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Sunday
Oct012017

THE REVOLUTIONARY POWER OF TORAH STUDY

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

We are all preparing for the joyous Yom Tov of Sukkos, when we celebrate the forgiveness we have merited and the receiving of the Torah. We complete the annual cycle of reading the entire Torah on Simchas Torah, and through joyous dancing we bring down tremendous spiritual lights and blessings. On Shabbos B’Reishis, we read the entire Parshas B’Reishis and begin another year involved completely in Torah.

“We must carefully watch our time. We have to accept the yoke of the Torah. Every moment and every day that passes is not only a day, but a chunk of life. The days pass by, as our Sages say (Talmud Yerushalmi, Brachos 1:1): ‘A day arrives and a day departs; a week arrives… a month… a year….’ My father, [the Rebbe Rashab] used to say in the name of the Alter Rebbe: ‘A summer day and a winter night is an entire year.’” (HaYom Yom 17 Cheshvan)

Throughout the seifer of the HaYom Yom, the Rebbe defines and describes the way a Yid ought to perceive and internalize the Torah:

“There are two sorts of statutes: statutes that create life and statutes created by life. Human laws are created by life so they vary from land to land according to circumstances. The Almighty’s Torah is a G‑dly law that creates life. G‑d’s Torah is the Torah of truth, the same in all places, at all times. Torah is eternal.” (HaYom Yom 22 Shevat)

“The Torah that was given to us consists entirely of exemplary character traits. Even its punishments are really kindness and goodness. …. It is impossible to have exemplary character traits without Torah knowledge and it is impossible to have Torah knowledge without exemplary character traits.” (HaYom Yom 23 Elul)

In the teachings of Chassidus, the real focus is not just about the learning of Torah, rather how much we internalize the Torah that we learn.

I will share two stories that bring out this point:

There was once a Chassid that entered Yechidus. He told his Rebbe his daily schedule and how much Torah he was learning. After hearing him out, the Rebbe responded: I hear from you how much Torah you learned. I am wondering how much you learned from the Torah!

The second story is about a Chassid of the Maggid. When Reb Pinchas Horowitz first became a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, the Maggid advised him to study with Reb Zushe of Anipoli.

Reb Pinchas went to Reb Zushe and told him of the Maggid’s advice. Reb Zushe humbly replied that he could not understand why the Maggid would send anyone to study with him, but he would be happy to join Reb Pinchas in his intellectual endeavors.

“What should we study?” Reb Pinchas asked.

“Whatever you are studying,” Reb Zushe replied.

Reb Pinchas took out a volume of Talmud and began explaining the following passage: “When there are only nine people in the synagogue, there is an opinion that the ark can be counted to complete the quorum of ten necessary for prayer.” The Talmud then asks: “Is the ark a person? For no matter how holy the ark is, it is people who are required to fulfill the quorum for prayer.”

Reb Zushe interrupted: “What does The Talmud mean, ‘Is the ark a person?’ Everyone knows the ark is only an object.”

Reb Zushe continued: “Maybe the intent is that a person can be an ark in which the Torah is contained, a veritable repository of knowledge, but unless he is a person, unless that knowledge is integrated with his humanity, there is a question if he can be counted among the community.”

Every Yid must learn Torah and spread Torah. This applies equally to all Jews. This is clear from the following selections of the HaYom Yom:

“Studying Torah every day critically affects our very lives: not only the soul of the person studying, but the souls of his household as well, for then the atmosphere in the home is one of Torah and the fear of G‑d.” (HaYom Yom 4 Cheshvan)

On Simchas Torah, 5540 (1779), the Alter Rebbe declared: “‘It [i.e., the Torah] is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it’— this phrase refers to ‘masters of understanding,’ the intellectual scholars who study the Torah. ‘Those who support it are fortunate’ — these are the ‘masters of Divine service’ who engage in Torah study. On the term ‘fortunate’ – îàåùø, the Zohar (III, 53b) states: ‘Do not read the word as me’ushar; rather, [by transposing its letters,] read it as meirosho (îøàùå meaning ‘from His head’).’ Through their Divine service, these individuals draw down spiritual influence from G‑d’s ‘head,’ from the innermost dimensions of the Ein Sof. This is an instance of the distinctive quality of the foot, in that it supports the head.” (HaYom Yom Simchas Torah)

