Excerpts from questions and answers from the book
Imrei Daas. The answers are often taken from replies
directed to those who wrote letters, and are printed as they
were originally written.
Q. How should an avreich who is successful in
his studies and also has a leaning towards mussar and
hashkofo prepare himself for his task of disseminating
Torah. Should he invest time in one or both?
Ans. I had the merit of hearing the Or Yechezkel, the
mashgiach of Ponevezh, telling the bochurim in
the Yeshiva during his shmuessen that everyone should
devote themselves to the study of the yeshiva
masechtos from seder Noshim veNezikin, to be
immersed in understanding them in order to prepare themselves
for obtaining teaching positions of whatever kind.
You write that you have a leaning toward mussar. This
is an important aspect of perfecting oneself for a position
in harbotzas Torah. Students need to hear
shiurim from a rov with perfect middos, in
which case his words are bound to be acceptable to them.
We can see from experience that the success of a rov with his
talmidim is dependent on the extent to which the rov
has perfected his middos.
Q. How much are we obliged to help others with their
limud if we feel that this damages our
Ans. To help someone succeed in his Torah studies is a
real chesed shel emes which is not rewarded (in this
world). But one has to plan this in such a way that one's own
ruchniyus will not be affected. The rule is that
although there is a duty to devote yourself to your fellow
Jew's ruchniyus and gashmiyus, you have to be
careful that your own ruchniyus will not be affected.
There has to be a certain limit in order that someone who
donates of his time will not get too involved in
chesed and forget his own duty to be immersed in Torah
and good deeds.
Q. Should an avreich teaching Torah in chutz
lo'oretz who used to live in Eretz Yisroel come
back to live in Eretz Yisroel to learn by himself in
an undiluted chareidi environment, or should he prefer
teaching Torah abroad even though this involves living in the
secular goyishe environment of chutz lo'oretz?
Ans. This is a serious question. Upon reflection and
in my humble opinion, to be mezake horabim by
educating the younger generation to Torah and yiras
Shomayim is also to be considered an accomplishment for
oneself. Moreover, the whole Jewish population of that town
is positively affected by his presence in all sorts of ways,
whereas here in Eretz Yisroel he is only learning for
However, the father and mother must pray constantly for the
success of their sons' and daughters' education, that they
should continue in the path of Torah and yiras
Shomayim which is the foundation and purpose of our lives
in this world, and to make sure that they do not chas
vesholom become friendly with unsuitable neighbors and
friends thereby becoming exposed to disgusting ways of
talking, stories and information. They have to be educated by
their parents and teachers in an atmosphere of
kedushoh and taharoh.
Q. Why is the subject of emunoh not taught in
Ans. This is not even a question. Klal Yisroel
has a tradition [on this] from our forefathers Avrohom,
Yitzchok and Yaakov, and also the redemption from Egypt and
matan Torah demonstrated to us in a tangible manner,
the foundations of emunoh as handed down from father
to son. The Ramban explained this at length in parshas
Voeschanon 4:9; study it well.
. . . On the contrary, you cannot attain emunoh by
talking about it directly because we are not able to
understand even the simplest things, only tzaddik
be'emunoso yichye. When we contemplate events in life we
can perceive emunoh and hashgocho protis, and
if we do not recognize this on our own, no explanation will
be of any use.
We have to keep a distance from those who want to understand
matters with their meager intellect, rather tomim
tihiye and so on. We should not listen to their questions
or argue with them. Happy is our lot that we have no doubts
about yichud Hashem.
Q. I am used to applying the segulah of the
Nefesh HaChaim (3:12) to contemplate Hashem's
achdus and yichud, and have been used to
experiencing wonders. Lately on one occasion it was not
effective and my emunas chachomim became weakened.
Ans. Certainly a person is not always ready for the
Nefesh HaChaim's wonderful segulah, and you should
therefore not be perturbed if your wishes are not always
Q. What are the criteria to determine whether demands
one makes on oneself are appropriate?
Ans. Every resolution should lead to practical results
and to simchah. If this is the case, then you know
that it comes from the good part and is a sound resolution.
