Positive Vision - Day 59
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 59 - The Toil of Torah - The Pleasure of Torah
We mentioned yesterday that toiling in Torah is essential for it to act as an effective antidote to the yetzer hara.
Why is that so?
This brings us to yet another reason that Torah protects one from tumah.
The Apter Rav makes the following comment to the well-known Rashi in Bechukosai: If you follow in my laws - [I.e.,] that you shall toil in Torah:
Even if someone knows the entire Torah and the secrets within the mitzvos, he must nevertheless toil in Torah ... for whatever a person studies with hard work, he finds pleasure in ... [Aside from knowing Torah] there is a separate mitzvah to work hard studying Torah, and to thereby add increasingly to one’s pleasure in it...
The Apter Rav is telling us that one derives pleasure from Torah only when he has to work hard to understand it. Interestingly, Professor Tal Ben Shachar, an Israeli who is currently the most popular lecturer at Harvard University, makes much the same point regarding happiness in general. He asserts that one derives pleasure only from having a goal that pushes him forward and encourages him to maximize his potential. Possessing something does not generate happiness. Working toward it and achieving it, does.
If one is to derive pleasure from Torah, it is essential that he work hard at it. One may think that deriving pleasure from Torah detracts from the reward. After all, we are supposed to perform mitzvos lishmah, just because Hashem said so, and mitzvos lav leihanos nitnu, the mitzvos were not given for us to enjoy.
This, however, does not apply to Torah study. Torah study is meant to be pleasurable, and the Torah was given for us to derive pleasure by studying it. Rambam writes that one fulfills the commandment to love G-d by thinking about and analyzing His mitzvos (a reference to talmud Torah) ... “until we understand it and enjoy its attainment with an extreme degree of pleasure.”
In fact, it would seem that the pleasure of Torah study is a reflection of the ultimate pleasure of basking in the Shechinah’s presence in Olam Haba. The Gemara, in describing this experience, writes: “There is no eating or drinking nor relations in Olam Haba. Rather, the tzaddikim sit with their crowns upon their heads basking in the radiance of the Shechinah.”
The Midrash applies the same dynamic to Moshe, who did not eat or drink for the forty days he was in Heaven receiving the Torah. The Midrash explains that he didn’t need to because by toiling in Torah he was basking in Hashem’s radiance, and this experience substituted for the need for physical nutrition.
Mesillas Yesharim begins with the assertion that man was created “l’his’aneig al Hashem,” to enjoy Divine pleasure in Olam Haba.
A person is naturally drawn toward pleasure because he was created to ultimately enjoy the greatest pleasure of all - basking in the Shechinah’s presence. One who fails to satisfy this need for pleasure through Torah study, which in essence is the Olam Haba experience, is automatically drawn toward illicit pleasures (R' Meir Stern shlita, cited in Essa Einai).
In fact, R’ Tzadok HaKohen writes: “Do not be depressed and think how base you must be if you struggle with a great desire for physical pleasures. On the contrary, you are a vessel ready for the full power of yearning to seek Truth.