Go back to Archive

The Battle of the Generation - Day 45

Our weekly excerpt from the book "The Battle of the Generation

There once was a yeshiva student who suddenly became very ill. Sick and weak, he couldn’t come to yeshiva. He was in so much pain that he could barely get out of bed.

One day, he decided to push himself to learn for just fifteen minutes. He picked up his favorite masechta and learned for fifteen minutes. When he was done, he remembered this teaching of Avos D’Rebbe Nosson. He took out a calculator and did the math: 15 minutes x 100 = 25 hours! “Twenty-five hours!” he exclaimed. “That is half of what a yeshiva guy learns in a week!” With that, he pulled out his gemara again and learned for another fifteen minutes. The next day he learned for another fifteen minutes, and he learned for another fifteen minutes here and another fifteen minutes there until he finished the entire masechta! What he accomplished in his state is incredible, and what enabled him to do it was realizing how impressive his learning was because of the difficulty. Because of his perspective on accomplishment, he became excited by what he could achieve, and he accomplished something he will be proud of forever.

But this idea goes even further. In Michtav Me’Eliyahu (Volume 3 Pages 14-15), Rav Eliyahu Dessler, zt”l, quotes an incredible explanation of this teaching of Avos D’Rebbe Nosson from his father. Our sages teach (Arachin 16b) that when a person wants to take three coins from his wallet and accidentally withdraws only two, requiring him to put his hand back into the wallet to take another coin, Hashem in His infinite mercy counts that as a form of suffering, and it helps atone for some of the person’s sins. Rav Dessler’s father explained that when Avos D’Rebbe Nosson taught that once with difficulty is greater than a hundred times when easy, that refers to the lowest level of challenge, one that would take this minuscule amount of suffering for the person to prevail. Each additional level of challenge or pain multiplies the reward another hundred times (meaning the second level would be 100 x 100 = 10,000 times, and the third level would be 10,000 x 100 = 1,000,000 times, and so on). The value of a mitzvah done despite great difficulty cannot be fathomed, and our ability to accomplish such astounding achievements should make us light up with excitement!