Shabbos Parashas Vayikra

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaDaas (Gate of the Intellect), Chapter 13, end
The Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 20:4 relates that a certain Roman philosopher sought to determine the length of the gestation period of a snake. He found snakes mating, put the females in a barrel, and fed them until they gave birth. When some Torah scholars came to visit Rome, the philosopher asked Rabban Gamliel how long the gestation period is, and Rabban Gamliel could not answer. Later that day Rabban Gamliel encountered R. Yehoshua and told him what happened, and R. Yehoshua told him that the answer was seven years. R. Yehoshua explained: “The dog is a nonkosher roaming animal and its gestation period is fifty days. A nonkosher farm animal’s gestation period is twelve months. Now, regarding the snake, it is written (Bereishis 3:14): ‘Accursed are you beyond all the farm animals and beyond all beasts of the field.’ Just as the farm animals are cursed seven times more than the beasts of the field, so, too, the snake is cursed seven times more than the farm animals.” Towards evening Rabban Gamliel returned to the philosopher and gave him the answer. The philosopher banged his head on the wall and exclaimed: “What took me seven years of toil to determine, this fellow conveys to me with the ease of passing a reed.”
Similarly, in Koheles 1:13, Shlomo HaMelech declares that he set his heart “to survey (לָתוּר) and probe with wisdom all that is done beneath the heavens,” and in Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:7, the Midrash expounds:
What does it mean “to survey” (לָתוּר)? It means to be a scout for wisdom. As it is written (Bamidbar 13:2): “And they scouted (וְיָתֻרוּ) the land of Canaan.” Whoever was well-versed in Scripture, he [Shlomo] would go to him; whoever was well-versed in Mishnah, he would go to him. … And not only for Torah teachings was Shlomo a scout, but rather for everything that takes place under the sun, such as how mustard and lupines are prepared. Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to him: “You went searching for Torah teachings? By your life, I will not deprive you of your reward. Behold, I am going to infuse you with Divine inspiration.”
Now we can ask, how did Shlomo permit himself to investigate such things as how to prepare mustard and lupines, and thereby interrupt his Torah study? A Jew is obligated to study Torah at all times. Thus, The Gemara in Menachos 99b relates:
Ben Damah the son of R. Ishmael’s sister once asked R. Yishmael, “May one such as I who has studied the whole of the Torah learn Greek wisdom?” R. Yishmael read him the following verse (Yehoshua 1:8): This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, and you shall meditate upon it day and night.” Go then and find a time that is neither day nor night and then learn Greek wisdom.
The reason Shlomo permitted himself to investigate such things as how to prepare mustard and lupines is that he set his heart to determine these things from the words of the Torah. We can compare the matter to a merchant who can find out what his inventory is without examining the merchandise, simply by reading his records. The Torah is a record book that contains information on everything beneath the heavens.
In Avos 5:22 the Mishnah states: “Probe it [the Torah] again and again, for everything is in it. Set your gaze upon it; grow old and gray over it, and do not budge from it, for you have no better portion than this.” A person can live far from a settled area and not observe anything, and still, by attaching himself among Torah scholars, gain the knowledge and understanding to give advice on anything a person might ask. He will have intimate knowledge of what results from any action, at any place and at any time. Look in the Torah and see the curses listed for sinning, and take note of how everything the Torah spoke of has come to pass. Shlomo spoke well when he said (Mishlei 23:26): “My child, give your heart to me, and your eyes will desire my ways.”
Now, given what we have discussed, what need do we have for proofs of the truth of the Torah. Anyone who beholds its glorious wisdom will recognize its truth. The truth speaks for itself!
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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