Can you Afford not to Learn?
Taste of Talmud
Why was the first Bais Hamikdash destroyed? The Talmud states that it was due to idol worship, adultery, and murder (Yoma 9b). The prophet Jeremiah also asked this question but received a very different answer. G-d told Jeremiah: The Jews were exiled because they abandoned My Torah (9:11). Harav Refoel Shmuelevitz explains how these two statements can be reconciled. Jeremiah wanted to know how it was possible for the Jews to have fallen to such depravity as to be involved with these cardinal sins. Was it true that the Jews were not studying the Torah? Rabbi Shmuelevitz explains, they were studying Torah but they were studying it as if it were any other wisdom. Torah cannot be studied this way. When a person studies Torah he must realize that it is the word of G-d. We make a Blessing each morning in which we thank G-d for the opportunity to understand His words. Torah has to be learned with sanctity, humility, and reverence in order for it to have an effect on a person. This is what G-d told Jeremiah, “They abandoned my Torah” they were studying, it as if it were a G-dless Torah. Therefore they were actually disgracing the Torah and as a result elements of society eventually fell to the lowest levels of depravity.
Taste of Halacha
“Veshinatam L’vanecha V’dibarta Bam” (You shall teach it to your children and you should speak in them). I can still hear the soft tones of my father singing these words to me as I fell asleep in the suburbs of the Holy city of Jerusalem. These are the words which teach us that there is a Biblical command to convey the truths of the Torah to the next generation. There is an interesting Halachic dilemma discussed by the commentators. What should a family do if they only have enough money for one of the members to receive a Torah education? Does the father take precedence over the son or does the obligation to teach your son come before your own obligation? The Rambam, in the laws of Talmud Torah (1:4) makes an interesting distinction. If the father and son are of equal intelligence, then the father’s obligation to educate himself takes precedence. However, if the son displays exceptional talent and powers of intellect, then the father should continue learning on his own but forego paying a tutor for a Torah education in deference to paying a tutor for his son!
Taste of Parasha
The Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna Z”l) was blessed with a phenomenal memory. He made it a life-long project to correct all of the printer’s errors in the Babylonian Talmud, Jerusalem Talmud, Tosefta, and Shulchan Aruch. Whenever he would come across a word or letter which was inconsistent with other printings and quotations of that same statement he would mentally review the entire Talmud to see if his corrected version fit into a variety of Talmudic discussions. If it did, he would jot it down. If it were weak in even the slightest way, he would discard it. The Gaon was punctilious about his use of time. From the time he became Bar Mitzvah he did not sleep more than two hours per night. Once, while visiting the city of Meretz, he slept 10 minutes over his usual half hour nap. This troubled him greatly until the next time he was in that town when he was able to make it up by sleeping 10 minutes less than his usual amount. The Talmud says that as a result of Torah study a person will merit to be resurrected. The Talmud asks: What should a person do if he is not able to learn? He should assist and support others in their study of Torah. In this manner he fulfills the verse, “And those who cling to G-d are alive” (Deut. 6:7). This can be accomplished through assisting those who study His Torah.