Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Av 5760 - August 3, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Opinion & Comment
From Bein HaMeitzorim to Bein HaZemanim

by HaRav Moshe Man

The period between Shivah Asar BeTammuz until after Tishah B'Av during which we observe minhogim of aveilus is called by Chazal in the beginning of Midrash Eichah, "the days of bein hameitzorim," based on the posuk "All her persecutors overtook her bein hameitzorim" (Eichah 1:3).

What were the causes of the churban? Chazal (Nedorim 81a) tell us that the Jews incurred Divine wrath because "they did not make a brocho before studying Torah." The well-known explanation of the Ran that he found in a megilas setorim of Rabbenu Yonah is that Hashem's rebuke was not simply for abandoning the Torah, since actually they were engaged in Torah, and therefore the Sages wondered why the land was lost. "Until HaKodosh Boruch Hu Himself who discerns the depths of the heart, explained that they did not make a brochoh over the Torah before [studying it], i.e., the Torah did not seem important enough to them to make a brochoh over it."

During this period it is sensible that we strengthen ourselves in Torah study so as to correct our imperfection that caused the churban. This is especially so since a few days after Tishah B'Av is the 15th of Av, about which the Mishnah (Nedorim 4:8) writes, "There were no yomim tovim for Yisroel like the 15th of Av." The gemora (Ta'anis 31a) explains that "it was the day they stopped cutting wood for the ma'arochoh."

Maran HaRav Y. S. Kahaneman at the openings of the Ponevezh Yeshiva's yarchei kalah cited Rabbenu Gershom's explanation many times (Bova Basra 121b): "When they were busy in cutting wood for the ma'arochoh they could not study Torah. On the day they stopped cutting wood they made it a yom tov since afterwards they would be engaged in studying Torah."

The period after Tishah B'Av is popularly called bein hazemanim (the inter-session of yeshivos). It is customary that during these three weeks yeshiva students who toil the whole year over their studies change their regular study program. Maran HaRav E. M. Shach shlita writes that the purpose of the bein hazemanim is "to rest up and accumulate strength so we can better fortify ourselves in the labor of Torah study." This is a fulfillment of the posuk we read at the haftoroh of Shabbos Nachamu: "They that wait upon Hashem shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Yeshaya 40:31).

The Rosh Yeshiva in a letter to the roshei yeshivos of the yeshivos gedolos veketanos writes: "I fully agree with you that the vacation we are accustomed to during this period should be days of recuperation and rest, to boost our strength and to increase Torah study, and that, chas vesholom, the opposite should not be caused by this vacation."

Yaakov conferred a brochoh to his son Yissochor: "Yissochor is a strong donkey couching down between the sheepfolds. He saw that rest was good and the land was pleasant and he bowed his shoulder to bear and became a servant to tribute" (Bereishis 49:14-15).

Of all animals, why was Yissochor compared to a donkey?

I once heard that there is a difference between how a donkey and a horse rest. When the horse returns after a hard day's work and wants to rest, we must first remove the packages tied to it. However with a donkey this is not so. The packages can remain strapped to it. All it needs is a quiet corner and it will rest there.

When a person plans to visit or take a vacation in some unfamiliar place, he first inquires as to whether he can eat and stay there. He does not want to, chas vesholom, eat any ma'acholos assuros or to do any other aveiros. A yeshiva student too must be careful where he is during bein hazemanim so he will not be negligent in his Torah study and not remove the yoke of Torah from himself. He must be like a donkey that rests with the burden still on him.

The Chazon Ish writes (Igros Chazon Ish 2:3): "My dear friend, I want to reinforce your Torah study since Chazal teach us that Torah study needs such strengthening. I know that you will not allow yourself to do what the Torah commands us not to do, and that you never ate unkosher meat, that you never profaned the Shabbos, but on the other hand, you treat the aveirah of bitul Torah casually and are ready to act with lightheadedness towards it."

The way for a yeshiva student to beware of bitul Torah is to try and really understand the benefit of continuing in the same way he studied in the yeshiva. He must greatly appreciate the necessity of studying Torah during bein hazemanim and intensify his study.

