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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Lech Lecha

Parshat Lech Lecha

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Lech Lecha Newsletter
11th of Cheshvan, 5780 | November 9, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Eytan Feiner
The Avos’ Learning Schedule

The Gemara (Kiddushin 82a) relates that even before the Torah was given, Avraham Avinu kept the entire Torah. The Gemara in Yoma 28b similarly highlights that Avraham kept even Rabbinic commandments, including Eiruv Tavshilin (as per the version of the Chasam Sofer and Avnei Nezer) or Eiruv Techumin (according to the version of the Vilna Gaon). The Maharal (Tiferes Yisroel, Ch. 19-20) makes clear, though, that not only did Avraham keep the Torah before it was given, but so did the other Avos (Patriarchs) – Yitzchak and Yaakov.

Although we find instances where it seems that the Avos seemingly violated something in the Torah, the Ramban explain that the Avos only kept the Torah within Eretz Yisrael, yet not outside of Israel. The Ramban and Rashbam (Parshas Eikev) write that the primary site of performance of mitzvos is Eretz Yisrael. This would explain why the Avos were particular to keep all the mitzvos only there.1

The Maharal (ibid.) understands that the Avos adhered to all the mitzvos aseh, positive commandments, but they did not necessarily keep all the mitzvos lo saaseh, negative commandments. [The Maharal, unlike the Ramban, is not limiting the Avos’ observance of mitzvos to within Eretz Yisrael].

The Ramban (Shemos 20:8) further writes that all positive commandments are rooted in the overarching mitzvah of ahavas Hashem, loving Hashem, while all mitzvos lo saaseh are based upon the mitzvah of yiras hashem, fearing Hashem. Mitzvos aseh are meant for a person to draw near to Hashem. The Maharal in fact suggests that the word mitzvah stems from the word tzavsa, referring to a pair or company. Mitzvos attach us to Hashem.2

On these accounts, Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (Seridei Eish) opines that even though Chazal tell us that the Avos kept the entire Torah before it was given, that does not mean that they actually ate matzah or sat in a Sukkah. After all, these mitzvos were only given once the Jews left Egypt. (See Tosfos, though, who does state that Avraham Avinu actually sat in a Sukkah). However, the Maharal and Brisker Rav assert that although the events which brought about these mitzvos were yet to occur, the Avos knew the mystical meaning behind matzah and Sukkah and, as such, kept the mitzvah according to its Kabbalistic interpretation.

The big question, though, is how many hours a day were the Avos learning Torah?3

The Gemara (Berachos 32b) teaches that the Chassidim HaRishonim, pious individuals living during Talmudic times, used to spend one hour preparing for davening beforehand, one hour actually davening, and one hour afterwards. Doing this for each of the 3 daily prayers, the Chassidim HaRishonim immersed themselves from the beginning of tefillah through the end for a total of 9 hours a day. How then, asks the Gemara, were they able to keep up learning Torah given such a schedule of davening? The Gemara explains that they had siyata dishmaya, heavenly assistance, and were able to master and retain that which they learned.

Rav Itzele Peterberger, student of Rav Yisrael Salanter, in his sefer Shevivei Ohr and Kochvei Ohr wonders what the Gemara’s question is altogether. We have a tradition handed down from the Talmidei HaGra, students of the Vilna Gaon, (as mentioned in Rav Betzalel Landau’s book, HaGaon HaChassid M’Vilna), that the Gaon used to sleep 2 out of 24 hours (four half-hour segments). As it would seem, the Chassidim HaRishonim referred to by the Gemara were amongst the Talmudic sages, i.e. Tannaim and Amoraim. Considering that the Gaon was able to sleep 2 hours a night, it would follow that the Chassidim HaRishonim were able to so the same.

