by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern, a talmid of Rabbi Avigdor Miller
First in a series of 3 articles
The Chasam Sofer (cited in Talelei Oros, vol. 2, p. 177) and Rav Chaim Friedlander (Mesilos Chaim Be’chinuch p. 95) write that when a person has a desire to succeed, he suddenly discovers that he has dormant energy and skills that he never knew he had, similar to a person who is able to accomplish more when under pressure because of the hidden energy that is released then.
A person may experience this when he has a deadline to finish a project. If he starts on the project too early, he may find himself progressing at a snail’s pace. However, if he starts right before the deadline, he somehow finds himself working at lightning speed and accomplishing his goal in a relatively short time.
A person has to study Torah as if he found a large treasure
Similarly, a person who is lacking the willpower to do something, will not be able to do it even though it is within his means, as illustrated by the following story. Reish Lakish was the head of a band of thieves. One day, he saw Rav Yochanan bathing in a river and leaped from the river bank into the river toward him. Rav Yochanan remarked, “Since you have such extraordinary physical strength, why don’t you utilize it for Torah study?” He then told Reish Lakish that if he would do teshuva, he would offer him his sister for a wife. Reish Lakish agreed. However, afterwards, he was unable to jump back on to the river bank (Bava Metzia 84a).
Rav Yaakov Neiman (Darchei Mussar, cited in Lekach Tov Bamidbar, p. 251) explains that Reish Lakish did not lose his energy when he agreed to become a baal teshuva. Before he accepted Rav Yochanan’s offer, he regarded himself as the chief of a ring of bandits, and was therefore able to use his strength to leap into the river. However, once he agreed to abandon his career of robbery and study Torah, he was no longer motivated to leap to the shore. Since he had no reason to harness his extra strength, he was unable to make the leap.
Rav Neiman proves from this incident that if a person is not motivated to do something, then he won’t be able to do it even though he is capable of doing it.
The Treasure Hunt
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz quotes the Vilna Gaon (cited by The Chofetz Chaim in Shem Olam, part 1 ch. 19), who explains the pasuk in Tehillim (119:162), “I rejoice over your words (of Torah) like one who finds a large spoil,” that a person has to study Torah as if he found a large treasure. If a person is informed of a place where hidden treasures are buried and he had a limited time to dig them out, he wouldn’t waste a second. He would force himself to stay awake and use all his energies to collect the treasure. This was Dovid Hamelech’s approach to Torah study, and how Yaakov Avinu was able to study Torah for fourteen years without lying down to sleep; they simply utilized all of their physical energy.
Rav Zalman of Volozhin (brother of Rav Chaim Volozhin) was in the middle of studying Torah when he needed a certain sefer that was located behind a very large and heavy bookcase. Normally, moving the bookcase required three men. However, Rav Zalman’s passion for studying Torah didn’t prevent him from attempting to move it. He approached the bookcase and succeeded in moving it to obtain the sefer (Toldos Adam ch. 15, cited in Lekach Tov ibid.).
...continues next week
Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern was a talmid of Rav Miller when he was a Mashgiach in Mesivta Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin. He presently resides in Kiryat Sefer, and has been active in Jewish education and outreach for over two decades with Aish Hatorah and Arachim.
He also lectures internationally on shalom bayis, chinuch habanim, family communication, shiduchim and dating, and has produced a popular CD series on these topics. His articles on these topics and Jewish hashkafa have appeared internationally in Jewish newspapers and magazines.
These articles are taken (with permission) from his new 2 volume book “The Parsha and YOU,” published by Israel Bookshop. These books, which contain over 120 essays on the parshyos and moadim, are designed to enhance the family’s Shabbos table and to improve many vital areas of one’s daily living and interpersonal relationships. Also included is a special section on avoiding lashon hara in shidduchim, plus a Yamim Nora’im supplement. Rabbi Morgenstern can be contacted at: email@example.com
The articles are dedicated to the memory of my parents:
אבי מורי ר' ירחמיאל ישראל נתנאלבןהרה"ח ר' משה דוב ז"לנפ' י"ב אדר תשנ"דאמי מורתי מרת לאה גיטלבת
הרה"ח ר' נחמן צבי ע"ה
נפ' בשנת ק"א לחייה בערב פסח תשע"ב