4 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 22, 2020 | Torah Reading: Noach
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Time for Torah

There is always another distraction, another reason why you just can’t make the Torah class, another item to buy which takes your time from learning Torah to earning more money…


In recent years, there have been various attempts to stop young men from studying the Holy Torah in yeshivahs in the Holy Land, and it causes us tremendous pain to realize that some Jews do not yet recognize the importance of Torah study. 


During these days of Teshuvah and introspection, before we look at others, we have to take this pain as a catalyst for our own self-inspection and first ask ourselves, do we, ourselves, properly cherish the study of Torah? 


Unfortunately, many people, although they are in the midst of a study session or listening to a Torah lecture, will interrupt themselves to look at their phone or be distracted with other things, thereby often wasting a great amount of time away from Torah study. Isn’t this a huge insult to the holy Torah? 


Especially now, during these days of teshuvah, we must contemplate the incredible importance of Torah. Our Chazal, and particularly in the Zohar HaKadosh emphasize that Torah study is the very means by which life force is spread to the entire world, both in this earthly world and the higher spheres. Torah is the daily spiritual food that every Jew needs to feed his soul. Through Torah study, we are found worthy to receive material blessings as well, as Scripture explains: “Long life in her (the Torah’s) right hand; and in her left hand wealth and honor” (Mishlei/Proverbs 3:16). 


It is worthwhile to note that the fact that I am here today to write these lines is due to the tremendous supernatural power that Torah learning contains! Without it, my holy father, the previous Kalever Rebbe, zy”a, would never have grown up to marry and build a faithful Jewish home. My holy father, zy”a, related to me that when as a teenager, he was once very ill, Rachmana letzlan, and the doctors gave him only a few weeks to live. On Simchat Torah, in the middle of the hakafot, his father, the holy Kalever Rebbe, author of Eis Ratzon zy”a, spoke words of Torah in his Beit Midrash. He cried out afterwards, “The merit of these words of Torah I hereby offer to my son as a zechut for his refuah!” At that very moment his son who was sick in bed at home, took a miraculous turn for the better, and shortly thereafter he had a full recovery. Everyone saw with their own eyes the power of the holy Torah, which is beyond nature. 


Nevertheless, the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) tries to turn people away and make them forget or ignore the awesome power of Torah study. He tries to confuse us, to convince people that they will lose money if they take time away from their business to attend a Torah shiur in the morning and at night. To fight this this big lie, one must constantly remind himself that it is the Creator Himself who gave us His Torah, and it is He who sends brachah and hatzlacha in the work of our hands in the zechut of Torah study. We can never lose from Torah study – only gain. 


We must further consider; if people do not set aside time for Torah study because they expect to make more money, often they do not really need the extra money. They have enough for food, clothing, and shelter and all their needs. Their drive for more money is merely to impress others. They therefore desire the most expensive home, the finest clothing just to keep up with societal pressure. For this, they are willing to work overtime, get up early and work late. Ultimately, the result is that nobody is working for their own benefit, only to impress others. Reuven seeks to impress Shimon, and Shimon seeks to impress Reuven. 


We are enslaving ourselves to others, and causing massive waste of potential Torah study time. Many people spend enormous amounts of time visiting others, or attending celebrations and parties more than necessary, merely to remain in other people’s good graces of others, even at the cost of missing their nightly class, or waking up late the next morning and missing their morning study. This feeling of being subservient to the wishes of others also applies to one’s own home if it causes the wasting of time at home with wives and children with unimportant matters of no consequence. Subservience to the wishes of others is also the cause of interrupting Torah study to immediately answer all phone calls when they could have waited. 


HaRav HaGaon Rabbi Ephraim Oschry zt”l, Rav of Beit Medrash HaGadol on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, once told me a story about his Rebbe, the great Chofetz Chaim zt”l. A successful businessman once traveled with his family to a large market-fair to sell his wares, but as soon as the stalls and wares were set up to sell, the businessman disappeared. The family looked for him and found him sitting studying in the Beit Medrash. They screamed at him that he was wasting precious time. He could be selling his wares at the fair, as people were coming to his table to buy, but the seller could not be found. 


The businessman replied that he could not go back to the fair. He had a dream that night that he had passed away. After his death he was brought to the Heavenly Court where he was sentenced to damnation in Gehinom because he had not spent enough time learning Torah, and instead wasted his time with nonsense. He begged them to give him a second chance to fix this by accruing more zechusim through Torah study. They rebuked him harshly, but agreed to allow him to return to this world. When he woke up from the dream he thought about how he could have been be dead and in Hell right now, but Hashem was kind enough to grant him more life so he could fulfill Hashem’s will through Torah study. Consequently, it was theoretically as if he was already dead, and had no more obligations to people in this world. He could continue studying Torah with no distractions. 


We must all take a lesson from this story, to overcome our feeling of obligation to others, and to accept the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven completely, recognizing that our only obligation is to Hashem, the Creator. We must look at every situation and ask ourselves what is it that Hashem wants us to do now, and how much time is needed for the task. We must show others that we have accepted upon ourselves the yoke of Torah, which overrides all other obligations. 


This is what our Sages say in Pirkei Avot: “Anyone who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah will have the yoke of government and society removed from him” (Avos 3:4). Perhaps this is the reason that as we  enter  Yom  Kippur  at  Kol Nidrei, we hug and kiss the Sifrei Torah and forget about every other obligation we have in the world, and nullify all of our vows and oaths. We accept upon ourselves a strong resolution on this day of repentance, that when we dedicate ourselves to the study and fulfillment of the Holy Torah, we nullify every other obligation. 


Now is the time for all of us to accept this yoke, and commit ourselves to an established time of study each day, which we will never disregard. We should be preoccupied with this study all day long, and have everything else in our lives revolve around our Torah study. We should turn off our phone these periods and ignore anything that holds us back, so our mind and heart is free to fulfill the mitzvah of Torah Study with complete calm and clarity, as is proper and fitting. In this zechut, we will merit a gmar chatimah tovah and receive all of the blessings stated in the holy Torah! 



The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at www.kaalov.org  



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