An Adornment of Grace for your Head
הרב זכריה טובי
Our parsha deals with many mitzvot that encompass all aspects of life. The Midrash Rabbah opens our parsha with the verse from Mishlei (1:9)
"For they are an adornment of grace (livyat chen) for your head (l'roshecha) and a chain for your neck." The Sages say: The words of Torah are a grace for your poverty (rashiutecha). How is this? A learned person, when he grows old, everyone comes and they surround him and ask him Torah issues.
Additionally, what is "livyat chen?" R. Pinchas b. Chama said: Wherever you go - the mitzvot accompany you: "When you build a house, build a rail for your roof." If you make a door, "Write them on the doorposts of your house and your cities" ... G-d said: Even if you were not doing anything, but walking along the way, mitzvot accompany you. From where? As it says, "If a bird's nest should chance before you."
The Torah is compared to an adornment for the head, because through learning Torah a person purifies his intellect. As a person ages and his physical abilities weaken, he correspondingly connects more to the Divine Wisdom. Zaken is the acronym for ze shekana chochma ("An 'elder' is one who acquired wisdom." (Kiddushin 32b) Therefore, when he grows old, people come and ask him Torah issues, as Chazal say: "Talmidei chachamim, the older they grow, their mind settles in them" (Mishna Kinim 3:6) - because the person becomes an object of Torah.
"And a chain for your neck" - the Torah and mitzvot are jewelry for a person's body. The GR"A explains that the mitzvot that a person does adorn and elevate the person to levels of holiness and purity, and through them a person merits to cling to G-d.
The Rambam writes: "When a person commits to separate from those thoughts [of evil] and brings his soul in the water of wisdom - he is purified. It says, 'I will sprinkle upon you pure waters and you will be purified.'" (Hil. Mikvaot 11:12) The Rambam teaches that the pure water is the "water of wisdom" - which is the Torah. Though a person's involvement with Torah he purifies himself and his thoughts, and thereby he becomes pure and holy, because the Torah is "an adornment of grace for your head" - it purifies a person's mind and sanctifies his actions and thoughts.
With this we can understand a seemingly strange analogy of Chazal about learning Torah:
R. Levi said: This is comparable to a basket with a hole in it, whose owner hired workers to fill it. A foolish person says: What am I accomplishing? I put in here and it goes out there! A wise person says: Do I not get paid for each and every barrel [I fill]? So, too, one who is foolish says: What do accomplish to learn torah and forget it? One who is wise says: Does G-d not give reward for toil?
This analogy seems very difficult. The foolish person seems correct. What is the point of filling a basket with a hole in it. This is clearly work without any logic and without any purpose. The GR"A answers that even though the basket has a hole and will not draw even a drop of water, however, every time water is poured into the basket makes it cleaner and shinier. This is exactly the analogy. A person learns Torah. Whether he is brilliant or not, whether he remembers everything that he learns or forgets - in the end, through learning Torah, the person becomes holy and pure, as the Rambam writes, that through bringing himself in the "waters of wisdom" he becomes pure.
This week, 9 Elul is the Yahrzeit of my father and teacher, Rav Shalom b. Yehuda Tubi zt"l, a righteous and holy person, a Kabbalist who merited living in holiness and purity all his life. He was involved in Torah day and night, and merited being like the pure Menorah, which is the symbol of Torah. About him it says, "For they are an adornment of grace for your head and a chain for your neck." He achieved what the Midrash says, "A learned person, when he grows old, everyone comes and they surround him and ask him Torah issues. This is how our father was, that the community would seek his Torah and blessing until the end of his days.
May we merit clinging to his ways, traits, and yirat shamayim that he had. May his merit protect us and all of Am Yisrael, and may we merit the coming of the Messiah.
קוד השיעור: 3875
(Translated by Rav Meir Orlian)