But if chas vesholom a self-awakening or resolution
causes you to feel upset with yourself resulting in sadness
and spiritual damage, then keep away from it and look for a
way to improve the situation.
To achieve this you should make yourself happy by
intensifying your limud haTorah because "Hashem's
mitzvos are straight, rejoicing the heart," and in
Shabbos (30b) it says on the posuk, "And I
praised happiness" that this is referring to simcha shel
mitzvah and also to a dvar halocho. You must
specifically learn with a chavrusa and say all your
thoughts out aloud.
Amongst Hashem's kindnesses is the fact that He accepts every
positive thought which comes to amend past actions, both
bein odom lechavero and bein odom laMokom.
You must be careful not to make any resolutions which are
easily broken. Everything has to be bli neder because
breaking a neder and shevu'oh is very severe,
especially if it is for a dvar mitzva, since one
cannot make hattoras nedorim for such a neder.
Caution is therefore obligatory.
Q. Sometimes it happens that bochurim in
yeshivos gedolos are asked for their opinions about
friends from yeshivos ketanos who have applied to be
accepted into their yeshiva. Is it worthwhile to answer these
inquiries and testify who are the best bochurim?
Ans. It is certainly not correct and proper for a
young man to determine who, in his opinion, are the best
bochurim in a shiur, and -- by implication --
who are the weak ones, thereby damaging the latter. Even if
some bochurim really are not amongst the best, they
are still worthy of being accepted to yeshiva. Moreover, a
young man's judgment should not be relied upon, and sometimes
he is totally wrong, causing great and irreparable damage.
Consequently, it is wisest not to say anything.
Q. How should a bochur in yeshiva
gedoloh learn halocho lema'aseh?
Ans. You can only fulfill the Will of the Creator in
keeping the mitzvos by knowing the halocho according
to the rulings of the Shulchan Oruch, and on Orach
Chaim you have to learn the Mishna Berurah. It is
preferable to learn with a chavrusa and to study the
Mishna Berurah in depth, perhaps adding the Chayei
Odom, because a lot of mussar matters connected to
those halochos are to be found there. However, one
should not study pamphlets and summaries of
The amount of time to be spent on halocho depends on
how much you can manage to fit into your schedule during the
day. The main thing is that it should not disturb your in-
depth studies of masechtos.
Q. What is the correct way of improving one's
Ans. It is obvious that those who are immersed in
limud haTorah and also have a fixed time for learning
mussar will certainly acquire every good character
trait, but to work directly on improving a specific trait,
you need a rav muvhak to show you the way.
Q. Is it advisable for a yeshiva bochur to
listen to cassettes of outreach lectures given to a non-
Ans. One should only listen to mussar shmuessen
given in the yeshiva derech by roshei yeshiva
or mashgichim, and not to look for things from faraway
places, which are of doubtful value.
Q. How can one remember gemoras that one
Ans. To learn the gemora at least four times
slowly and aloud, explaining it to yourself fully as if you
are teaching someone else, then to learn again, even the
gemora on its own, many times inside, repeating the
material by heart, and then from time to time to summarize
the sugya yourself even without Rashi, just explaining
it clearly. I think that this way your powers of
understanding and your memory will improve.
Q. Would it be worthwhile in order to strengthen the
sedorim in yeshivos on Fridays and Shabossos to learn
a different masechta then?
Ans. It is a great and important matter to strengthen
the studies on these days, on which the level of limud
haTorah is unfortunately very weak in the yeshivos. To
learn a masechta not being learned in other
sedorim is a good idea, but this should be done with a
chavrusa, and the sugya has to be studied
carefully and clearly according to the Rishonim and
you must try to go over it several times until you feel that
your memory has absorbed the material. It would seem a good
idea to learn the second part of the masechta being
studied in the yeshiva, but if you feel like learning a new
masechta, you will probably study it more eagerly, and
the principle that "A person should always learn what his
heart desires" applies here. This way you will succeed.
Q. Should a talented seventh grade pupil jump to
Ans. He would certainly feel the loss of what he
missed in eighth grade throughout his days in yeshiva,
causing irreparable damage chas vesholom. In addition,
he would have to get along in a dormitory, whereas it is in
any case not advisable to sleep there. Therefore it would be
better for such a person to continue on to eighth grade.
