Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Monday, April 30, 2012

Learning Torah - For Everyone?

Last week, the Rebbe mentioned the idea that, for a certain person, the Torah will only make his bad middos and taavos worse. (See here about the zav and zavah.)

It seemed to me that in the Yeshiva world, the general consensus is to just learn Torah anyways, even if the person is "tamei", as the Torah has a cleansing quality which over time will right whatever malevolent roots are in the person. Torah can and should be learned by anyone to purify the mind and steer the heart back to Hashem.

In Chassidus, while that idea is definitely spoken about, it seems that there is a much greater emphasis on the preparation that must take place in order to be worthy, so to speak, of learning Torah. As the Rebbe quoted Chazal (Yoma 72b), "If the person merits, the Torah becomes for him like an elixir of life. If he does not merit, the Torah is like a fatal poison."

For most of us it is mind-boggling how learning Torah could possibly make a person worse. We are used to believing that the holiness and purity of Torah learning is the antidote for the yetzer hara, as Chazal say, and that "hamaor shebah yachzirenu lemutav" - "that the light of the Torah will bring a person back to good". "If the menuval - the yetzer hara - approaches you, take him to the beis medrash". Torah purifies; does it not?

There is clearly another component of limud haTorah that requires one to be in a certain place mentally and spiritually before taking this wonder-drug antidote called Torah. The Maor Einayim in various places presents the idea that Torah learned in a manner as something separate from Hashem, without bittul (self-negation) to Hashem, or without love and fear of Hashem is a grave indiscretion and indeed preempts all the berachos and protection that should normally come with Torah. (The Maor Einayim suffered redifos for saying things like this because in the process of explaining what Torah learning was supposed to look like, he invariably cast many people who held of themselves as talmidei chachamim in a light not to their liking.)

In any event, when I mentioned my quandary to the Rebbe he reiterated that a person who is given to excess pursuit of self-indulgence is one who can't get out of himself just to come to the simple understanding that the Torah is supposed to have that healing effect. The recognition that Torah is holy and sublime along with the individual's own readiness to be effected by the connection with Torah, is the state that one must reach in order to capitalize on the shemria and berachah that learning Torah is meant to provide.

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DamesekFan said...

It was my understanding that the Zav is removed from the machaneh leviya, because his inability to conquer appetite indicates an unreliability. His views ansd opinions, as much as he insists is culled from the Torah, may be far from the will of Hashem. His Torah cannot be trusted by others. He cannot guide or lead. The machaneh leviya is a place where Torah is not just absorbed, but taught and applied. The Kohanim were the morei horaah, madrichim.

An undisciplined person may remain in the machaneh yisroel, for there is no fear that his possibly warped views will affect others, for he is no longer standing in the leader circle. Nobody looks to him.

He now has no choice, but to hope sh'haor sheba yachzor lo l'mutav. To suggest that Torah could not possibly lead one astray flies in the face of logic - has he not been removed from the machaneh leviya? His learning HAS ALREADY failed him!

Huh gufa should lead one to reexamine the nature of his Torah learning, his preparation and motives.

Damesek said...

Excellent comment, if you don't mind my saying so. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Surely one who is incapable of learning Torah in a way that will better his own person cannot lead either.

Your added point that the machaneh leviya is about role models specifically is a good and valid one. The (actual and figurative) Zav cannot lead because his Torah is skewed due to his lack of discipline.