From Bitter Pill to Sweet Delight:How Your Perception of Torah Can Change
1 א


To many, learning Torah is like reading Chinese.

2 ב

תניא אמר רבי עקיבא כשהייתי עם הארץ אמרתי מי יתן לי תלמיד חכם ואנשכנו כחמור אמרו לו תלמידיו רבי אמור ככלב אמר להן זה נושך ושובר עצם וזה נושך ואינו שובר עצם:

It was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Akiva said: When I was an ignoramus I said: Who will give me a Torah scholar so that I will bite him like a donkey? His students said to him: Master, say that you would bite him like a dog! He said to them: I specifically used that wording, as this one, a donkey, bites and breaks bones, and that one, a dog, bites but does not break bones.

3 ג

(יט) וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם רְבִיעִֽי: (כג) וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם חֲמִישִֽׁי׃(לא) וַיַּ֤רְא אֱלֹקִים֙ אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֔ה וְהִנֵּה־ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם הַשִּׁשִּֽׁי׃

(19) And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. (23) And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. (31) And Hashem saw all that He ahd did and it was very good, and there was evening and there was morning the sixth day​.

4 ד

(לא) יום הששי הוֹסִיף ה' בַּשִּׁשִּׁי בִגְמַר מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית, לוֹמַר שֶׁהִתְנָה עִמָּהֶם, עַל מְנָת שַׁיְּקַבְּלוּ עֲלֵיהֶם יִשׂרָאֵל חֲמִשָּׁה חוּמְשֵׁי תוֹרָה דָּבָר אַחֵר יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי, כֻּלָּם תְּלוּיִם וְעוֹמְדִים עַד יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי, הוּא ו’בְּסִיוָן (הַמּוּכָן לְמַתַּן תּוֹרָה):

(31) יום הששי THE SIXTH DAY — The letter ה, the numerical value of which is 5, is added to the word ששי when the work of Creation was complete, to imply that He made a stipulation with them that it endures only upon condition that Israel should accept the five books of the Torah (Shabbat 88a). Another interpretation of יום הששי THE SIXTH DAY — The whole Creation (the Universe) stood in a state of suspense (moral imperfection) until the sixth day — that is, the sixth day of Sivan which was destined to be the day when the Torah would be given to Israel (Avodah Zara 3a).
5 ה

(יז) אֶת־ה' הֶאֱמַ֖רְתָּ הַיּ֑וֹם לִהְיוֹת֩ לְךָ֨ לֵֽאלֹקִ֜ים וְלָלֶ֣כֶת בִּדְרָכָ֗יו וְלִשְׁמֹ֨ר חֻקָּ֧יו וּמִצְוֺתָ֛יו וּמִשְׁפָּטָ֖יו וְלִשְׁמֹ֥עַ בְּקֹלֽוֹ׃

(17) You have affirmed this day that the LORD is your God, that you will walk in His ways, that you will observe His laws and commandments and rules, and that you will obey Him.

6 ו

(טז) היום הזה ה' אלקיך מצוך. בְּכָל יוֹם יִהְיוּ בְעֵינֶיךָ חֲדָשִׁים כְּאִילוּ בוֹ בַיּוֹם נִצְטַוֵּיתָ עֲלֵיהֶם (תנחומא):

(16) היום הזה ה׳ אלהיך מצוך THIS DAY THE LORD THY GOD COMMANDETH THEE — This suggests: each day they (God’s commandments) should be to you as something new (not antiquated and something of which you have become tired), as though you had received the commands that very day for the first time (Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Tavo 1; cf. Rashi on Deuteronomy 11:13). (17) ושמרת ועשית אותם THOU SHALT THEREFORE KEEP AND DO THEM — A heavenly voice (בת קול) pronounces by these words a blessing upon him (the worshipper): “You have brought the first fruits today — you will be privileged to do so next year, too!” (Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Tavo 1).

