July 21, 2024
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July 21, 2024
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If There’s a Will…Then That’s the Way!

He can’t wait! In a few weeks, he’s going to get the brand new car he has long been waiting for, and he eagerly counts the days towards the day of his dreams. The excitement mounts with each passing day.

We are all familiar with this type of anticipation. But is this the same concept of counting that we do in anticipation of Shavuot, the day of receiving the Torah?

The Sefer HaChinuch (306) explains that we are commanded to count in order to demonstrate the great desire we have to receive the Torah. According to the Sefer HaChinuch, it perhaps emerges that the reason why we count is in order to build more of an anticipation and desire to receive the Torah.

We can ask: What does building our desire and anticipation for the Torah have to do with receiving the Torah? Let us just receive the Torah and that’s it! Why are we required to build our desire for it? Rav Yaakov Haber of Lakewood suggests that the connection between these two ideas—developing desire for Torah, and receiving the Torah—demonstrates that cultivating a desire and yearning for Torah is a crucial factor and a necessary prerequisite to receiving and acquiring the Torah.

Unlike anticipating a new car, where the counting serves no practical purpose, when we count towards receiving the Torah, it carries much meaning, and serves a great practical purpose. The car will arrive even if one does not count the days and look forward to it, but our acquisition of the Torah, our relationship with the Torah, and the degree to which the Torah becomes a real part of us is all dependent on how much we “count” towards it—i.e. how much we look forward to it and have the appropriate anticipation and excitement for it.

Shlomo Hamelech was one of the wisest people to ever live. How did he attain such immense wisdom? Hashem appeared to Shlomo and told him he could ask for anything he wanted and it would be granted. Of all things, Shlomo basically asked for one thing—the wisdom to judge Hashem’s people. Not only was it granted, he received such vast wisdom to the point of being able to even understand the language of animals (see Melachim 1, chp 3, v. 5-12, with Rashi).

To put aside all other things in the world and ask just for wisdom is perhaps an indication that Shlomo had a deep rooted and fervent desire to understand and know more, to grow in his wisdom and knowledge. And Hashem gave him even more than he asked for. We can perhaps deduce from here that when we develop a yearning and longing for Torah, and sincerely want to grow in Torah, we too can merit to be a recipient of Torah. Indeed, in Tehillim (81:11) it says “harchev picha va’amaleiyhu”—“widen your mouth and I [Hashem] will fill it”—and the Gemara (Berachot,50) says that this refers to Torah. What does this mean? Rav Aharon Kotler (Mishnas Rav Aharon, Ma’amarim v’Sichos Mussar, 1) explains that widening our mouths refers to expanding our horizons to have tremendous aspirations for Torah. Then, in fact, Hashem can “fill ‘em up”!

The Midrash offers a parable of a king who deeply loved the officer in charge of his treasury, and told him to take gold for himself. The king allotted a certain time frame during which the officer could cash in. Of course, the officer couldn’t eat, drink, or sleep, and even when he became weary and wanted to sleep he said to himself, “ If I sleep, I will lose out!” The midrash uses this parable to explain Moshe Rabbeinu’s experience when receiving the Torah from Hashem. He didn’t eat, drink, or sleep, and when he wanted to sleep he thought, I’m going to miss out on so much learning from Hashem! I only have 40 days to take it all in! In response, Hashem promised Moshe: Because you underwent pain (by not eating, drinking, or sleeping) not only will you not lose out, I’m going to give you even more teachings than expected (Shemot Rabbah, 47:7, with commentaries).

We see from here as well that when a person craves and wishes for Torah, he not only merits to acquire the Torah, he may even merit to receive more than expected. Thus we see the correlation between desiring and receiving the Torah.

When the great sage, Reb Eizel Charif, began looking for a prospective match for his daughter, he traveled to the famed Volozhin yeshiva. Upon arriving, he posed an intriguing and complex question to the students and announced that whoever is able to offer the explanation would have the opportunity to marry his daughter. Imagine the tumult! They began attempting all kinds of ways to answer the question but Reb Eizel refuted them all. Morning arrived with no answer yet, and Reb Eizel began to take leave. He had already departed and was at a distance from the yeshiva, when he suddenly heard someone running after him. Seeing that it was one of the students, and thinking that maybe he had come with the answer, he told the driver to halt. When the student caught up, Reb Eizel asked him, “Perhaps you have an answer?”

The student replied, “An answer I don’t have, but what is the answer? The Rav left without telling it to us!”

When Reb Eizel heard this, he said, “He, indeed, is the one who is fit to be my son in law…”

On Shavuot, we are entering into a relationship with the Torah. When we want that relationship—i.e. if there’s a will, a desire and yearning for Torah, then that, indeed, can be the way that we merit to achieve Torah, for Torah to become part of us, and perhaps receive more than we may have expected.


By Binyamin Benji

 Binyamin can be reached at [email protected]

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