Honor His Torah
Rebbe Akiva had 12,000 pairs of talmidim (students) from the city of Givas to Antifras. They all died within a short span of time (during sefiras ha'omer). Why? Because they did not honor each other. (Gemora Yevamos 62b). The Maharsha explains that they did not honor each other's Torah. What does that mean? Is not honoring your friend's Torah a crime that carries the death penalty? The Maharsha goes on to explain that the Torah is our life. As the verse states, "Ki hou chayecha" (Devarim 30:20). Negating someone's Torah makes his life worthless in your eyes. That is a serious crime indeed.
The talmidim of Rebbe Akiva were on a very high madrayga (spiritual level). What was considered a serious aveyra (sin) for them might not even be noticeable to us. Yet, we can still learn an important lesson from them. We are now in the period of sefiras ha'omer. We have an opportunity to work on honoring our friend and his Torah. The following story illustrates one aspect of kovod (honoring) Torah in our times.
"I don't agree with you. That is not the p'shat (basic explanation) of this gemora."
"And I don't agree with you. You do not understand the p'shat."
"We seemed to have reached an impasse here. What should we do?"
"Let's go to the Rosh Yeshiva. He will tell us who is right."
The two talmidim approach the Rosh Yeshiva.
"May we ask the Rosh Yeshiva a question?"
"Of course. Go right ahead."
"My chavrusa (study partner) and I disagree about the p'shat in this gemora. Can the Rosh Yeshiva tell us who is right?"
The Rosh Yeshiva smiled. He saw an opportunity to teach these two students an important principle.
"Yes, of course. Moshe, how do you understand this gemora?"
Moshe proceeded to carefully explain the p'shat, as he understood it.
"Very good, Moshe."
"Am I correct?"
"I'll tell you in a minute. First, Yaakov, can you please explain what Moshe said?"
"I don't agree with Moshe's p'shat. I want to say my own p'shat in the gemora."
"I understand, Yaakov. I want to hear your p'shat. And I am sure that Moshe also wants to hear your p'shat. But first you have to understand your chavrusa's p'shat."
"I see. Can you please repeat what you said, Moshe?"
And so, Moshe carefully repeated his p'shat in the gemora. Yaakov listened carefully, understood, and repeated Moshe's p'shat to the Rosh Yeshiva.
"Excellent Yaakov. Now, let's hear your p'shat."
And so, Yaakov explained the gemora, the way he understood it.
"Very good Yaakov. Now, Moshe, can you please explain Yaakov's p'shat in the gemora."
Moshe proceeded to explain the gemora according to Yaakov's understanding.
"Can the Rosh Yeshiva please tell us who is right?"
"With pleasure. But first, can you both tell me precisely on which point you disagree?"
The two talmidim thought for a long time. Finally, Moshe spoke up.
"Excellent, Moshe. That assumption is precisely your point of disagreement with Yaakov. Now, are you correct in your assumption?"
Moshe thought again for a long time.
"No, I am not. There is a verse in the Torah which explicitly contradicts my assumption."
"Wonderful, Moshe. You really know your Chumash."
"Thank you very much, Rebbe. You really taught us an important lesson."
"Thank you Yaakov and Moshe. You are both excellent talmidim. You both know how to learn well, and have important insights in the gemora. It gives me much pleasure to see you listening carefully and trying your best to understand your chavrusa's p'shat. That is the way to honor your friend's Torah.
Kinderlach . . .
Torah is our life. Your chavrusa's Torah is his life. Listen to him. Understand him. Respect his opinion. Respect his Torah. This is our avodah (spiritual work) during these days of sefiras ha'omer. We are working to prepare ourselves for receiving the Torah on Shavuous. Hashem gives Torah to those who love it and honor it. Honor your friend's Torah. Hashem will repay you.
"I shall be sanctified among the Children of Israel" (Vayikra 22:32). This is the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying Hashem's Holy Name. The Gemora (Yuma 86a) tells us that making people love Hashem is our way of sanctifying His name. How do we do this? One who learns Tanach and Mishna, serves Talmidei Chachomim and is careful that his relationships with people are pleasant, sanctifies Hashem's name. People who know him will say about him, "Fortunate are his father and his teacher who taught him Torah. Oy to those who do not learn Torah! Look how his ways are delightful, his deeds are refined." On the other hand, if we behave the opposite, we cause people to say not so nice things about Hashem and His Torah.
Kinderlach . . .
People are watching us. We are representatives of Hashem. On the bus, they are watching to see if we give up our seat for an older person. At the store, they are watching to see if we wait patiently for our turn. At the playground, they are watching to see if we play nicely and do not litter. They look to see if our clothes are neat and clean. When they speak to us, they notice if we listen and answer politely or not. You have many opportunities to be a shining example of how Hashem and His Torah can refine a person. Let us take turns around the Shabbos table trying to think of other examples. Maybe we can even ask Abba to give out a prize to the one who thinks of the most examples.
For whom is a Kohen permitted to make himself tomei? (21:2,3)
What are the defects that disqualify the Kohen from the avodah? (21:18-20)
The Korbon Omer permitted which food to be eaten? (23:14 and Rashi)
What time of day should we count the Omer and why? (Rashi 23:15)
What are two names for the grain offering brought on Shavuous? (23:16,20)
What must you do to receive kapora (atonement) on Yom Kippur? (Rashi 23:27)
Kinder Torah Copyright 2004 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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