Friday, May 2, 2014

Finding Our Path in Torah- An Apology

Earlier this week, I posted a status where I was not careful enough in my words. Despite wanting to say something positive about the Waterbury yeshiva high school, my words came across as insulting to the yeshiva and boys who learn or have learned there. I write the following as an apology.

How does one find their place in Torah? By Torah, I do not mean simply the texts of the Torah, but also, and especially, the inner meaning of Torah, which embodies HaShem, so to speak (Shabbos 105a). Although there are many different answers, I'd like to suggest two of them.

In Berachos 63b Reish Lakish suggests one approach. Based on a homiletical reading of a passuk, he says “Torah only last in one who kills himself over it”. Let's try and find the message contained in his words. To begin, it is important to remember what we know about Reish Lakish. For many years he was a highway robber, until he was “discovered” by Rebbe Yochanan, who became his rebbe. What does he mean when he says that one must kill himself over Torah? I believe that he is saying that in order to really grasp Torah, and the Godliness which can be found within, you have to be willing to get rid of the “you” that stands in the way of Torah. Had Rebbe Yochanan learned Torah merely as an academic pursuit, without being willing to channel himself through it, it would have had no lasting effect upon him. Furthermore, it is important to note that Reish Lakish says that this must be done willingly. Torah can not be forced upon a person. You might be able to control someone's body, but their mind and soul are theirs alone.

A second approach is found in Chagiga 14a. There it says that a person does not succeed in Torah, unless they have stumbled over it first. When a person struggles with something, there are times that they will fall. Rather than that being seen as an unfortunate occurrence, the gemara suggests that from the struggle itself comes the growth. When Torah comes easily, whether through lack of challenge, or through simple or simplistic ideas, it does not truly belong to the one who learned. Through the struggle itself, the recognition of having stumbled, and the subsequent attempt to get back up and move on, the Torah is acquired.

May we all find our connection to Torah in a serious, deep and meaningful way.

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