Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Freedom Comes Only With Involvement In Talmud Torah

I am officially old; I have proof.  Last night on the bus ride home, a 20-something young man offered his seat to me.  No, that's not a proof; after all, some people will do things like that just to elicit a reaction.  (Not that I know anyone like that, of course.)  No, my proof is that I gratefully accepted his offer.  Apparently respect for elders is not dead.  At least for us non-dead elders.

The theme of the seder night is cheirus -- freedom from bondage.  One of the ways we experience that feeling is by reclining while we eat the ceremonial unleavened bread and drink the ceremonial four cups of wine.  In fact, if one eats or drinks without reclining, the eating/drinking needs to be repeated. (I know, I know... lots of caveats, but that's the basic halacha.)  There is one exception: a talmid who is at the seder with his rebbi does not recline without specific permission from his rebbi.  In fact, says the Halichos Shlomo, it is not even permitted for the talmid to ask permission to recline.  The asking in and of itself is a breach of the respect due his rebbi.  The Halichos Shlomo notes that as important as reclining is to the seder, no one ever suggests that the talmid would be better off eating his seder elsewhere.  It seems that sitting at the seder table with one's rebbi is more important than the demonstration of cheirus by reclining.  Why?

R' Shlomo Zalman is reported to have given two (complimentary, it seems to me) explanations.  First, the feeling of yirah (awe/fear/respect) one feels in the presence of his rebbi in general is more important than the specific need to recline at the seder table.  I understand him to mean that just being in the presence of his rebbi has enough effect on his n'shama that he is not losing any shleimus in his avodas HaShem by not reclining.  (Got enough negatives and double negatives there, pardner?)  Alternatively, said R' Auerbach, the amount of growth that comes from watching how his rebbi performs the mitzvos of the night, his conduct with other people at the table, and even the tenor of his ordinary conversation is such a growth experience that it overrides the need for reclining.

I would like to suggest that these explanations are really a powerful implementation of the statement of our Chazal: Ein l'cha ben chorin ele mi sh'osek b'talmud torah -- there is no free person except one who is involved with learning/doing Torah. (Avos 6:2).  The seder is for everyone.. children, adults, the simple son, the wise son, the son at risk, and the one who doesn't even know what to ask.  For someone who has a rebbi and feels the yira of his presence, there is no greater expression of freedom from all bondage than sitting up straight in his presence.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…