May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk a”h.

This week we learned Menachot 7. These are some highlights.

What should a student do: listen to the shiur on the phone, or walk a half hour in order to attend the shiur?

A question: A man would work all day and still learn each evening for three hours. There was a shiur given one evening a week by a scholar in the neighborhood who this man loved dearly. It was filled with remarkable insights of law and inspiration. Our man did not have a car. One night he started to hesitate about going to the shiur. “If I go to the class, I will have to walk 15 minutes to get there and then 15 minutes to get back. For that half hour I will not be learning Torah. I do not have much time for my learning. Perhaps I should simply call my friend who is attending the shiur and listen to the class on the phone; then I will get to listen to the shiur and I will get to have that half hour for Torah study.” He brought his dilemma to Rav Zilberstein. Rav Zilberstein instructed him to walk to the shiur because of our Gemara.

Our Gemara relates that Avimi was the teacher of Rav Chisda; nevertheless, Avimi once walked to Rav Chisda to learn Menachot from him. The Gemara explains that Avimi had forgotten Menachot so he went to his student Rav Chisda so that Rav Chisda would teach it to him. The Gemara finds this troubling. Why didn’t the teacher, Avimi, summon his student, Rav Chisda, to come to him and to teach him what he needed to learn? The Gemara answers that Avimi felt that his walking to Rav Chisda would be better than having Rav Chisda come to him. Rashi explains that Avimi wanted to learn Menachot and master it. We have a rule: “Yagata umatzata ta’amin—if you toil and discover insight in study, you can trust that the success is meaningful and lasting”; you learn best what you invest the most effort into. Avimi wanted to invest the effort of walking to Rav Chisda so he would better master and recall tractate Menachot. Chochmat Hamatzpun (Parshat Bechukotai) explains that Torah insight is a gift from Hashem. The more effort you invest in the study, or even in getting to the place of study, the more Hashem will reward you with the gift of mastering His Torah. In addition, it was probably hard psychologically for the teacher to humble himself and travel to his student. The more a person humbles himself and lowers himself for the sake of learning, the more Hashem will grant the person success in study. Rav Zilberstein therefore instructed our man to follow the example of Avimi and to walk to the shiur and not to merely listen to it on the phone.

Rav Zilberstein adds another argument why our man should walk to the shiur and not just listen on the phone. If he walks to the shiur there will be another person in the room listening to the teacher convey the shiur. The more people in the room studying Torah, the greater the honor being given to the Torah and the more inspiration to others to come to the shiur and to learn as well. If our man won’t actually show up, then others might also stop coming and the shiur might weaken. We need to examine how our actions might impact other people. If we actually are sitting in the room listening it will impact more people than if we are listening over the phone.

Rav Zilberstein brought this question to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, who added another reason why our man should walk to the shiur and not listen over the phone. Gemara Eruvin (13b) teaches that Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, Rebbe, said that the reason he was sharper than his friends was that he merited to see the back of his teacher Rabbi Meir; had he merited to see the face of Rabbi Meir he would have been even sharper, as it is written (Yeshayahu 30), “Vehuyu einecha ro’ot et morecha, And your eyes should be seeing your teacher.” In tractate Horayot (12a) Rav Mesharshya tells his sons, “When you sit in front of your teacher, look at his face, to fulfill the verse (Yeshayahu 30) “Vehuyu einecha ro’ot et morecha, And your eyes should be seeing your teacher.”

Maharsha explains that the words of a teacher sometimes can be understood in a variety of ways. If a student is sitting before a teacher and watching his face, he will gain a more precise understanding of the lesson of the teacher. By the winks of the eyes, the smiles on the face and the bend of the lips of the teacher the student can garner a more clear understanding of what the teacher is seeking to convey. This is what the verse is stressing by “Vehuyu einecha ro’ot et morecha, And your eyes should be seeing your teacher”: the face of your teacher is what will instruct you as to his true intent.

If our man would merely listen on the phone he would not truly understand what the teacher is seeking to teach. He would not have the benefit of seeing the facial expressions and the teacher’s eye movements, and he would not understand the material as well.

It is also said that they asked Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, o.b.m., “Why do we not get as inspired from the Rabbi’s lectures that we hear on tape as much as from the lectures that we hear directly from the Mashgiach?” Rav Levenstein answered that when listening from a tape you are missing the image of Hashem, tzelem Elokim. He meant to say that while information needs to be processed by the brain, for a student to succeed to absorb from his rebbe there needs to be a soulful bond, and that bond is only created when a student can look and see his teacher’s face. Torah is not just information; it is Hashem’s wisdom.

To conclude, it is much better to walk to a shiur, even though that will mean a loss of a half hour of learning time, than to listen to it on the phone. When walking you invest more effort and humble yourself, you will understand it better, sitting in the shiur will encourage more people to study, and by hearing from a teacher directly your soul will connect with his soul. (Chashukei Chemed)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman


Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

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