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Shabbat Parashat Ha'azinu-Succot | 5769
Excerpts from the Introduction to Ein Ayah – part IV
[We last saw Rav Kook’s urging for Torah scholars to apply their energies to the study of aggada (homiletics and philosophy) as they do to halacha.]
It is possible to see people who have a strong hold on every halachic element of the Torah and know little about what goes on in the Jewish heart, regarding matters of personality and ethics, beliefs and philosophies, which are the root and foundation of Torah. If such a person is kind enough to read a book of ethics, he does so superficially or for the purpose of inspiration and fixing a temporary inclination. The broad and deep Torah of mussar (ethics) and aggada can be understood and meaningful only when there is a broad knowledge of its important books, which were passed down from the giants of the generations in these fields. The matter has reached a point whereby if a scholar is inspired to invest time increasing his expertise in mussar, he deals with guilt that he is wasting Torah time. This is wrong; the field of Jewish thought is also Torah. Granted, if one deals just with feelings and imagination, even if it helps his ability to learn, that is not included in Torah per se, although we can include it in the mitzva of teshuva or of tefilla. However, when we deal with aggadot and matters of belief and philosophy, as the midrashim, Geonim, Rambam and others did, acquiring knowledge and afterward the ability to analyze, it is Torah study, indeed of a type that builds that which was destroyed and seals the gaps in the walls around our nation.
Realize that many of the books that need to be studied in order to be steeped in matters of ethics and philosophy are commentaries on the aggadot of Chazal. Investment of significant time in this study can bring significant success, which is crucial in our generation. Increased volume of reading has taken hold in our times, taking the place of careful reading and review of classical texts. This has allowed people to acquire much knowledge in the field of halacha and, increasingly, because of its ease and lack of necessary preparation, entices people in other areas as well. Because few scholars are experts in the field of mussar, there are few new books that can add light of Torah, fear of Heaven, and holy attributes to a broad readership. The lack of talented people dedicating themselves to this study has allowed the generation to increasingly deteriorate, as scholars of aggada, mussar, philosophy, and proper personal attributes have painfully waned.
Torah brings on all good things. However, only serious study causes one to act in accordance with the Torah. Only with study of ethics in a manner that binds it to practical Torah will the Jewish home be filled with spiritual light. When there will be greatly increased study of improved behavior, the spectacle of a Torah scholar whose inside is not as pure as his outside will wane, along with its terrible chillul Hashem. These better-rounded scholars will also be able to combat new or old attacks on Torah, which have so severely eroded the Jewish fabric of so many. My simple understanding is that a bi’ur [an expansive commentary - see previous weeks’ articles] of the aggadot of Chazal is a major step toward improving the situation.
This internal feeling is what prodded me to expound on the words of aggadot Chazal. I have felt that those ideas in the writings of Chazal that have inspired me will inspire others who desire to learn Torah strongly, including the aggadic elements. My hope is that my contribution will inspire those greater than I to contribute their works, which will make mine considered unimportant. Then I will know that I have succeeded.
I have included simple explanations in my work as well. Simple manners committed to writing also can inspire and influence. Works of the simple nature are also needed in our times to strengthen the pillars of Torah, fear of Hashem and belief.
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Hemdat Yamim of this week
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfel
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.