-- The How To Manual of Life --
The purpose of this lesson is to give the fundamental methods used by HaShem in His Torah (written and oral) for application of its principals to one's everyday life.
NOTE: When I speak of Torah I mean the 5 books of Moshe, the Writings, the Prophets (the entire Tanakh), and Talmud.
In order to best appreciate how to apply the Torah in our lives we must first deal with some basic issues. After all, there are a lot of books, ideas, teachings and doctrines out there vying for our attention and allegiance.
And we have to be honest, Adonai’s word, the Torah has some stiff competition out in this world of noise and distraction; if it didn't everybody would be flocking to the Torah and living by its precepts.
So then, before we look into How To Apply HaShem's Torah we will ask some tough questions. Inquiries like:
(1) Is Adonai's Torah reliable and profitable?
(2) Is it well established or does it roll with the flow of the latest faddish ideas?
(3) Does it really work and if so how?
There are some who may think the answers to these questions are going to be biased because they will come from the Torah itself. Yet, we must always keep in mind that these sacred texts are not just some novel or even a book, for that matter; but it is a compilation of scrolls, books, prophetic pronouncements, songs, poems, witty sayings and lamentable pleadings, written by many different people over a period of some 2500 years or more.
These writings cover a myriad of topics from different cultural, political, legal, philosophical, mystical, sociological, economical and religious points of view by people who, in most cases, didn't even know each other or what the others had written or spoken. The mere fact that these writings agree on anything as consistently as the Torah does is a sheer miracle in and of itself. Therefore, we must accept the testimony of this Torah as it relates to itself as valid and worthy of our consideration.
Ultimately, each of us must judge for ourselves if this Word of HaShem is true and real. We will do this by applying it to our daily lives and seeing for ourselves if it proves true or false.
Now to our first concern:
(I) Is the Torah reliable and profitable?
There have been many men and women of renown that have asked this same question. They began applying the tenets of the Torah to their lives and they all came to some interesting conclusions.
Two such examples immediately come to mind. They are Ezra and King Solomon:
"For Ezra had prepared his heart [mind] to seek the Torah of Adonai, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Ezra 7:10
“If you seek it as you do silver and search for it as for treasures, then you will understand the fear of Adonai and attain knowledge of G-d. For Adonai grants wisdom; knowledge and discernment are by His decree.” Proverbs 2:4-6
Israel's greatest king was David. He lived nearly 3000 years ago and it is from his progeny that we await the Mashiach. David wrote many of the Tehillim (Psalms). In Psalms 12:7 this is what he had to say concerning the Torah:
"The words of Adonai are pure words: silver refined in a furnace upon the ground, purified seven times.”
Like refined and purified silver, the Torah when applied to our lives will make our lives profitable and valuable not only to ourselves, but more importantly to Adonai, the whole House of Israel and the world around us ensuring our purpose of tikkun olam (repairing and healing the world).
Our next concern naturally follows the reliability question:
(2) Is this Torah changeable - or is it firmly and eternally established?
If the world starts getting shaky, or if science makes some startling new discovery that shatters old ways of thinking, is the Torah able to stand true and convincing amidst all the rapid changeableness of this world-system?
This is an extremely important question. Because reproducible scientific discoveries, particularly over the last 200 years has crushed many belief-systems held so firmly by generations down through the ages and rightly so. For example: For many centuries millions of people that adhered to a certain set of written sacred texts believed that the world sat on the back of a giant elephant, which stood on the backs of two huge turtles as they floated in the sea of nothingness.
In the Middle Ages it was believed by nearly all faiths, except Judaism, that the earth was the center of the universe and that this planet of ours was flat (Believe or not there are still some who think that in the 21st Century).
When science and rational critical thinking disproved what now seems ridiculous even to a first grader, the faith of many people in those religious groups was shattered to pieces. As a result many left their particular belief-systems for something else or they went way out on a limb to use circuitous apologetics to defend them; either way a new or different system of belief had to be created in their minds to try and counter the challenges these discoveries of science made that questioned the validity of their sacred texts.
So then, we can see the importance of having a reliable and unchanging Torah that can stand-up to any new true scientific finding or some world shattering crisis.
The Torah of Adonai has stood all these tests for over 3300 years. HaShem’s faithfulness continues throughout all generations and His words are forever settled in heaven:
"Forever. Adonai; Your word stands fast in the universe. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You have established the earth and it stands. They [all Your precepts] stand to this day to [carry out] Your rulings for all Your servants.” Psalms 119:89-91
The prophet Isaiah was so confident in the everlasting quality of HaShem’s Torah he said that even if the grass and flower fade away from the face of the earth, the Torah stands forever.
”Grass withers, flowers fade — But the word of our G-d is always fulfilled!” Isaiah 40:8
Our last concern is simple:
(3) Does it Work?
Once again we find from history and experience that indeed it does work and very well indeed.
