Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The Torah is an inner light”

One of the accepted differences between Torah and mitzvot is that Torah is inward and the mitzvot are outward.

One performs the mitzvot and the mitzvot do not become a part of one’s existence; they remain external, like garments that one puts on; the performer is only an instrument in the performance of the mitzvah, which remains something independent.

The study of Torah, on the other hand, besides being a mitzvah, has the added aspect of being an internalization.

A degree of understanding is involved, to the point at least, of making it part of oneself, if only for a moment.

The mitzvah never becomes a part of oneself in the same way.

The Torah is an inner light, illuminating the depths of one’s being.

The mitzvah is an external light; it surrounds one but does not penetrate the being.

When one learns something of Torah, it becomes a part of one’s comprehension of self; when one does a mitzvah, one is doing an action in the world.

True, it may also illuminate inwardly.

And this illumination by the mitzvah is called doing God’s Will.

But it is external, a reality outside one and not within one’s being.

The inwardness, when it does occur, the interiorization of the mitzvah is of another nature.

It is an extension of the aspect of doing the Divine Will.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz