by Rabbi Dovid Green
"If you go in My laws and are careful to keep my commandments, I will provide you with rain at the right time, so the land will bear its crops and
the trees of the field will provide fruit." (Leviticus 26:3)
This is just the beginning of the blessings promised for observing the commandments. The Torah goes on and promises peace, security from enemies, and closeness and favor from
Rashi, the great medieval French commentary, addresses the first passage
quoted above. "Is it possible that 'if you will go in My laws' refers
specifically to observing the commandments? Doesn't it (the same passage go
on to) say 'and (if you) are careful to keep my commandments'? This refers
to observing the commandments. How then do we understand 'if you will go in
My laws'? It means that you should toil in Torah (learning)".
Why is so much blessing promised for toiling in Torah learning? What is it
about "toiling" in learning that distinguishes it as deserving of great
reward and blessing?
Rabbi Yaakov Salomon,1 of Brooklyn, retells a story he heard at a eulogy for
a Mr. Binyamin Schachner. The eulogizer described how every morning, when he
came out of his synagogue, he noticed Mr. Schachner standing at the bus stop
across the street. Rain or shine, Mr. Schachner was always there, never
missing a day. The Rabbi didn't make much of this, simply assuming that Mr.
Schachner was off to work, and was a very organized person, as he seemed
never to be late.
One day however, the Rabbi happened to be watching as the bus drew toward
the curb, accepted passengers, and then pulled away. Much to the Rabbi's
surprise, however, Mr. Schachner remained standing at the bus stop. As the
bus had not seemed particularly crowded, Mr. Schachner's behavior struck the
Rabbi as somewhat puzzling.
When a few days later this happened again, the Rabbi decided to find out why
the gentleman continued to wait at the bus stop. He approached Mr. Schachner
and said, "I couldn't help but notice that you are here every day at this
bus stop, yet twice I've seen that when the bus came by, you didn't get on.
Is everything alright?"
"Yes," smiled Mr. Schachner, "Everything is wonderful, but let me explain
why I'm here. You see," he began slowly, "I went through the hell of the
concentration camps, and suffered losses in the Holocaust. After we were
liberated I knew that the future of the Jewish People rested with the
children. So many of the adults had suffered greatly, so many were killed
and broken in spirit. I realized that only with the new generation could
Torah be revitalized. Therefore, when I came to this country and saw that
little children were indeed learning Torah, it gave me great pleasure and
hope for the future."
"I once figured out," he continued, "that if I stand right here at this bus
stop, I can watch 32 bus loads of Jewish children pass on their way to
various Torah-learning institutions in the area. I stand and count them as
they go by, and if, G-d forbid, I count only 31, my day is incomplete. I
have to know each morning that every bus load of children made it to school.
That's why I'm here, just to see this beautiful spectacle every morning.
This is my greatest pleasure, to know that Jewish children are once again
learning Torah. To me it is the most wonderful sight in the world."
It is with this type of sentiment that someone would dedicate himself to
"toil" in Torah learning. This enthusiasm is his contribution to the
observance of the commandment to study Torah. It is the observance of the
commandments with this great desire and yearning which distinguishes it as
something unique, and especially deserving.
1Rabbi Yaakov Salomon lectures for The Aish HaTorah Discovery Seminar.
This story was taken from "In the Footsteps of the Maggid." Mesorah
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.