The universe itself was created through the spoken word of HaShem, so that what is seen did not come into being out of existing phenomena. [See: Genesis 1-2 and Isaiah 44:24]
This same word at work in the creation of all the universe is at work in the individual. It acts as a fire burning away the chaff and a hammer pounding open the thoughts and intentions of the mind exposing them to the light of Adonai’s holiness and kindliness. It is through the Torah that HaShem cleans, prunes, molds and shapes us.
“My rules alone shall you observe, and faithfully follow My laws: I am the L-RD and your G-d. You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which man shall live: I am the L-RD.” Leviticus 18:4-5
Now, if all this is true, and after 3300 years of affirmation no rational thinker would think otherwise, then it makes a lot of sense that we should really desire and seek after His Torah.
How then, do we apply Adonai’s Torah to our lives?
FIRST: It must be read or heard, then studied and meditated upon daily. “And you shall meditate on them day and night.”
The leader that HaShem appointed to succeed Moshe Rabbenu was Joshua. He was told to not allow Adonai’s Torah to depart from his life, but he was to meditate on it day and night so that he would be careful to do according to all that was written in it.
”But you must be very strong and resolute to observe faithfully all the Torah that My servant Moshe enjoined upon you. Do not deviate from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Let not this Book of the Torah cease from your lips, but recite it day and night, so that you may observe faithfully all that is written in it. Only then will you prosper in your undertakings and only then will you be successful.” Joshua 1:7-8
King David said that his delight and joy was to study and meditate day and night on Adonai’s Torah.
”Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, or taken the path of sinners, or joined the company of the insolent; rather, the Torah of Adonai is his delight, and he studies [recites] that teaching day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, whose foliage never fades, and whatever he produces prospers [thrives].” Psalms 1:1-3
The Psalmist declared that just to say the words of the Torah out loud were sweet to his taste. They were sweeter than honey to his mouth.
”How pleasing is Your Torah to my palate, sweeter than honey…” Psalms 119:103
SECONDLY: As important as study is, it doesn't help much if we don't' believe and trust in what we read, study and meditate on. We have plenty of Rabbinical Yeshivas' teaching folks the need to study like that every year. Therefore, the next key to applying the Torah to our lives is to trust the Supreme Author of it — HaShem!
All the promises and commandments found in the Torah are appropriated by trust. The reason for this is so that they may come as Adonai’s gift and promise to His people and not our feeble merit-based ideologies. The words of the Torah must be received by trust so that through them we may come to share in the Olam Ha-Ba and fulfill our destiny of tikkun olam (healing the world) and most importantly because it builds an intimate relationship between us and the infinite Creator of all that is and is not.
”My son, do not forget My Torah, but let your mind retain My commandments; for they will bestow length of days, years of life and well-being. Let fidelity and steadfastness not leave you; bind them about your throat, write them on the tablet of your mind, and you will find favor and approbation in the eyes of G-d and man. Trust in Adonai with all your thoughts and intentions, and do not rely on your own [limited human] understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:1-6
LAST: The old adage "Faith without mitzvoth (good deeds) is as useless as riding a dead horse" is certainly true when it comes to the application of the Torah. All genuine trust in HaShem’s Torah should lead to obedience to His commandments. Therefore, to apply the Torah to our lives is ultimately to obey it in our everyday circumstances. Moshe Rabbenu said, concerning the Torah, that we should hear it to the point of keeping all Adonai’s statues.
”…If you will heed [hear] Adonai your G-d diligently, doing what is upright in His sight, giving ear to His commandments and keeping all His laws, then I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the L-RD your healer.” Exodus 15:26
HaShem’s testimonies are so wonderful and life-giving that our desire should be to observe them. Observing His words, commandments, statues and laws give understanding and light to our minds. Study alone, as vital and necessary as that is, doesn't give this kind of deeper insight into HaShem’s Torah, only obedience to it can fully accomplish that.
Therefore, study, meditation and trust takes us so far. These prepare us and wet our spiritual appetites. Those important practices bring us to the stream of flowing refreshing water. The real fulfillment, the real quenching of the thirst for righteousness that is pleasing to HaShem is experienced as His Torah is obeyed. Which leads to our last point:
What can we realistically expect from applying Adonai’s Torah in the ways we have been discussing?
The following passages from the Tanakh give us a good hint of just a few outcomes to be expected and allow us to test them for ourselves to see if their results come about as we read, hear, recite, study, meditate, trust in, and obey His commandments. They are:
Inner JOY — Psalms 19:9
”The precepts of Adonai are just, rejoicing the mind [heart]; the instruction of Adonai is lucid, making the eyes light up.”
Inner SUCCESS — [See: Joshua 1:7-8 above]
Inner STABILITY — [See: Psalm 1:1-3 above]
Inner WISDOM — [Read: Deuteronomy 4:5-8]
An Outward, Manifested, TRANSFORMED LIFE — [Read: Psalms 51:9-15; Isaiah 40:30-31]
When should this application process be started? TODAY! [Read: Psalms 95:7-9]