Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Nissan 5761 - April 4, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Intensive Torah Study in Turbulent Times

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

As we prepare for Pesach our enemies do not rest, Rachmono litzlan. Yet we continue with our learning and mitzvos.

At the end of Nisan, before the summer zman of yeshivos and kollelim, we can expect, as usual, many impressive public events in Eretz Yisroel. Major organizations engage in promoting Torah and mitzvah- observance and use this opportunity to acquaint the public with their specific aims and to raise people's awareness of important issues.

Although all this is of unquestionable importance, is it appropriate for us to engage in these activities when so much else is happening, much of it tragic?

Numerous critical decisions have to be made. The violence has been going on for more than six months. Yet there is a new government in Israel and a new government in Washington. Maybe something will change. The dangers can not be ignored, but there are opportunities.

The ticking clock on the northern border of Eretz Yisroel is also a problem to those responsible for these fateful decisions. What will terrorists located in Lebanon do now that they are so firmly established on the northern border? Will Syria back an escalation of terrorist activities?

With all these problems hovering above the heads of Israeli citizens, the meetings take place. The community is preparing for Pesach. Thousands are continuing their learning in the yeshivas that open up for bein hazmanim.

After realizing the fateful political and security problems we were facing, some will wonder if all this is appropriate. Our straying brethren, those neither privileged to see the Torah's radiance nor to possess emunah, are unable to understand how we can engage in such matters when momentous decisions regarding the entire yishuv of Eretz Yisroel are the order of the day.

Actually even the Torah-observant are likely to ask: Is this our spiritual obligation at such a time? The anti-religious are making headway and secularism is spreading like wild fire. How will some more chidushei Torah help in saving am Yisroel from the spiritual crisis overtaking it?

A few years ago a similar event was held and then too the atmosphere was politically tense because of a security threat. When the organizers of the event came to invite HaRav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva LeTze'irim of Yeshivas Ponevezh and member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the rosh yeshiva pointed out to them what Maran HaRav Chaim Grodzensky zt'l wrote in the introduction to his sefer Achiezer.

In that introduction he explains why precisely at such a time, a person must completely devote himself to increasing Torah study, analyzing Torah more intensely, and writing chidushei Torah. Rabbenu Chaim Ozer wrote the following about his initiative to print chidushei Torah at such a time:

"Dreary thoughts dwell within any intelligent person. Is such a critical time fit for printing seforim? A person will surely ask, `Are you not saying shirah while am Yisroel is drowning in a sea of tears? Internal and external enemies are attempting to undermine the foundations of Torah, and with poisonous and explosive materials want to ruin the whole edifice of Torah observance. Why now are you decorating Hashem's palaces with trinkets and flowers? Hashem's very palace is ablaze! The flame has even caught hold of the Oron Hakodesh. The Luchos and the parchment are engulfed in the blaze, and you are engaging in flower decorations?"

"Nonetheless this is the strong adherence of the ancient Jewish People to their Elokim and Torah, a strength used throughout the various generations, periods, and times. Even when a sharp sword was placed on its neck, Am Yisroel continued its daily delight with Hashem's Torah. Even during the period of the Churban when the viability of the nation definitely seemed endangered and the Tzedukim gained increased power, never for a moment did the Perushim divert their attention from the Torah of Yisroel.

"Yavneh and its sages, the remnants of our nation, were survivors who lit the way for Yisroel in golus as the amud he'onon once did. Through them the kesav vekaboloh was saved and transmitted. Our sages in Eretz Yisroel and Bovel sealed in the Talmuds, the Mishnah and the Gemora all of our tradition, the foundations of Torah and the details of its ways. Within it lies all the spirit of Klal Yisroel and the greatness of its soul.

"Wherever Yisroel wandered with its staff, in every place to which they were exiled, the Shechinah was always with them, and they invariably prepared a sanctuary to study Torah. From the time Yisroel was exiled from its land, the unbroken chain of geonim who explained the Torah, of poskim, rishonim, acharonim, continued -- even during the times of shmad, evil decrees, persecutions, and wandering -- to provide a basis for the Torah. In this way they built the venerable edifice for Toras Yisroel and left room for others to elevate themselves in Torah-study too. These enormous giants allowed midgets to climb upon their shoulders so that in every generation they could strengthen the sublime and splendid building of kodesh, so that no one will succeed in disrupting its tohoroh.

