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Everything is foreseen, yet free will is granted…the mystical side of Judaism and life
This is perhaps the biggest mistake in Jewish education today. The rabbi looks sternly at the student and says, “You have to take upon yourself the yoke of Torah.” The student shudders and meekly agrees to take upon himself this huge, G-d-given burden.
Yuck! This is not what accepting the yoke of Torah means.
The metaphor “yoke of Torah”[i] comes for a good reason. Before the farmer’s yoke was invented the animal still had to pull the plow. Man had to eat. But without the yoke the animal had to pull the plow with its neck and teeth. Ouch! Then some bright guy invented the yoke. The yoke rests on the animal’s shoulders so it can now pull the plow with its bigger, stronger, shoulder muscles.
What a relief. The animal loves the yoke. It came and made the animal’s life so much better.
And this is what the Torah does for us. The Jew has to pull the plow of daily living with or without the Torah. If he (or she) rejects the Torah he will pull the plow with his teeth! He will end up working day and night struggling trying to gain huge amounts of money, or power, or fame, or any of the other empty goals that secular life insists on. His successes will be short lived measured by what he has gotten and all of which is to be left behind when he leaves the world.
If instead he will accept upon his shoulders the yoke of Torah he will work day and night trying to make the world a better place. He will work to spread the Light of Heaven to every corner of the Earth. The Torah’s guidelines will help him to pull the plow of life. The Torah will decide what his standards and successes should be, not Wall Street or Hollywood.
A Jewish mystic, a most revered Jew, is called a mekubal, a Jew who has received what G-d has given him. And this is what we are to do with the Torah. We are to receive it. The Torah does not come to increase our burdens. The Torah comes to relieve our burdens.
[i] Ethics of the Fathers 3:5