Thursday, August 9, 2012

our Olympic champions Siyum HaShas

I heard a rabbi here in Israel comment about the contrast between the focus of the world at large vs the Jewish world these last 2 weeks

The entire world is focused on the Olympics, brawn, muscle, might, physique, lithe, atheltic, sportsmanship, teamwork, competition and all that physical gashmiyus which the Greeks and Romans championed.

The Jewish world's heroes were not awarded gold medals, did not participate in any sports-like competition and yet their achievement was much greater, for in ruchniyus and spirituality they defeated and competed against an ancient enemy, the yetzer hara, and succeeded for 7 long difficult years through all manner of weather, seasons and days to learn that daf, attend that shiur and study that Gemarra.

So I salute our gold medal winners the mesayimim of the Daf

I was zoche to hear Rav Aharon Feldman the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore as he surprisingly quoted from the Maor VaShemesh a Hasidic work regarding the differences between Us and Them.

I then looked up the Sefer and the Maor vaShemesh is actually quoting the Chafetz Hashem -  a work by Rav Chaim Ben Attar better known for his work on Chumash as the "Ohr HaChaim haKadosh"

The following is my own understanding of the sefer:

In Chafetz Hashem on Shas the baal Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh teaches us

that the prayer we recite after leaving the Beis Midrash has a unique interpretation

The Baal Maor vaShemesh explains how the Ohr HaChaim points out that it repeats itself seemingly unnecessarily by saying:

we get up early and they get up early, we work hard and they work hard, we run and they run,

it would suffice to sum it up and say in one clear sentence we get up early to study Torah, and therefore we run to everlasting life in the coming world whereas they get up for idle matters and therefore they end up in the pit of gehinom.

However the Ohe HaChaim asks further why does the prayer open with the words thanking Hashem for placing us "MiYoshvei - from among those who sit in the Beis HaMidrash,"  why doesnt it simply say "BeYoshvei - along with those who sit in the Beis Midrash,?" then he ask about the running and the work which seem superfluous

He explains that the world is made up of 4 groups: Talmidei Chachamim who study all day like Rashbi, and those who work for a living yet also set aside time for Torah study, and those whose life is consumed by the drive to work and earn more and more money and finally the last group who are idle good for nothings, who dont bother working hard and waste their lives away criminally full of mischief without any responsibility at all.

Whereas there are those like Rashbi who study Torah as a way of life, the majority of us do not. This prayer is referring to those indivduals who work for a living yet set aside time to study Torah and serve Hashem. That little but of Torah whoch they study before their workday infuses and permeates the entire workday sanctifying it so that their work is also purely to earn a living in order to learn more and study more and serve Hashem more, thus im ayn Kemach ayn Torah - since if there is no flour there is no Torah - one cannot learn if he cannot support himself and his family and even his amal in work is thus cpounted to be rewarded for in ruchniyus as well as his learning, it all becomes part of the same equation, says the Ohe HaChaim.

This is why it says MiYoshvei "from among those", as opposed BeYoshvei which refers to those whose Torah study is their occupation, since they are the few in the Beis Midrash - those who also work and also study.

This is also what the double wording means, it refers to the other two groups. We get up early and so do they, those who work for a living and toil for sheer love of money also work hard and get up early except that "we get up early and study Torah and receive reward, they get up early and work hard and do not receive this spiritual reward," we are rewarded for our work as well as Torah study since the one is done for the sake of the other as we explained above.

Finally we run and they run, we run to the everlasting life in the olam haba - the coming world, whereas they run to a pit of darkness and despair in gehinom - this refers to the idlers, and criminals whose life is not in pursuit of Hashem and not even spent working and earning a decent living.

May we merit to sit among those in the Beis Medrash and that our Torah study sanctify our entire day!

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