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Thought for the Day: Learning Torah -- Even More Important Than You Imagined

וַיֹּרֵנִי--וַיֹּאמֶר לִי, יִתְמָךְ-דְּבָרַי לִבֶּךָ שְׁמֹר מִצְו‍ֹתַי וֶחְיֵה.
He instructed me and said to me: My words support your heart, keep my mitzvos and live!
-Mishlei 4:4
Seems to be reasonably straightforward. Just the kind of things you'd expect a rabbi (in this case, HaRav Shlomo haMelech) to say.  Yet the G"ra says something wondrous -- down right shocking -- on this sermon.

The first step is to clarify how to understand the imperative "וֶחְיֵה" (live!) in this context.  Shades of meaning are always an issue when translating from one language to another, but here we find much more than a shadow.  The word in English is used in two distinct ways: To live as opposed to die, as in: "He lived through the operation."  Or to live as opposed to be bored, as person on a cruise, sitting at the 50 yard line during the superbowl, or sitting in beis medrash learning a geshmak tosefos (to each his own) might exclaim: "Man!  This is really living!"  (I'll leave it as a quiz for the interested reader to determine where I fit in that spectrum.)

The G"ra says that in this pasuk, the word means to enjoy your time, not to simply avoid death.  The G"ra says that Shlomo haMelech here is coming to tell you not to think that learning is to know how to do, so if you've learned a topic well and know how to execute in that arena (sh'chita, for example), then you you can stop learning about it and just go forth doing mitzvos.  Sure mitzvos are fun and make live exciting, but learning torah is what actually keeps you alive (as opposed to dead).  That's why the pasuk say, "My words support your heart" -- you can't live without a working heart.  Keeping mitzvos enlivens you, but learning Torah is real life support.

To go one step further, the G"ra gives an analogy (hey!  it's mishlei, after all): Torah is the essential nourishment (lechem, bread) that you need to live.  Doing mitzvos is marmalade (merkachas).  Marmalade!?  (I translated it as "jam", but google says "marmalade"; I know when to choose my battles.)  It comes out from this G"ra that doing mitzvos is to revive you after learning and get you refreshed and ready to learn more.  And the rest of your time?

What do you mean "rest"?  What's left over after "contemplate it day and night"?


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