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26 Iyar 5766 - May 24, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
The Importance of our Personal Portion of Torah

By Shlomo Furst

The Nachalas Yaakov in his preface to his commentary on Masechtos Ketanos quotes the remarkably inspirational words of the Midrash Rabboh: "Rabbi Yitzchok said: `What the prophets were to prophesy in the future, in each and every future generation, was [already] received on Sinai . . . And not only did every prophet receive his prophecy from Sinai, but also the chachomim that arise in each and every generation — every single one of them received his [chochmoh] from Sinai'" (Midrash Rabboh, Parshas Yisro 28:6).

The Nachalas Yaakov elaborates on this midrash, explaining that at Har Sinai, Hashem gave each member of Klal Yisroel a specific portion in His Torah. Each of us has a unique share in the Torah HaKedoshoh and that portion consists of the unique insights each of us is capable of deriving from the Torah. If we temper our physical desires and steadily work hard to progress in Torah then, according to the Nachalas Yaakov, the exact portion of Torah we received from Sinai will be ours.

Toward the end of the fifth perek of Ovos, Yehuda ben Teimo teaches us how to utilize our energies for avodas Hashem. We are taught to "be bold as a leopard, swift as an eagle, run like a deer and strong as a lion" to serve our Creator. Next, comes a warning that the brazen are destined for Gehennom and an encouragement that the humble are destined for Gan Eden.

In conclusion, Yehuda ben Teimo offers a prayer: "May it be Your Will, Hashem, our G-d, that Your City be rebuilt, speedily in our days, and grant us our portion in Your Torah."

In his commentary, the Tiferes Yisroel notes that this is the only place in all of Mishnayos that such a prayer exists.

In order to explain why, Rabbi Akiva Eiger quotes the Teshuvos HaRadach. In siman 20 of his teshuvos, the Radach notes that immediately prior to this prayer, Yehuda ben Teimo taught us to be bold as a leopard. This is often useful in learning Torah. A shy person may refrain from asking questions and, as a result, the clarity of his knowledge will suffer. Nevertheless, the bold may also be in danger because of his aggressive behavior.

Hence, according to the Radach, this is a very appropriate point to include a prayer for the renewal of Yerushalayim since in the future there will be no need to be aggressive — even in limud haTorah. With the return of the Shechinah to Yerushalayim, may it happen speedily in our days, the whole world will have a clear, unquestionable knowledge of Hashem, because the Novi Yeshayohu has proclaimed, "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of G-d, as the waters cover the sea" (Yeshayohu 11:9).

At that time, the world will acknowledge and accept the truth of Torah as the revealed, expressed and delineated Will of the Ribono Shel Olom. This knowledge will be most apparent and manifest in Yerushalayim. The Beis Hamikdosh, Tzion and Yerushalayim are great motivators in helping us achieve perfection in yiras Shomayim and Torah.

Thus, we can understand why Rashi on the first posuk of Koheles describes Yerushalayim as the city of chochmoh. No other place in the world matched the chochmoh of Yerushalayim — may this also happen again, speedily in our days.

Likewise, the gemora (Bava Basra 21a) cites the posuk in Yeshayohu (2:3) which says, "For from Tzion will come forth Torah and the Word of Hashem from Yerushalayim." Tosafos tells us how: "Since one will see the great kedushoh and the kohanim engrossed in the avodoh, one will direct his heart even more to yiras Shomayim and learning Torah."

Chochmoh, according to the Vilna Gaon (Mishlei 2:2) is, "that which a person receives from his Rebbe." Can we imagine a greater teacher than the Shechinah itself? Chochmoh leads to yiras Hashem, as the posuk states, "Reishis chochmoh, yiras Hashem" (Tehillim 111:10).

Reishis usually means "the start or source of something." Hence, this posuk is most widely understood to mean that the beginning — the source — of wisdom is yiras Hashem. In this instance however, the Chossid Yaavetz explains the word reishis in a novel way: within the context of this posuk, the word reishis means, "that which is praiseworthy and that which is the purpose of it."

Therefore, according to the Chossid Yaavetz, this posuk is teaching us that the purpose and praiseworthy goal of chochmoh is yiras Hashem. The more we understand about Torah, and particularly the more we become conscious of our own portion of Torah, the more yiras Hashem we will attain.


In his sefer Sheim Olom (Chapter 10), the Chofetz Chaim warns us against making a big mistake in our approach to learning. We should never think that a topic we are learning has been so thoroughly explained by the giants who have preceded us and thus, there is nothing more for us to explore and nothing new for us to discover.

We should not think this way at all because, as the Chofetz Chaim writes: "There are so many aspects of chochmoh that there is enough for everyone. Each person will receive his portion in Torah. This one in Tanach, this one in Mishna, this one in Midrash and this one in Halochoh. This is what we are all asking for [when we finish our Shemoneh Esrei by saying] — grant us our portion in Your Torah."

The gemora Eruvin (21a) illustrates this point very well, citing the posuk in Tehillim (119:96): "To every goal I have seen an end, but Your mitzva is exceedingly vast." Significantly, the gemora notes that Dovid Hamelech, Iyov and Yechezkel did not explain this posuk. Only Zecharya, whose generation came much later, explained this posuk.