Likely so, after davening for 9 hours, they slept for 2 more and took one other hour to attend their other daily needs of eating etc. Given that 12 hours of their day was occupied with such, they had the other 12 hours of the day to learn Torah. What then is the question of the Gemara as to how they found the time to learn Torah even with davening for a total of nine hours per day?
Rav Itzele Peterberger explains that that is precisely the Gemara’s question. How were they capable of becoming so great with merely 12 hours of learning?

Yet, what about the Avos? If the Chassidim HaRishonim seemingly learned 12 hours, how long did the Avos learn Torah per day?4

Rav Yehudah HaChassid in his Sefer Chassidim (#165; see as well his Sefer HaGematrios) writes:

Why did Hashem love the Avos so much? It is because there was not a second of day or night when they were not thinking about Him, as per the Pasuk, “Rather those who fear Hashem the entire day” (Mishlei 23:17).5

While the Sefer Chassidim himself does not reveal how many actual hours the Avos learned, thus writes the Chidah (sefer Bris Olam on Sefer Chassidim ibid.):

“Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov lives overlapped for a total of 15 years and they learned for 15 hours a day. As we as well know, when one reaches age 15, it is the time for the studying of Gemara… (Avos 5:21) [The Chidah continues to enumerate various other instances where the number “15” figures prominently across the pages of Chazal] … Although I have seen that Rav Yehudah HaChassid writes that all hours of the day and night the Avos attached their thoughts and actions to Hashem, that was due to their piety and righteousness, and refers to all the other times outside of actual learning.”
1. For this very reason, explains the Ramban, Rachel passed away on the road to Efrat prior to entering Eretz Yisroel. Since Yaakov was married to two sisters, a relationship the Torah would later forbid, it could not be that Yaakov enter the Land of Israel while married to both Leah and Rachel. For this reason, Rachel passed away prior to the entering of Eretz Yisroel.

2. See further Rav Chaim Volozhin (Nefesh HaChaim 1:21) who explains that the Avos kept the Torah based on Kabbalah. The Ramban (beg. of Vayeishev) as well as the Baal HaTurim and Rokeach in fact note that the Torah learnt in the Yeshiva of Shem V’Ever was that of the deeper, mystical meanings behind the Torah. Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l (Emes L’Yaakov; Parshas Vayeitzei, Vayeishev) however suggests that they were focusing on Toras HaGalus, learning that befit the life and times of galus (exile) and would equip and enable them to remain adherent to a Torah lifestyle when in galus.

3. It is granted that the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim), Nefesh HaChaim and Sefer Chassidim (#165) write that they were always in a state of dveikus, spiritual closeness, to Hashem [The Rogochover (sefer Tzafnas Paneach) states that their learning was infused with Ruach Hakodesh]. However, what source informs us as to how many hours they physically sat down in front of a book and learned Torah?

4. See Maharasha (Berachos 26b) who posits that although Chazal teach that the Avos enacted the tefillos of Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv (as noted by Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 9:1), they each davened all the 3 tefillos, whose source of obligation is stated in Berachos 31a. The tefillah that they enacted was specifically according to their personal techunos hanefesh, characteristic qualities.

5. See as well Bereishis Rabbah 69:7 which expounds upon the words recorded by the Torah after Yaakov Avinu learned for fourteen years in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever: “Vayikatz Yaakov Mishnaso,” literally meaning, “And Yaakov awoke from his sleep,” as, “Vayikatz Yaakov Mi’Mishnaso – And Yaakov awoke from his learning.” See as well Toras HaShelamim who writes that when his Rebbe, the Arizal, would go to sleep, they would reveal to his neshama the deepest secrets of the Torah. The Arizal’s talmidim in fact remarked, “We would be lucky if we would learn in our entire lifetime what was revealed to the Arizal in his 3-hour Shabbos nap.” Similar stories abound about Rav Shach zt”l and the Brisker Rav zt”l whose lips were found mumbling while even sleeping. Rav Ezra Neuberger shlita has said that when helping Rav Ruderman zt”l towards the end of his life, it happened almost every night that the light would be turned on in the middle of the night and Rav Ruderman would take out a pen and paper, record a Torah thought which occurred to him and return to sleep. This would then repeat itself again and again.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a”h
A Good Heart

Just days after a baby is born, as he is given a bris milah, we publicly confer upon him the blessing that he grow and be raised to Torah study, chuppah (marriage) and good deeds. Yet it is quite interesting. This baby was just born and we are already putting him under the marriage canopy? Do we really need to rush so soon to the day the child will stand under the chuppah?

