The Importance of a Secret 

This Gemara tells over several teachings in the names of the סבי דפומבדיתא

Who are the סבי דפומבדיתא, the Elders of Pumbeditha?

סנהדרין י״ז, ב

סבי דפומבדיתא רב יהודה ורב עינא

The phrase: The Elders of Pumbedita, is referring to Rav Yehuda and Rav Eina

The Gemara Chagigah 13a tells us an interesting story about the סבי דפומבדיתא

רב יוסף הוה גמיר מעשה המרכבה סבי דפומבדיתא הוו תנו במעשה בראשית אמרו ליה ליגמור לן מר מעשה מרכבה אמר להו אגמרון לי מעשה בראשית בתר דאגמרון אמרו ליה ליגמרון מר במעשה מרכבה אמר להו תנינא בהו (שיר השירים ד, יא) דבש וחלב תחת לשונך דברים המתוקין מדבש וחלב יהו תחת לשונך

The Gemara relates: Rav Yosef would study the Design of the Divine Chariot and was familiar with the subject, whereas the Elders of Pumbedita would study the act of Creation. They said to Rav Yosef: Let the Master teach us the Design of the Divine Chariot. He said to them: You teach me the act of Creation. After they taught him that subject, they said to him: Let the Master teach us the Design of the Divine Chariot. He said to them: We learned with regard to them the secrets of the Torah: “Honey and milk are under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11), meaning that matters that are sweeter than honey and milk should remain under your tongue. In other words, one should not speak of such matters, and anyone who is familiar with them may not reveal them to others.

Why did he say no, why were the Rav Yehuda and Rav Eynah not worthy? Torah Temimah (Shir Hashirim 4:11) asks this:

תחת לשונך. אמרו ליה סבי דפומבדיתא לרב יוסף, לגמר לן מר במעשה מרכבה, א"ל, תנינא בהו דבש וחלב תחת לשונך, דברים המתוקים מדבש וחלב יהיו תחת לשונך קמבלכאורה צ"ע הא במשנה חגיגה י"א ב' קיי"ל דליחיד חכם ומבין מדעתו מותר ללמד במעשה מרכבה, ובסנהדרין י"ז ב' מבואר דסבי דפומבדיתא הם רב יהודה ורב עינא, והם הלא היו חכמים ראויים לזה, וא"כ למה לא רצה ללמדם, וצ"ל שבקשו ללמד להם ביחד, וזה אסור אפילו לחכמים.

He answers that they wanted to be taught together, and that was forbidden. The question we must ask then is why did they insist on studying it together ? The answer may be that since it was so complex and fraught with danger, they did not want to do it alone.

The importance of recognizing that there are portions of the Torah that is secret. Even more important is to recognize that like the proverbial submerged part of the iceberg versus the tip, the secret portion of the Torah is far greater.

This is evidenced by the following declaration in Gemara Succah 28a

דבר גדול מעשה מרכבה דבר קטן הויות דאביי ורבא לקיים מה שנאמר (משלי ח, כא) להנחיל אוהבי יש ואוצרותיהם אמלא וכי מאחר שקטן שבכולן כך גדול שבכולן על אחת כמה וכמה אמרו עליו על יונתן בן עוזיאל בשעה שיושב ועוסק בתורה כל עוף שפורח עליו מיד נשרף:

The Gemara elaborates: A great matter is referring to the secrets of the Design of the Divine Chariot, the conduct of the transcendent universe. A small matter is, for example, halakhot that were ultimately formulated in the framework of the disputes of Abaye and Rava. He did not neglect any of these disciplines so as to fulfill that which is stated: “That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance and that I may fill their treasuries” (Proverbs 8:21), as Rabban Yoḥanan was filled with the disciplines of Torah and wisdom. And if the youngest of them was so prolific, the greatest of them was all the more so prolific. The Gemara relates that the Sages said of Yonatan ben Uzziel, the greatest of Hillel’s students, that when he sat and was engaged in Torah study, the sanctity that he generated was so intense that any bird that flew over him was immediately incinerated.

Abaye and Rava were the most popular Amoraim mentioned in Shas, with more than 150 analysis and discussions, yet, they were a small matter compared to the esoteric Torah.

Granted the Ritva ibid explains that it is still important to study all the basics and therefore in a certain sense הויות דאביי ורבא are more important as in more fundamental, the idea the Gemara is stressing is that there is a large “dark matter” of the Torah Universe that is largely unseen.

Why do I stress the secret parts of the Torah? To make Torah more exciting and interesting, so that we are energized to keep digging and keep trying to understand. Respect the depth of the Torah so you will feel curiosity, wonder and awe!

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Translation Courtesy of Sefaria

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Translations Courtesy of Sefaria