Between the Lines—Toledot

Weekly Midrash Learning with Rabbi Charlie Schwartz


Genesis Rabbah 66:1

 

א ויתן לך האלהים מטל השמים כתיב (איוב כט) שרשי פתוח אלי מים וטל ילין בקצירי...מה טעם שרשי פתוח אלי מים, אמר יעקב ע"י שהייתי עוסק בתורה שנמשלה כמים זכיתי להתברך בטל שנאמר ויתן לך האלהים מטל השמים

"May God give you of the dew of heaven" (Gen. 27:28) . . . It is written in Job 29:19, "My roots reaching water and dew lying on my branches." . . . What is the meaning of the phrase "My roots reaching for water"? Jacob said, "Because I occupied myself with Torah, which is compared to water, I merited to be blessed with dew, as it is written, "May God give you of the dew of heaven."

The metaphor of Torah as water has always resonated with me. With Torah as water, the idea of learning, engaging with, and living through our sacred texts comes into focus. Just as we cannot live for long without water, so too will our lives become desiccated and empty without the study of Torah.

But the metaphor goes deeper than this. Water is an intrinsic part of this world, one of the fundamental building blocks of life and creation. In a real, tangible way, the world would cease to exist without the elegant molecule H2O.

I like to think that the same is true for Torah writ large, which is not just the written and oral Torahs, but also what it means to be a Jew, to be grappling with the moral and religious complexities of modernity while striving to bring holiness into every moment. Without this Torah, the world, existence, would be diminished, would cease in some way to exist.