Gaining Desire to Learn
"Yosi, why did you leave the evening seder early?" asked the
night mashgiach (attending Rabbi). "I don’t know why," answered Yosi,
"but I just find Gemorah boring."
"Yosi," retored the mashgiach, "are you experienced
enough with the Gemorah to label it as boring? Do you put forth an extended
effort to understand the Gemorah?"
"Not really," mumbled Yosi, realizing that his excuse of
boredom was now revealed to be a cover up for his lackadaisical approach to
"Listen Yosi," continued the mashgiach, backing off a
bit after having cornered his student, "I think you can get a better view of
your situation by understanding a midrash in Parshas Titzaveh which
quotes Yirmiyahu’s comparison of a Jew to an olive tree and its fruit."
"Why an olive tree?" asked Yosi.
"Because while the olive itself," answered the mashgiach,
"has a bitter taste, its oil has a more refined taste, as we find in the Gemorah
in Sanhedrin 24a. Now, the olive is the fruit of the tree, apparent to
all, while the oil represents the inner essence of the olive. When a Jew is
lackadaisical and doesn’t exert himself, he is as the exterior produce of the
olive tree – the olive – bitter (and bored). The bitterness he experiences is an
unconscious dissatisfaction with having ignored and left unharnessed all that
great potential which lies within him. This leads to, as well, boredom with
Jewish learning and values."
"On the other hand, one who puts forth an effort to reveal
his inner potential by breaking down the external walls of resistance, will
eventually find great pleasure in his Torah learning, as the crushing of the
bitter olive produces enjoyable olive oil. The stark difference between one who
is lackadaisical and one who exerts himself in learning, exemplified by the
difference between olives and olive oil, is found in Gemorah Horias
(13b). The Gemorah says that one who eats olives (representing
superficial learning) on a regular basis will forget 70 years worth of learning,
while one who eats olive oil (representing learning with effort)
on a regular basis, will be able to recall even 70 years of forgotten learning."
"Yosi, in a similar vein, we learn from the phrase "כתית
למאור", that in order
to create light (למאור)
one needs to work hard כתית)).
Meaning, the light of Torah, that which brings clarity and enjoyment to one’s
learning, is dependent on the learner’s own investment."
"This we see, as well, in that the light is created through
the burning of the oil. Only when a person "burns" the Torah into him through
great dedication and effort, will the Torah offer him its light, bringing him
clarity and simcha. And, once a person merits to see the light of Torah,
his desire to learn Torah will increase."
"I’ll give it a try," concluded Yosi.
"Yosi," continued the mashgiach, "I see you’re a
bochor (young man) with understanding. Allow me to add one more point which can
serve as your guide as you grow in Torah. We see in the posuk of "שמן
למאור" that there are three
types of oil: (1) שמן
למאור, signaling to us that
there are different levels of refinement and depth in Torah learning. The
Sefas Emes (תצוה
במדרש") says that these
levels are implanted in every Jew – including you! Practically speaking, this
means that even though you may invest your energies in learning and eventually
feel geshmak (enjoyment) in learning, you should be aware that there are
deeper and more enjoyable levels awaiting you."
"You may ask, why doesn’t Hashem reveal the depths of His
Torah all at once? There are a number of answers to this question.”
“Firstly, Hashem’s Torah is comprised of wisdom and holiness.
Wisdom can only be gained stage by stage. Holiness, as well, can only affect a
person who is spiritually prepared to receive and connect into that level of
“Secondly, when things are revealed slowly, a person will
feel there is always more to learn. This increases his desire to learn, for each
new level acquired is accompanied by a greater appreciation of Torah and a great
simcha in learning which causes one to desire a closer and deeper
relationship with Torah. Only through stage by stage growth can one maximize his
desire for Torah learning and eventually reach the point where he learns only
for the sake of the mitzvah.”
“Thirdly, this very cycle of growth guards a person from
haughtiness, for with each new level obtained, new hidden worlds are opened up,
leaving a person with an overwhelming sense of smallness in the face of the
vastness of these new-found worlds of Torah."
"Yosi, in order to help you remember these ideas, I’ll tell
you what a friend of mine once told me when I visited him in New York, on
Parshas Tetzave. He said that these three points are alluded to in the letters
of the word זית. The
represents זריזות or
zealousy and desire for Torah, the yud (י),
being the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, represents humility (see
Gemorah Menachos 29b), while the tav (ת)
represents the Torah (תורה),
which is founded on holiness and wisdom. “
"Thanks, mashgiach," responded Yosi, as a smile peeked
out from behind his cloudy mood, "I already feel I have a better understanding
of what’s ahead of me, and maybe it is worthwhile to put in an effort."