Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"From That Moment On"

Maseches Shekalim - Slavuta, 1820

The following story is found in the sefer Siftei Kodesh:

"The grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim, was, after his marriage a great masmid, and most of his learning was in Gemara with Rashi's commentary and Tosafos. He had deviated somewhat from the Chasidic way which did not concentrate so heavily on Gemara.

The Baal Shem Tov liked to take him on excursions every now and then, and this caused the Degel anguish at having to cease from his Torah study. But once a guest came to them from some town or other, and the Baal Shem Tov asked him about a certain householder from that place. The guest answered with praise, saying that this person was a great masmid.

The Baal Shem Tov then said, "I am very envious of his ceaseless learning, but what can I do? I do not have time to learn for I have to serve Hashem."

When the Degel heard these words, uttered in holiness and purity, they entered his heart, and he began to conduct himself in the Chassidic way from that moment on."

I have thought about this story for some time after A Yid brought back to my attention in December and I continue to have lingering questions. The story is very short, yet it appears that it contains within it many worlds.

Once the Degel heard his grandfather's words, did he realize that he had placed to much of an emphasis on learning Gemara? In what way did he start "to act in accordance with Chassidus"? Does this mean he changed his daily seder of learning?


At April 25, 2007 at 8:34:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

The Baal Shem Tov then said, "I am very envious of his ceaseless learning, but what can I do? I do not have time to learn for I have to serve Hashem."
The Baal Shem Tov was a master of all of Torah including Shas. I believe what he meant was that besides learning Gemara one has to serve Hashem in other ways also, as there are 3 things the world stands on Torah, Avodah and Gemilas Chasodim. One needs time to daven properly and do chesed in addition to learning. Also, the way I understand this is that just learning for intellectual purposes, even if it is for hours at a time, isn't the optimal thing to do. One needs to do it with the intention of "serving Hashem", as the Baal Shem Tov said. This means less time for learning, but doing it lishma, to serve Hashem.

At April 25, 2007 at 9:47:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any info on the author of the quoted sefer?

At April 25, 2007 at 10:53:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Bob: Unfortunately not.

At April 25, 2007 at 11:02:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, there is that whole issue of interrupting learning in order to reinforce dveykus. Perhaps this is what BESHT meant. I believe that it can be found in the Tsavoas Harivash.

At April 25, 2007 at 11:35:00 AM EDT, Blogger Special Ed said...

I haven't read your blog often, but you seem very concerned over what your proper seder hayom should be.

I'm sure you've heard it before, but I just had this discussion with the Mashgiach in my yeshiva. He showed me the gemara in avoda zara, which says a person has to learn "ma shelibcha chafetz". It then relates a story of two tannaim, who were learning in a chabura and one left because he wanted to learn something else.

The story had a tremendous impact on me and I decided to adjust my seder to make it more enjoyable, and more lma'aseh. I hope you are matzliach in this edeavor as well.

At April 25, 2007 at 11:51:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Rogachover Gaon was once asked to attend a certain conference pertaining to communal issues that faced Klal Yisroel at that time, and (as was his way) he responded with a Talmudical answer: "It's a machlokes between the Talmud Bavli & Talmud Yerushalmi – and since we pasken like the Bavli, I cannot attend."


As mentioned, the Bavli is long and full of questions – comparable to searching in the dark - while the Yerushalmi is much shorter - comparable to searching in a light filled room. So why do we learn Bavli? Because that is the state of Galus.

Chazal tell us that we should learn Torah all day, but if someone takes time from Torah learning to help others, he is rewarded that the Torah that he learns later will come easier so that he won’t lose by
it. This is the Yerushalmi approach. Nevertheless, that time was lost and Torah was not studied during it. The Bavli - Galus - reality is that the time lost is irreplaceable, and even though the "Yerushalmi Jew" is happy that his question is answered, the "Bavli Jew" is focused more on the search than the solution - and he opposed taking off time for any reason unless absolutely necessary.

The Megilla ends with the statement that Mordechai was liked by most Jews - which begs the question: What’s so special about that? "Most" liked him? Well, I would hope so! Is that a high standard?

But we are told in the preceding line that he was the King's Prime Minister, which meant that he didn't have the time to learn all day since we had to spend some time on communal matters. Now, Mordechai was a Yerushalmi Jew, so he was fine with that, but at that time many "Galus Jews" had already been born in Bavel 7 Persia (at the time of the Purim story), and they were opposed to this approach, resulting in Mordechai only being approved of by most Jews. (The above is based on a well-known Sicha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

In more recent times, the Bavli approach was shown to have another possible danger:- that study without contemplation does not bring one to a higher spiritual place. Instead, one spends their life in darkness – as we so often see. The Baal Shem Tov taught that all the study in the world without the intent of connecting to G-d is a tragic loss - and instead one should take time from learning to contemplate and focus on the divine. I could go on, but I think I've rambled on enough...

At April 25, 2007 at 12:34:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks, Ed. I was once concerned about this issue until I spoke with the Sudilkover Rebbe about it and have taken his advice. Now, I just posted this story because it is about the Degel :)

At April 26, 2007 at 12:10:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

I just noticed this on one of my previous posts on segulas from learning Gemara:
Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk says to learn Gemara in depth everyday, because this breaks the Klipas, but it needs to be lishma.

At April 26, 2007 at 12:22:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Talmid,

Yep - and I see that this is said by many Talmidei HaMaggid - but, as you as you hinted, it's easier said than done.

Furthermore, we also need to keep in mind the context in which these statements were made...


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