Sunday, December 31, 2006

On His Yahrzeit

The Ohel of Reb Noson in Breslov
(Picture courtesy of Yeshivat Tikkun Ha'midot)

Over Shabbos, I came across an idea in Aveneha Barzel #41 that made me recall a recent e-mail discussion I had a few weeks ago with my good friend Chabakuk Elisha about our difficulty learning Gemara. I am curious to see how he will respond to the idea in this story:

"Reb Nachman of Tulchin was orphaned as a young boy and never had formal Talmudic education. Once he was traveling with Reb Noson, who told him off for not studying Torah. When they came to an inn, Reb Nachman took out a Gemara and began to learn. Reb Noson said he was what is called a "turbulent learner." Reb Noson continued, "The Baal Shem Tov came into this world to uproot the turbulent learner. It would be better for you to study the basics - Chumash, Mishnah, Ein Yaakov, Shulchan Aruch, and Midrash." Reb Nachman was about twenty when he became a serious follower of Reb Noson. Were he to concentrate exclusively on Gemara, he might acquire a veneer of Torah knowledge but would not attain true piety. Reb Noson understood that for Reb Nachman of Tulchin to rise to his full potential he should put his main emphasis on refining his character. Reb Nachman of Tulchin did indeed become a great tzaddik and leader."

16 Comments:

At December 31, 2006 at 10:57:00 AM EST, Anonymous Moshe said...

ASJ: you're mentioning some very interesting issues. What's "turbulent learner" reffering to here?

 
At December 31, 2006 at 11:51:00 AM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

It is said about the Degel, that in his yonger years, after the chasuno he was very immersed in his learning, but learned almost exclusively the Talmud with Rashi and Tosofoys, and drifted away from chasidus somewhat. Baal Shem Tov used to go for a walk with him once in a while, and the Degel considered it as a disturbance of his learning.

Once certain guest came to the Baal Shem Tov, and Baal Shem Tov asked him about some balabos from his city. The guest replied, that he is a great masmid (diligent learner). On this Baal Shem Tov za"l said - I envy him, on his diligence, but what can I do, that I don't have the same opportunities to learn, because I have to serve Hashem Yisborach? In that moment when the Degel heard these words, coming out in purity and kdusho, they entered his heart, and he started to act according to chasidus.

 
At December 31, 2006 at 12:32:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A Yid: I am curious in which sefer you saw that story. The only place I have seen it is in a book by Martin Buber.

 
At December 31, 2006 at 12:42:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

I saw it in seyfer Mekoyr Boruch (about Rebe Reb Boruch miMezhbush zy"o).

 
At December 31, 2006 at 1:03:00 PM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Were he to concentrate exclusively on Gemara, he might acquire a veneer of Torah knowledge but would not attain true piety.
One could probably also make an opposite statement: for some people, to concentrate exclusively on Chumash, Mishnah, Ein Yaakov, Shulchan Aruch, and Midrash could result in a lack of true piety.
I think in today's world, for many if not most of us, we need both. To neglect one is to neglect a certain side of ourselves that needs development thru a Torah-based source.

 
At December 31, 2006 at 3:54:00 PM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

This shows how an individual needs to get advice from a Tzaddik as to how to balance his learning program appropriately for himself. This is a very important practical function of Tzaddikim, of which many Jews are not aware.

 
At December 31, 2006 at 6:04:00 PM EST, Blogger avakesh said...

What about "A boor cannot be sin-fearing, nor can an ignoramus be a Chassid." (Avos 2:5), much less a leader. I understand the change in perpective in Chassidus but how DO you answer this quote?

 
At December 31, 2006 at 6:40:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

On more deeper level it means someone who isn't aware of the inner aspects of Toyro. For example the Rama"k says, that the rule that is mentioned in Chaza"l that an am hooretz should eat meat doesn't mean simply non educated and unlearned individual. It means someone who isn't aware of process of aliyas hanitzoytzos and isn't capable of performing it properly with meat. So according to that even a very learned can be an am hooretz!


"Ignoramus" can probably also mean someone who didn't acquire what he had to in his learning. Ari za"l says, that one has to complete his learning in course of his gilgulim. If he feels attraction to certain field of study, it indicates, that this field was neglected by him in his previous gilgulim (if any), so now his neshomo arouses this urge to learn what it missed before, so the rule of "ma sheliboy chofeytz" according to mekubolim is really a deep indicator of what is missing for neshoma's tikun.

 
At December 31, 2006 at 11:39:00 PM EST, Blogger der ewige Jude said...

Rabbenu repeatedly stresses the importance of learning from the Shulchan Aruch everyday to give one a good base of halachich knowledge.
Chumash, Mishnah, Midrash, Gemara, each lays the foundation for the understanding of the next and for a more complete understanding of the previous ones. You couldn't make decisions based only on learning Mishnah since its rulings are often overturned in Gemara, as are some of the Gemara's rulings by later sages. I would think that the story says that you need to build a strong foundation to be able to comprehend the Gemara correctly but does not advocate that you should put it aside completely.

 
At January 1, 2007 at 12:48:00 AM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

Sorry, I meant to say "am hooretz shouldn't eat meat".

 
At January 1, 2007 at 8:16:00 AM EST, Anonymous Moshe said...

So what's a "turbulent learner"?
Anybody?

 
At January 1, 2007 at 1:09:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

"Turbulent learner" can mean, someone who doesn't have yishuv hodaas, and therefore isn't capable of learning Toyro lishmo, because he doesn't concentrate on the purpose of learning Toyro, and does it for extraneous reasons and in this example - chaotically. There can be other ways to explain, this is how I understand it IMHO.

 
At January 2, 2007 at 1:57:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

IIRC, the Yiddish term is "di beizer Lamdan" which I would translate a little differently (instead of turbulent):

Literally the word beiz usually means angry...

 
At January 2, 2007 at 2:46:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Two things:

1) How would that change the meaning of this story?

2) What is your reaction to the idea behind this story?

 
At January 3, 2007 at 10:39:00 AM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Well, it helps for clarity. Also, I think it had to do with changing the general attitude that was prevalent among non-Chassidim that simplicity & joy was antithetical to religion. The ‘beize lamdan’ seems to me to be the cranky scholar, busy with intellectual calisthenics (like the know-it-all college professor that may be intellectually advanced, but he ridicules anyone that he sees as beneath him, and may not necessarily be too refined), whereas the Baal Shem Tov wanted his Chassidim to learn simply – straightforward – with a joy…

 
At February 11, 2007 at 11:28:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Rabbi Chaim Kramer wrote, " A turbulent learner is one who gets involved in studies above his true level; see Likutey Moharan I, 100."

 

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