posted by Gafni assistant:
We are used to thinking of intellectual pursuit as a pretty dry kind of affair. And even if it excites us it is clear that the mind is the primary faculty engaged in the pursuit of intellectual depth. Well, as you might expect at this point, the myth masters of Jerusalem had a markedly different idea. For them the engagement with wisdom was a more passionate and erotic kind of affair.
Source after source speaks to the erotic nature of study through the use of sexual analogies. Elijah of Vilna, the founder of a great kabbalistic school in the latter part of the 18th century, writes that one can only study if one has an “ever chai”, a “live phallus”. Clearly the sage of Vilna did not mean that one has to have an erection when one studies. It’s about eros, not sex!
What he was suggesting is what I refer to as the textualization of eros. That is to say after the fall of the temple, the sacred study text became for the Hebrew masters one of the primary places of erotic expression. So textual study became the place where one experienced:
~ the fullness of presence,
~ the entry into the inside of a text, where student and text merge into one,
~ the yearning for divinity expressing itself in the yearning for deep understanding of the sacred text,
~ and finally the deep interconnectivity of being, realizing that all of reality is somehow expressed in the sacred word.