In our last paper, we discussed the great simchah of Sukkos. Still, the entire period is not only filled with rejoicing. Because the very nature of the Sukkos rejoicing concerned the Beis Hamikdosh services, we are today at a loss. This loss is mentioned daily during Sukkos in the Musaph prayer: "Due to our sins, we are exiled from our land... unable to fulfill our obligations..."
The Sukkah itself reminds us of the folly of the material world; and it is fitting that the book of Koheles ("Vanity of vanities, all is vanity...") is read at this time.
We live in an orphaned generation; confusion abounds. Those who don't seem confused may perhaps be the most confused, for they have devoted their life's work to worthless endeavor. Where is true counsel to be found?
Torah is not a creation of our own minds, nor is every Rabbi a Gadol Batorah (one of the generation's authorities). Titles are meaningless; everyone can call himself or his Rabbi the sage and genius. Many generations ago, the Kav Hayashar (circa 1700), decried the abuses of the rabbinate. How often the truly great masters are belittled and given insufficient recognition... Today, the young judge the elderly, the student judges the teacher...
"This is the main struggle of the evil inclination: to limit and confuse the mind of the one serving Hashem. In this way it will lessen and limit the lofty spiritual heights of his service..." The Slonimer Rebbe of Jerusalem, Nesivos Shalom, 5762 (1982), p. 11
One of the well known rabbis in our age said that real simchah is associated with the removal of one's doubts, leading to clarity of thought and purpose.
Talmud, Tractate Beiya, 24a. Abaye said, "Why did we state definitively: 'This is the law,' which indicates controversy? What was the controversy? Everyone had agreed." "What difference does it make to you?" He answered: "Learn the Talmud; let it be a song (zemurasa t'hei)."
Should we merely learn the Talmud by rote, as if it were simply a song? Without analysis, without knowledge of the sources of the ruling and the logic behind them, our studies amount to little more than sweet music. (See Meiri).
The potential of pilpul (rigorous Talmudic discussion) is great. Clarity in Torah knowledge only comes about through deep analysis. The Ari Zal, the great mekubal, would learn pilpul until he would sweat. Sweating in pilpul, he would say, is a great way to destroy chitzonim (external forces). The Chasom Sofer used this to explain the word "Zemurasa." Our songs and praises are called "zemiros." The language means "cutting" -- cutting through the external forces.
Moshe broke the tablets, which would force the people to acquire knowledge through their own diligence. After Moshe died, seven hundred laws were forgotten; they were returned through the pilpul of Osniel ben Knaz. Only through broad discussion and analysis, can the truth really come out.
"What difference does it make to you?" Abaye answered: "Learn the Talmud; let it be a song (zemurasa t'hei)." Let it become "zemiros" -- cutting -- that is, cutting through the forces of distraction and confusion, cutting through to clarity of purpose, dedication of mind and spirit, building of character. (See Toras Moshe of Chasom Sofer, parshas Brocha)
Rabbenu Chaim of Volozhon describes "atzas hatorah" (counsel of the Torah): When a person has a difficult decision to make, he should study Torah intensely, until it appears to him that he is learning for its own sake. Then, immersed in holy meditation, he should make the decision. (Siddur Hagra)
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein -- PC Kollel
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© Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Genesis, '97