Friday, February 20, 2009

Question & Answer With Yitz - Learning Halacha Every Day

A Simple Jew asks:

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov stressed the importance of learning halacha on a daily basis and that a person should not let even a single a day pass without learning at least one halacha. When learning halacha do you try to focus your learning on those halachos that are immediately relevant and practical?

Yitz of A Waxing Wellspring answers:

My mother once taught me how to succeed in school: If an assignment doesn't interest you, change the assignment so it does. You would think that involves a lot of chutzpah, but in reality most teachers are more interested in your genuine involvement. If your paper/report/essay is different it means it's less boring for the teacher as well. (who would normally have to read 20-30 boring papers)

This is such a simple lesson but it is full of wisdom for school and life. In a way it is analogous to Rebbe Nachman's teaching of finding the good points in oneself and in others.

It's also founded in the teaching of Chazal that whatever comes from the heart enters the heart. If you enjoyed writing the paper, chances are others will enjoy reading the paper.

[When working on presentations to give in front of a group of people the same wisdom prevails: If you enjoy talking about the subject chances are the audience will be more interested as well.]

You'd be surprised but my job has recently taken a radical turn simply because I developed a whole new aspect of our application by virtue of the fact I wanted to learn and do something that was more interesting to me. I didn't get my boss to sign off on the idea first, rather I steered every decision and project subtly in the direction of my interests. It wasn't even something I did intentionally, it was the result of (HaShem's Hesed manifested in) this reflex instilled in me from years of practice -- don't fight something because it goes against your interests, turn it into something worth working on.

When we look at the Torah in this same way it alters our perception of it, and our approach to it. This isn't license to abandon Chazal, rather to find your own place within the world which Chazal has laid out before us.

When you encounter the halachot of a seemingly irrelevant (of course its only seemingly irrelevant!!!) mitzwah, you can ask yourself: How can I relate to this mitzwah, what connections can I draw from this mitzwah to others that I feel are vitally relevant? How can this halachah complete everything else I know about HaShem? How can it contribute to the rest of my Avodah?

A halachah that is boring is a challenge from HaShem, just as any other challenge, HaShem is saying: Find me. Can you connect to me through this halachah, or will you walk away?

The Komarna Rebbe describes the bitterness of Torah. He says that at every level of learning one encounters the bitterness of Torah from time to time, this bitterness is really very very sweet, because it is only through learning through the bitterness that we really get to taste learning Torah l'shmah, for its own sake. It's the bitterness that guards the Torah from those who would use it for ulterior motives, they give up and walk away. But when we learn truly for its own sake, then we add strength and wisdom and thank HaShem for the opportunity to prove our love for Him and His Torah.

When I was a young child I merited to learn this very powerful antidote to the bitterness of Torah from my mother, and now I've shared it with you.

My Rav taught me (according to the Komarna Rebbe) that it is best to learn a sefer from start to finish. So jumping around to the 'relevant' and 'practical' isn't an option.

I chose to answer the implicit question within your question: "What do I do with a halachah that has no relevance to me?"-- rather than the question you asked -- which is a perfect example of the lesson I'm trying to explain.

I am so grateful that HaShem gave me such an opportunity to illustrate the idea so simply.


At February 20, 2009 at 4:43:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful! I've often heard the phrase "words from the heart enter the heart", usually cited (as here) as coming from Chazal. I've also seen it attributed to the Alter Rebbe of Sassov and the Besht himself. Do you know the specific source?

At February 22, 2009 at 11:10:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

i've seen it quoted as berachot 6 -- but i have yet to find it inside.


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