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Enliven Your Shavuos With Rav Druck

Highlighting: “Rav Druck on Shavuos and Megillas Rus,” by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Druck. Artscroll Mesorah Publications, 2023. Hardcover. 276 pages. Hebrew/English. ISBN: 9781422633502.

(Courtesy of Artscroll) Rav Yisroel Meir Druck—son of the famed “Maggid Meisharim” of Yerushalayim and a noted talmid chacham and popular speaker—brings our understanding of Megillas Rus and the Yom Tov of Shavuos to a whole new level in Artscroll’s new “Rav Druck on Shavuos and Megillas Rus.” His insights—firmly based on a large variety of classic Torah sources—are brief, readable and intriguing.

“Rav Druck on Shavuos and Megillas Rus” offers us a new clarity on the fascinating story of Rus, from Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and their saga, through to the birth of the Davidic dynasty.

It includes:

  • Commentary on Megillas Rus,
  • Special section on Krias HaTorah of Shavuos,
  • Inspiring essays on Kabbalas HaTorah.

Read this volume before Yom Tov or take it with you to shul—your Shavuos will never be the same!

The following are excerpts from this inspiring volume:

Repentance in Rephidim

“They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the wilderness, and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain,” (19:2).

Rashi comments that the reason the Torah specifies from where the Jewish people had come is to compare their journey from Rephidim to their coming to the wilderness of Sinai: Just as their coming to the wilderness of Sinai was in a state of repentance; so, too, their journey from Rephidim was in a state of repentance. But what difference does it make that they repented in Rephidim?

We can explain this based on the Rema’s words at the very beginning of Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 1:1): “Even while lying on his bed, one should know before Whom he lies, and immediately when he awakens from his sleep, he should rise with alacrity to serve his Creator.”

Why did the Rema place this halacha in the first siman of Shulchan Aruch, which discusses the laws of rising in the morning—rather than in siman 239—which discusses the laws of the bedtime Shema? Why didn’t he write there that when a person lies on his bed, he should know before Whom he lies?

This halacha is deliberately placed among the laws of rising in the morning, because if a person wishes to rise in the morning as a Jew and conduct his entire day as a servant of Hashem, that endeavor must begin at night, when he goes to bed. Having prepared himself in the morning, when he lies down at night, he already knows before Whom he lies.

Similarly, for the Jewish people to receive the Torah at Har Sinai, they could not have sufficed with repenting at the place where the Torah was to be given. Rather, they had to do teshuvah earlier, when they were leaving Rephidim.

This concept is reflected in the Gemara’s account (Bava Metzia 85b) of how Rav Chiya planted flax, from which he wove nets to trap deer, whose hides he used to prepare scrolls of parchment. He wrote the five Chumashim of the Torah and the six orders of the mishna on those scrolls, and then used them to teach Chumash and mishna to children. It was, therefore, said about him, “How great are the deeds of Chiya,” since he ensured that the Torah was not forgotten from the Jewish people.

But why did Rav Chiya have to exert himself to plant flax, weave nets, trap deer and prepare scrolls? Couldn’t he simply have bought kosher parchment and written the Torah and Mishnah on that?

Rav Chiya’s actions teach us an important lesson: If we want to ensure that the Torah should not be forgotten from the Jewish people, we must do everything with sanctity and purity—for the sake of Heaven.

It was not enough for the final stages of the process of teaching Torah to be done with the proper motivations; even the flax used for the nets to trap the deer whose hides would be used for Torah

scrolls needed to be planted for the sake of Heaven, so that the entire process would be carried out with holiness.

Every Person Can Know All of Torah

At times, we feel disheartened when we contemplate the immense breadth and depth of Torah. How, we wonder, how can a human being learn and master all of Torah? It’s impossible! Yet the Torah, indeed, demands that we learn and know all of it, and we daven for this in the morning Krias Shema blessings, as we beseech, “Instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah’s teaching with love.” We truly strive to know, understand and fulfill all of Torah.

Still, when a person stands before a library of sefarim—of which he is familiar with only a minute fraction—he might despair of ever learning all of Torah, never mind remembering all of it.

Chazal (Vayikra Rabbah 19:2) addresses this tendency to despair with an analogy to two people’s reaction to seeing a large mound of earth: “One who is a fool, what does he say? ‘Who can possibly cut down this mound?’ One who is wise, what does he say? ‘Behold, I will cut away two boxes full of earth today, and two boxes full tomorrow, and so on, until I will cut away the whole of it.’”

Similarly, one who is a fool says, “Who can possibly learn the entire Torah? Tractate Nezikin consists of 30 chapters! Tractate Keilim consists of 30 chapters!” One who is wise, what does he say? “Behold, I will learn two laws today, and two laws tomorrow, until I will learn all

of the Torah in its entirety.”

