Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #29, “Being beloved”
The Kotzker Rebbe said: “If I am I because you are you and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you. But if I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you.”
The rebbe set down an ideal: The source of my sense of self should be entirely internal. If others’ appraisal of me made no difference to me, if I were entirely self-directed, self-validated, this would mean that to me it would be sufficient that I am created in the image of G-d.
This is an ideal. Neither I nor anyone else can fully live this way.
Being beloved makes a critical difference to everyone, even in their acquisition of the Torah. True, to claim credit for my knowledge of Torah would retard my quest, but that’s just in my own attitude. Being beloved by others can enhance my acquisition of the Torah, for when I see the personal effect of Torah knowledge, I am motivated to continue studying it. Still more, if Torah knowledge elicits such a positive effect, this validates the Torah itself, which further motivates me to keep studying it.
It is a symbiosis. The more pure my acquisition of Torah — for its own sake — the more beloved I become. And the more beloved I become, the more open I am to feeling G-d’s love for me via His gift of the Torah. I respond by acquiring still more words and wisdom of Torah. Another symbiosis.
The 29th way to acquire the Torah: Being Beloved.
Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9a, Joy; Way #9b, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues; Way #12, Exchanges with students; Way #13, Deliberation; Way #14, Scripture; Way #15a, Mishnah; Way #15b, Limited Business Activity; Way #16a, Limited Marital Relations; Way #16b, Portion Control; Way #17, Limited Pleasure; Way #18, All nighters; Way #19, Limited Conversation; Way #20, Limited Entertainment; Way #21, Slowness to anger; Way #22, A good heart; Way #23, Faith in the sages; Way #24, Acceptance of suffering; Way #25, Knowing one’s place; Way #26, Happiness with one’s lot; Way #27, Have a filter; Way #28, Claim no credit