Definition of “Open – Minded” - In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z’L)
“And G-d spoke to Moses in the Wilderness (Desert) of Sinai...” (Numbers 1:1)
The Torah almost never mentions where G-d spoke to Moses. Why now? To teach us that only a person who makes himself “desolate as the wilderness” will have the ability to fully understand Torah. (Midrash Rabba, Bamidbar Rabba 1:7; Compilation of Jewish Homiletic 400 CE – 600 CE)
Commenting on the Midrash, the Mahrzu (Rabbi Ze’ev Volf Einhorn, Vilna; 19th Centurty) explains that for a person to become “desolate as the wilderness” he must completely remove himself from all of the world’s opinions on all subject matters.
All people have predispositions based upon upbringing, experiences, and learning over time. Naturally, each person views the world through his own “rose colored glasses”. We view events and ideas differently and what is popular often becomes the opinion of most.
However, when studying Torah, to understand what the Torah is saying, not what we think it’s saying, not what we’d like it to say, but to understand what the Torah is actually saying, we have to expunge ourselves of all preconceived notions.
People are often drawn to the latest sociological, psychological, political, religious, economic, and scientific theories. Public opinion can be powerfully persuasive simply because it is public opinion. The outlooks of family, friends, and peers have tremendous influence. Yet, we cannot allow any of these persuasions to distort our Torah learning.
This Shavuot, 3324 years after Mt. Sinai, circumstances change and how we apply the Torah’s teachings may be affected by those circumstances. However, the Torah is constant, unchanging, and unaffected by the world.
If a person truly wishes to learn Torah, he must become as “desolate as the wilderness”.
Chag Sameach – Happy Holiday