This is what Hashem commanded Moshe Rabbeinu to teach the Jewish people: “See what a person can achieve! See that Hashem called by name Betzalel, who is but 13 years old, and recognize that a person can grasp all the secrets of the Torah and master all its treasures. It is not distant from you—just look at Betzalel!”

What lesson can we take from this? How, indeed, can we master all of Torah?

Consider the following contemporary parable:

A well-known company posted a notice announcing a contest: There are 1,800 steps to the summit of a certain mountain. Whoever would climb to the top in three minutes would win the princely sum of $5 million.

All those who read this notice shook their heads dismissively. “There’s no point in even trying,” they said. “Why bother?” Some clever individuals calculated that in order to climb 1,800 steps in three minutes, a person would have to climb 600 steps a minute, or 10 steps a second—without

taking a break for even a moment. “Clearly,” they all concluded, “this contest is a joke, for the task is impossible.”

But one wise person said, “This notice was posted by a respected company, and if they announced this contest, there must be some way to carry out this task, for by law one may not publicize a contest that is impossible to complete. Obviously, the task is very difficult— proportional to the generous prize being offered—but there must be some way to succeed in this task. Although I don’t know how it’s possible to succeed, I am going to try, since I know it has

to be doable.”

He approached the mountain, and when the signal was given, he started running up the stairs as fast as he could. Already in the first second, he failed to achieve the desired pace, but as he was unable to ascend 10 steps in one second, and as the clock ticked, he fell farther and farther

behind the number of steps he needed to climb in order to make it to the summit in time. Yet, he persisted in making a superhuman effort to climb more and more steps.

The people watching from below shook their heads scornfully, as if to say, “What was he thinking? He has barely made it up a quarter of the steps, and, already, the three minutes are almost up.”

Yet to everyone’s surprise, when the runner reached the 500th step—with only seconds remaining—he discovered that he no longer had to push himself to continue running, for that step turned out to be an elevator, which carried him up to the top of the mountain in a split-second.

The same principle applies to the study of the holy Torah. At first, mastering all of Torah seems to be an impossible task, and, indeed, the beginning is exceedingly difficult. This initial difficulty

causes many people to despair and not even bother trying. Such people are termed “fools” by Chazal—in the above midrash—similar to the fool who sees a mound of earth and says, “Who can possibly cut down this mound?” The fool does not begin to learn at all, for he says, “Who can possibly learn the entire Torah? There are so many masechtos, so many perakim—it’s not realistic.” And with that, he gives up.

The wise person, in contrast, does not focus on the seemingly impossible vastness of Torah. Hashem gave us the Torah, and it cannot be that He gave us an assignment that we are incapable of fulfilling. The wise person, therefore, learns two halachos today and two tomorrow, doing what is in his power and recognizing that “it is not incumbent on you to finish the work,” (Avos 2:16). He knows that if Hashem wills it, he can manage to complete the entire Torah in this manner.

When a person consistently exerts himself to learn Torah, doing everything he can, he will sense that the gates of wisdom are opened before him. By simple mathematical calculation, a person cannot master the entire Torah by learning two halachos today and two halachos tomorrow, just as the contestant in our parable could not possibly climb 1,800 stairs in three minutes. But when

a person musters all his strength and pushes himself to succeed, then he receives the Torah as a gift—like the winner of the contest who was carried to the summit in an elevator.

All that is required of the person is to adopt the mindset of that wise person, who understands that the task before him cannot be impossible to execute.

This idea is expressed in the following account of the Gemara (Shabbos 88a). A Sadducee once saw that Rava had put the fingers of his hands under his leg while he studied and was crushing them. So engrossed was Rava in his learning that he did not notice that his fingers were flowing with blood. The Sadducee said to Rava, “O impulsive people, who put their mouths before their ears (in saying, ‘Naaseh v’nishma’)! You still persevere in your impulsiveness! First you should have heard what the Torah entailed, and if you were able to fulfill it you should have accepted it, and if you were unable to fulfill it you should not have accepted it.”

Rava replied, “We, who go in the ways of complete faith, it is written about us (Mishlei 11:3), ‘Tumas yesharim tancheim—The perfect (faith) of the upright shall lead them.’ Those who go in the ways of perverseness, it is written about them (ibid.), ‘v’selef bogdim yeshadeim—and the perverseness of the faithless shall destroy them.’”

Rashi explains that Rava’s words, “We, who go in the ways of complete faith,” mean that we trusted God as one would out of love, and we relied on Him not to burden us with something we could not uphold. In other words, we trusted that if Hashem was giving us the Torah, we would be able to fulfill it, for if it was impossible to fulfill, He would not have given it to us.

This logic applies to us today as well. We must rely on Hashem that if He gave us such a vast and profound Torah, there must be a way for us to grasp it—even if this seems like an impossible task. We must trust Hashem and follow Him wholeheartedly, beginning by learning two halachos today and two halachos tomorrow, until—through our tenacity and exertion—we reach the point along the way where we discover the “elevator” that will carry us beyond the usual abilities of a human being.

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