Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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19 Iyar 5763 - May 21, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
From My Talmidim I Learned the Most of All

by Rav Yehoshua Shklar

Sometimes HaKodosh Boruch Hu opens our eyes to reveal great treasures--gal eini ve'abitoh niflo'os misorosecho. During Chol Hamoed Succos this past year a rosh yeshiva presented a fabulous chidush on the well-known gemora about R' Yehoshua Ben Gamla (Bovo Basra 21a), who introduced universal education for Jewish boys by organizing melamdim in every town and province for the sake of fatherless children, because otherwise Torah would have been lost to Am Yisroel.

Perhaps, said the rosh yeshiva, herein lies a deeper matter; perhaps Torah can only be properly passed on by a father, because a father gives all of his heart and soul to his son and only through such a conduit of mesirus nefesh can the holy Torah be conveyed.

Thus the gemora says that before R' Yehoshua Ben Gamla's time "the fatherless did not learn Torah"; only a father--by giving a part of himself--can provide the inner enthusiasm needed to pass the Torah on to the next generation. R' Yehoshua Ben Gamla's chidush was that a rov who teaches talmidim with love and mesirus nefesh could also pass on Torah like a father to his son.

Writes the Rambam, "Just as talmidim must respect their rov, so too must the rov respect his talmidim and encourage them. Said Chazal, `Cherish your talmid's honor as much as that of your peers.' And one must watch over his talmidim and love them, for they are the sons who bring him pleasure in This World and in the World to Come (Hilchos Talmud Torah 5, 12).

What does the rov gain from his talmidim, asks the Rambam? "The talmidim increase the rov's knowledge and broaden his heart. Said Chazal, `I have learned much from my rabbonim and more from my peers, and from my talmidim I have learned the most of all.' And just as a small stick lights a log, so too an [unlearned] talmid sharpens the rov, refining his knowledge by asking questions" (ibid. 13).

The Rambam's teachings about the relationship between the rov and his talmidim--his "sons"--contain lessons for all of us.


A well-known story is told about a man who came to the Steipler zt'l to ask how he could foster his son's success in talmud Torah and yiras Shomayim. The father has partial responsibility through his efforts, replied the Steipler, but the essence is to constantly pray and entreat Hashem for siyata deShmaya.

Likewise Tanna Devei Eliyohu relates the story of a Kohen who kept his fear of Heaven to himself. All of his ma'asim tovim were performed out of view and every day he would pray and prostrate himself and ask for mercy and lick dirt to keep any of his sons from coming to do an aveiroh or any unseemly act. Eventually Ezra emerged and through him HaKodosh Boruch Hu brought Am Yisroel, including this Kohen, out of Bovel. The Kohen did not depart from This World until he had lived to see his sons and his sons' sons become kohanim gedolim and pirchei kohanim for 50 years" (Chap. 18). Here lies a good example of earnest entreaties by a father for his children.


Today besiyata deShmaya our sons fill the yeshiva halls, numbering in the thousands. At the beginning of the zman parents happily sent their dear sons off, wishing them success throughout the long winter months, but these same parents must be made aware that their job has not ended. Parents must keep track of their sons' progress by maintaining ties with the mashgiach and the ramim to ensure the bochur is enjoying his learning; if not, efforts must be made to solve the problem, even if the solution requires large expenditures.

Says Tanna Devei Eliyohu, "As long as talmidei chachomim are in the beis medrash and they take pleasure in their Torah learning, HaKodosh Boruch Hu has mercy on them and infuses them with chochmoh, binoh and daas and haskel to perform ma'asim tovim and engage in divrei Torah" (Chap. 18).

The late HaRav Shimshon Pincus expressed a very similar idea, that in saying Veha'arev no we essentially request that we derive pleasure and delight in our Torah learning. Even though following brochos on other mitzvos (e.g. tzitzis, netillas lulov) we do not recite requests asking that we perform the mitzvah with kavonoh and shleimus, without taking pleasure in Torah learning the mitzvah itself is lacking. According to my rebbe, the Steipler zt'l, Bircas HaTorah falls under the category of Bircos Hanehenim, for Torah learning provides genuine pleasure.


"Vayomer orur Keno'an eved avodim yihiyeh le'echov. Vayomer boruch Hashem Elokei Sheim viyehi Kenaan eved lomo" (Bereishis 9:25-26). According to Even Ezra (based on the Ramban's interpretation) Noach prayed that his son, Sheim, would make Kenaan a slave to him and to Hashem in order to force Kenaan to serve Heaven.

Here we see Noach's tremendous dedication to his grandson Kenaan. Even after cursing him, Noach refused to leave Kenaan to wallow in the mud. Despite all of Kenaan's wrongdoings Noach does not allow him to remain in his wretched state and even in cursing him Noach prays he be induced to serve Hashem.

This case serves as a good example of the importance of avoiding despair in trying to educate the members of one's household, even in dire situations.


The Maharsho offers a fabulous chidush on believing in every Jew's ability to attain high levels of Torah learning and knowledge. Says the gemora, "If one prevents a talmid from learning halocho it is as if he robs him of his forefathers' inheritance, as is written, Torah tzivoh lonu Moshe moroshoh kehillas Yaakov--an inheritance from the Six Days of Creation" (Sanhedrin 91b). The gemora does not say, "If one does not teach Torah," explains the Maharshoh, but rather, "If one prevents . . . "

Here the gemora refers to the case of a slow learner such as R' Preida's talmid; R' Preida would learn with him 400 times before he knew the material thoroughly. The gemora says one who withholds learning, even from the weakest talmid, deprives him of his rightful inheritance, for the Torah has been the legacy of all Am Yisroel since the beginning of Creation. Every Jewish child, adds the Maharshoh, has a special quality imprinted in him since Creation--"all of Israel is fit to study Torah" (printed in Yalkut Maamorim, I, Ve lo nossan Hashem lochem).

For thousands of years Am Yisroel has been imprinted with a special ability and inclination for Torah study. On several occasions we have seen talmidei chachomim become transformed into different people after praying--HaKodosh Boruch Hu turns "poor" people into "rich" people.

The words "vechayei olom nota besocheinu" reveal that Hashem implanted all of Klal Yisroel with a predisposition for Torah learning. May He grant us eternal life--lives of Torah and yir'oh--together with all of Beis Yisroel.

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