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Thought for the Day; Dangers of Learning from Ma'aseh Rav

In 1966 a reasonably funny movie was created as the film debut of reasonably inappropriate (but very creative) comedian.  I say created, because he didn't actually film anything.  Instead, he bought a Japanese spy thriller, stripped off the soundtrack, and then wrote his own.  He had no idea what the original plot was and his story was simply written around watching the action on the screen.  Very cool idea, no?

Reading/quoting a "ma'aseh rav" (the actions of a gadol) without context is pretty much the same thing as writing your own soundtrack for a foreign movie.  While that may be a cool idea for a movie, it's a pretty rotten idea for learning how live your life.  I heard once about two talmidim arguing whether it was appropriate to read the newspaper on shabbos.  One said that he had seen the rosh yeshiva reading the newspaper, so obviously it was a good idea.  The other was surprised, so he went to ask the rosh yeshiva if it were true.  The rosh yeshiva responded, "Of course.  I read the newspaper every day and finish Shas every year."  Ah... so maybe if you finish Shas every year and are kulo Torah it makes sense to read the newspaper daily.  Maybe if you are spending 14 hours a day learning, it makes sense to spend 15 minutes a day scanning the headlines.  The mathematician in my feels compelled to note if the ratio is 14 hours torah for every 1/4 hour of news, most of us would barely have time to read even one headline.

This came up because I saw in Halichos Shlomo a discussion of what kind of tzitzis to wear.  The Halichos Shlomo pointed out that there was no proof to anything from the fact that the Gr"a always wore a tallis koton made of cotton.  In fact, it wasn't that the Gr"a was not makpid, quite the opposite, he he was makpid to only wear arba kanfos made from cotton.  Why?  Because the Gr"a wore his tallis gadol (wool, of course) all day and was thereby fulfilling the mitzvah d'oraisa of tztzis.  The Gr"a also wanted to also fulfill the mitzva d'rabanan of tzitzis.  In other words, he was not being meikel on tzitzis, he was being machmir on the d'oraisa of listening to Chazal regarding tzitzis and thereby achieving another dimension of shleimus.

So next time you see a great person doing something, ask him why.  Next time you hear about a great person doing something, first make sure he really did it, then investigate why.  You'd be amazed what can turn up.

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