I pray to the Eternal that he bring success in all matters spiritual and material to anyone who read this letter, by the virtue of my Saintly Forefathers. Amen
As a Jew full of faith in our Creator, his Torah, and his Tzadikim, as one who believe in principles such as reward and punishment, in Gan Eden and Guehinom, Messiah and Techiat Hametim (revival of deaths), in eternal life after death following 120 years on earth, we have an obligation to constantly make a self examination in order to avoid failing in our daily responsibilities.
Unfortunately, since we do not make any effort to deserve the Eternal happiness after death, we are likely to lose, G-od forbid, everything we have invested in our life in our life regardless of being fully aware of our Judaism. We are not trying enough to understand what Eternal is expecting from us.
Everyone is prompted by ambitions such as, having a beautifully furnished apartment, a permanent job, a vacation once or twice a year, to see our children become doctors, lawyers or engineers. But, observing the Torah and applying each of its Mitzvot extensively is rarely a part of our ambitions. In the Word of Truth, the questions will be asked: "Did you regularly devote time to the studying of the Torah? Did you respect the Commandments?" And what will be the answer? "Since I had a small apartment, I kept busy all my life trying to get a better one" or "since I had a small business, I kept busy all my life trying to expand it in order to provide for my family and marry my children". Is this a sufficient answer to the question raised? Does this answer imply that time was found to settle matters, but there was no time for studying the Torah? After this, it is still possible to affirm a belief in the Torah and its Mitzvot? Can one say he believe in the Torah and its Mitzvot when one never fulfills them but only set ambitions for personal gratification.
By doing so, we are not showing gratitude towards Hachem, the Creator of the Universe, who gives us everything we possess.
I had a visit today from someone who used to attend the Yechiva but stopped attending after having been successful in business. He said to me: "Rabbi, I am sorry for not having been able to come to the Yechiva to study, for not making any contribution during all this time. I am here today confronted to a terrible situation. I have already lost this week half of what I painfully worked for. I am terrorized just thinking that I will become as poor as I was in the past. This is the reason I am asking you to advise me on the behavior I should follow, to avoid the loss of what is left". I answered him : "You are worried about all the material goods you have lost, but you are not worried about all the days lost not studying the Torah. You are not worried about the days you have not worn the Tephillin and prayed. You are worried about the money you will not be carrying along with you in your grave, after 120 years of life. The fact that the Torah and the Mitzvot will lighten your way up to your place in Gan Eden is not of importance to you? Do you think when you will be 120, G-od Almighty will not be upset, because as soon as he made you rich, honorable and happy, you suddenly abandoned him? Instead of being grateful, you completely forgot about him, as if he stopped existing within you. Now, G-od Almighty who desire that you remember him, decided to inflict punishment on you. He took back a certain amount of money he had given you. As a result, you fell the distress you plunged him into by deserting him. This is the reason why you have lost a lot. Now you cry in vain for all these days of hard work, but you are not crying for the days you withdrew from the Torah and Mitzvot. You flunked your test. If from the start, you were willing to become a good Jew, if you hade put in a good will, you would not have found yourself in such a state of distress. You not only lose money, but also all the days passed without Torah, the Mitzvot and the prayers. But today, you are crying for money".
I am not saying we should totally refrain from working and succeeding in life nor that we should lock ourselves up in a Yechiva and constantly study. This is not given to everybody. Even the person willing to do so is not always privileged to guide people after years of studying the Torah. I would say that each Jew, has an obligation to continue to believe in the Eternal, his Torah and its Mitzvot. His main ambition should be to live a life embraced with Torah and its Mitzvot. Nothing should refrain him from working for his bread, buying a new apartment, going on a vacation. Needless to say that he should pay attention when choosing the destination, to make sure the principles of Tsniout (decency) are respected, so he does not stumble, G-od forbid, on mistakes caused by the Arayote (Voyeurism and forbidden unions).
To the spouse that morally supports her husband and accepts his attendance to a Torah course in the evening after work, G-od Almighty promises a reward twice as big. In fact not only she assume all the work inherent to a Kosher home -thus relieving her husband- but in addition, she encourages him to study the Torah. And this is the importance of the reward that is reserved to her. In fact, life is like gold. It is a custom that a Hatane (new groom) receive from his wide a golden watch and offer her one too. This is done to make sure that both do not forget that time is gold and that it will be unfortunate to waste it in vain and futility, since the value of each day, each hour and every moment is priceless.
