we stated above based on a Torah verse. It is the way of the good inclination and the eternal spiritual world, the will of G-d, the path to eternal life and bliss. The Torah itself urges us to choose good and life. "I call Heaven and earth to bear witness on you every day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; and you will choose life, in order that you and your offspring shall live; to love the L-rd your G-d, to obey His voice, and to cleave to Him, because He is your life and the length of your days that you may live..." (Deuteronomy 30:19,20). It is crucial - life and death itself - for every Jew to learn and practice Torah faithfully; to access it, apply it and live it in every moment and situation. The Torah is ready and waiting for you.
When G-d gave the Torah through Moshe at Mount Sinai, He told Moshe that when he gives G-d's Torah over to the Jewish people, to spell it out very clearly "like a set table [Midrash Mechilta, Targum Onkelos and Rashi to Exodus 21:1]." If the table is ready and in order, then all who are eating may simply, spontaneously and effectively partake. Likewise with Torah.
This series is intended for understanding and for practical application and benefit. It is an invitation to you to come to the "table of Torah."
I hope that I will merit G-d's help so that I may readily place before you a "set table," so that it is ready for you to partake from the word "which comes from the mouth of G-d."