However, make sure that the chavrusas and friends are
serious students who desire Torah and yiras
On the Derech Halimud -- The Cause of the Current
About the unsatisfactory situation which has arisen in our
times amongst students of both yeshivos gedolos and
yeshivos ketanos where the original derech
halimud followed by all the gedolim of previous
generations has been forgotten. They devoted themselves to
toiling in the acquisition of the mehalach of the
sugya according to Rashi and Tosafos. It requires a
lot of labor and patience to pay attention to every
expression of the gemora and to learn Rashi slowly,
because it takes more than one or two readings to fathom the
depths of his intentions like a lost object, utilizing the
words of the Rishonim to see how they understood him
and commented on him.
Nowadays the genuine derech halimud has been
abandoned, and bochurim immediately jump to make their
own unfounded sevoros. After a while the more honest
bochurim realize themselves that they have remained
totally static in their level of Torah.
I am not coming to teach the correct derech. The
kuntres being published by you already contains many
letters by the gaon of our generation, the Prince of
Torah, HaRav Eliezer Menachem Man Shach shlita
explaining how one should learn, as well as letters from the
Kehillos Yaakov zt"l which everyone should read and
attempt to fulfill.
I would only like to add that the root cause of the current
situation lies in the trait of arrogance, which makes people
think that they have reached the stage where they no longer
need the assistance of a rov to teach them the derech
halimud and the correct and true way of understanding and
explaining the Rishonim. Due to this they have stopped
going over the rov's shiurim as a result of which the
significance of the Tanna's directive to "make yourself a
rov" has been undermined, because it is incumbent upon the
talmid to make himself a rov, and not sufficient for
the rov, for his part, to be a godol.
Many pitfalls result from this attitude, one of them being
that talmidim leaf through all sorts of books without
understanding them. Earlier generations already objected to
this. The Chossid Ya'avetz says on Ovos (6:6)
that one of the 48 means of acquiring Torah is to learn from
a rov, as Chazal say, "From sofrim and not from
seforim" (see also Kuzari 2:72), because books
contain many mistakes which a rov corrects for his students,
and on many occasions a wise man will misunderstand the
intention of a book which is not the case with the statement
of a rov.
In order to merit success in limud haTorah a person
has to follow the advice of Chazal in Nedorim (55a) on
the posuk, "mimidbar matonoh": "When one makes himself
as the wilderness, which is free to all, the Torah is
presented to him as a gift." This gift grants him more
understanding than he would have using his own intellectual
powers, all in accordance with the degree of his
anovoh. It also says in Horayos 12: "Rav
Mesharsheya said to his sons, `Whenever you intend on coming
in for your lesson with your rov revise the subject first and
then enter his presence . . . and rather sit on the garbage
heaps of Massa Machsiyo than in the palaces of Pumpediso."
(Rashi: where there were talmidei chachomim worthy of
teaching and they had a beautiful educational system).
May you have the merit of being among the mezakei
horabim through lots of people being encouraged by this
booklet to revert to the original derech halimud based
on the 48 ways through which the Torah is acquired.
On Mixing Torah and Secular Studies
. . . The holy and the profane cannot be mixed, and secular
studies have a harmful effect on students' Torah studies.
