Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Chukas - Balak

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken


"This is the Torah [the law]: when a person dies in a tent, all who come into the tent, and anything in the tent, shall be impure for seven days." [19:14]

There is a famous teaching in the Talmud, Tractate Brachos 63b: "words of Torah are firmly established only within one who 'kills himself' over it." From where do we learn this, asks Reish Lakish? From the verse above: this is the Torah: a person, when he will die in a tent." The House of Study is called a tent; our forefather Jacob was called a "dweller in tents."

There is, however, an apparent contradiction to this concept, contained in Lev. 18:3: "and you shall observe My decrees and My judgments, which a person shall do and live in them, I am G-d." A person shall live in them, not die in them!

The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Mayer Kagan, explains: in general, people set aside the performance of Mitzvos and good deeds because they are busy, and have no free time. But when it is time for a person to leave the world, then there are no excuses. That is when a person must set everything else aside.

This, then, is the meaning of the verse, that a person must "kill himself" over Torah -- that when a person has set aside time to learn, he must think of himself as if he were "removed from the world" during that time. In that case, other demands on his time will hardly appear so pressing!

[I translated the full parable of the Chofetz Chaim several years ago -- it resides in the archives at http://www.torah.org/learning/lifeline/5757/chukas.html .]

I did not know Manah Yitzchak ben Yehoshua, Dr. Mark Rozen, but I was able to hear much from those who did. He was always involved in community affairs and his own spiritual growth, but in recent years his attachment to Judaism blossomed. He read and searched for a very long time, looking for deeper meaning it the world. And the more he read, the more it took him to Judaism. And more and more, Mark Rozen turned to Torah and Mitzvos over day-to-day distractions.

Judaism became the focus of his existence. He moved to New York just a few years ago, but quickly became a well-known and respected member of the community. He was everywhere. Rabbis from several different synagogues remarked on his tremendous dedication -- his consistent attendance at both prayers and a large number of classes most every evening, and above all his innumerable acts of kindness. And besides all of his other activities, he always had time for other people. He was involved in a great number of projects for the benefit of others and for the Jewish people. He had Torah, he had Divine Service, he had Good Deeds.

He passed away while still relatively young -- he was only 49. It may appear that he still had much to accomplish, but I was immediately reminded of a parable taught by the outstanding teacher of ethics, Rabbeinu Yonah, in his Yesod HaTeshuvah, or Foundations of Repentance.

Imagine 100 people working, carefully tending the fields of the King. One morning, the King emerges from his castle to go for a walk, and he calls one of the workers over to him. "Come with me," he says, "and let us tour the gardens." So this worker spends the day walking through the delightful gardens of the King, while all the others remain at work.

At the end of the day, all the workers come to claim their pay, and this worker who had been singled out comes with them. The other workers say to him, "what can you take? You did not spend the day doing work!"

The chosen one replies: "where I was, there was no work to be done." And the King sees that his response is correct, and pays him in full measure.

So, too, when a person sets himself upon a path of Torah, Mitzvos and good deeds; as it says in the Chapters of the Fathers 2:16, "it is not upon you to complete the work." A person can accomplish what he needs to accomplish in a very short time.

This was a fitting description of Mark Rozen, a"h.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Yaakov Menken


 






ARTICLES ON VAYEITZEI AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

It's Good For You
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden - 5763

Chanaukah Lights
Shlomo Katz - 5765

Torah Education
Rabbi Wein - 5768

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Point of Order
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

Mitzvah Lamp
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5766

A Matter of Honour
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

> Taking A Stand - Making A Difference
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5763

Leah's Eyes
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Leaving Ya’akov For Yisroel
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Power To Choose
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765

Growing Forever
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771

Chanukah Vs. Purim
Shlomo Katz - 5760

ArtScroll

Whew! What a Message!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

Today's Chanuka Miracle
Rabbi David Begoun - 5766

Lessons in Devotion
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Nurture the Yaakov Avinu Within Ourselves
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5774



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information