Torah: A Body and a Soul
Rabbi Y. OliverThe holy Zohar (3:152b) states that the Torah consists of a body and a soul.
The Torah’s body is Nigleh (or Galya) de’Oiraysa, the “revealed” dimension of the Torah (also known as chitzoniyus HaTorah, the “external” dimension of the Torah). This is the field that discusses earthly realities and technical Mitzvah obligations, whether in the form of definitive rulings or abstract debate. It also includes more down-to-earth explanations of Tanach and related ethical teachings.
The Torah’s soul is Pnimiyus HaTorah, the “inner” dimension of the Torah (also known as Nistar de’Oiraysa—see here)—Kabbalah and Chassidus. It describes the mystical meanings that lie within the Mitzvah obligations, and more generally it describes Hashem’s greatness and absolute unity.
So if we are to learn Torah, we need to understand that both the Torah’s body and soul are vital, and though very different, complementary.
Likewise, our Mitzvah observance ought to consist of a body and a soul. The body consists of rigorous adherence to the halachic requirements of the Mitzvah, as outlined in Nigleh de’Oiraysa. Likewise, the soul consists of the inspiration of love and fear of Hashem that drives the person to perform the Mitzvah (see Tanya ch. 4) and profound grasp of the meaning of the Mitzvah (the Mitzvah’s “kavanah”) that accompanies one’s performance of it; these are developed through studying Pnimiyus HaTorah.
Pnimiyus HaTorah is widely regarded as an optional, peripheral adjunct of one’s Torah study. However, based on the Zohar’s statement that Pnimiyus HaTorah is to Nigleh de’Oiraysa as a soul is to a body, it becomes clear that the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah is indispensible. Just as a body cannot function as it should without a soul to animate it, so will Torah study restricted to Nigleh be dry and lifeless.
The same also holds for Mitzvah performance, as the Arizal famously puts it, “A Mitzvah performed without the proper intention is akin to a body without a soul” (Likutei Torah LeArizal, beg. Ekev; Shaloh, 1:249b; Tanya, ch. 38).
Conversely, one should not restrict oneself to study of Pnimiyus HaTorah and neglect the study of Nigleh, for a soul without a body, as lofty as it may be, cannot function in this world. We live in a world of souls in bodies and not disembodied souls. Torah study confined to Pnimiyus HaTorah alone is liable to make a person unstable and out of touch with his own physical needs and those of others. Likewise, since this realm of Torah stems from a level that transcends earthly limitations, exclusive study of Pnimiyus HaTorah will bring the person lose a sense of the boundaries of time and space, quite possible leading to a very unfortunate outcome.
Likewise, Mitzvah observance will be adversely affected by neglecting the study of Nigleh. Just as Hashem placed the soul in the body in order to enable us to perform physical Mitzvos, so will the person who neglects the study of Nigleh be lacking in his Mitzvah observance, for the requirements of Shulchan Aruch are very complex, and in order to fulfill the Mitzvos properly one must study “to know the Mitzvos that one should do and that one should not do.” One who neglects the study of Nigleh can certainly not go beyond the letter of the law in his observance, for “A boor is not sin-fearing, neither is an ignorant person pious” (Avos 2:5).
However, this is only to say that one should study both the inner and revealed dimensions of Torah regularly. The exact proportion to which they ought to be studied is not set in stone. It depends upon the individual and his intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs.