0 Posted by - February 5, 2015 - Uncategorized


Parashat Yitro

retired elderly couple sits on a bench at the Oceanside, watching the sunset. They say to each other, “If only this moment would never end!!”

The couple feels that way, for they have finally reached the Golden Age. They have married off their kids, paid their mortgage and are now on pension. The only way to learn Torah as it is supposed to be learnt is if you view your time in the Beit Midrash as the Golden Age. Lately, I started learning with my Rabbi in a study hall where there is a Kollel of about 20 men. It is a unique Kollel. Ages 65-90. They are all into it, smiling while they learn, enjoying the sweetness of each and every word, each and every minute. One fellow has Parkinson’s, and I know that there are some other health issues in the Kollel, either their own, or those of their spouse. They sometimes get into heated discussions over the topic they are learning.  At the end of the Seder they close the book with a sigh, and wish they did not have to leave, saying, “If only this moment would never end!!” Just learning in the Study Hall, witnessing this, is life-changing. If only I could tap into that Golden age when I am still young!  It gives me a glimpse of what a real Ben Torah is. It is not about learning to get a good shidduch, a good Rabbinical position, etc.  It is about learning for the love of it. ישקני מנשיקות פיהו.

The real Ben Torah keeps reviewing and repeating what he has learned, as he walks out the doors of the Beit Midrash.  You can see from the way he walks, from the way he speaks, from the clothes he wears, that he is – just different. This is the real Ben Torah “zone”. The only way to be that Ben Torah is by looking at the time you are learning as your Golden Age, despite the mortgage, worries and bills, enjoying learning as if you were worry free, keeping all fears and doubts outside the study hall, to be dealt with after Seder. And once you get into that zone, you can get into the next zone. The “He’s on fire!!” zone.

The Torah was given to the Jewish People while Mt. Sinai was aflame. Why? The Torah is similar to fire in various ways. R’ Shimon Bar Yochai has his explanation… From Hanukah till Passover, the Matza Bakeries ovens blaze at extreme degrees. I have heard that those who are in charge of putting the Matzahs in the oven and taking them out burn off their eyelashes and eyebrows from the heat! So…just as one can easily identify those who work closely with fire, such as the bakers, so too, one can easily identify Talmidai Chachamim, whose Torah is like fire. From the way they talk, walk, and from the way they are dressed -  ובעטיפתן בשוק . The burning curiosity, to learn the burning Torah, makes them “Black”.

It was said about the best student in the yeshiva where I learnt that from his first day in the Study Hall, he had fire in his hands. I did not always know what that meant. But soon, I realized that the fire he had was what made him the best guy in the yeshiva. He had a burning desire to know about the word of G-d. You see, you can never really grow in Torah, if you are not really yearning to know what G-d wants to tell you. This is the “make it or break it” factor for the Ben Torah. How much fire, or curiosity, he’s got. The fire at Mt. Sinai was not just side effects to the giving of the Torah. Rather, it illustrated the only proper way to learn Torah.  By making yourself interested.  By turning on the Fire. By making it into an experience.

Studies say that, on average, a person today does not remember more than 20 telephone numbers. Try it. If you know more than twenty, then you are considered to have been blessed with an extraordinary memory.  Ironically, the average person remembers 1,200 songs!! What’s the difference? Telephone numbers are dry information. But songs are an experience, an emotion. We remember emotions and experiences, but forget information. (Someone once sent me in an email, “People do not remember what you did for them. People remember how you made them feel.”)The only way to really remember your Torah learning long term is by making it something that you connect to, an experience that is so strong that is an emotion. This is the fire of Torah, which has an effect on you, as long as you learn it with a “burning interest”.

When someone learns Torah with “fire”, a fiery passion to know the Will of G-d, that is the type of Torah that leaves a mark . Of course, just entering the study hall without learning has some sort of impact, but like fire, the closer you get to Torah, the greater the “heat” will affect you. It has different degrees. The more you get into learning, the more inspired you are to know the Word of G-d, the more your become a Ben Torah. The only way to tap into the fiery Torah given at Sinai is by learning with unquenchable curiosity. If you can’t wait for seder to finish, sorry. It is not the Mt. Sinai-type of Torah.

The self-help books and the wisdom of the gentiles are so different from Torah. Only Torah is wisdom that is fire. It is the only wisdom that changes one’s identity just by learning it, even before applying it. When one learns psychology or self-help, he needs to apply it in order to experience a change. And even then, who knows how long the change will last? But with Torah, it is so different. Studying Torah with fire affects you like the fire of the oven affects the eyebrow-less Matzah man. It is automatic.

I remember standing in the Mirer yeshiva, as the summer z’man came to an end, and the Hizballah were acting up close to the Lebanon-Israel border. IDF was at war in the North. R’ N’Tzvi Finkel, zt’’l, told us that there would not be a summer break. We were to stay learning in the Mirer study hall throughout the summer, על חומותייך ירושלים הפקדתי שומרים. He did not say much, but every word was golden. I can still remember his fiery words. “King David sang מה אהבתי תורתך כל היום היא שיחתי; literally, I love Your Torah so much, the whole day it is my discussion. R’ N’ Tzvi tweaked that. How can one measure how much he loves Torah? The amount that you discuss Torah is the amount that you love it.

R’ N’ Tzvi had that fire. With it, he built the biggest yeshiva in the world, 5,000+ students – and it gets bigger and better every day. R N Tzvi left us, but his fire is still burning. If you want to spread Torah like R N Tzvi, you can only spread it if you have that fire.

Where can you get this fire? All the money of the world can’t buy it, but anyone can attain it. You just have to be so interested in Torah that you are not interested in anything else.


No comments

Leave a reply