That Demands Effort
By Rabbi Label Lam
If you will go in My decrees and keep My Mitzvos and perform them;
then I will provide rains in their time, and the land will give its produce
and the tree of the field will give its fruit. (Vayikra 26:3)
If you will go in My decrees…If you follow My decrees by engaging in
intensive Torah study, with the intention that such study will lead you to
observe ... (Rashi: Sifri)
I have always wondered how going in the ways of My decrees translates to
engaging in intensive Torah learning. Going means going; “Telechu” not
studying! If it means keeping and doing Mitzvos that is mentioned in the
second part of the verse. Why is “going” equated with “intensive learning”?
The word for Jewish Law is called “Hallacha” which comes from the root word,
“holech”which means “go”. Why is Jewish Law called “Hallacha”? What does it
have to do with going? We might mistakenly think of as ridged and dogmatic.
Just the opposite is true. Life is ever changing and conditions are always
in flux. Two situations although similar are never exactly the same. Man is
called a “holech”as he goes from station to station but is anything but
stationary. He is not a static being.
There are three general dimensions that are always varying; 1) Olam –Space
2) Shana-Time 3) Nefesh –Person. These three are always shifting in every
scene in life. Even if the same two people meet in the same place, the time
has changed, and therefore perhaps the application of Hallacha. One minute
before Shabbos is a different reality than one minute after the onset of
Shabbos. There is nothing monolithic about Hallacha. It is as dynamic as
life is active. Therefore the study of Torah with intensity is really an
expression of the desire to know with precision what HASHEM- The Creator
optimally expects from us in a given moment.
It’s the art and science of calibrating the balance point between all the
competing values and principles, between man and G-d and between man and
man. I need to wash my hands in morning and ideally not walk 4 cubits
without washed hands. I dare not take another’s cup and inconvenience him.
What if I can replace it before he awakes?!What do you say Rabbi? Every
piece of life requires toil and mental rigor just to do or to be prepared to
do the right thing.
The Chovos HaLevavos in Shaar Cheshbon HaNefesh, the Gates of Introspection
provides a suggested list of 30 things a person could and should contemplate
regularly. Here is #5:To bring oneself to an accounting for delaying coming
to understand the book of G-d's Torah, and his being contented not to grasp
its matters. And one would not do this for a book that was sent to him from
a king. If he had a doubt as to its meaning due to its unclear handwriting
or words, or due to the depth of its matter, or its subtlety, or confusing
mix of subjects or its enigmatic words. Rather, he would apply his whole
heart and mind to understand its meaning, and would greatly pain himself
until he understood its intent.
If he does this to understand the words of a weak, mortal man like himself,
how much is it his duty to do many times more than this until he understands
the book of G-d, which is his life and his salvation (from eternal death),
as written "For it is your life and the length of your days" (Devarim
30:20). How did you permit yourself, my brother, to hide from it, and to
content yourself from it with that which is readily familiar of its matter
and revealed of its surface meaning, and you were lenient with (knowing) the
If we had that kind of clarity and we understood that we were engaged in the
book of granted to us by HASHEM it would drive us to another type of
clarity. We wouldn’t sleep till we discover what is it exactly that HASHEM
expects from us now, and that demands effort!
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.