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Shabbat Sukkot 5774

Ein Ayah: The Relationship Between Torah Study and Seeking Livelihood

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:333)

Gemara:  When our rabbis entered Kerem B’Yavneh (the Vineyard in Yavneh), present were Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Nechemia, and Rabbi Elazar the son of Rabbi Yossi Hagelili. They all opened by honoring the hosts and expounded Torah ideas. Rabbi Yehuda, the one who always spoke first, started by discussing the honor of Torah and said …


Ein Ayah:  Since the tendency toward extremes is not good, it is proper for those who are involved primarily in spirituality to have affection for activities to build the physical world and for those who take part in them. These can also support the status of talmidei chachamim, who spread the light of Torah. It is also necessary to raise the perception of the value of Torah, its sanctity, and its light in the eyes of those who are involved in studying Torah. Otherwise, they may develop an interest in leaving it for the world of professions and suffice with supporting others who are involved in Torah. That is why Rabbi Yehuda decided to speak about the honor of Torah.

There is value in strengthening the resolve to be involved in physical development of the world for those who are weak and unsuccessful in this realm, as their difficulties can cause disgust with the physical world. They should come to value development of the world, which reaches its purpose when it is combined with the Torah that it can help facilitate. In contrast, those who are successful in the material world can be overly drawn in by a life of riches and honor, and it is therefore important to teach them of the importance of Torah.

Therefore, in the historical period of the Roman conquest when the rabbinic community was under pressure, they spoke in honor of their hosts to instill a feeling of love of one’s fellow and to avoid distancing wealthy people who were successful in the material realm. Rabbi Yehuda, who had been elevated in stature by the government, found it appropriate to start by stressing the spiritual side, the light of the Torah. This was to strengthen himself so that he not stray due to his material success, from the opportunity to be immersed in Torah study, which transcends all possessions.

The value of the “vineyard” was also intended as a parable for the host of Torah and the Torah itself. The philosophical ideas, which are the roots, light, and soul of the Torah, are set aside for the “honor of the Torah.” The actions are the “host of Torah,” as the actions are necessary to give the ideas a secure place where they can stand securely.

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