What is the Expression of Life?
The most ancient extant translation of the Torah1 translates “Hashem the Creator formed mankind with the stuff of the earth, and blew into his nostrils the soul of Life — and he became a living being” with the Aramaic:
“2וַהֲוַת בְּאָדָם לְרוּחַ מְמַלְלָא” — “mankind became an expressive spirit.”
Our words are capable of giving expression to our highest, deepest, innermost experiences (i.e. “the soul of life”) in a way that is meaningful in our most grounded, physical, practical lives (i.e. “the stuff of the earth”).
This is what Torah learning is meant to produce in us through our efforts to understand and articulate our learning.3 We are constantly searching for and refining a language to express what we’ve always known in the depths of our souls.
This is the meaning of the Talmudic mystery of a fetus learning the entire Torah in utero only to forget upon being “struck on the mouth” at birth.4 Why teach it Torah if it’s destined to forget it? And if you really want someone to forget something they learned, you’d hit them on the head — not the mouth.
The answer is that our soul possesses profound knowledge about ourselves, life and even the universe, but without the language to give it voice, it’s as if it’s forgotten. When we learn an idea from Torah that resonates with this inner knowledge, we experience it not as learning something new, but as remembering something we’ve always known, but never had the words for.5
Torah is the Expression of Life Itself.
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As in the still used Hebrew word for “word” — “מִלַה.”