Our Bread and Water
Isn’t it enough that I pray three times a day and study Chassidut? Why do I need to learn Torah every day on top of that?
Posted on 06.02.23
“Let the men go now and worship the Hashem”. (Shemot 10:11)
Bread and Water
There are some people who are meticulous about davening (praying) three times a day, and they even say additional personal prayers, but they don’t learn Torah. Days can go by without a single moment of Torah study. They feel that they can sufficiently serve and connect to Hashem solely through tefilla (prayer), without Torah study.
However, this is a mistake rooted in naivety. Truthfully, it is impossible to connect to Hashem with prayer alone, absent from daily Torah study. To connect to Hashem in a true and meaningful way, you need both Torah study and tefilla, as the Gemara (Niddah 70b) teaches.
Torah study and prayer are like bread and water. In order to sustain the body, a person needs to eat and drink daily. Similarly, to sustain the neshama, the soul, a person needs to study Torah and daven daily.
This is alluded to by the pasuk עבדתם את ה’ אלקיכם וברך את לחמך ואת מימיך –And you shall worship the Lord, your God, and He will bless your food and your drink… (Shemot 23:25).
You need to serve Hashem every day like the way you need to eat and drink daily. You cannot eat but not drink; and you cannot drink but not eat. Chazal taught (Sifri, Parshat Eikev 5) that the focus of Avodat Hashem (Hashem’s work) needs to be Torah study and tefilla .
Listen to the Doctor
Chazal taught in Pirkei Avot (2:5), an ignoramus cannot be pious. A person who does not study Torah and acquire knowledge of Halacha, Jewish Law, cannot become a pious person who is connected to Hashem.
The reason is obvious – without learning Torah, a person cannot know how to perform the mitzvot properly. And Hashem won’t even desire his tefillot, as Shlomo HaMelech wrote, מסיר אזנו משמוע תורה, גם תפלתו תועבה- He who turns his ear away from hearing the Torah-even his prayer is an abomination. (Mishlei 28:9)
Even a person who knows Halacha must study Torah daily. It is the one tool that can give a yid the spiritual strength to overcome the temptations of his Yetzer Harah (evil inclination) that is constantly testing him and trying to distance him from Hashem. As the Gemara explains (Kiddushin 30b) that Hashem created the Yetzer Harah and He created the Torah as the antidote.
Mesilat Yesharim (Chapter 5) taught that no one can recognize the sickness of the Yetzer Harah and its inherent potency except for He who has created it. And, He has warned us that the Torah is the only medicine. Therefore, a person who does not study Torah is like a patient who is suffering a life-threatening illness and refuses to listen to the doctors and take the appropriate medicine that can save his life.
After R’ Mordechai of Chernobyl, zt”l, passed away, his son and successor, R’ Aharon, sent a letter to all of the Chassidim in which he asked that only those who wished to continue in the path of his father should become his followers. And, he clarified that his father had taught that the only way to grow in Avodat Hashem and to reach new spiritual heights was through constant and continuous Torah study, because it is impossible to achieve true Ahavat and Yirat Hashem, love and awe of Hashem, without extinguishing the drive of the Yetzer Harah through Torah study.
The Chozeh from Lublin observed one yid who spent his entire day walking in circles contemplating how to connect to Hashem. But he didn’t study Torah at all. The Rebbe told him, “Chazal taught (Eicha Rabba, Introduction 2), If only they had forsaken Me and observed My Torah. If only they had forsaken Me means that, ‘if they only would forsake being preoccupied with connecting with Me.’ And, if during that time, they instead observed My Torah, observing the mitzvot and studying Torah, they would subsequently connect and serve Me truthfully.'”
A Chassid once asked the Sefas Emes from Gur, zt”l, “If a yid falls spiritually, how can he save himself?” The Rebbe answered, “Tefilla.”
The chassid replied, “But, the previous Rebbe, the Kotzker, answered the same question by saying that the Torah could save such a person?!”
The Rebbe said, “You need Torah for tefilah. As we say during davening, הוא יפתח לבנו בתורתו – וישים בלבנו אהבתו ויראתו- May He open our heart through His Torah and imbue our heart with love and awe of Him… The Torah is the “key” that opens the heart to have love and awe of Hashem during tefilla.“
The Deadly Poison
R’ Eliezer Tzvi from Kamarno, zt”l, wrote in Zekan Beito (Avot 1:5) that he heard that R’ Elimelech from Lizhensk, zt”l, once taught, that the Yetzer Harah would not try to interrupt chassidim who are speaking the entire day about chassidut and connecting to Hashem, because he has nachas (gratification) that they aren’t utilizing that time to study Torah. When the yidden learn Torah, it is like a deadly poison for him.
The Belzer Rebbe, R’ Yissachor Dov, zt”l, once said, “Torah study is the most precious and important activity that gives Hashem the greatest simcha (happiness). The proof is that the Yetzer Harah does not try to stop the yidden from all other good things like he does with Torah study which he constantly tries to distract the yidden from studying.”
The Chozeh from Lublin said about himself, that the Satan offered to provide him with tremendous spiritual height as long as he will ignore studying Talmud. It is apparent, then, concluded the Chozeh, that studying Torah is the greatest way to purify one’s soul.
Pharaoh – in his wickedness – alludes to this idea when he tells Moshe, לכו נא הגברים – let the men go now. Chazal taught (Brachot 9b) that the word נא means “pray”. Therefore, Pharaoh was saying, “Let the men who are obligated to pray go out and perform the נא, let them go out and daven. And through their davening, they will worship the Hashem. That is how they will connect.” He wanted them to serve Hashem only through prayer and, thereby preventing them from accepting and learning Torah which is the poison that can overcome the powers of the Yetzer Harah.
But Moshe did not agree to this because a yid needs to study Torah and daven every day. His Avodat Hashem cannot be successful with one but not the other.
The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at www.kaalov.org.
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