"For those privileged to study Torah it was a remedy for life. Studying deeply and reflecting in the ways of Torah study was a source of living water. Every yeshiva student was a strong fortress for Judaism. Spreading Torah study was a safeguard against persecution and a protector against those who strayed and were leading others astray. The Torah and its glow brought them back to Torah and helped them survive assimilation among the nations."

The recognition that Torah study is the secret of our existence is one of the foundations of our emunah. Furthermore, Tanna Dvei Eliyahu teaches us that only deep study of Torah, while saying chidushei Torah, protects Am Yisroel at times of danger and war.

Devoroh Hanevi'ah says in shiras Devorah (Shofetim 5:8), "They chose new gods; then was war in the gates, was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Yisroel?" Tanna Dvei Eliyahu (13) writes: "How fortunate is one who is mechadeish divrei Torah. A person who is mechadeish divrei Torah can be compared to what HaKodosh Boruch Hu says: "My son, build for Me a beis midrash since the immense reward that I have in My storehouse is yours and for you I am saving Yisroel, as is written `They chose new gods; then was war in the gates, was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Yisroel?' From [this posuk] they teach us that when the forty thousand in Yisroel gathered together and went out to war with two talmidei chachomim among them, it was as if holding a shield and guard with a sharp sword in their hands. It is therefore written: `Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Yisroel?' "

Yeshu'os Yaakov, a commentary on Tanna Dvei Eliyohu, cites in the name of R' Shmuel Laniado, the author of the Kli Yokor on Nevi'im Rishonim: "As I found in the Tanna Dvei Eliyahu who explains `They chose new gods' to mean that Hashem chooses chidushei Torah and imparts tremendous reward to those expounding those chidushim. The 40,000 of Yisroel who gathered together to wage this war were victorious in the zechus of those engaged in Torah studies and said chidushei Torah. We rely on them as if they are holding a shield and spear."

See also the Yismach Moshe on parshas Vezos HaBerochoh who explains according to the Tanna Dvei Eliyohu what is written in the Yerushalmi of Shekolim that the broken luchos were in the Aron Hakodesh that went in front of the nation when they went to fight in a war. The broken luchos symbolize forgetting Torah studies. [But the first time Torah was forgotten was] the halochos forgotten during the mourning over Moshe Rabbenu [which were, however] restored through pilpul. In that way, the broken luchos signify chidushei Torah, in whose zechus we are victorious in wars.

The Torah study that helps us triumph in wars is not casual Torah study. It is only profound Torah study, clarifying sugyos and saying chidushei Torah from the Talmud's depth, that can protect us from our enemies and dangers. "They chose new gods; then was war in the gates, was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Yisroel?"

Every ben Torah toiling to understand a shiur of his rav and composing chidushei Torah in gemora is like a shield protecting us and a spear against all the enemies who want to destroy us. A ma'arochoh, a long involved pilpul, in understanding halochos of the Rambam's Mishneh Torah, for example, foils the designs of Hizbullah. A chaburah said in kollel wrecks the terrorist infrastructure. Neither heavy bombers nor assault helicopters will save us. Only the pilpul of the yeshiva and kollel students safeguard Am Yisroel. Also our current spiritual war against the secularism that is gaining ground will be decided through our labor over Torah studies.

The same questions are always asked "about internal and external enemies who are trying to undermine the foundations of Torah, who are attempting with poisonous and explosive materials to ruin the whole edifice of Torah observance. Why, some say, are you now decorating Hashem's palaces with trinkets and flowers? All of Hashem's palace is ablaze. The flame has even caught hold of the Oron Hakodesh. The luchos and the parchment are engulfed in the blaze, and you are engaging in decorations of gorgeous flowers?"

These were the issues raised at the time of HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, and they can be answered with the insight that the best way to protect our nation is through studying Torah in depth. "Studying deeply and reflecting in the ways of Torah study is a source of living water. Every yeshiva student is a strong fortress for Judaism. Dissemination of Torah study is a guard against persecution and a protector against those who stray and leads others astray. The Torah and its luminescence return them to Torah and helped them survive to this day without assimilating among the nations."

The chidushei Torah said by the talmidim in yeshivos and kollelim, together with dikduk in mitzvos, shemiras haloshon, and helping to return our straying brethren to our Father in Heaven, is the firm ground on which am Yisroel stands, and they -- and only they -- guarantee our spiritual and material existence.

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