Shabbat Parashat Eikev | 5768
The Role of Torah in the Building of Middot
(from the writings of Harav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, z.t.l.)
1. The Role of Torah in the Building of Middot
(based on Berachot 1:30)
Gemara: If a person sees yisurin (torment) coming upon him, he should search his actions… If he searches and does not find, he should attribute it to bitul Torah… If he tried to attribute it to bitul Torah and did not find, it is known that it is yisurin of love.
Ein Ayah: Even though bitul Torah is a great sin, the idea is that the obligation of being dedicated to Torah study cannot really be quantified for every person. After all, everyone has permission to engage in business and acquire possessions even beyond his basic needs, and this is not bitul Torah. However, there are people who have middot (characteristics) that, according to the level of each one’s soul, he should fix and they can be fixed only through Torah. After all, the Torah prepares a person to be righteous and straight. According to the extent that he is obligated according to the nature of his soul to improve his middot, it is incumbent upon him to spend time studying Torah so that it will improve him.
If he was negligent in this regard, then there is no choice but to bring on yisurin that improve middot. This is why he should attribute the matter to bitul Torah because according to the level of his middot, it is proper that he should hold on more to Torah, so that his middot will be fixed and he will not need yisurin.
That is why if he tried to attribute it to bitul Torah and did not find, it must be yisurin of love. In other words, it is to sweeten his middot in a manner that he is not able to do without yisurin and to thereby merit the highest level of sheleimut (completeness). This can only be because of Hashem’s love for him to elevate him beyond his nature with which he was originally created.
2. Yisurin to Go Beyond One’s Natural Limitations
(based on Berachot 1:32)
Gemara: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said: Hashem gave three good gifts to Israel, and all of them were given only by means of yisurin (torment or toil). These are they: Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and olam haba (the world to come).
Ein Ayah: There are levels that are within the nature of man to be able to attain according to the root of his creation as a human being. Since these are in line with his nature, there is no need for yisurin in order to merit them. However, in order to merit that which is outside and indeed above nature, the physical powers are not ready for them except by means of yisurin.
An illustration of this is prophecy, which when it took effect, caused a person’s limbs “to fall apart,” as the Rambam says (Yesodei Hatorah 7:2) and as the p’sukim in Daniel (10:8) and elsewhere indicate. All of this is because prophecy is a high level that is beyond nature, and the natural body does not accept it without yisurin, which weaken and “break” his strength
Thus, all three of these levels are above nature. A person is composed of intellect, body, and soul. In all of these realms, a person can be on the level of nature, but he can also elevate himself above nature in the three. Hashem prepared Israel that they should be able to go beyond the element of nature. From the perspective of intellect, He gave them the Torah to elevate and complete the intellect above the natural. From the perspective of the physical, Eretz Yisrael is a physical land, yet it has a special sanctity that is beyond nature. The world to come is where a person’s soul merits to reach a level that is higher than nature [allows for]. Therefore, all of these things were given only by means of yisurin.
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Hemdat Yamim of this week
is dedicated in memory of
Yitzchak Eizik Ben Yehuda Leib a"h,
whose Yahrtzeit is the 29th of Av
as well as
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.