Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Sivan 5760 - June 7, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Opinion & Comment
Every Day's Matan Torah

by HaRav Yehoshua Shklar

The Toras Chaim has a wonderful secret to reveal to us: each and every one of us can have his own personal Matan Torah! The secret has been right there all along in the Torah itself, hidden in two little words. "It was a loud clamor (at Matan Torah) velo yosof" (Devorim 5:19). The gemora (Sanhedrin 17a) examines the meaning of the words "velo yosof": either they mean "it did not continue" or else they mean "it did not cease." The gemora concludes that since this posuk refers to the Shechina, it makes no sense to say that the clamor did not continue, so lo yosof must mean that it did not cease.

What does the posuk teach us? asks the Toras Chaim. Can it possibly be that the clamor heard at Matan Torah never ceased, and still goes on today and eternally?

It could indeed. In fact, the Torah here discloses an astounding concept that can change the course of our lives.

The ceaseless clamor of Matan Torah alludes to the spiritual bounty that descended from Sinai when the Jews received the Torah. The entire Torah--the Written and Oral Torah, the Midrash, and the Aggada--was bestowed by Hashem on Shavuos. It is a limitless bounty that has not vanished; it can be attained also today.

Anyone who toils over the Torah lesheim Shomayim receives the same spiritual wealth that descended on Sinai. This form of ruach hakodesh aids one to delve deeper into the Torah and to grasp new, profound insights into the Torah's wisdom.

This same concept helps us to understand what the Midrash says (Vayikra Rabbah 22:1): "Everything [new] that an experienced student would someday say to his teacher was already taught to Moshe at Sinai." This does not imply that the student's novel insight was already known at Sinai, but rather that even today a student receives the same spiritual bounty that was present at Sinai.

The Toras Chaim encourages us to open our eyes and see: everyone has a chance to attain his personal Matan Torah, for when he learns, he is as if standing at Mount Sinai. Wells of heavenly aid will be at his disposal, enabling him to comprehend the intricacies of our Holy Torah. But of course this will only happen if he fills the condition required of him: learning Torah lishmoh.

What exactly does this mean: "learning Torah lishmoh?" Is it a sublime level of deveikus to Hashem which only great tzaddikim can attain; or is it within reach of every individual?

R. Chaim of Volozhin (Nefesh HaChaim III, 3) explains that lishmoh is the study of the Torah lesheim HaTorah: for the Torah's own sake, meaning studying the Torah with a simple desire to understand it.

R. Chaim draws this interpretation from the Rosh's remarks on Nedarim 62a: "Said R. Eliezer bar R. Tzodok: `One should do things for the sake of their Creator and speak about them for their sake.'" The Rosh explains that to "speak about them for their sake" means that "all of one's talk about the Torah and acquiring knowledge of it should be for the sake of the Torah: to know, and understand, and add new explanations, and to delve deeply in it; not to outsmart others or to feed one's conceit."

Thus the Rosh determines quite clearly that lishmoh is a will to understand the Torah and not a form of deveikus.

The Nefesh HaChaim goes on to explain that when Rashi writes that "for their sake" is "lesheim Shomayim," he also means a desire to gain knowledge of the Torah. This excludes study aimed at finding ways to outsmart others or at feeding one's ego, but a special level of deveikus is certainly not required.

But then, should Torah learning lishmoh be a solemn, perhaps even formal, ritualistic affair?

Certainly not, declares the Eglei Tal in his introduction. "The main mitzvah of Torah learning is to learn cheerfully, deriving pleasure from it; and in that way the words of the Torah are absorbed into one's blood." The Eglei Tal continues: "One who has pleasure while he is learning, is learning lishmoh, and all of his study is holy since the pleasure attained in this learning is itself also a mitzvah."

Could anyone, then, be so foolish as not to seize this great opportunity to gain spiritual wealth? The gates of heaven are wide open for one who learns Torah lishmoh, one who learns with utmost pleasure and enjoyment, and the great clamor of Sinai will enrich him with success in his Torah studies. One who learns lishmoh fulfills the mitzvah of learning Torah in its highest most, perfect form and becomes attached to the Torah and merits finding new insights into Torah.

This should be the aim of anyone engaged in chinuch: to present the students with interesting logical concepts, to show them the fascinating inner wisdom of the Talmudic commentaries, and to guide them to full understanding and novel insights into the Torah. In this way the hearts of the students will be full with true joy and satisfaction; they too will be privileged to hear the unceasing clamor from Sinai that is reserved for those who learn lishmoh.

"See, Hashem called upon Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur of the tribe of Yehuda" (Shemos 35:30). How did the Jews in the desert "see" that Hashem appointed Betzalel? asks R. Moshe Feinstein (in Dorash Moshe). He explains that this posuk has within it a principle for us to learn: how a person can realize what his aim in life should be. If Hashem granted a person some special power, it was for a definite reason; he is meant to use this power to fulfill Hashem's will and to aid his fellow Jew. This is his raison d'etre, and if he does not focus his unique abilities on the right aim he will be chastised by Hashem.

In the following posuk the Torah writes, "And I filled him with a spirit from the L-rd, with wisdom and understanding . . ." Moshe told the Jews that they could "see" for themselves that Hashem wanted Betzalel to build the Mishkan, since Betzalel was full of wisdom and understanding. If Hashem filled him with a unique level of intelligence and skill in building, then that was only because he was destined to build the Mishkan, for Hashem does not bestow gifts without a reason.

In the last few years we have seen, boruch Hashem, many youths blessed with great intelligence who, we hope, will become prominent Torah figures in the future. But they must constantly remind themselves of Betzalel and the principle we learn from him: they must remember that their talents were granted to them for a purpose. They should engross themselves in their Torah studies, and by learning lishmoh, with enjoyment and pleasure, they will attain their own Matan Torah.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.