Because the gemora does not teach us Zecharya's explanation at the onset, the Iyun Yaakov explains that this gemora is coming to teach us a basic lesson: A chochom should never refrain from trying to understand divrei Torah HaKedoshoh, even though the explanation escaped the Torah giants of earlier generations. As the Iyun Yaakov writes, "Perhaps he received this [knowledge as part of his] portion from Sinai."

The true explanation had to wait for Zecharya, a later prophet, as it was his exclusive portion of Torah. Therefore, in spite of their greatness, we can understand why Dovid Hamelech, Iyov and Yechezkel did not give the explanation. The true understanding of the matter was not part of their portion of Torah as given to them at Har Sinai.

Similarly, the Chidushei Chasam Sofer on maseches Chulin (6a) explains that Hakodosh Boruch Hu actually conceals Torah, even from the eyes of those who are very worthy. The rightful owner of that knowledge must come along and disclose it, and this is exactly what we are praying for when we ask to attain our exclusive portion of Hashem's Torah.

Therefore, we should always learn as eagerly and honestly as possible. In Mishlei (2:4-5), Shlomo Hamelech teaches us, "If you will seek it [Torah] like silver and search after it like buried treasures, then you will understand yiras Hashem and you will find daas Elokim."

The lure of buried treasure is so enticing that every one of us would search for it without rest — as long as we had an accurate map along with clear instructions. The Rambam, in the preface to his commentary on the Mishna, describes how people traveled overseas in search of riches. Many times these people would be lost at sea, never to return to their loved ones. They gave up the comforts and security of their homeland because they longed to be rich.

Thus, as the Rambam describes, with high hopes they would leave their family, home and friends — perhaps forever — all because of the desire for gold! The Rambam calls it stupidity. Moreover, he writes that there is no greater stupidity in the world than this.

The Rambam, with the clear perspective of daas Torah, saw their folly for what it was. Their ambition for wealth blinded them to the stupidity of their quest. True enough, gold is precious; but it is very dangerous. The gleam of gold, once it stimulated their imagination, enticed them and brought forth a ceaseless desire to search the world over for gold. This desire was so overpowering that it caused people to ignore great dangers and the possibility of death.

If the Rambam makes note of their foolishness, it is to teach us to take a lesson from them. Our motivation to seek the wisdom of Torah and our desire to fear G-d should be as earnest and as devoted as the ambition of those who dream of riches.

Therefore, we should not ignore the fundamental, vitally practical truth Shlomo Hamelech is teaching us. That at best, a successful search for treasure ends with nothing else but the treasure itself — and as the Rambam wrote, the chances of success are very slim.

In contrast, the end of a genuine search for our personal and exclusive portion of Torah we will achieve the eternal benefits of yiras Hashem and daas Elokim!


There is no greater way of achieving this priceless yiras Hashem than by embarking upon the path to claim our personal portion of Torah. After we have prayed and worked our hardest and then, finally experience the unsurpassed siyata deShmaya that allows us to attain it, we will certaintly merit yiras Hashem.

Today, even though we lack the direct influence of the Shechinah, the Beis Hamikdosh and the avodoh, nonetheless, Hashem Yisborach provides each generation with talmidei chachomim who can, to a great extent, make up for this lack. In each generation, daas Torah gives us clear instructions on how to search. If we follow the instructions of daas Torah then, as Shlomo Hamelech promises, we will find yiras Hashem and daas Elokim.

Talmidei chachomim are the manifestation of Torah — its study, its reasoning, its understanding and its application. They form the basis of Jewish life. They are the links in our unbroken line of communication that stretches back to Moshe Rabbenu and Har Sinai.

Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuvoh, Shaar 3: siman 148) writes: "It is known that avodas Hashem endures only because of those who learn Torah and who engage in its study day and night. . . .They uphold the Torah in Klal Yisroel so it should not be forgotten by their children."

The sefer Kav HaYoshor's first chapter writes that upon awakening every morning, the very first thing we should do — even before saying Modeh ani — is to imagine how Klal Yisroel stood before Hashem Yisborach at Har Sinai. Each morning we are a new creation and the purpose of our creation is to fulfill Hashem's commandments. Therefore, we are to recall how Moshe Rabbenu served as our link to the Ribono Shel Olom when we received the Torah.

Such thoughts and mental imagery forge a daily link in the unbroken chain of Torah, from Rebbe to talmid, that leads back to Har Sinai. It is a chain with a series of links that starts with Moshe Rabbenu and culminates with our very own Rebbe.

This is a daily reminder that we are part of the continual process of acquiring Torah from the Ribono Shel Olom — He Who teaches His Torah to His people — as we verbally testify in Bircas HaTorah each morning.

We all stood at Har Sinai and thus we all have our own exclusive portion of Torah. What is this portion? It is those concepts and ideas contained in the Torah that we are able to explain more clearly than anyone else can. Hashem Yisborach has given each of us a unique and powerful ability to express that which we know best, provided that we put forth all the necessary efforts to claim and become expert in our own portion of Torah.

Every day, Hashem gives us life. Every day, we must think about the purpose of this new day: to reclaim as much of our portion in Torah as possible. May the day come soon when we will all become aware of our portion in Hashem's Torah. Thus hastening the time when the whole world will be knowledgeable of Hashem and His Torah and then we will all know clearly how to serve our Creator with full and perfect hearts.

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