Sunday, May 20, 2012

או חברותא או מיתותא

I have not made a post in a ridiculously long time.  I have been pretty busy in graduate school.  Recently, for a paper I am writing, I tried explaining, in experiential terms, what a chevruta is.  I thought some of my chevrutot would appreciate it.
Judaism places special emphasis on the act of studying Torah and has special regard for the learning pair, known as a chevruta, which literally translates as partner or friend.
Said R. Hiyya b. Abba, Even father and son, master and disciple, who study Torah at the same gate become enemies of each other; yet they do not stir from there until they come to love each other. (Kiddushin, 30b)
Learning Torah is a struggle.  It is a struggle with the words of revelation, a struggle for truth, a struggle for a good life.  For sure, it is an internal struggle—the student (even a great scholar is considered a student in the Jewish tradition) experiences a deep inner turmoil—in which he constantly seeks transcendence through those words and always falls short.  But it is also an outward struggle with one’s fellow man.  He contends with his partner.  They cannot help but clash, be enemies—their subjectivities must come in conflict.  But, the pull of revelation, to transcend difference and to join in desire for the Most High quells the crashing of sword and shield and forms the basis of transcendent partnership in the search for meaning.