Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Iyar 5768 - May 15, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Bomah: Unending Aspirations

by HaRav Eliyahu Friedlander

In the days of Maran HaChofetz Chaim a bochur was engaged but suddenly the shidduch was broken, because originally the kallah's parents were told that the bochur had completed Shas when he was fifteen, but in fact he did so when he was seventeen. In their estimation, there was nothing special about a bochur who completed Shas when he was seventeen and the shidduch was based on a mekach ta'us, a false impression.

I heard from a dedicated educator that even students in our day and age could complete Shas at a young age as well if they would only refrain from reading such huge amounts in newspapers and storybooks. Instead of all those pages they read with such hasmodoh they could complete all the pages of Shas Bavli and Yerushalmi combined.

Youngsters are saturated with an overabundance of newspapers. Besides the daily paper with its various additions, a different local paper or advertiser comes out every day of the week, and in addition there is the colorful weekend editions. I asked my students: "Why do you need to read so many papers? All those papers never have something new to print; they just repeat the same stories!" They answered: "We want to see the differences in how each one will write about the story."

Instead of developing their minds over the differences in the commentaries of Rashi, Tosafos, and the Rambam, our youth are trading this pleasure for the pleasure of analyzing the different versions of the newspapers.

Two years ago, a new magazine for youth came out. The editor wrote in the preface to the opening edition: "We have risen to fill the void, internalizing the need to fill the lack" (really, this was not a Purim newsletter). I wonder what are the void and the lack he is writing about, when we look at the amount of papers flooding our homes? Maybe the editor was referring to the void and lack in his wallet?

Thinking about the inner push to waste time reading papers, I had reached the conclusion that it was simply a classic yetzer hora that entices us not to learn Torah. However, I found that HaRav Shimshon Pinkus zt'l demonstrates that there is a deep connection here, which relates to the main purpose of man's creation.

We generally acknowledge two desires that a person has. One is to travel and to see the world, and the other is to know what is happening in the world by reading newspapers. Both originate from the same source.

The Sages said (Chagigah 12): "Odom Horishon was from one end of the world to the other." Even after his stature was reduced, he did not lose any portion of his essence, rather, the nature of being `from one end of the world to the other' was minimized into his smaller stature. As a result, mankind possesses the tendency to seek to spread over the entire world.

Obligating a person to remain fixed in one place runs contrary to his nature and he suffers greatly from such limitation. People have tremendous pleasure in traveling far and wide and seeing the world. The reason is because mankind's reality is that he encompasses the entire world. Seeing the world, or reading about it, fulfills a part of his desire to rule and acquire it. The more `worldly' one is, the more he fulfills the innate nature of man's creation "from one end of the world to the other."

There is another fascinating point here, as the Sages said (Ibid.): "Odom Horishon was from one end of the world to the other, and his height was from the earth until the heavens. These were one measurement." These are man's natural measurements, but there is only one choice, either in height or breadth.

Hashem fulfills all of man's needs in nature. Likewise, Hashem fulfills his desire to be from one end of the world to the other. Of course, this refers to the faculty of thought, which is man's essence, and not the physical.

Therefore, people encompass the world today with their telephones, airplanes, and newspapers, and they know what is happening in every corner of the globe. This is the contemporary person's need and Hashem fulfills it. Today, people are not willing to sit in their four amos like a domesticated beast.

In the previous generations there was no ability to know the world from one end to the other. Consequentially, the focus was on the knowledge from earth to heaven. Not only was the Jew constantly focused on Heaven and the Divine Chariot, but even the gentiles were occupied with spiritual wisdom such as concerning angels and constellations. As mankind's situation changed, instead of standing on the earth with his head in the heavens, they simply fell down and embraced the ground from one end of the globe to the other.

All of us, before we join the ravaging hunger of human beings who desire to know what is happening in the world, need to decide what kind of person we wants to be.

Do we want to lie flat on the ground and embrace the world from one end to the other, knowing what is happening in America and China?

Or do we want to stand with our feet on the ground and our head in Heaven, focusing on the Divine Chariot, listening to the song of the angels and learning Torah from the Holy One's mouth?

In any case, it is impossible to hold onto both possibilities at once, because they are mutually exclusive.

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