Let’s take an example. Someone who studies medicine will benefit from it every day once he become a specialist. If by misfortune, he does not pass one exam, all of his time and expense are a total loss. Just pronouncing a word of the Torah is equivalent to having accomplished the Mitzvot Asse (obligatory commandment of "Vedibarta Bam") (you will talk with my words). Gaon de Vilna said if there did not exist a commandment to study the Torah, out of love for it he would have repeated all his life the first Mishna of Talmudic Berakhot treaty.
As for us, we do not make enough efforts to study and get to know the Torah. Our words are tinged by triviality. Even a very talented man does not benefit from his talent if he is lazy. His life will be a waste of time.
Our sages quote another example of an idle man with no money, whose friends suggested that he buy some inexpensive item in the market and sell them back at a higher price so that he may buy food for his family and himself. What does he do ? He goes to the market but spends his time wandering from one place to another, looking at buyers and customers. Once the market closes, he goes back home with nothing accomplished. It is similar for us. Up to 120 years, "time is brief, work exhausting and the boss is rushing" (Avot Treaty IV, 45). And who knows what tomorrow will be like ?
Believe me, it is only though being constant, night and day that we get to know the Torah, which mean one should make good use of the study program and free time. A person who anticipates to finish working in order to attend a Torah course in the evening should know that G-od Almighty calculates this anticipation as one day of study. In fact, the Torah inspiration makes a man master of his time. His life is thus bound to the Torah only.
The Yetser Haraa (bad inclinations), which King Solomon nicknamed a "silly old king", uses cunning, by inciting a man to spend his time in vain occupations, instead of studying the Torah. But listen: Is there anything more precious than human life itself ? Anyone will give everything for it, but even for the entire gold in the world, no one can buy a moment of the day that just passed, not even the wealthiest man in the world, who is capable of buying half of the earth with his money. This is the reason why any individual who spends his time in futility is like a man standing at the seashore throwing golden coins from his pocket. Such a man, according to the Torah is a silly man. Its definition is given by the Guemara: What is a silly man? A silly man is one that loses all that is given to him (Haguiga Treaty IV).
Our Sages quote an example of two different types of agenda calendars. One is a notebook that we glance through, turning to a new page. The other is a pad from which we remove a new page daily and then throw it away.
The same applies to us. At the year end, we can distinguish those who take time in finding traces of their actions, day by day. But the one who removes and throws away the pages of his calendar has no record of his deeds. In the Ecclesiastes (12,1) King Solomon, who was the wisest man, warn us: "And remember your Creator during your youth, before days and years of distress appear and where you will say: I reject them". Later, King Solomon describes in detail a man's old age when his strength is lessened, his vision weakened, his ability to eat, digest or walk on the street holding on a cane is diminished. Incidentally, no one predict the state of his health. Therefore, if we did not usefully benefit from our youth when we were in full possession of our means, we will bitterly cry during old age, having no strength to study the Torah. A bitter grief will remain and we will ask ourselves: "Why did I throw away the good days and bright nights when I could reached completeness. That's it§ I counted upon my old days. Those days where we contemplate the trembling of the keepers of the house (Ecclesiastic, idem) a harm beyond repair will be done and it won't be possible to buy back the youth years nor to vivid strength we didn't appreciate.
It is true a thousand times, that every Jew wishes to obtain a part in the Olam Habba (future world) next to our Saint ancestors and Tzadikim such as Rabbi Shimone Bar Yohai, Rabbi Meyir Baal Haness, Rabbi Haim Pinto, Hafets Chaim, etc... We hope to be their side with no shame for our past behavior. If in advance, we cannot face our own father or grandfather what will it be like when facing the Tzadikim?
Now the question is/ Do we really wish, deep within ourselves, for each moment of our life, to find ourselves next to these righteous men? Are we doing everything that expected from us to deserve such a distinguished privilege? Is it through rejoicing our body with hearty meals, sleeping, dressing elegantly, having all sorts of fun on vacation, paying our respect to Tzedakah, going once a week to the synagogue rushing to finish the service in order to go quietly home to eat the Shabbat meal... that we will give ourselves a chance to meet one day our ancestors and Tzadikim, those we invoke every time we need them?
Anyone is perfectly able to live in this world knowing he is granted a ticket to the most important place "Olam Habba", provided of course, he is longing to obtain it before the ticket office closes. This remind me of a man who dreamt of a great Tzadik telling him: "Should you play such and such number at the lottery, you will win so many millions". On waking, he writes down in his agenda the numbers he dreamt of, but waits to the last moment to fill up the slip. He finds the ticket office closed. Can you imagine how hurt he felt, knowing he arrived late to the ticket office, But his feeling of hurt is nothing compared to what he experienced when he found out the result of the draw were indeed the ones revealed by the Tzadik.
