What is the Torah? Why was it given to the Jewish People? Where does emunah fit in to all of this?
Our sages tell us that Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world. In other words, the Torah exists as a non-physical reality, a blueprint, and the Torah we received is the physical manifestation of that spiritual reality. It’s a spiritual genetic code, which informs reality, not just describes it. In other words, learning Torah and carrying out the mitzvot actually keeps creation in existence. So no pressure then!
The most seminal event in the history of the Jewish People was the giving of the Torah at Sinai, signaling our birth as a nation, having just been miraculously redeemed by Hashem from Egyptian slavery, both physical and mental. Having descended to the 49th level of impurity in Egypt [Egypt was the prototype for all immorality], an intense 49 days followed in the desert, as a counter balance, to uproot from ourselves this slave mentality through the internalisation of the 7 lower characteristics of the sefirot – chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod, malchut [see article Divine Emanations, and Counting the Omer in the daily prayer book]. This process took the nascent Jewish nation to a level at which they would be able to receive the Torah. This spiritual level was the highest level that the Jewish People would ever collectively be able to achieve, a level where all present, some 3 million people – men, women, and children – all received prophecy, a direct revelation of Hashem.
So what is the Torah? The Torah is a book of instruction, it’s a complete construct, a manual that tells us how to bring man and the world to its perfection. In fact, only Hashem can bring everything to its completion but in His kindness he created Man, and specifically the Jewish People, with the task of creating a worthy vessel to receive Hashem’s light. After Adam, the original Man, sinned and the world crashed from a level of spirituality that we can only imagine [the mystical sources say that Adam and Chava, who weren’t Jewish, were all spiritual light with only the hint of a body], subsequent generations failed to correct the sin and only when Avraham came on the scene did Hashem promise to him that a holy people, the Jews, would ensue from him, who would undertake this spiritual project. The Jewish People were given the Torah to create a worthy vessel to receive Hashem’s divine light and we, in turn, become the bestowers of that light to the non-Jewish nations who, through their adherence to the 7 Noachide laws, create their own vessel.
Well, that’s the theory anyway. And it would work if we didn’t have this annoying habit of trying to do each other’s job! I mean, can you imagine an employer employing two people, each one charged with a specific task that only they could do. They’re sitting next to each other and one decides he quite likes what the other guy is doing, so attempts to do his job. The other guy thinks, well, if he’s trying to do my job, maybe I’ll have a go at his. The employer comes in to see how they’re getting on – guess what, it’s a mess!
In fairness though, our adherence to Torah values throughout the millennia has never been completely forgotten and has greatly influenced the world. The concept of the one G-d has been accepted by most of the world, initiating the emergence of two of the world’s major faiths, based, albeit in a distorted way, on the Torah. This, in itself, proves that no other nation is actually saying the Sinai experience never happened; in fact it proves the opposite. Only they say that we didn’t live up to our potential and that they are the new Jews.
We’ve had moments of tremendous spiritual elevation, and we’ve endured the worst types of suffering. But even the suffering that Hashem sends us has a purpose, to remind us of who we are and what our purpose is, and to bring us back to Him.
So important was this Sinaitic experience that the Torah itself states that we must never forget it, that it must never pass from our consciousness as a people. And herein lays the roots of emunah. The word emunah comes from the Hebrew word ne’eman, loyalty. Our meeting Hashem at Sinai signified not only our willingness to accept the Torah with all its laws but also our entering into an intimate relationship with Hashem of love and commitment. In fact, the sages describe the Jewish People as the wife to Hashem, the husband. Sinai was the chuppah, the wedding ceremony.
Because what is loyalty other than an expression of a lasting and committed relationship, like the relationship between a husband and wife.