A Spring of Strength

Ayin Tove
A Spring of Strength
June 9, 2010

We began our Talmud study with the idea that a person who studies torah for its own sake is like a spring that increases in strength. Avot 6:1. The strength of the spring increases from its own force (The Hebrew verb plays on this reflexive concept). The spring that flows up from itself and overflows reminds me of King David’s Psalm in which he said,

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for you are with me . . . You stand up for me a table in the midst of my enemies. . . My cup overflows.” Psalm 23:4-5.

The cup that overflows may be like the spring that increases in strength. This Psalm also contains a verse traditionally translated as “He leads me to beside the still waters,” but may also be translated as “He leads me to the waters of the gift.” (“al mei menuchot”). Psalm 23:2.

So what is the gift? David continues with a line traditionally translated as “He restores my soul,” but which may also be translated as “He strengthens my soul.” Psalm 23:3 (“nafshi y’shovav”). We learn this from Isaiah 57:17 and Jeremiah 3:14 where the same word “shovav” is used to mean “stubborn” or “rebellious.” In other words, G-d strengthens us in a way that gives us independence and spunkiness. We are like a spring that overflows–“still” and maybe with something more.

Ayin Tove is a contributing writer for GTJ and an attorney for the federal government.