Open to Receive
By Rabbi Label Lam
This is the Torah (Teaching) of a man who would die in a tent: Anything
that enters the tent and anything that is in the tent shall be
contaminated for seven days. (Bamidbar 19:14)
Reish Lakish says, “From where do we know that the Torah is only
maintained by someone who kills himself over it? As it says: This is the
Torah of the man who would die in a tent…” (Brochos 43B)
Every man of Israel is obligated in learning Torah whether he is poor or
rich whether he is physically wholesome or languishing whether he is a
youngster or an elder whose energies have waned, even if he is a poor
person that must be provided for from charity and he needs to go door to
door and even a man with a wife and children is obligated to fix for
himself time to learn. (Rambam: Laws of Talmud Torah 1:8)
If the Torah is “a tree of life” then why is one expected to kill himself
over it? What does that mean? It seems too extreme.
It is well known that R. Ephraim Margulies, the author of the Mateh
Ephraim was not only a great scholar but a wealthy businessman. Many hours
in the day he would cloister himself in his study and would remain removed
from all his worldly concerns while he became immersed in Torah study.
Even the most important business matters would not distract him from his
learning. How did he do it? He posed the following hypothetical to his
family and associates, “Imagine for your selves what you would do if I was
dead, no longer in this world and you had no other address for your urgent
questions. During these times I am to be considered as though I am no
longer here.” So he explained the verse, “This is the Torah regarding the
man who would die in the tent…”
A local businessman and close friend was determined to carry on his
regular learning schedule on the day he was to move. His wife was none too
pleased, at first, but he decided in principle that he wasn’t going to
miss out on his daily diet of learning no matter what.
Later in the morning he drove out of town to rent the truck he would need
for the move. The truck rental place asked him for a $500.00 deposit. He
didn’t have anything like that kind of money on him and it meant that he
would have to double back and delay the move until he could go home and
get the money and return again. Now he was really going to be late and he
was fearful he would be testing overmuch his wife’s nerves.
When he stepped outside the rental office in some industrial section of
this town he noticed a fellow Jew passing by. He told him about the
dilemma and the man pulled out $500.00 cash without hesitation and handed
it to him as a loan for the deposit. My friend was amazed. What was this
fellow doing there at that time? How likely is it to find someone with
$500.00 cash on hand? Who says that even after all that that this fellow
would be so agreeable to hand him the money? He felt that because he had
kept his sacred learning appointment HASHEM had given him a little extra
help and wink about which he was very grateful.
Nowadays the test and the need is greater than ever to gain even a few
uninterrupted moments of concentration without intrusions from the
ubiquitous cell phone. We might ask ourselves, “What if our phone battery
was dead and we would be for a period of time unreachable?” If one would
take Torah-Learning so seriously that he turns off his cell phone on his
own, it would be no small thing and who knows what other signals he might
be open to receive.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.