Tuesday, July 01, 2014

ameilus baTorah (II)

Why is it specifically the “hashoneh halachos” every day who merits olam ha’ba?  Why do Chazal not use the more generic term of “halomeid Torah” or “hashoneh pirko” or something similar?

Yesterday we discussed one approach from the Sefas Emes to explain how Rashi knew that “im bechukosai teileichu” means ameilus baTorah and not simply learning.  The Maharal in Gur Aryeh asks this same question and offers two answers, both of which focus on the pasuk’s use of the word “halicha”:

1)      Travel is burdensome and difficult.  For those who live in NY, think of what it’s like to be stuck in traffic on the Cross Bronx or the Van Wyck.  The type of learning the pasuk is referring to is learning that is equally challenging.

2)      A person who travels moves from place to place.  So too, a person who learns with ameilus will move to greater and greater depths in his learning. 

In Rav Hartman’s edition of the Gur Aryeh he footnotes this second answers and refers to a question R’ Hutner raises in Pachad Yitzchak on Shavuos.  Every mitzvah, especially one done with proper effort and intent, should move a person to deeper spirituality.  Why is it that the concept of halicha is only connected to talmud Torah? 

Rav Hutner answers that when the Maharal talks about halicha in this context he is not talking about the gavra, the person, but rather about the cheftza shel mitzvah.  Whether you put in tremendous work to obtain a pair of tefillin or make a pair of tefillin or just walk into the sofer with a dispensable wad of cash and in five minutes have for yourself the best pair tefillin on the market, at the end of the day the tefillin are the same tefillin.  Not true when it comes to talmud Torah.  Someone who works all day and comes up with an answer to a question of R’ Akiva Eiger is learning a different Torah than someone who doesn’t know that answer.  More than that: even if he doesn’t come up with an answer, just the time spent thinking about the R’ Akiva Eiger transforms his understanding and appreciation of Torah so that the material being learned is completely different.

The Igra d’Kallah at the end of Bechukosai writes that the brachos of “v’nasana ha’aretz yevulah v’eitz ha’sadeh yitein piryo” are midah k’neged midah.  The person learning with ameilus causes a halicha, an expansion of the world of Torah – his learning produces intellectual fruit and pays intellectual dividends.  In turn, the earth rewards that person by producing its fruits and paying dividends of weath.

Chazal deliberately refer to one who is “shoneh halachos” because they are alluding to this element of halicha, of expansion, of creative growth, of intellectual fruit.  Olam ha’ba is where we enjoy the radiance from the “ziv haShechina.”  It’s only by causing Torah to radiate and expend outward, that midah k’neged midah can a person earn the bracha of the radiance of the Shechina expanding outward to envelop him.


  1. Just this morning I saw the first Sifrei in Balak, that says
    וישב ישראל בשטים ויחל העם לזנות. אין "ישיבה" בכל מקום כי אם קלקלה
    and the Netziv there on the Sifrei says it's not like Ein X ella Y, which always means "it can be." Here, he says it always without exception means Y. He says the pshat is that Yeshiva means being satisfied with the status, quiescence, comfort, inertia. So I was thinking that if yeshiva is a sign of spiritual danger, it follows that Halicha, at least halicha in the right direction, has to mean dissatisfaction with the status, discomfort, increasing momentum, the opposite of inertia. It's not exactly ameilus, but it's pretty close.

    I don't know if this added anything substantive, but at least it's nice to know that the Sifra Rashi brings in Bechukosai is echoed in the Sifrei in the beginning of Balak; two sides of a coin, halicha and yeshiva, not the usual contrast of ונתתי לך מהלכים בין העומדים האלה.

    1. http://press.tau.ac.il/perplexed/chapters/chap_1_11.htm

    2. http://chabadlibrary.org/books/default.aspx?furl=/admur/tm/5/17/180

      By the way, for the Mirrers, if you wanted to really insult someone, you would say ער איז שוין א פארטיקער, meaning, sarcastically of course, "He is already perfect, and doesn't need to learn mussar."

  2. I don't think rashi got ameilus from the word telechu, rather from bchukosai cause you need ameilus to understand a chok