Your Unique Portion in Torah

This letter is dedicated to the memory of my father and teacher, Shlomo Ben Avraham Hakohen. His yahrtzeit – the anniversary of his passing – is on this Shabbos, the 2nd of Teves and the eighth day of Chanukah.
In the previous letter, we discussed how the power of the Torah enables us to build and perfect the world. In this letter, we will begin to discuss how each member of our people contributes to this process through his or her own unique portion in Torah.
Dear Friends,
In this series, we referred to the tradition that each of our souls was present at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given, and an allusion to this idea appears in the following statement of Moshe Rebbeinu – Moses, our Teacher:
“Not with you alone do I seal this covenant and this oath, but with whoever is here standing with us today before the Compassionate One, our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.” (Deuteronomy 29:13,14)
The Midrash Tanchuma, in its explanation of the words, “with whoever is not here with us today,” states that when the Torah was given to the Community of Israel, “all the future generations were there at that hour.” The Midrash then adds: “Their souls were there.” 
There are sages and kabbalists who understand the deeper, metaphysical interpretation of this Midrash; however, one does not need to be a sage and a kabbalist to understand the message of this Midrash: The whole Torah was given to each of us. In his spirit, it is written: 
“The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 33:4)
According to another tradition, each of our souls was also given a unique portion within the Torah. Regarding this tradition, the Chofetz Chaim teaches:
“We know that every single person in Jewry was given a share in the Torah at Mount Sinai, where all the souls of our people were present when the Torah was given. Every Jewish person’s share of the Torah is akin to a treasure hidden away for him. There is not the lightest doubt of its existence. The individual merely has to toil, expend effort, and keep searching ceaselessly to attain it. We can similarly understand the phrase we say in our daily prayer, ‘and grant us our portion in Your Torah’: It means that we entreat the Holy Blessed One to help us find the portion of Torah that is particularly ours, each one his share.” (Cited in the biography of the Chofetz Chaim by Rabbi Moses Yoshor)
The Talmud (Nidah 30b) cites another tradition that when a baby is still within the mother's womb, a malach - heavenly messenger - teaches him the entire Torah. When the baby is ready to leave the womb and enter the world, the malach strikes him on the mouth and causes him to forget what he has learned. The Torah that a person studies throughout life is therefore not a “new” study; it is a form of remembering. The Etz Yosef commentary on the above teaching from the Talmud cites a radical interpretation in the name of
Rabbi Moshe Alshich, a 16th century biblical commentator and kabbalist who lived in the holy city of Tsfas (Safed), which is located in the northern part of the Land of Israel. According to Rabbi Moshe Alshich, the Torah that the baby learns in his mother's womb is the unique portion of Torah that he received on Mount Sinai. The malach is therefore teaching him the entire Torah of his soul's portion, which he forgets when he's born. On his life's journey, however, he can rediscover his lost portion through serious study and contemplation
There is therefore a treasure within us which is waiting to be revealed. In this spirit, the K'sav Sofer, a noted 19th century sage, writes:
“One should not be satisfied with knowing the Torah writings of previous generations; each Jew has his own unique portion in Torah and should strive to delve into its holy words and uncover new insights.” (Cited in “For Love of Torah” by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, ArtScroll)
How does one recognize one’s own unique portion in the Torah? If a person studies an area of Torah which gives him special joy and delight, then this aspect of Torah may be the unique portion which was given to him at Sinai and taught to him in his mother's womb. This joy and delight may derive from the sense of having rediscovered the treasure within one's soul. According to the Chofetz Chaim, an allusion to this idea is found in the following words from the Book of Psalms:
“In the Torah of the Compassionate One, he delights, and in his Torah, he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2 - translation of Rashi)
At the beginning, it called the Torah of the Compassionate One; however, when a person studies the Torah and finds a portion that he truly delights in, then that portion is called “his” Torah! As the Chofetz Chaim explains, “The portion of Torah that his heart desires and delights in is the share allotted to him by Heaven, and this may well be called his Torah.” And it is in that portion that “he meditates day and night.”
Let us remember, however, that we study Torah not just for our sake, but for the sake of the world. For when the Torah was given, states the great Chassidic sage, the Sefas Emes, “The Children of Israel assumed the responsibility to repair the entire world through the power of the Torah” (Yisro 5642). The Sefas Emes adds that this universal mission is expressed in the Divine proclamation at Mount Sinai which calls upon us to become “kohanim” - ministers - to everyone on God's earth:
“The whole earth belongs to Me; thus, you shall be to Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5,6)
Have a Good Shabbos and a Good Chanukah,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen   (See below)
The teachings from the Chofetz Chaim are cited in the biography of the Chofetz Chaim by Rabbi Moses Yoshor. It is published by ArtScroll, and the hardcover edition is still available:
The ArtScroll book “For Love of Torah” by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman contains stories, insights, and reflections on the study and students of Israel’s greatest treasure. For information, visit:   


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