Parshiyos Behar Bechukosai 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 29

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 2, #19

Preparing for Torah -- Part Two

Seek Understanding

Included among the various aspects of Torah study, is an obligation to study regularly, and a responsibility to arrive at knowledge of the Torah's concepts. To what degree are we expected to try to understand the Torah's thoughts?

Rava said, "When man is brought to the [heavenly] judgment, they ask him: 'Did you attend to your business matters faithfully and honestly? Did you fix set times for Torah study?... Did you debate matters of wisdom?...' (Talmud, Shabbos, 31a)

Regarding 'Did you debate matters of wisdom?' The Sheiv Shemaitsa (introduction, paragraph five), quoted the Chovos Halevavos. "He should make an account with his soul -- how he has put off understanding the book of Hashem's Torah, without arriving at a proper comprehension of its contents. If a letter from the government arrived, would he not apply himself to discern every little nuance, paining himself greatly until he understood its intention? How much more so regarding the book of Hashem's Torah! My brother, how have you permitted yourself to neglect it, to be satisfied with a simplistic understanding?'

The Sheiv Shemaitsa concludes: From here, take note what an obligation it is to be able to answer, "Did you debate matters of wisdom?" without being satisfied with a simplistic, casual understanding.

The book Binyam Olam is one of the classical exhortations regarding Torah study. In the seventh chapter, sources are cited regarding this issue. The Rabbis' statement -- " 'It is the same if one accomplishes much or little, as long as the intention is for the sake of heaven,' was also said in regard to Torah studies. However, it is possible that this only applied in the days when the Rabbinical works were entirely committed to memory (and were not written down). The main learning in those days was in order to see that the laws were not forgotten. Today, however, since the texts have long been recorded, our main obligation is to understand in an orderly fashion the laws of the holy Torah and the debates of the Rabbis." The implication is that we should seek a thorough understanding of the entire Torah.

Binyam Olam quotes from a large range of texts, showing that Torah study at such levels is not meant for Rabbis alone. Each person should come to know the concepts of the Torah.

It appears that besides the responsibility to set fixed times for Torah studies, there is a second charge -- we need to understand the Torah properly, regardless of the extra time that must be arranged for it.

Rav Yisrael Salanter made a distinction between the two aspects of study. As far as the mitzva of study is concerned, as soon as one begins a session of learning, one is fulfilling the intended commandment. However, the mitzva of knowing the Torah's concepts cannot be fulfilled in a few minutes, an hour, a year or years. It is a constant effort -- with the rewards to appear cumulatively, after long periods of time.

There is Sleeping... and There is Sleeping

Rav Pinchus Horowitz was the famous Rabbi of Frankfurt two hundred years ago. He wrote how one should, ideally, reduce sleep at night, and increase Torah study. Secondly, though -- and most importantly -- when studying Torah during the day, one should try to remain awake, and not be asleep at one's studies! This is the important point. Torah learning is not mere reading; it requires alacrity, intelligence, stamina.


Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.

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