From Chamber to Chamber

Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell

דע שיש חדרי תורה, ומי שזוכה להם כשמתחיל לחדש בתורה, הוא נכנס בחדרים, ונכנס מחדר לחדר ומחדר לחדר, כי בכל חדר וחדר יש כמה וכמה פתחים לחדרים אחרים…אבל הכלל שאסור לטעות בעצמו, לסבור שכבר בא אל ההשגה הראוי, כי אם יסבור כן ישאר שם חס ושלום


“Know that there are chambers of Torah, and one merits them when one begins to renew Torah; one enters into the chambers, and goes from chamber to chamber and chamber to chamber, for in each and every chamber there are several openings to other chambers… The most important thing is not to fool yourself, thinking that you have already arrived at an adequate understanding. For one who thinks this will remain there, God forbid.”

— Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav, Likutei Moharan, 245

It is so easy to walk around the world and relate to it as if it was a known, fixed entity. The phone rings and we assume we know exactly what the caller wants and how it will make us feel. Our coworker or partner approaches us and we may default to an assumption that we know what it is he wants to say (for the millionth time!). We get in our car and we assume that the experience of our commute must make us feel bored and despondent.

In this passage, Rebbe Nachman urges us to relate to Torah as a new chamber, unknown and fresh—not as the same texts we read last year. This lesson can be applied to everything in life—we can relate to each moment as a new chamber of life, ever unfolding in surprising ways. This orientation of renewal—the bedrock of hitlamdut—is about having an ongoing sense that “I don’t know.” Hitlamdut creates an opening for renewal, a possibility of experiencing continuous growth in our relationships and experiences.

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