Posted on A Simple Jew Received via e-mail from Bob Miller:
The concept of Torah Lishmah came up in discussion in my shul yesterday. I'd like the readers of "A Simple Jew", and any frequent contributors who are willing, to comment on this question:
To what degree does Torah study "lishmah" mean one or more of these?
1. Study to understand the subject matter as deeply as possible - YES
2. Study to become closer to HaShem - YES
3. Study for the sake of HaShem's glory - YES
4. Study to be able to practice mitzvot properly (or at least to know how, in the case of mitzvot that the Jew can't personally do because the Beis HaMikdash isn't operating, or he's not a Kohen, etc.) - YES
The Shela (Shnei Luchos HaBris) says all this: See Shela Maseches Shavous 34-35
Lishma means to fulfill what Hashem commanded us as in "And you shall teach them", and as we say in the Ahava Rabba (Ahavat Olam) Bracha LeHavin LeHaskim, Lilmod ulelamed, lishmor vela'asos ulekayem,
to understand and comprehend, to learn and teach, to safeguard and fulfill all the words of Your Torah!
The Shela's prayer - How great it would be if when we opned the sefer we would say:
"I wish to learn so that I will have Ma'ase, Midos Yehsaros, Yidiyus haTorah = the Talmud will cause me to act, and have positive character traits and knowledge of Torah and I am doing this Leshem Yichud Kudshab Brich Hu uShechintay - to unify the aspects of the Holy One B"H and the Shechina - Divine Presence."
"This is Torah liShma"
5. Study for any other reason (give details) -
The Chassidic / Kabbalastic answer is that Lishma stands for Le'shem H"a, for the sake of the final letter Hay in Hashem's four letter name in order to re-unite the name. See Patach Eliyahu from Tikkunei Zohar found in most Nusach Sefard siddurim before Shacharis. There are many quotes in Chassidic seforim for this. See for example Noam Elimelech to Parshas Mishpatim vechi yantizu anashim - which is also available as a free streaming MP3 audio class from us here.