In Shmoneh Esrei after Modim on Chanuka, we have the Al Hanisim… Bimei Matisyahu portion to say. In there we say that Hashem gave victory to the exact opposite of the other party. He gave the heroes to the weak, the many to the few, the wicked to the rightous, and the Zeidim (Tziddukim) to the Oskei Toratecha (the Torah-observant).
Question: weren’t the Tziddukim, a Jewish sect, Torah-observant with respect to the written law? Sure, they didn’t agree with Rabbinic law, but neither did the majority of Israel at the time. Also, what about the concept of Shivim Panim LaTorah? If there are 70 pathways to Torah, who cares if one does it via Rabbinic law – much of which is comprised of Syagim (gates) to prevent one from violating a Torah law? Who is to say that they weren’t Torah observant? The whole concept of even questioning the written Torah came much later with the Reform movement in Germany (source: somewhere in Rabbi Berel Wein’s Triumph of Survival – http://www.rabbiwein.com/Triumph-of-Survival-brBook-P15.html)!
Here’s my answer: The essence of Torah is love. Rabbi Akiva summed it up as Veahavta Lereicha Kamocha – love your fellow as yourself. Hillel also said more or less the same thing to a would-be convert in that Kol Torah Kulo is “Don’t do to another what you wouldn’t want another to do to you. The rest is commentary. Go learn.”
Getting into the Metaphysical
The Torah is light (Hora-ah – ohr) and meant to get us closer to Gd. Going onto the metaphysical side of things, we know of this concept since at Maamad Har Sinai we literally died – twice – and came back to life. We are taught that we learned the entire Torah twice, each one with an emphasis on the first and second commandments respectively. After the second time, we begged Moshe to transmit the rest of the Torah to us as our limited brains couldn’t handle the immense information that was being transmitted to us instantly. Our brains – wonderful devices that they are – are very limited in that we can only think in a linear manner and process information one at a time. That said, we subconsciously “knew” was was just experienced. When Moshe retaught us the Torah, we subconsciously “knew” that what he was transmitting was the truth that we were able to experience in our spiritual form, but not our physical form. In the end, we knew that it was all about love.
Today, thanks to the wonderful advances of medical technology, there are thousands of personal life after death testimonies while surgery is performed causing the patient to be clinically dead for a period of time, only to wake up. Each person describes more or less the same experience – leaving the body, seeing a dark tunnel, and a warm, loving, wonderful light essence enveloping that person, making that person want to stay and not leave. That person can at the same time, thanks to that light, see everything, including who is operating on him/her, who is making mistakes during surgery, etc. That person wakes up, asks why “decision X” was made, leaving doctors baffled as to how that person knew what was going on the whole time! This light also makes one feel loved, that one can never do any wrong and is just plain awesome.
That is what the Torah is trying to get us at. By manifesting this love to everyone and everything, and trying to save lives rather than killing people, that person is being MeAsek BaTorah. All the Miderabbanans are helping that person get closer to Hashem by getting us to manifest this Gdly love. However, by reporting to the higher Syrian Greek authorities on illegal actions done by “real” Torah-observant people, thereby causing more harm than good by getting them arrested, tortured and even killed, that makes one not MeAsek BaTorah. That person sees all Rabbis as a bunch of closed-minded fanatics, fails to see the larger picture and doesn’t become better for learning/doing that Torah that s/he is practicing.
Today, you have tons of people not “getting it.” Torah is love, but 99% of frum Jews don’t see that! Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein recently touched on that concept in that Yeshivos today are teaching kids that yiddishkeit is laws, yiddishkeit is serious, etc. Gd forbid that they should teach that the Torah is beautiful! This, he says, is Yavan (Greece)!
What I think the last phrase is saying, therefore, is that the way we defeat Greek culture every day is to “feel the love.” Baruch Hashem, I feel it when I light my Menorah, seeing the glow of the flames contrast with the pitch black on the outside, singing Chanuka songs, having Latkes and Sufganiyot, playing Dreidel, exchanging gifts and hugs with my family, and saying Hallel during Shacharis which makes the atmosphere feel more Yomtov-dike. All that I just mentioned, by the way, are Miderabbanan and minhag – not strictly written Torah. Think about that for a minute.
Bottom-line, if you want to be MeAsek BaTorah, learn to love first. Happy Chanuka!