My older brother, HaRav Dovid Man shlita, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Knesses Chizkiyahu in Kfar Chasidim, in his sefer on the Torah called Di Be'er, explains the posuk: "He saw that rest was good" according to an explanation of the Or HaChaim.

There are three categories of acts in the world: what is good, what is beneficial, and what is sweet. Rest in Olam HaBoh is the essence of good, but the good that a person feels in this world is only "sweet." Yissochor therefore chose the rest of Olam HaBoh.

But that choice is common sense and why was only Yissochor zoche to act like this?

The Torah emphasizes "he saw that rest was good." A person who lives in Olam HaZeh sees only its sweetness but does not "see" the "rest" in Olam HaBo. He only understands and believes in the rest of Olam HaBo as being the real good. When there is a conflict between what he sees and feels, and what he understands and believes, then what he sees with his two eyes prevails over what he only understands. That person naturally chooses what is "sweet" and not what is good.

People say that if Olam HaBoh were here in this world and Olam HaZeh were only described in Reishis Chochmah there would be no difficulty in choosing Olam HaBoh. The only difficulty is that the opposite is true: Olam HaZeh is here and Gehenom is described in Reishis Chochmah.

In this respect Yissochor was different from the other shevotim. He actually saw the "rest". "He saw that rest was good." When one actually sees what is "good" he knows that anything else is only temporarily "sweet" and naturally chooses the "rest" of Olam HaBo that is actually good.

"R' Shimon says: If three have eaten at the same table and not spoken words of Torah there, it is as if they have eaten of offerings to the dead idols . . . but if three have eaten at the same table and have spoken words of Torah there it is as if they have eaten from the table of the Omnipresent" (Ovos 3:4). Maran HaRav Aharon Kotler zt'l, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Lakewood in New Jersey, in Mishnas R' Aharon (II), explains that besides being a mitzvah, eating is essential for man to maintain his life. If man eats with kedushah it is as if he has eaten from Hashem's table, but if his eating is, chas vesholom, not with kedushah, it is as if he has eaten korbonos to dead idols. This is not because of the sin of bitul Torah but because what he had eaten was blemished, it being without divrei Torah, and has become materialistic.

A person should not aim to derive physical enjoyment in Olam HaZeh. The only desirable aim for man is to add kedushah to himself. Olam HaZeh assists us to do this. Anything a person does for his welfare should be done for the sake of his being able to live in a way of kedushah and not, chas vesholom, because of other reasons.

Someone once asked HaRav Chaim of Volozhin zt'l what are the sedorim (set study sessions) in his yeshiva. R' Chaim answered: "We have no set sedorim at all. The only seder is for eating and resting. Studying Torah has no set times, no limitations. The whole time is designated for Torah study."

This should be a person's attitude towards bein hazemanim. Actually all hours of the day are designated for Torah study and there is no fixed study session for our Torah studies. But since just like for eating and resting we must have a set time, now that it is bein hazemanim, our schedule has somewhat changed and those times allocated for eating and resting have been lengthened.

In Daas Torah (parshas Vayechi) Maran R' Yeruchom Lebovitz zt'l of Yeshivas Mir explains that peace of mind and behaving in a collected manner are ways of acquiring Torah knowledge. Would it therefore not have been more proper that the Torah be given to am Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel, when "every man is under his vine and under his fig tree" (I Melochim 5:5) and not in the barren desert after suffering, wandering, and lack of rest?

Indeed receiving the Torah needs relaxation, but the real rest needed for receiving the Torah is the rest which results from breaking one's body and decreasing his physical enjoyments. If after all these annoyances and after "He humbled you and suffered you to hunger" (Devorim 8:3) a person remains resolute, he is the person who can properly receive the Torah. In Eretz Yisroel where we enjoyed material abundance we could not receive the Torah . . . since if a person becomes accustomed to rest and superior material conditions, if he lacks nothing, when his situation veers slightly from what he is accustomed to that will bother him and altogether dislodge him from avodas Hashem.

Another point to be discussed about bein hazemanim is that it should not be a break in the studies of the previous zman. Maran HaRav E. M. Shach shlita wrote in a letter dated Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5751 (1991), that: "Bein hazemanim is not intended for discontinuing one's studies. It is intended for rest, for strengthening oneself, and for reviewing what one has studied. If one, however, ignores studying Torah during bein hazemanim a break has indeed been formed, and afterwards "all beginnings are difficult" (Rashi, Shemos 19:5).

