The second parsha of this week’s Torah portions of Behar and Bechukosai, which are the conclusion of Sefer Vayikra begins, “If you will follow My decrees and observe My mitzvos and perform them” (Vayikra 26:3).
The Sforno commenting on “observe My mitzvos”: “Behold the keeping of mitzvos is watching over them in a way that they perform them and understand their intent. This can only be done with in-depth clarity, as Chazal say [in a Sifri (Re’eh 77)] keeping it is learning it. If you say that this is the case then if you act in the ways of Hashem which includes the part of the actions of His Torah, and you go into depths of the profundity of the mitzvos, to know how to perform them and what is
here their purpose, in this way you will perfect His intent of them being created in the image of Hashem and His likeness.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
It sounds from this Sforno that the only way to perfect ourselves as tzelem Elokim, people who were created in the image of Hashem, is by learning Torah b’iyun, in great depth and then applying what we learn. Why is great depth needed to be considered walking in His ways, emulating Hashem, and perfecting the purpose of one’s existence?
There are two parts of Torah learning, iyun and bekius, depth and breadth. The expanse or breadth of Torah is so vast, and of course Hashem perfectly knows it; so why isn’t that emphasized as or at least part of perfecting one’s image of Hashem, to help one emulate His Creator? Just as Hashem knows the breadth of Torah in its entirety, because He is the All Knowing and author of the Torah; so too, we should know every aspect of it in its entirety so what is the stress the Sforno has on the depth of Torah, the iyun aspect, the profundity?
It must be that delving into the depths
if of Torah is the main way of emulating Hashem and completing our perfection as a tzelem Elokim, our quality over animals that we were made in Hashem’s likeness, in terms of Torah learning. A proof that iyun is the main learning that emulates Hashem is a famous statement quoted from the Zohar in parshas Teruma הסתכל באורייתא וברא עלמא “Hashem gazed in the Torah and created the world.” The word for ‘gaze’ in Hebrew is ‘histakel,’ which connotes staring, focusing. He didn’t just look into the Torah and create the world; there was a focus, a concentration into the inner working of the Torah, in order to create the world. This is similarly expressed in the Medrish Rabba in Breishis (1:1, 3:5 and 64:8) multiple times where it says Hashem was engrossed in the Torah in order to create the world. The word engrossed in Hebrew is ‘osek,’ the same term that we use every day in the blessing for learning Torah. This word connotes a focus and concentration into the study of Torah, which is only done through in-depth learning. Therefore, it must be that in order to create the world Hashem didn’t just peruse through the Torah at a glance of its breadth but delved deep into the depths of Torah in order to draw out the perfect world from these manuscripts.
What we learn from here is that in-depth learning isn’t important just because it will give more clarity towards serving Hashem using His handbook for mankind. But it’s also the means of perfecting ourselves and using the gift, our soul, the tzelem Elokim in the best manner possible and is the best way to be able to emulate Hashem, since He did the same thing when using the blueprints of creation to create the world.
It is also important to learn bekius, the breadth or expanse of Torah too in order to gain a well-rounded education of Torah knowledge becuase that will help with understanding the profubdity and depth of the Torah, but we see here a clear message of the significance and magnitude of learning b’iyun, the depth of Torah knowledge.