In another HaYom Yom, the Rebbe tells: “In terms of scholarship and aptitude, the Chassid Reb Elyeh Abeler was a simple man. Once, when he came into yechidus, my grandfather said to him: ‘Elyeh, I envy you. You travel to various fairs, you meet many people. Sometimes, in the middle of a business transaction, you get into a warm discussion about a Jewish saying, a saying from the Ein Yaakov etc., and you arouse the other fellow’s interest in studying nigleh (Talmud, Halacha etc.) and Chassidus. This causes joy on High, and the Almighty rewards such ‘trade’ with the blessings of children, health and sustenance; the larger the fair the more work there is and the greater is the livelihood earned.” (16 Iyar)

It is not enough to just learn Torah; we must realize that it is Hashem’s Torah that we are learning. As the Rebbe writes (2 Teves) regarding the Greeks: “Their entire war was directed against G‑dliness. They would have allowed the Jews to study Torah and observe mitzvos — the mishpatim and the eduyos — as long as they did not mention that the Torah was G‑d’s and that the mitzvos were ‘the decrees of His will.’ [Their objective was that the Jews] refrain from associating G‑dliness with the Torah and its mitzvos.”

This is how the Rebbe explains (Likkutei Sichos Volume 15 sicha 1) why the Torah starts with the letter Beis. While there are many reasons given, the main point is to remind us that when we begin to learn it needs to be our second step (Beis is Gematria of two). We first must realize that we are learning Hashem’s Torah and act and approach Torah study accordingly.

Learning the Torah that we have today is the way we prepare for the Torah of Moshiach. While the Torah of Moshiach will be infinitely higher and deeper than anything we have today – and indeed Chazal say that the Torah we have now is “Hevel,” nothing compared to the Torah of Moshiach – the way we prepare for the Torah of Moshiach is through learning the Torah we have now.

This is how the Rebbe explains in a Sicha regarding what we say in davening, “V’sein Chelkeinu B’sorasecha, Put our portion in your Torah.” This means that in the time of exile we have our portion of Torah, the Torah that was revealed. When Moshiach comes, we will receive Your Torah, the Torah Chadasha of Moshiach.

We ask Hashem that in the merit of us working hard in the Torah that we have now, “our portion,” we should merit to take part in “Your Torah,” the Torah of Moshiach.

When speaking about learning Torah and preparing for the Torah of Moshiach, we once again stress the importance of learning the parts of Torah in the Likkutei Sichos and Maamarim of the Rebbe that speak about Moshiach.

In the words of the Rebbe (Tazria Metzora 5751):

“Simply put: ‘Tiferes’ refers to learning Torah, and ‘Malchus Sh’b’Tiferes’ refers to learning the Torah concerning King Moshiach and Redemption that are explained in many places.

“These places are the Written Torah (particularly ‘the words of the prophets… for all their books are filled with this matter’); the Oral Torah, in the Gemara (particularly the tractate Sanhedrin and the end of tractate Sota) and in Midrashim; and especially the Inner Teachings of the Torah, beginning with the Zohar (‘with this book of yours, the book of the Zohar, they will leave their exile in mercy’), through Toras Chassidus (that through the spreading of the wellsprings outward the master, king Moshiach, will come), to the Torah of our Rebbeim, our leaders, and principally in the Torah (Maamarim and Likkutei Sichos) of the leader of our generation. Learning this material is a sample of and preparation for learning the Torah of Moshiach, ‘For a new Torah shall go forth from Me,’] meaning he will teach to all the people the Inner Teachings of the Torah (the reasons of the Torah) and knowledge of G-dliness (‘know the G-d of your fathers’). This accords with the Halachic ruling of the Rambam that ‘in that time… the Jews will be great sages and know hidden matters, attaining knowledge of their Creator, etc.’”

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com

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