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3 Adar 5764 - February 25, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Cherishing Torah Study -- A Message for Fathers

by HaRav Yehoshua Shklar

"Shoham stones and stones to be set in the efod and in the choshen" (Shemos 25:7).

The Or HaChaim asks: Why were these stones written in the Torah after all the other eleven items that Hashem wanted to be donated for the Mishkan? Wouldn't it have been more fitting to write them even before the donations of gold and silver, since they were more precious than gold?

In his last answer to this question the Or HaChaim writes that the gemora (Yoma 75a) tells us that the nesi'im did not need to find or purchase the shoham stones since the Anonei Kovod brought them to their houses. Since the nesi'im did not have to exert themselves or spend money for their contribution, unlike bnei Yisroel, the Torah placed it later than all the contributions of bnei Yisroel.

HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt'l, the rosh yeshiva of Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, (Sichos Mussar II:22) learned from this a salient principle about the importance of toiling over a mitzvah. It was not an accident that the Anonei Kovod brought these precious stones only to the dwellings of the nesi'im and not to all of bnei Yisroel. The nesi'im were zocheh to receive them because of their great tzidkus. Nonetheless, HaKodosh Boruch Hu did not hold these stones in great esteem since the nesi'im did not toil over them.

The more a person toils over something, the more he cherishes it. "A person wants his own kav more than nine kavim of another person" (Bovo Metzia 38a). Rashi (s.v. kav shelo) explains, "He cherishes it because he toiled over it, and he wants the kav that remains more than nine kavim of another person that he can buy if that person would sell them to him."

Hard work to earn something ties it firmly to a person and makes it especially dear. This hard work was missing in the shoham stones of the nesi'im. The Torah therefore values the contributions of silver and copper that their owners worked for, more than the precious stones of the nesi'im that they gained easily and were brought to them by the Anonei Kovod.

Rabbenu also cites another gemora (Brochos 63b), "`Be attentive and hear, O Yisroel, this day you have become a people to Hashem, your G-d' (Devorim 29:9). Were they given Torah on that day? Actually they were given Torah forty years previously. This comes to teach us that every day Yisroel cherishes the Torah just like the day it was given from Mt. Sinai." Laboring over Torah study makes one feel the same limitless feeling of love for Torah as at Mattan Torah when bnei Yisroel first received the Torah.

"Rav said . . . studying Torah is greater than building the Beis Hamikdosh. As long as Boruch ben Neriyah lived, Ezra did not leave him to ascend [to Eretz Yisroel]" (Megilloh 16b). Rashi (ibid., s.v. Shekol) explains, "We could be amazed why Ezra didn't ascend [to Eretz Yisroel] with Zerubovel at the time of Koresh . . . The Medrash teaches us that he studied Torah with Boruch ben Neriyah in Bovel and Boruch did not ascend from Bovel, and died there during these years."

How dear was Torah study for Ezra! At the time the Beis Hamikdosh was supposed to be built Ezra still refused to ascend to Eretz Yisroel. Why? It was only because he viewed studying Torah as being greater than building the Beis Hamikdosh. Ezra reached a sublime level of cherishing Torah study and did not want to abandon his rov as long as he was alive, as long as he could learn Torah from him. His love of Torah was exactly like the love of bnei Yisroel at Mattan Torah when everyone felt a boundless love to the Torah.

Just as the aim of the Beis Hamikdosh was the dwelling of the Shechinah in this world, so also his studying Torah was a sort of Beis Hamikdosh that was bringing the dwelling of the Shechinah even before it was built.

Dear fathers. HaKodosh Boruch Hu has bequeathed to you precious sons. Doubtless the educators are doing all they can to raise your sons, their talmidim, to a wonderful level of love for Torah. They want these boys to feel the sweetness of the Torah so that they will never leave it. Nonetheless we, the parents, also have a considerable part to play in their education.

We live today in a world of "illustration." Children are exceptionally motivated by stories about great people who live nowadays, by real anecdotes of gedolim from our times. How indispensable it is for a father to tell his son moving stories about what happened to him when he studied in yeshiva: the mishmar on Thursday nights, the nights of Shavuos, the incredible hasmodoh in the yeshiva, and stories about gedolei Torah who studied together with him in the same yeshiva and grew and reached true greatness.

I would describe to my sons and grandsons the kevod haTorah that I saw on Simchas Torah by Maran HaRav Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik zt'l of Brisk. The Brisker Rov at that time would stand like a king with his army of bnei Torah dancing for hours around him. I would sing to my sons the songs the yeshiva students would sing at that time. I would sing to my offspring how we then sung Hashiveinu, and describe to them how we clung to Hashem while singing Keili, Keili, lomoh azavtonu and Tzomo Lecho nafshi. You cannot imagine how this inspired them.

How moved were they to hear of the kovod haTorah of Maran HaRav Yechezkel Sarna zt'l, the rosh yeshiva of Hebron Yeshiva, on the night of Simchas Torah when he would come from his house to the yeshiva's beis medrash after a deep shmuess. How he was surrounded with love and admiration, with all his talmidim dancing and singing around him!

When I studied in Ponovezh Yeshiva I was not privileged to see the famous visit of Maran the Chazon Ish zt'l to the yeshiva on the night of Simchas Torah, when he was carried on the shoulders of the talmidim with singing and dancing, with Maran singing and dancing together with them. Many people saw this holy event. Why should they not use the talents that Hashem gave them and describe at length such instructive stories, to inspire our dear sons to cherish studying Torah?

And in conclusion, let us not forget how important it is that a father will, once a week, go over a chosen sugya that his son learned that week in yeshiva or cheder and tell him some interesting commentaries that will instill simchah within them both, the father and son. Every week they should write down their combined chiddushim in a special notebook for the family's chiddushim. At the end of the year they should bind it and hold a family celebration in honor of that notable event.

This brings the father and son closer, and makes the son honor his father more. The father has become his son's rosh yeshiva and also his chavrusa, and both of them together are working out the sugya and developing chidushim. This approach also prevents many of the problems that bother us so much lately.

Please, my dear brothers, try what I am suggesting. Please use some of the points that I wrote about in this article.

May Hashem help that we will be zocheh to love the Torah "just like the day it was given on Mount Sinai."

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