The Rosh Yeshiva cites Rashi's statement in the beginning of Vayikro "The pauses [between the parshiyos of korbonos] gave an interval for Moshe to mediate between one parshah and the other and between one matter and the other, and [surely one should act in such a way] when a person learns from another." "This teaches us," says the Rosh Yeshiva, "that there is an interval that connects between the past and the future." The interruption is not, cholilah, meant to sever the past from the future but, on the contrary, to tie them together.

The importance of not severing the past from the future is emphasized in a shmuess of HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz zt'l, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva (Sichos Mussar, vol. 1).

When R' Akiva returned home after twelve years of studying Torah, before he entered his house, outside the door he heard his wife telling another woman that if R' Akiva would listen to her he would remain another twelve years in the beis midrash before coming home. When R' Akiva heard this he immediately returned to his studies and did not enter his house for even one moment.

Is this anecdote at all possible for us to understand? Where was R' Akiva's gratitude for all he owed his wife? She was the one who transformed him from a lowly shepherd to a godol hador. Why did he not come home for even one moment to give her nachas, to show how much he had progressed in his studies?

There is a pivotal principle being taught to us. Two halves are not similar to one whole even when the two halves are in front of us. Although twenty- four years is two times twelve years, they are not worth the same as one unit of twenty-four years. All that R' Akiva was zocheh through his uninterrupted twenty-four years of Torah study could never have been if he had studied for two periods of twelve years although the interlude between these two periods was only for one moment!

"There are boys," records the Pninei Rabbenu HaKehilos Yaakov in the name of HaRav Y. Y. Kanievsky zt'l, "who think bein hazemanim is hefkeir and that they are exempt from studying Torah. This is a grave mistake! There is no time that is exempt from the obligation of Talmud Torah. I know of several people who became gedolei Torah because of their zechus of being careful to study even during bein hazemanim. There are two reasons for this: (1) There is more Divine Assistance when studying at a time that others do not value and are not studying. (2) Because during bein hazemanim one has the opportunity to study those areas of the Torah that he really wants to but there was no time for them during the zman."

In addition, the Steipeler Rav once said to a cheder boy who would soon be entering yeshiva ketanah, "If you also study beyond the sedorim time you will become an odom godol. All those who studied at times besides the sedorim became gedolim."

Sometimes there is a condition of bein hazemanim although it is not actually bein hazemanim. It is told about HaRav Zelig Reuben Benges zt'l, the av beis din of Yerushalayim, that each year he was accustomed to make a siyum on the whole Shas. A short time before his petirah he said to a member of his household: "Today I was zocheh to finish the Shas the hundred and first time."

In one of the siyumim in which Maran HaRav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach zt'l and yblc't Maran HaRav Y.S. Eliashiv shlita took part, they remembered that only five months passed since HaRav Benges had made the previous siyum. This aroused the curiosity of those who attended the siyum. Indeed in HaRav Benges's speech everything became clear. He said at the siyum: "My whole life I distanced myself from the yoke of rabbunus that interferes with studying Torah . . . and by serving as rav of Yerushalayim I almost have no time to study Torah. Either there is a funeral, a sandeko'us, or a wedding to officiate at. I am forced to wait precious minutes at these affairs and others until the moheil or the car that will take me there arrives. After I saw that my time is being wasted I decided to make a `special seder' for these moments of waiting. The siyum of this special seder I am now celebrating."

It is told that a person once visited Maran the Steipeler Rav zt'l on an exceptionally warm day. The Steipeler remarked that the day was very warm. The person answered that he can install him an air conditioner in his room. The Steipeler laughed and said: "I am from the old generation and I do not need anything . . . Over there in the other apartment, that of my daughter, there is a fan that blows wind. I do not need it either." The man again tried to suggest to the Steipeler to come and rest in his house at night since there is good air there and he would take care of all the Steipeler's needs. The Steipeler smiled and said: "My rest is sitting here at the table near the gemora . . .."

HaRav Moshe Man is the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Beer Yitzchak.

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