Footsteps of Our Fathers
Finding the Inner Torah
Pirkei Avos Perek 3 Mishna 10
Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
“Rabbi, that’s brilliant. Whoever thought that this is possible? These Rabbi’s really have a grasp on the ‘real world’. So gushed a Jewish professional after hearing a clearly dazzling shiur from a visiting Dayan. I have often come across such surprised remarks over the years of working with Yidden who were not yet gifted with being exposed to Torah knowledge.
What the fellow was pointing out was that the Torah has answers to every generation’s questions. To those not imbued with this understanding, it is certainly eye opening for them when they place a “modern day” problem before a Torah scholar. They soon find themselves hearing that these matters were understood and faced centuries earlier (including our present lock down. The Rema speaks about just such a situation that he experienced in Cracow) and that everything can be found in the Torah. The most complicated of matters and the most vexing of problems find remedies in Chazal and for many this is certainly astounding.
“Rebbe I have been a lawyer and am now a judge, yet, I never came across such deep insight and wisdom.” This is the sort of thing I hear constantly. The Torah is huge and all encompassing; its roots feed every aspect of life, for all of creation is in its roots. It is our task to actualise these truths into our daily being. We can do this by not only learning, but by making those lessons a living part of our inner person.
“Sure,” you may say, “everyone knows that.” However this is not all that simple.
The Torah community is renowned for its goodness and caring ways; however, we have our weaknesses as well and to pretend they are not there is to deny our Torah its true worth.
Many communal faults come from the tragic fact that although we may teach Torah, unfortunately, we do not always translate its words into daily action and thought.
We all know of certain inconsistencies which do not fit in with the Torah way of doing things. We, the people of the Torah, have a responsibility to live in tandem with its holiness. Having so much learning in our world, we should pause and ask why things seem to sometimes go wrong? Perhaps some have not absorbed Hashem’s words into their daily bloodstream, otherwise our relationship with our neighbours would be ideal and business ethics, basic decency and derech eretz would never be found faulty.
We are living thru profoundly difficult times. Every moment of our existence is being stretched and twisted. We are tested with each thought and action.
Our isolation just magnifies our deepest thoughts of who we are and what we may lack in our personal aspirations towards our connection with the Eibishter.
In this mishna we learn: “Whoever forgets even one word of his studies, Scripture regards him as if he had sinned against his soul.”
This does not only mean the act of forgetting in the normal sense of its meaning. Rather, we can be talking of forgetting what the words of our lessons are meant to teach us.
You may be blessed with a photographic mind that forgets nothing, yet, if you disregard what those columns of words intended, then all your brilliance is for naught.
Everything is in the Torah; however we must actualise this into our real lives. If you have learned pages of mussar and folders of moral law, yet you disregard all understanding of their meaning, then you have definitely sinned against yourself.
As the Kotzker would say, “It is not how much you have learned, it is what your learning has taught you!”
We are so blessed. We have shiurim on the entirety of Torah at our fingertips. We all gasped with pride at the pictures of a hundred thousand sweet Yidden celebrating their learning of shas just a few months ago.
Yet, in the stillness of our isolation, can we look at the Kotzker’s Holy words without a slight shudder of guilt?
Can we say that our learning has seeped into our daily actions? I don’t want to cast aspersions upon any Yied, especially in these trying days, however, we should all reevaluate our own personal situation. We are going thru a world reset, and Hashem is calling upon us to seek our own truth with every sinew of our being.
The Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk was asked by a student how to prevent forgetfulness. The Rebbe replied: “Repent! The Gemara tells us that repentance reaches to the Throne of Glory. (Yoma 86a) We recite in the Rosh Hashanah prayers, ‘There is no forgetfulness before Your Throne of Glory.’”
This vert’le is a powerful one. The Rebbe is saying that if we bind our lessons to our service of Hashem, then because of its integral part of our very being we will not forget its words.
The Lev Simcha points out that forgetting ‘davar echad,’ one word or thing, alludes to Hashem Who is known as the Unique One of the universe. The Torah Jew should never forget that his Torah learning is not merely some advanced mind exercise, but it stems directly from Hashem and is His way of telling us His will.
In the ‘land of lockdown’ I have had the merit to hear of the many cheder rebbes who teach young children in such a way that no matter how old their charges will live to be, those early lessons will never be lost or forgotten. Even in the stressful atmosphere of isolation, these true teachers are giving Torah essence to kids who are sitting in homes often filled with stress.
We all should take stock of ourselves (after all we do have time on our hands) dig deep and allow this enforced time to ‘reset’ our inner Torah connection.
The Radomska sums it up well: “Is it really possible never to forget a single thing you have learned? Rather, the mishna is stressing that one must learn Torah in order to commune with the Eibishter. This is what a person must never forget: the Oneness of Hashem.”