7 ז

מַה דָּגִים הַלָּלוּ גְּדֵלִין בְּמַיִם כֵּיוָן שֶׁיּוֹרֶדֶת טִפָּה אַחַת מִלְּמַעְלָה מְקַבְּלִין אוֹתָהּ בְּצִמָּאוֹן כְּמִי שֶׁלֹא טָעֲמוּ טַעַם מַיִם מִימֵיהוֹן, כָּךְ הֵן יִשְׂרָאֵל גְּדֵלִין בַּמַּיִם בַּתּוֹרָה, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהֵן שׁוֹמְעִין דָּבָר חָדָשׁ מִן הַתּוֹרָה הֵן מְקַבְּלִין אוֹתוֹ בְּצִמָאוֹן כְּמִי שֶׁלֹא שָׁמְעוּ דְּבַר תּוֹרָה מִימֵיהוֹן.

Just as fish which live in water, drink up the fresh drops when it rains as if they have never had water in their lives, so to the Jewish people live in the water of Torah, and when they hear a new idea in Torah they drink it up as if they had never heard a word of Torah their entire lives.

8 ח

(יא) כִּ֚י הַמִּצְוָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם לֹֽא־נִפְלֵ֥את הִוא֙ מִמְּךָ֔ וְלֹ֥א רְחֹקָ֖ה הִֽוא׃ (יב) לֹ֥א בַשָּׁמַ֖יִם הִ֑וא לֵאמֹ֗ר מִ֣י יַעֲלֶה־לָּ֤נוּ הַשָּׁמַ֙יְמָה֙ וְיִקָּחֶ֣הָ לָּ֔נוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵ֥נוּ אֹתָ֖הּ וְנַעֲשֶֽׂנָּה׃

(11) Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. (12) It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”
9 ט

(יב) לא בשמים הוא. שֶׁאִלּוּ הָיְתָה בַשָּׁמַיִם, הָיִיתָ צָרִיךְ לַעֲלוֹת אַחֲרֶיהָ לְלָמְּדָהּ:

(12) לא בשמים הוא IT IS NOT IN HEAVEN — for were it in heaven it would still be your duty to go up after it and to learn it (Eruvin 55a).
10 י

- Rav Matisyahu Solomon (Mashgiach of Lakewood) asks, if the Torah would have never been given, how Bnei Yisrael ever know to search for it in the first place? He answers with the following story – Rav Chatzkel Levenshtein relatives were visiting from America and were staying by his house. Before they left they wanted to give the Levenshtein’s some money for their warm hospitality. Although the Levenshtein’s were pretty poor and did not have much money or possessions, rebbetzin Levenshtein refused to accept any handouts. The relatives decided to go to an appliance store in Tel Aviv and purchase the latest washer and dryer model for them plus the cost for installation. A few days later the rebbetzin heard a knock on the door, and to her amazement she found a beautiful washer and dryer there which the workers installed for her. Later that day Rav Chatzkel came home from Yeshiva and walks into his house to find his wife crying on the kitchen table. He asks her what is wrong and she relays to him that she received this nice gift from the relatives, but she doesn’t know how to use it. Rav Chatzkel says that there must be an instruction book somewhere, and walks over to the washer and dryer to locate it. He lifts up the lid, but it wasn’t there. He checks all the areas of it, but with no avail, and then he thinks to look underneath the washer, and to his luck, the instruction manual was taped to the bottom of it. He says to his wife, “Something as complicated as this must come with instructions.”

Rav Matisyahu Solomon explains that the world is a very confusing and complex place. Many people are depressed and have this problem or that problem. He says that we humans are also very complex people and we certainly need a means to properly navigate this world. Had the Torah not been given, we would have realized we were missing meaning in life and gone to great lengths to search for meaning, we even would have checked up in shamayim.

