The passuk states עם נבל ולא חכם. Onkelos translates this as “a nation that accepted the Torah and did not become smart.” Asks the Ga’on from Vilna: Why does נבל which is a derogatory term actually meaning imbecile, as “a nation that accepted the Torah”? It would seem that those who accepted the Torah should be praised!?
The Ga’on answers: the Torah states about Avrahan Avinu that he fulfilled the mitzvos, the chukim and the mishpatim, even before the Torah was given. From where did he know the Torah to be able fulfill it? The mefarshim explain that Avraham sanctified and purified his entire being in a way that each limb and sinew reached the level which parallels to that mitzvah. We however, needed to receive the Torah and be taught the mitzvos which sanctify and purify our limbs and sinews. Therefore we are called a nation-נבל, imbecile, who accepted the Torah and were not smart enough to reach the level of Avraham Avinu.
I heard another explanation from Avi Umori shlita b’shem the Ga’on. The Midrash brings that there are three things that are נובלות, meaning something small and light, which is a part of something big and heavy: 1- sleeping, which is a form of a miniature death; 2- a dream, which is a miniature prophecy; 3- Shabbos, which is a miniature Olam HaBa. Ravi Avin added two things: sunlight, which is a miniature form of Hashem’s radiance, and chochma, a miniature form of the infinite wisdom of Hashem’s Torah. We are called an עם נבל which Onkelos translates to mean a nation that accepted the Torah which is Hashem’s infinite wisdom, and we are only able to reach a small level of its infinite depth and wisdom.
The Ramchal says that by learning Torah a person connects to Hashem with the highest possible closeness to Him in this world. The deeper a person learns, and the more areas of Torah a person learns, the higher level of closeness he will merit. This is because Hashem intertwined Himself with His Torah to become part of the person who learns.
May Hashem help us become close to Him by learning and understanding His Torah.