Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Av 5761 - July 25, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Relaxing With Your Learning

by R' Zvi Zobin

The Taz (Evven Ho'ezer 25:16) makes the following important point when discussing how much a person should involve himself with the necessities of olom hazeh:

"We find that regarding the verse, `In all your ways you should know Him,' the Rambam says: `This means that someone who eats and drinks and refines his soul in order to be healthy and strong for his service to Hashem will get as much reward as someone who fasts.'

"This is based on the words, `You are working for nothing, getting up early and delaying to rest and eating the bread of irritability' (Tehillim 127:2).

"There are Torah scholars who forswear sleep from their eyes and labor greatly in Torah, while there are others who sleep a lot in order to be strong and have a vigorous heart to toil in Torah. In truth, the latter person is able to learn in one hour what the former takes pains to learn in two. Certainly, both receive the same reward. Therefore, the verse says, `You are working for nothing.' This means to say that all of the pains such a person takes in getting up early and delaying going to rest at night is in vain. Hashem gave sleep to His beloved ones for this very purpose. If someone sleeps a lot so that he can strengthen his mind with Torah, Hashem will give him his portion in Torah just like one who cuts down on his sleep and goes to great pains -- because everything depends on one's intention."


The Taz is not saying that a person should not push himself excessively because he might become ill, though this is true. The Taz is also not saying that a person should not push himself excessively because he might burn himself out, though this is also true. The Taz is saying that a person who does not use the resources of this world as he should, is simply wasting his time. Hashem gives His Torah to people who do what they need to do. For example, He gave sleep for a definite purpose and He will not give more Torah to anyone who thinks he can deny himself the benefit to be gained from sleep and does not use the sleep for what it is intended!

The Taz writes that this principle also applies to other aspects of using the resources of this world, such as eating and drinking and "adnei hanefesh," certain other aspects of life.

Adverts for holidays and hotels give the impression that relaxation is a luxury to be indulged in only during vacation time. Yet the ability to relax is an important resource for the mind which enables a person to access abilities which cannot be accessed when a person is under stress.

One symptom that a person is on the right track in his learning is when he is physically enjoying his learning. When a person is relaxed, he can "keep going."

When learning, a person needs to be able to sit back, come "off the daf" and think around what he is learning. He needs to think about the totality of the sugya, where it fits into the Grand Picture of the entire subject. [Not only in learning, but in life.] Every mind needs to think, wander, explore, imagine, create, reject; all the wonderful things the mind can do when it is allowed to sit back and relax.

We are so accustomed to analyzing and digging deeper, that some of us forget about looking for the Big Picture -- the total picture which enables us to relate one part to another and see the beauty of the Torah [and the meaning of our lives, for women]. This we can do most efficiently when the mind is relaxed and can scan the entire scope of the subject and `play' with ideas.

In former times, it was common practice for talmidim to take walks in the woods and fields where they were able to think deeper into their learning and consolidate their knowledge.

In our own times, the Chazon Ish zt'l and Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt'l walked for an hour or more every day. Obviously, they did not waste their time while they were walking and one photograph of Rabbi Miller walking shows him with the notebook he always carried for noting down points as he thought about them.


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