We only have the derech which has been transmitted
from generation to generation from the time of matan
Torah by Moshe Rabbeinu. In all ages and places the
system has always been according to the words of the Tanna,
"Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and handed it to
Yehoshua . . ." which is Torah untouched by secular
As HaRav Yaakov Emden in the introduction to his
siddur writes: "When I contemplate the miracle of the
continued existence of this nation, it is equal and greater
in my eyes than the Exodus from Egypt and all the miracles
performed by Hakodosh Boruch Hu, because the miracle
of the nation's continued existence is not a time-based
miracle but a permanent one. In every generation they rise
against us to destroy us and only Hakodosh Boruch Hu
saves us from them, only because of Torah study, because
throughout the generations in the Diaspora the Torah has
never ceased from the Jewish nation, as it is expounded in
Medrash Tanchuma, parshas Noach (3) at length:
`Therefore Hakodosh Boruch Hu fixed two yeshivos for
the Jews where they would study Torah day and night,' see
there at length. This is due to Hakodosh Boruch Hu's
promise, `This song shall testify before them as a witness;
for it shall not be forgotten from the mouths of their
It is well known and we have seen with our own eyes that
wherever there is a yeshiva and Torah is studied al
taharas hakodesh with toil and yiras Shomayim, the
whole surrounding environment absorbs the taharoh and
kedushoh. This is the great and only protection from
assimilation. Those places which had no yeshivos deteriorated
rapidly, because the only source of yeridas hadoros is
the fact that people are educated without Torah and yiras
Shomayim. This is therefore an unruly education without
Torah and emunoh, it is debauchery and anarchy.
And so my brothers do not act wickedly. It is a holy duty to
stand in the breach and amend your deeds by establishing
yeshivos gedolos and ketanos for young men
without secular studies, so that Torah will emanate from them
to illuminate the whole nation.
On the Education Of Girls
. . . Even girls who have no mitzva to study Torah still
need to be educated according to a Torah outlook and one of
yiras Shomayim and middos tovos, for the
foundations of the Jewish home depend on them. They need to
be watched carefully and educated according to the traditions
we have received from our fathers. On the contrary, in our
times we are faced with more difficulties in their education,
and we have to be on our guard even more, for the dangers to
our souls both inside our camp [houses?] and outside are very
Chazal said (Avoda Zora 27) that people are attracted
to heresy, and (ibid. 16b) that Acher was attracted to
minus when he heard a min making a permitted
statement because he had infringed the Torah's command to
keep a distance from minus. This Torah shall not be
How to Learn Torah Shebichsav and Write Chiddushim
To learn Torah shebichsav with Rashi's commentary in
depth and to put one's chiddushim into writing is a
very important thing. This applies to the halachic aspect as
well as to the ma'asei bereishis and ma'asei
ovos aspect, because you can attain important knowledge
regarding every Torah topic, mussar, yir'oh and the
perfection of character traits from such study. However,
Torah shebichsav is different, because we do not have
any traditions from our rabbonim about a correct derech
You also need to have a proficiency in pesukim of
Tanach as they are expounded in midroshim and
Yalkut Shimoni. It is advisable to study the
commentaries of the Ramban, the Sforno and the commentaries
of other Rishonim on the Torah, such as that of Rabbenu
Bechaye, which includes three levels of explanations of the
pesukim, because the foundation of emunoh is
connected to midroshim on pesukim. Since, as we
said, we do not have a thorough tradition from a rov on the
correct way to understand Tanach, we must be careful not to
stumble in our study of Tanach.
Moreover, one should not spend too much time on this study,
making sure that the toiling in sugyas haShas does not
become affected by it. Everything should be in an appropriate
measure with a view to making progress towards greatness in
Happiness Through Torah
From a letter written to a friend in 5700 (1940) when he
was learning in Chevron Yeshiva, Yerushalayim.
We too in the yeshiva are busy with our unlimited
avodoh, which encompasses a person's whole life: his
elevation in personal greatness by feeling the pleasure of
life -- real, eternal pleasure. This is the exaltation
resulting from greatness and depth in Torah, which teaches a
person the correct path in life.
We also have to recognize the exalted status of a person who
is capable of attaining the highest levels, which Hashem in
His mercy has imparted to the world. Everybody who has been
created in the image of Hashem has a duty to attain those
levels and live in accordance with them, and they can only be
attained by toiling in our holy Torah.
Once this is understood, we need not be amazed at all the
hard work a ben yeshiva invests in his studies. He
dedicates his whole being and energy to it to the extent that
he literally lives in a spiritual world, almost forgetting
worldly affairs. He only yearns for progress and growth, for
in truth this entails a lot of labor, and it is his whole
life. How great is the happiness of someone who has attained
happiness in life!
I conclude with greetings wishing you all the best,
Michel Yehuda Lefkovitch.