By studying the Torah, by accomplishing the Mitzvot, a man fills up a slip in this world for the sake of his body and soul which then ensures him to live in happiness in the Olam Habba. One can imagine his grief, should he let the time pass by and arrive late at the Olam Habba finding closed doors. His shame will be tremendous since he already knew the truth when he belonged to this world and did not benefit from it by neglecting to purchase on time his ticked to the Olam Habba.
In the treaty "Avoda Zara" our Sages quote: In the sacred study, we should at all times act like a bull who carries his yoke or like a donkey, both accepting their hard work, by putting all the efforts necessary for one to pull the cart and for the other to carry heavy loads. Man should never grow weary to study the Torah and even more, G-od forbid, to trample on studying of the Torah and practicing of the Mitzvot.
From this adage given by our Sages, we can as well deduct that a human being cannot evaluate his own strength. Should he feel overloaded, he must picture himself as a bull under a yoke, who has got a reputation for his strength as a beast of burden. Man should be aware he has a significant strength at his disposal. Once he will assume the yoke of his burden, no doubt Hachem will help him.
This adage from our Sages reveals another teaching. We have to study the Torah in two manners, with deep analysis and erudition. We should behave as a bull and work hard, taking upon a quantity of loads of knowledge. Otherwise, G-od forbid, we risk to despise Mitzvot, from easiest to the hardest. Younger years are obviously the best period for regular and daily study. Later, when our children are grown up we should continue to study as hard as we can and of course without neglecting family obligations.
According to some of our Sages, studying the Torah in difficult conditions is not only important to Hachem, but this effort is crowned with glory. We can read in the Berakhot treaty: "The study of the Torah is only success to the individual killing himself for it... It is the Torah that I learned, against all odds, that humped me..." . Such a study brings help from Hachem in wealthy time too.
It seems that while experiencing difficulties, some people who studied the Torah once in a while stopped studying, because they said it did not help them in times of grief. They then sank in discouragement and despair. This explains the reason why an individual convinced that the study of the Torah hasn't helped him materially or spiritually would keep a grudge against the Rabbis, the Torah and even Hachem. The natural self-indulgence we have, restrain us from facing our part of responsibility in any problem.
One of the principles of success in the study is a strict respect of the program and its schedule. As our Sages quote in Shabbat treaty, one of the questions asked to man by the Heavenly Court is: "Did you devote time for the Torah?"
This question is not solely addressed to a craftsman obliged to devote time to the study of the Torah, but also and above all to the Talmid Hakham (erudite scholars) who studies on a full time basis and to whom we say: Torato Umanouto (his profession is the study of the Torah).
Even though his time are spent at the Beit Midrash (house of study), he has to arrange a strict timetable. By doing so, he does a remarkable favor to himself and to all his friends since he brings the students together.
Some, accustomed to stay up at night, wake up late to pray in the institute. Studying at night benefits to them but disrupts the community and therefore weakens the institute. Similarly, when someone does not strictly respect his timetable he discourages others to study with him and deprives them from the Limoud.
In the work of Tiferet Shlomo, we can read that studying the Torah for itself meaning with no calculation or any further considerations, one is capable to awaken superior worlds in their mercy, pour their beneficial help onto Jewish people. About Rabbi Chanina Ben Dossa; a voice said: "The entire world is nourished by his unique merit". Thus, we understand the huge responsibilities someone has when he enters the Beit Midrash. Not only he will brightened by the Torah but also brighten the students around him and consequently the entire world. The one who studies as it should be, with no ulterior motives dispenses a tremendous Zikoui Harabim (spiritual charity)
Blessed be he who tries hard to do various Teshouvas because the reward awaiting him has no limit. He won't be left alone: The one who attends faithfully Beit Hamidrash may also considered as a spiritual benefactor. First he passes on the spirit of the Torah to the entire Beit Hamidrash, and as mentioned by our Masters, its invisible influence extends far away.
One who can imagine all this obviously benefit from it and will be able to study better, with a deep concentration on the Torah Lishmah.
I will finish this letter saying that it is written to honor the Torah. Its content was inspired by our sages' sacred texts. Nothing was thought up, G-od forbid.
May the Torah and the Tzadikim from whom I gathered the remarks described in this letter grant protection to anyone who studies it. Amen.