Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #31, “Loving G-d’s creatures”
Given all the requirements to acquire the Torah, one might think it a lonely, severe enterprise. One must be filled with awe and fear; must be deliberate, limit one’s sleep, accept suffering, know one’s place — the list is long. Is there room for humanity?
More than room. To love G-d’s creatures is essential for acquiring the Torah. “G-d’s creatures” include human beings and all living things. “His mercies hover over all His creations,” it says in Psalms. One who acquires the Torah mixes with people, appreciates the animal kingdom, and loves them both.
Once a student of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kuk (1865-1935) mindlessly plucked a small leaf from an overhanging branch. Rabbi Kuk admonished the student — everything in the environment, even beneath the animal kingdom, has its place and purpose, he said. Do not needlessly dispose of it.
Rabbi Kuk’s acquisition of Torah was legendary. Some 50,000 people attended his funeral in Jerusalem, where one of the eulogists said that in the one head of Rabbi Kuk lived as much knowledge as in the 50,000 mourners combined. Rabbi Kuk was a model in the 48 ways of acquiring the Torah — including love of G-d’s creatures. Literally, the door to his home was never closed.
Torah and loving all creatures — the two go together.
The 31st way to acquire the Torah: Loving G-d’s Creatures.
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; Way #29, Being beloved; Way #30, Loving the Omnipresent