The answer is yes. That is how we Jews are. Grandparents and parents are invested from the very beginning of a child’s life in inculcating him or her with good character traits. And when the time comes for marriage, the child will be prepared to selflessly love another with kindness and goodness. But the process begins the moment the newborn enters this world.

For Avraham Avinu, when he looked to marry off his son, Yitzchak, despite his immense wealth, the criteria he set for finding a prospective wife was this very attribute: kindness. Eliezer was told not to search in Canaan for a wife for Yitzchak because of their poor character. He was rather to travel to Avraham’s birthplace and find someone there who exemplified qualities of goodness and kindness.

The first criteria needed in a marriage partner is kindness and good-heartedness. That is something which affects the entirety of the person and colors their personality on all levels.
Let me share with you an example.

Many years ago, a news anchor attended a class at Hineni, the outreach organization I founded to inspire and educate Jews about their Jewish heritage. Afterwards, she approached me. “Rebbetzin,” she said. “Yes,” I softly replied, “how can I help you?” “I have heard that you know many quality people. I was wondering if you could give me a good idea for a marriage partner? I am tired of being in so many relationships; I just want to get married.” “Okay,” I said, “what are you looking for?” And with that, she began.

“I am looking for the big five.” I paused, uncertain as to what she meant. “What are the big five?” I asked. “Well, one is good looking. You know, we need to have good chemistry.”

“Obviously,” I said, going along with her.” “Also, someone who is really smart. I am a news anchor and I need someone sharp.” “Of course,” I continued. “And he should be rich. I’m used to a luxurious lifestyle and I don’t want to support him, but want him to support me.” “That’s understandable,” I affirmed, trying to let her express herself before offering my own advice. “A good sense of humor. I like to have fun.” I nodded. “And lastly, I want him to be athletic. I enjoy tennis.”

I paused for a few seconds, looking her in the eye. “Honey,” I said, “good luck. You just mentioned five different people. And additionally, each of your qualifications unto themselves are zeros.” She was a bit startled to hear my response. “Let me explain to you what I mean,” I said.

“The first digit in the Torah is a beis, while the last digit is a lamed. If you have a group of zeros without any number (1,2,3,4…) in front, the sum remains zero. Yet, if a number is added before all those zeros, the sum total can become something astronomical.

“What is the digit we must put before those zeros when it comes to shidduchim and marriage? We must place the digits, or the letters, of the Torah. The first letter of the Torah is beis, and the last letter is lamed. Together, these letters spell leiv, heart. If the boy has a good heart, you have millions. But if he doesn’t, you have zero.

“If a guy doesn’t have a good heart, his good looks will become unappealing overnight, his smarts and sharp wit will be used to ridicule you, his money will be used to control you and his sense of humor will become a tool to mock you. If you’re also looking for a good athlete to play tennis with, you can easily hire a trainer. But, my dear, you are looking for a husband. And for a husband, you must find someone with a good heart.”

“I understand Rebbetzin,” she softly said. “But where do I find him?” “Come to Hineni and we will try to find him. At Hineni, we teach Torah and Torah changes and guides people. G-d will be with you and you will be guided by the Torah to find your beloved husband.”

What we look for in a prospective spouse is to be informed by the Divine wisdom embedded in our Torah. It is there that we find direction and advice, and learn what will truly contribute to a happy and holy home. And then one day, a little child will be born, and those new parents who were once little children themselves, will look down upon their newborn and bestow the very same blessing they were once given, “May you grow up to Torah, chuppah and good deeds.”

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