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P' Chukas – Dying to Live

07/03/2017 09:58:45 PM


Rabbi Yehoshua Farkas

R’ Shimon Ben Lakish declared that divrei Torah can only be found in one who kills himself over them. Where do we know this from? From Parshas Chukas, where it says “This is the Torah: when a man dies in a tent…” Why does the passuk say that this is the Torah (Zos haTorah)? It should say that this is the decree of the Torah (Zos chukas haTorah), like it said earlier in the parsha! From here, the gemara explains that Torah is only found among those who “kill themselves” over it in the tents of Torah.


What does “killing oneself” for divrei Torah entail?


Around five years ago, Rav Belsky ZT”L explained this using a mashal at the KAJ shul in Washington Heights, where he was spending Shabbos. A man owned a store that occupied most of his time and energy. He rarely, if ever, went to the beis medrash or even opened a sefer. One day, he heard a shmues about the importance of carving out time to learn, since learning is the foundation of avodas Hashem and Jewish life. He was moved and committed to fulfill this important mitzva. The next day, he asked his wife to manage the store for an hour in the morning, as he had important business to attend to. She readily agreed. However, when this continued day after day, she became suspicious. One day, she followed him surreptitiously to discover his whereabouts during this mysterious hour, and she caught him exiting the beis medrash.


“It’s one thing for me to manage the store for a day or two,” she exclaimed, “but I can’t do this every day!”


“Let me ask you something,” he replied. “If tomorrow I died, what would you do?”


“I’d be very sad, you’re my husband,” she answered sincerely.


“Now, imagine an hour later, Eliahu haNavi came and performed techias hameisim, the revival of the dead, just for me, what would your reaction be?”


“I’d be amazed at the great miracle that had occurred.”


“You should know, then, that when I go to learn, I am dead to the world, and when I am done, I experience techias hameisim!”


What does it mean to kill oneself over divrei Torah? It means to sanctify a time for limud haTorah and determine that, come what may, nothing will prevent me from fulfilling my duty. During that time, there is no job, no politics, no lawsuits, and no family challenges – only the blatt gemara in front of me. In other words, killing oneself over Torah means total separation from all worldly concerns and responsibilities. And this, says Reish Lakish, is the only way to do it!


The Rosh Yeshiva, in one of his last talks of the zman, emphasized the importance of having kevius in one’s learning. It is more valuable to have a time that is kavu’a than a greater amount of time spent learning but done haphazardly. Although total separation from worldly matters is a tall order, it need not be for hours and hours. Even twenty or thirty minutes of such learning is of immense value.


As we approach the summer, it is important to commit ourselves not only to learn and grow but also to carve out specific times sanctified for limud haTorah.

Sat, May 18 2024 10 Iyyar 5784