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Shabbat Parashat Vayeishev 5774

Ein Ayah: Forms of Benefit from Torah Scholarship

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:347)

Gemara: Rabbi Nechemia opened his remarks by honoring the hosts and expounded: The pasuk says: “Shaul said to the Keinites: ‘Go, distance yourselves, and descend from the Amalekites, lest I destroy you along with them, and you did kindness with all of Bnei Yisrael’” (Shmuel I, 15:6). Let us compare the matters through a kal vachomer. If Yitro (patriarch of the Keinites), who only drew Moshe close to him for his own honor, received such treatment, one who hosts a talmid chacham in his home, gives him to eat and to drink, and has him benefit from his property, is all the more so [worthy of reward]. 

Rabbi Yossi opened his remarks by honoring the hosts and expounded: The pasuk says: “Do not despise an Edomite, for he is your brother; do not despise an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land” (Devarim 23:8). Let us compare the matters through a kal vachomer. The Egyptians welcomed in Israel for their own purposes, as the pasuk says: “And if you [Yosef] know that there are among them talented people, you shall make them officers over my cattle” (Bereishit 47:6). If they deserved consideration, one who hosts a talmid chacham in his home, gives him to eat and to drink, and has him benefit from his property, is all the more so [worthy of reward].

 

Ein Ayah: Maintaining Torah within the Jewish community as a whole has a double value. There is a special value that corresponds to the way a person benefits from honor in his life. Although honor does not provide any practical physical benefit, a person’s honor is very important to him, and gold and silver cannot compete with it. Torah has another value, which corresponds to the practical benefit people receive from a variety of commodities.

The first type of value of Torah scholarship is that the nation as a whole needs talmidei chachamim who are involved in Torah study, so that they can give life to the nation through the spirit of Hashem that is upon them. This is valuable even if people will not rely upon these talmidei chachamim to rule on matters of Jewish law, because the increase of Torah knowledge, in and of itself, is the nation’s strength and glory. This value certainly exists in regard to great Torah scholars, who are already on the level that they deal with matters of Torah that are broader than what applies to most people’s daily lives. These scholars should be cherished the way a person cherishes acquired honor. The value of increased Torah knowledge also applies to students, even those who have not reached, and may never reach, the level to rule and teach matters of Torah for others. Still, the involvement in Torah is innately extremely lofty and holy.

Yitro showed Moshe affection for his own honor. Therefore, we learn through a kal vachomer that one who attaches himself to a talmid chacham, for the value that resembles honor is certainly worthy of great reward. This is because he seeks this gain not for himself but for the whole nation –  that they should contain Torah scholars, irrespective of their practical value,.

The second element is understood in a straightforward manner. Every member of Bnei Yisrael must try to ensure the presence of Torah in the nation [on all levels] for very practical purposes. After all, if there are no “kids,” there will not be “goats.” In other words, if there are not young men who aspire to be scholars and are diligently trained by their teachers, from where will spring forth great Torah leaders who can adjudicate and make halachic rulings? Corresponding to this aspect of value of Torah, Rabbi Yossi brought the comparison to the Egyptians who sought the Israelites’ arrival for practical purposes. When someone seeks Torah scholars for practical purposes, for the whole nation’s benefit, he is most certainly worthy of reward for the benefits that his support of scholars and scholarship bring about.

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