Description: Chapter 6 - 09
Chapter 6 – 09
The next Mishnah says:
כך היא דרכה של תורה פת במלח תאכל ומים במשורה תשתה ועל הארץ תישן וחיי צער תחיה ובתורה אתה עמל, ואם אתה עושה כן אשריך וטוב לך, אשריך בעולם הזה וטוב לך בעולם הבא.
This is the method of learning Torah – eat bread with salt, drink a limited amount of water, sleep on the earth and live a difficult life, but toil in Torah. If you do so, you are praised and it will be good for you. You are praised in this world and it will be good for you in the World-To-Come.
This Mishnah is understood by many meforshim, not that eating very little and drinking very little, and sleeping uncomfortably is a prerequisite for learning Torah, but the Mishnah is describing an attitude towards learning Torah. We have to be prepared to learn Torah no matter the circumstance, no matter how difficult our physical situation may be. Even if we have only very little bread and water and no comfortable place to sleep, it can’t prevent us from learning Torah.
Rav Brevdah Zatzal would say, that he came to Ponavizh Yeshiva as an American bochur in the 50s and shortly after he arrived, he approached the Mashgiach, Rav Chatzkel Levenshtain zatzal to complain about his bed. As he explained, the mashgiach grabbed his lapels and said, ‘Amerikanski! Ersht vet men aich oslernen layden un nachdaim tzu lernen!’ First, we will teach you to suffer a little and then we will teach you how to learn! They developed an extremely close connection after that.
This requires training. This requires learning Torah without interruption, without distraction, totally immersing oneself in learning! The more one enjoys and delights in learning Torah, the easier it is to ignore personal discomfort and suffering or deprivation. We experience this in other ways – when we are enjoying something very much, we stop noticing little imperfections. If we are really enjoying ourselves on a vacation we might forget about eating for a while, and not notice that we are hungry. If we are spending time with someone we love, and really cherishing the time, we don’t notice heat, cold, or other discomforts. The more engrossed we get, the more we enjoy and revel in the Torah, the less things like what we are eating, what we are drinking, where we sleep, matter to us!
Rav Shimshon Pinkus zatzal, wanted to learn Toras Hanistar – kabbalah. To do so you must have a rebbi who is qualified. There was one person he was comfortable learning from in Eretz Yisrael, Rav Yaakov Hillel shlitah! Rav Yaakov Hillel runs a yeshiva, kolel, and large torah organization called Ahavat Shalom, which was based right near where my apartment was as a bachur. I used to learn there at times, and someone who was in that kolel showed me a mat on the floor in a side room, and he said that Rav Shimshon zatzal would travel from Rechasim, where he lived, about three hours distant from Yerushalayim, in the beginning of the week, and sleep on that mat – a thin little nothing, eat mostly cottage cheese and gevinah levanah, to be able to spend the week listening to Rav Yaakov Hillel’s shiurim on Chochmas Hanistar! That’s real – ‘al ha’aretz tishan!’ It was what was necessary for him to learn that part of Torah – and he wasn’t going to be stopped! Rav Shimshon was a real American boy, grew up in the same kind of environment we did, went to an American yeshiva – Bais Hatalmud, and wasn’t already a big tzaddik as a young child! He toiled and toiled in Torah, and he grew to great levels, something we can all aspire to!