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
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"
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
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
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
"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
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
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,
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
"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
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