Friday, December 3, 2010

Melech Chezkiahu and the Wall -- Soulful Teaching of Text

I have written before about the value and focus of Soulful Teaching and Learning. In fact I am now looking forward to a week of this careful and quieter mode of learning and consideration of texts and teachings with all of my high school classes I teach – I habitually try to do this the last week of the academic term when there are so many other pressures and demands on them. I love the notion of truly engaging in Torah Lishmah – learning and consideration of the texts for the sake of …. learning and consideration of the texts. It’s kind of like intellectual yoga.

So, as I prepare for this week (my Hannukah gift to myself and my students as it turns out, I guess) of soulful learning, my son Brian and I came across a great text in our learning of Gemara that is instructive in soulful learning, prayer, and so much else.

On Berachot 10b, we find a discussion regarding King Hezekiah and Isaiah in terms of asking and answering the question of whether the King should come to the prophet when there needs to be a delivery of news or the prophet should go to the King to do so. As the teachers and voices of the Gemara often do, there is an example given of each case, when the prophet Eliyahu came to King Achav to deliver news and conversely, King Yehoram came to the prophet Elisha to hear his news. So, G-d, we are told facilitates the answer that Isaiah should go to Hezekiah and this occurs circumstantially when Hezekiah falls ill (how did G-d manage that, you might ask?!).

At any rate, Isaiah has some particularly difficult news to deliver to Hezekiah, that his entire lineage and household will die and end. The report is specifically “you will die and you will not live.” In the Gemara, we see a discussion in which it is suggested that “you will die” refers to what will happen in this world (HaOlam HaZeh) and “you will not live” refers to not being given a portion in the world to come (HaOlam HaBa). Hezekiah is devastated, as we can imagine, and we read as follows “he turned to the wall and prayed to G-d.” As the discussion moves on, we are confronted by the question “what is meant by wall?” Then comes the suggestion that is the reason for this inspiration. The notion is presented that Hezekiah turns inward to THE WALLS of his heart. What a wonderful idea! When we soulfully learn and pray and consider our station in life, we are to move away from all of the distractions and STUFF around us and focus on turning INWARD TO THE WALLS OF OUR HEART.

As the text continues, Hezekiah tries to make what he has done wrong better and tries to undo his ultimate punishment. This does not happen and Hezekiah dies --- perhaps a broken man. But, look at the powerful lesson he has left us – we should engage in soulful learning and prayer by turning to the wall – that is the walls of our heart, for there we find G-d, we find our past, present and future, we find ourselves! Hag HaUrim Sameach, Shabbat Shalom, and my gift to all of us is may we find our way to soulful learning and prayer.

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful Dvar Torah!
    May the merit of it together with our increasing prayers for this Shabbat and Chanukah goes to the people who lost their loved ones and people who are injured in the devastating fire in Israel.
    Sunnie, you are a real inspiration!