Emulating the Desert – Yitz Grossman

Posted by Yitz Grossman.

“And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Sinai desert”: Anyone who does not make himself ownerless like the desert cannot acquire wisdom or Torah, and therefore it says, “… in the Sinai desert” (Bamidbar Rabbah 1:7).

A hefker object is one of such little value to its owner that he formally abandons it and makes it available to all. Let us consider what is meant by making oneself hefker.
One must be prepared to forsake, if necessary, all worldly pleasures for the sake of Torah (see commentary of the Maharzav to the Midrash). “Torah can only be preserved in one who kills himself for it” (Sotah 21a). As the Mishnah says in Pirkei Avos (6:4):

This is the way of Torah: Eat bread with salt, drink water in small measure, sleep on the ground, and live a life of deprivation – but toil in the Torah! If you do this, “You are praiseworthy and all is well with you.” You are “praiseworthy” in this world, “and all is well with you” – in the World to Come.

Material deprivation may not be a necessary condition for learning Torah, but only one who is prepared to forego every pleasure and comfort for his Torah learning will ever achieve a deep understanding of Torah.

The true student of Torah must be as obsessed with Torah, as the lover with his beloved (see commentary of Rashash to the above Midrash; Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 10:6). Just as the lover’s thoughts are always of the beloved, so, too, one who truly wishes to plumb the depths of Torah cannot make his learning contingent on time, place or circumstance. Only when one feels that the Torah alone gives meaning to his life, will he be able to forego all other comforts and pleasures for its sake.

After relating that Bnei Yisrael came to Sinai, the Torah repeats itself and says that they left Refidim and came to Sinai. From this repetition, Chazal learn that just as they came to Sinai in repentance, so did they leave Refidim in repentance. Bnei Yisrael were attacked by Amalek at Refidim precisely because of their weakness in Torah learning. After that attack, they might have reasoned that Refidim was not spiritually conducive to teshuvah and waited until they reached Sinai to strengthen themselves in repentance.

The Torah emphatically negates such an attitude. If a person waits for the perfect time or place to undertake a new course in Torah, that ideal moment or place will never materialise. Had they not done teshuvah in Refidim, they would not have done teshuvah in the Sinai desert either.

At Least He Davens! – Yitz Grossman

Posted by Yitz Grossman.

Once there was a boy of fifteen in a yeshivah, who was a failure in his learning. He was unable to learn gemara and also disturbed the class at every opportunity. The rabbis were at a loss as to what to do with the boy.

The father asked the mashgi’ach if there was anything at all positive in his son. The mashgi’ach answered that his davening was fine, but that was about the only thing he did well.

“Do me a favor,” said the father. “Instead of criticizing him on his poor behavior and learning, ignore it and start praising him on his davening.”

The mashgi’ach followed the father’s advice, and the result was that the boy appreciated the praise so much that he made efforts in other areas as well, until eventually he became one of the best students in the yeshivah.

We can learn a great deal from this. We must look positively at our children in order for them to succeed. When we think of them negatively, they begin to see themselves in a negative light, too, and fall into despair. When we praise them, they wish to live up to our praise, and so they make positive efforts, which are bound to succeed.

More about the flags – Yitz Grossman

Bearing Flags With Pride – posted by Yitz Grossman.

When the Jewish people saw them with their flags, they, too, desired flags.
The wine mentioned in the verse refers to Mount Sinai where the Torah was given…
Why were the Jewish people jealous of the angels’ flags? The angels had taught the Jewish people to be proud of their role as servants of G-d and to realize that no two tasks were the same. Every Jew has a special task in life that no one else can replace. Our Sages say, “Just as their minds are not the same, so too are their faces not the same.”(11) Every person has a different potential due to his personality, natural talents, strengths or weaknesses, and the circumstances of his life. This is what helps make him unique.

This lesson of enthusiasm for service was learned through the descending of the angels with their flags. The angels have no yetzer hara and yet are proud of doing G-d’s will. How much more so should we human beings be, since we face a daily struggle with the yetzer hara. Each person deserves a flag since he has triumphed in his own personal struggle against his yetzer.

The Torah is comparable to wine, in the sense that it shares with wine a unique characteristic. Normally when a beverage ages, it loses its taste or spoils entirely. But wine improves with age. The same is true of learning Torah. Our Sages say, “Old wine can be compared to the minds of elders.”(12)The more a person learns, the wiser he becomes, and the more he improves as an individual. Just as the wine improves with age, so do the minds of those who learn Torah.

Not a person yet – Yitz Grossman

Posted by Yitz Grossman.

Before a person learns Torah, he can hardly be called a person. He can walk and talk, however, he is only interested in satisfying his lowly desires for riches and honor. Once he begins to learn the ways of Hashem and His Torah, he sees a different path. He develops rachmonus (mercy). He becomes tsnuah (modest). He does acts of chessed (kindness) for others. He develops his mind to understand Hashem’s Torah and His world. He knows how to think clearly and properly. His knowledge of the halacha guides his actions in all areas of life. He literally becomes ‘tsuras ho’odom’ – the image of a person – as Hashem intended him to be. The ones who taught this man Torah helped create this tsuras ho’odom. Just as his father participated in his physical creation, so too his Rebbe participates in the creation of his elevated neshama (soul). Kinderlach, learn Torah well and elevate your neshama. Learn it well enough to teach. Then teach others Torah. You will be like a father to them. The more talmidim that you teach, the more children you will have. Hashem should bless you all with very, very big families!

The Thirsty Fish
“Avi, are you still looking at those fish?”

“Yes, Imma. I can watch the fish tank for hours.”

“Did you ever notice that the fish are always opening and closing their mouths, swallowing the water?”

“Yes I did Imma. Why is that?”

“Rav Simcha Wasserman zt”l learned an important lesson from the fish, Avi. Although they live in the water, they are still swallowing water all of the time. Don’t they ever have enough? No. Hashem’s holy Torah is often compared to water. Just as water flows to the lowest place, so to Torah goes to the lowest people – those who humble themselves. The Jewish people are like fish when it comes to the ‘water’ of Torah. Although they are immersed in Torah learning, nonetheless, they can never get enough of it. They continue learning on the bus, while waiting in line at the bank, early morning, late at night. They are always looking for another shiur, another opportunity to be inspired.”

“Imma, that’s great! I want to be like Rav Wasserman’s fish, and ‘drink in’ all of the Torah that I can!”