Thursday, January 15, 2009

If One Does Not Learn To Apply His Knowledge

Rabbi Micha Golshevsky commenting on "A Greater Obligation":

Chazal teach that study is of great value since it leads to action. Clearly, one should learn not only to fulfill the mitzvah of Torah study but also with a view to changing his actions. It is for this reason that many authorities state that the first thing one must work on mastering are the halachos of Orach Chaim. Without these halachos one could be the greatest lamdan but have no idea how to really apply his learning.

The Chayei Adam, z"l, even writes that it is better to learn the halachos of Shabbos on Shabbos than Mishnayos. To illustrate why, he recounts a revealing story. It is first important to realize that although he served as the Av Beis Din of Vilna, the Chayei Adam was a businessman who never took any money for deciding halachic queries, just as his father before him. As a businessman, he traveled frequently. One Shabbos, he stayed in the same inn as a person whose practice for many years was to learn a chapter of Mishnayos every day.

Understandably, the Chayei Adam was appalled when he noticed this "expert" in Mishnayos weaving on Shabbos! He immediately cried, "Is it not Shabbos today?"

The man was puzzled. "But what possible melachah can this be?"

"How can you be so unaware? Are you not familiar with the mishnah which lists 'hatoveh' as one of the melachos?"

"But I thought that was only if someone does so on a loom like we do at home…"

The Chayei Adam was astounded. "But having learned the mishnah, why would you assume that seeing that it simply says 'he who weaves' implies that weaving is only a melachah with a loom?"

"Do you think when I learn I am trying to apply my learning to my actions? I only focus on fulfilling the mitzvah of learning Torah," the man protested.

The Chayei Adam responded, "Now I understand the words of our sages: 'One who says I only have Torah does not even have Torah.' If one does not learn to apply his knowledge, what earthly difference is there whether he learned or not?"

Much like halacha, mussar is the practical application of Torah into action since it is impossible in our day to have a properly balanced relationship with Hashem or one's fellow man without a genuine path in mussar or Chassidus.


At January 15, 2009 at 10:04:00 AM EST, Blogger micha said...

You reminded me of a sad story from my childhood.

My next-door neighbors on one side are staunch members of the local Conservative synagogue. The wife taught secular studies at the local yeshiva day school, so tuition was free and they sent their two boys there.

One Friday night, my father and I decided to review the gemara I was learning. After a very short search, my father remembered that he had lent that volume to the boy next door.

So, I went next door. The older brother, "Steve" was home, but "Dave", the brother who had borrowed the gemara wasn't. However, this was the 70s, and they had CB radios, and he was wiling away his newly started weekend talking on one. So, Steve went back to his CB, and asked his brother, "Hey, Dave, do you remember where you put the Meseches Shabbos?"


PS: To end on a happy note... Steve is now married with children, and grew up to be Shabbos observant.

At January 15, 2009 at 7:55:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this story.
Very apt and very sad indeed.
Rav Shach said that shabbos observance is the flag of the continuity of the Jewish nation. All those who let go of proper observance of Shabbos either came back or assimilated.


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