219. Rabbi Elazar opened with the verse, "Open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Torah" (Tehilim 119:17). How foolish men are, for they do not know, and do not seek to be occupied with, Torah. Torah is the whole life. All freedom and all goodness in this world and in the World to Come are contained within it. HE EXPLAINED THAT it is life in this world; namely, they may merit full days in this world, as it is written, "The number of your days I will fulfill" (Shemot 23:26). And one will merit long days in the World to Come, for this whole life is a life of joy, life without sadness, life that is real life, freedom in this world, freedom from everything, because other nations cannot rule over anyone who is engaged in the study of Torah.
220. You may say that there were those who were persecuted, NAMELY THE MARTYRS WHO WERE EXECUTED FOR STUDYING TORAH WHEN SUCH STUDY WAS FORBIDDEN. HE ANSWERS THAT this is a decree from above, such as the one for Rabbi Akiva and his companions, WHO WERE KILLED FOR STUDYING TORAH, and so it came to THE SUPREME mind WHEN THE WORLD WAS CREATED. BUT USUALLY, STUDYING TORAH MEANS freedom from the Angel of Death, who cannot have sway over him. Assuredly this is so. If Adam had cleaved to the Tree of Life, which is Torah, death would not have been brought upon him and the whole world. BUT BECAUSE HE FORSOOK THE TREE OF LIFE, WHICH IS TORAH, AND ATE FROM THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE, HE BROUGHT DEATH UPON HIMSELF AND THE WHOLE WORLD. It was "engraved upon the tablets" (Shemot 32:16) when the Holy One, blessed be He, gave Torah to Yisrael. This has already been explained. DO NOT PRONOUNCE IT "ENGRAVED" (HEB. CHARUT), BUT FREEDOM (HEB. CHERUT), BECAUSE THERE WAS FREEDOM FROM THE ANGEL OF DEATH. If it were not for THE CHILDREN OF YISRAEL committing the sin OF THE CALF and leaving the Tree of Life, WHICH IS TORAH, they would not have brought death back to the world. And the Holy One, blessed be He, told them, "I had said, 'You are angels, all of you sons of the most High'" (Tehilim 82:6), NAMELY AT THE GIVING OF TORAH. You defiled yourself BY SINNING, "therefore, you shall die like a man" (Ibid. 7). Therefore, the evil serpent which darkened the world cannot have power over anyone occupied in the study of Torah.
221. Rabbi Yesa said, If this is so, it should be true that he who does not sin will not die. If so, why then did Moses die? He said to him, Moses died, but THE ANGEL OF DEATH had no sway over him. He did not die by him, nor was he defiled by him. Therefore, it is considered that Moses did not really die, but rather that he cleaved to the Shechinah and has gone on to life eternal.
222. As such, he is called "living," as we have explained in discussing the verse, "And Benaiah, son of Jehoida, the son of a valiant (lit. 'living') man" (II Shmuel 23:20). WHOEVER APPROACHES HASHEM IS CALLED LIVING. Thus, he who is occupied in studying Torah has freedom from everything, including freedom in this world from the enslavement of heathen nations and freedom in the World to Come, for no reckoning will be demanded from him in that world at all.
223. Come and behold how many supernal mysteries exist in the Torah. For that reason, it is written, "She is more precious than pearls" (Mishlei 3:15). How many hidden treasures there are in it. For that reason, when David looked AT THE TORAH in the spirit of wisdom, he said, "Open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Torah."