Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: A Jew's Soul Always Yearns for Her Creator

One of the consternations on Shavuos morning is being yotzei birkas ha'torah.  One the one hand, we haven't slept (no hefsek/interruption) and we have been learning all night (not even hesech ha'da'as/turning one's mind to other matters), so there doesn't seem to be a reason to make another bracha on learning Torah.  On the other hand, it sure seems that Chazal wanted us to make those brachos every day; analogous to the birchos ha'shachar we make every morning in praise of the different dimensions of you daily living.  There's a lot of discussion about this topic and it's not my worry today.

My worry today is that Tosafos (Brachos 11b d.h. sh'k'var niftar b'ahva raba) asks the question the other way around: why don't we make birkas ha'torah several times a day?  After all, don't get a chance to learn immediately after shacharis because we have to run out to work.  (Yes, the ba'alei tosafos apparently had to work for a living.) Why, asks Tosofos, don't we make another bracha at night when we finally do get a chance to learn?  Tosofos contrasts this with eating in the sukkah during Sukkos.  Each time a person goes into the sukkah to eat, he makes another "leisheiv b'sukkah"; so why is birkas ha'torah different?

Here's their answer: Torah is different [than eating in the Sukka] because one never resigns himself [to being away from Torah]; after all, one is obligated every moment to learn, as it is written "You shall contemplate it [ie, Torah] day and night." (Yehoshua 1:8)

Are you good with that answer?  I was deeply troubled by it.  First, there are lots of things I am supposed to be doing (and, sigh... not doing), that doesn't mean I am actually doing them (nor, sigh... refraining from them).  Second, that pasuk is post-chumash; it's Torah Moshe!  (Yes, of course there are also mitzvos d'rabanan, but we don't quote p'sukim as their source.)  Finally, when did "not giving up hope" factor into hilchos brachos?  It's "hesech ha'da'as"/diverting one's attention, not "yi'ush ha'da'as" that figures into when a new bracha is required.

Tosafos doesn't mean that one is obligated to learn every moment the way a person is obligated to wear t'fillin all day; Tosafos means that a Jew is required to learn Torah every moment they way he is obligated to breathe every moment of his life.  You can hold your breath and dive under water for a few moments; that doesn't mean you stopped breathing, chas v'shalom; it just means you took a larger than usual inhalation and will make a make a larger than usual exhalation when you come up from underwater.  You may even need to take several deep breaths to catch up from that dive underwater.  You might even stay down longer than originally planned; no matter, you never despaired of leaving the water and finding all the air you need to drink in hungrily as you broke the surface.

So too, a Jew who turns from learning Torah is holding his breath till he can return; never despairing that he will be able to drink it in hungrily on his return.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…