Thursday, December 19, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shemos
17 Teves 5774/December 20, 2013

      When we were in Eretz Yisroel a few weeks ago, a friend of mine who lives there gave me a package to deliver to his father, a rebbe of mine, in Monsey. Last Thursday night on my way home I was passing the house, so I decided to stop to deliver the package. The lights in the house were off except for the lights in my rebbe’s study, which has a side door, so I knocked there.
      When my rebbe opened the door and saw me he welcomed me in. When I walked in I immediately noticed that there was a large ‘chosson shas’ volume of gemara open on the table, with a few sefarim next to it. It was a beautiful sight. It was cold and dark outside and there was no one else home. There was nothing else going on. But my rebbe had clearly been sitting and learning in his home before I interrupted. We had a pleasant conversation for a few minutes before I left. But the sight of the open gemara made an impression on me.
      It reminded me of a similar experience I had a little over two years ago. I had taken our sons – Shalom & Avi - to Rav Don Ungarischer zt’l, the night before Avi’s upsherin, so he could cut Avi’s hair and give them berachos. Rav Don was the Rosh Yeshiva of Bais Medrash Elyon, and a respected Gadol in Torah. But he was equally humble and unassuming.
      When his gabbai led us into the Rosh Yeshiva’s home there too the apartment was completely quiet. In the back room bent over a table with an open gemara and some sefarim sat the elderly sage, pen in his hand, recording the chiddushei Torah he had thought of during Shabbos, in serenity. He briefly paused to cut Avi’s hair and to offer him and Shalom a warm heart-felt beracha, with a smiling resonating countenance that we will never forget.   
      Those who truly enjoy studying Torah, and do so, not out of duty and responsibility, but out of genuine joy and inextricable connection to its every hallowed word, achieve internal serenity, as well as a countenance which bespeaks greatness. However, achieving that level of devotion and love for Torah study does not come easily. It requires tremendous dedication, patience, perseverance, and tenacity. Only one willing to pay the price for its acquisition can merit such priceless greatness.
      Of all the tribes, it was Yissochor who was destined to father the greatest Torah scholars. In his blessing to Yissochor, Yaakov Avinu stated “He saw rest that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant; he bent his shoulder to bear it and he became an indentured servant” (Bereishis 49:15). Yissochor saw that the life of a true scholar and lover of Torah is a life of pleasantness and internal happiness. He realized that the rest it provided – not physical rest, but spiritual rest – was worth the sacrifice and dedication it would require. Therefore, he bent his shoulder to bear its yoke and was willing to toil like a donkey to achieve it.
      Not all of us can merit such deep connection to Torah study. But we can all connect ourselves with those who do have it. In a fast-paced, constantly developing world where the novelty of today is passé by tomorrow, it’s a breath of fresh air to witness those who merely need a sefer containing ancient wisdom to find meaning, tranquility, and happiness.  

     Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
     R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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