Monday, July 24, 2006

Torah Learning: Why and When

The Torah was given by G-d, with instructions for the entire world, which was created by G-d.

Just like everyone was created by G-d, everyone is connected to the Torah, which is a reflection of G-d, the Creator.

The difference between, say, an apple and Judaism is that regarding Judaism, even if someone does not like its taste, it still benefits him since it will give him life in this world and the next, regardless of whether he is on a level to realize that.

It is analogous to a world of poisoned apples and one healthy one. The poisoned ones may taste better, but they’re still not best for you.

If someone would realize the benefits the Torah has for him, and the detriment of not following it, they surely would choose Torah.

The reason they do not realize this is either they do not know, or because there is a Yetzer Horah that was created specifically to distract people from thinking about this. Your apple, in your story, does not.

So in other words, those who do not like this "apple" only do so because they are blinded by the Yetzer Horah. You would be doing them a favor by not allowing them to kill themselves by rejecting it.

If someone were going to jump off a roof, would you say that for him, life is just an apple that he feels is better rejected?

Or would you say that he is not thinking straight for whatever reason. (And please don’t respond with cases where a person has such a messed up life that it makes sense for him to want to die. I’m not talking about that now.)

Yes, the Torah is definitely for everyone. G-d said so, and He knows best.


There are two issues:

1) Your obligations and
2) Your opportunities

You are not obligated to learn in Kollel. You will not be "punished" for not doing so.

But if you do so, you will be rewarded beyond imagining. Now it is your choice.

Being born is like being given 10 minutes to ransack the local Tiffany's diamond vault. Ten minutes to grab all the diamonds you can. When the 10 minutes are up, they pull you out by your legs, slam the door, and your chance is over.

What you gathered in this world, you live with for eternity. Life is those 10 minutes.

Bnei Torah do not live life according to their obligations; they live life according to their opportunities.


Without Torah learning, even otherwise religious people are vulnerable to the Yetzer Horah. The Gemora says this. "Barasi Yetzer Horah borosi Torah tavlin", "I created the Yetzer Horah", Hashem says, "and I created Torah learning as its cure".

Doing Mitzvos only protects you against the Yetzer Horah while you are doing the mitzvah, but learning Torah has a lasting effect that protects you from trouble even after you finish your learning session.

Without Torah learning, a frum man is dangerously at-risk for succumbing to the Yetzer Horah.


Chazal say (Yerushalmi Peah 1) that learning one word of Torah gives you more holiness than doing all the Mitzvos put together.

The GRA comments on this: So imagine, someone sits down and learns one page of Gemara. He learned thousands of words of Torah, each one giving him more holiness than a lifetime of doing Mitzvos!


If it's between doing a Chesed or learning Torah, it is better to learn Torah. However, if there is a Chesed that needs to be done - like a dead body needing to be buried for instance - and there is nobody there to do it except you, the Halacha says that you must close your sefer and do the Mitzvah.

If someone else can bury the body, you should let them do it and you continue learning.

In a case where you have to close your Gemora and do the Mitzvah, it means that for some reason, you were not zocheh to continue learning, and had to lower your level of service to Hashem by doing the Mitzvah.


There are many reasons to learn Torah:

1) It’s an obligatory mitzvah - this mitzvah is fulfilled by setting a time during the day and night to learn.

2) You have to learn in order to know how to live a Jewish life, including all the Halachos. This is not related to the mitzvah to learn, but rather a practical necessity. Women, too, are compelled by this reason to learn those things that are relevant to them.

3) Each word of Torah a person learns imbues him with more holiness than a lifetime of doing every other mitzvah put together. It is the light of Torah that is our ticket to gan eden. Someone who does not learn Torah does not have a share in olam habah - not as a punishment, but because just as a tree and a rock don’t go to olam habah, someone bereft of the Light of Torah is unfit as well. Learning Torah also protects the world for all ill and brings blessing and light and peace and happiness to everyone and everything in the world.

4) There is another, extremely important reason for Torah learning - full time Torah learning: That is the only way to create Gedolei Yisroel, who are the greatest asset we have. People complain that we don’t have gedolim like we used to – there are no Chofetz Chaims around anymore, etc, but Chofetz Chaims don’t grow on tress- WE make them, and not by learning one or two hours a day. It’s hard enough to make gedolim who don’t come to the Chofetz Chaims toes by learning all day, but that’s what we must do - make the biggest people we can, to lead us and be our eyes and ears, and in whose zechusim we prosper.

And even if someone is not going to be a godol hador - at least he may be a godol of his classroom, or his family, or his shul or his town.

But we have a responsibility - to ourselves and to Hashem - to produce Torah leaders, scholars, tzadikim and gedolim. Hashem doesn’t make these for us. The only way they will come is if we make them ourselves.


It is important to remember what you learn. Kol hashocheach dovor echad mimishnaso is described in Pirkei Avos as a sin. From Rashi it seems that in the next world, whatever you don’t remember won't count as yours. (Although you get a Mitzvah for learning it.)




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