11 יא

(ג) הֵבִיאוּ לְפָנָיו דָּבָר שֶׁבִּרְכָּתוֹ בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ וְדָבָר שֶׁבִּרְכָּתוֹ שֶׁהַכֹּל, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ קוֹדֶמֶת שֶׁהִיא חֲשׁוּבָה שֶׁאֵינָהּ פּוֹטֶרֶת אֶלָּא דָּבָר אֶחָד; וְכֵן בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה וְשֶׁהַכֹּל, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה קוֹדֶמֶת; וְאִם הֵבִיאוּ לְפָנָיו בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ וּבוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה, אֵיזֶה מֵהֶם שֶׁיִּרְצֶה יַקְדִּים; וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שֶׁבּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ קוֹדֵם.

If you have before you a food that is ​haeitz and a food that is shehakol, the ​beracha of haeitz ​comes first since it is more significant because it only excludes one food category; and the same rule applies if you have a food that is ha'adamah ​with a food that is shehakol, the haadama precedes the shehakol​.

12 יב

עלי שור - חלק שני, שער ראשון פרק חמישי "אהבת תורה"

בשכל האנושי שלנו היינו אמרים שברכת שהכל חשובה יותר שהרי יש בה שבח גדול שהכל נהיה בדבר ה'! אך חז"ל לא כך למדונו וכל מה שברכה פרטית יותר היא חשובה יותר, עד שהברכות המעולות ביותר הן המוציא ובורא פרי הגפן שהן על פרט אחד לבד.​

13 יג

(א) כָּל אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל חַיָּב בְּתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה, בֵּין עָנִי בֵּין עָשִׁיר, בֵּין שָׁלֵם בְּגוּפוֹ בֵּין בַּעַל יִסוּרִים, בֵּין בָּחוּר בֵּין זָקֵן גָּדוֹל. אֲפִלּוּ עָנִי הַמְחַזֵּר עַל הַפְּתָחִים, אֲפִלּוּ בַּעַל אִשָּׁה וּבָנִים, חַיָּב לִקְבֹּעַ לוֹ זְמַן לְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְהָגִיתָ בּוֹ יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה (יְהוֹשֻׁעַ א, ח). וּבִשְׁעַת הַדַּחַק, אֲפִלּוּ לֹא קָרָא רַק קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע שַׁחֲרִית וְעַרְבִית, לֹא יָמוּשׁוּ מִפִּי ךָ (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ נט, כא) קָרִינָן בֵּיהּ (הַגָּהוֹת מַיְמוֹנִי פֶּרֶק א' וּסְמַ''ג עֲשִׂין י''ב). וּמִי שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לִלְמֹד, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ כְּלָל לִלְמֹד אוֹ מִפְּנֵי הַטְּרָדוֹת שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ, יַסְפִּיק לַאֲחֵרִים הַלּוֹמְדִים. הַגָּה: וְתֵחָשֵׁב לוֹ כְּאִלּוּ לוֹמֵד בְּעַצְמוֹ (טוּר). וְיָכוֹל אָדָם לְהַתְנוֹת עִם חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁהוּא יַעֲסֹק בַּתּוֹרָה וְהוּא יַמְצִיא לוֹ פַּרְנָסָה וְיַחֲלֹק עִמּוֹ הַשָּׂכָר, אֲבָל אִם כְּבַר עָסַק בְּתוֹרָה אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִמְכֹּר לוֹ חֶלְקוֹ בִּשְׁבִיל מָמוֹן שֶׁיִּתְּנוּ לוֹ. (תא''ו נָתִיב ב' מִשַּׁ''ס דְּסוֹטָה).

(1) Every Jewish man is obligated in studying Torah, whether poor or rich, whether completely healthy or suffering, whether young or very old. Even a poor man who frequents doorways (to beg) and even one with a wife and children is obligated to set a time for himself to study Torah, by day or by night, as it says, "And you shall meditate in it day and night." (And in a pressing time, even if he only read Shem"a in the morning or evening, it is called "It shall not be moved..." (HG"M 1 & SM"G Asin 12). And one that it is impossible for him to learn because he does not know how to at all or because of troubles that he has, should support others who study. Haga"h: And it will be considered for him as if he learned himself (Tur) And a person is able to make a condition with his friend, that he will study Torah and he will support him, and he will split the reward with him. But if he already toiled in Torah, he is unable to sell him his portion for the money he will give to him. (TA"V? path 2 from Bavli Sotah)

