Israel of Kozhnitz on Pirkei Avot, from Avodas Israel.
Rabbi Meir taught: Whoever studies Torah for its own sake merits many things…he is called beloved friend, lover of G0d, lover of humanity, a joy to G0d and a joy to humanity. Pirkei Avot 6:1
It is known that every letter is a world unto itself, and when you join two letters together to make a word it is like sexual union, and the words become the music that is played for a groom and bride, and there is joy like the joy at a wedding. This is most especially so when letters are joined in words of Torah and prayer, and then the joy reaches to all the worlds. When a righteous person speaks words of Torah to the community, words that awaken their hearts to the service of God and join spirit to spirit and soul to soul, then the greatest and deepest union is made in the upper realm, and countless worlds are united. For it is clear that everything in this world is like a mustard seed in comparison to its counterpart in the upper worlds, and serves as a sample of what exists above, so that we can have a hint of the deeper reality, which is uncountably greater. So the joy that reaches to the upper worlds goes on to infinity, to the Infinite One, and only the Infinite One can fully feel that joy.
In his poem “Auguries of Innocence” William Blake wrote the now famous lines, “To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.” The same idea exists in Jewish mysticism (the source, direct or indirect, of Blake’s notion), and so we are told that each person is a universe unto himself and each letter, being a vessel of meaning, contains all creation. Another metaphor, offered by modern science, is the hologram: each part of the hologram contains the entire image, and should you break the hologram into parts you would have as many identical (though smaller) images.
As fascinating as this idea may be, it’s not what interests the Kozhinitzer Maggid. No matter how much meaning is held within each letter, or how much of the universe is held within each one of us, without connection there’s no point and, in the Maggid’s words, no joy. It’s like a random collection of letters compared to a great piece of literature, or two lonely souls compared to a bride and groom celebrating their wedding. Or, to continue the hologram metaphor, when you break it into smaller and smaller pieces you still have the complete image in each piece, but the image degrades and becomes harder and harder to see with each break. It’s only when all the pieces are joined that you get the full effect of the picture, and only God is big enough to see it. But we have the ability, and the honor, of being able to put that picture together and bring God that infinite joy.