14 יד

רבינא אומר שאין מברכין בתורה תחלה דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב מאי דכתיב (ירמיהו ט, יא) מי האיש החכם ויבן את זאת דבר זה נשאל לחכמים ולנביאים ולא פירשוהו עד שפירשו הקב"ה בעצמו דכתיב (ירמיהו ט, יב) ויאמר ה' על עזבם את תורתי וגו' היינו לא שמעו בקולי היינו לא הלכו בה אמר רב יהודה אמר רב שאין מברכין בתורה תחלה

Ravina says: They are punished because they do not first recite a blessing over the Torah before commencing their studies. As Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Who is the wise man that may understand this, and who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it, for what the land is perished and laid waste like a wilderness, so that none passes through” (Jeremiah 9:11)? This matter, the question as to why Eretz Yisrael was destroyed, was asked of the Sages, i.e., “the wise man,” and of the prophets, “he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken,” but they could not explain it. The matter remained a mystery until the Holy One, Blessed be He, Himself explained why Eretz Yisrael was laid waste, as it is written in the next verse: “And the Lord said: Because they have forsaken My Torah which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked therein” (Jeremiah 9:12). It would appear that “have not obeyed My voice” is the same as “nor walked therein.” Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: The expression “nor walked therein” means that they do not first recite a blessing over the Torah, and they are therefore liable to receive the severe punishments listed in the verse.
15 טו

דבר זה נשאל לחכמים וכו' ולא פרשוהו - מדכתי' ויאמר ה' על עזבם את תורתי מכלל דליכא דידע להדורי טעמא אלא קודשא בריך הוא בלחוד ומצאתי במגילת סתרים של ה''ר יונה ז''ל דקרא הכי דייק דעל שלא ברכו בתורה תחילה אבדה הארץ דאם איתא על עזבם את תורתי כפשטא משמע שעזבו את התורה ולא היו עוסקין בה כשנשאל לחכמים ולנביאים למה לא פרשוהו והלא דבר גלוי היה וקל לפרש אלא ודאי עוסקין היו בתורה תמיד ולפיכך היו חכמים ונביאים תמהים על מה אבדה הארץ עד שפרשו הקב''ה בעצמו שהוא יודע מעמקי הלב שלא היו מברכין בתורה תחלה כלומר שלא היתה התורה חשובה בעיניהם כ''כ שיהא ראוי לברך עליה שלא היו עוסקים בה לשמה ומתוך כך היו מזלזלין בברכתה והיינו לא הלכו בה כלומר בכונתה ולשמה אלו דברי הרב החסיד ז''ל והם נאים ראויין למי שאמרם:

16 טז

"On Judaism" by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman

"Our history demonstrates that the moment study of Torah is neglected, assimilation of the Jewish people into its surroundings makes its inroad. Without fail, every Jewish community in history that did not teach and study Torah as its first priority gradually disappeared from the scene.

Beyond all the good, rational reasons, Torah is the mysterious bridge which connects the Jew and God, across which they interact and communicate, and by means of which God fulfills His covenant with His people to sustain them and protect them.

It is therefore no surprise that Torah study is so central with us. It is the first blessing a newborn child receives: "May he grow up to Torah, to the wedding canopy, and to good deeds." The prayer book is filled with petitions to God to help us understand His Torah. No wonder Rebbe Akiva in the Talmud states that to expect a Jew to live without Torah is like expecting a fish to live without water. That's because the fact is that the Torah is the essence of the Jewish people, our very life and soul, and without it we literally have no existence. This explains why, in a traditional Jewish community, the one who is looked up to and most admired is the scholar of Torah - not the entertainer or the athlete.

When we study Torah, we are not studying an abstract and arcane text of the ancient world. We are studying the way in which God wants us to live on this earth... (We) are in fact engaged in discovering the essence of Judaism, which is to say, the essence of ourselves."