A young woman brings home her fiance to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother tells her father to find out about the young man. The father invites the fiance to his study for a drink.
"So what are your plans?" the father asks the young man.
"I am a Torah scholar." he replies.
"A Torah scholar? Hmmm," the father says. "Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in, as she's accustomed to?"
"I will study," the young man replies, "and God will provide for us." "And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?" asks the father.
"I will concentrate on my studies," the young man replies, "God will provide for us."
"And children?" asks the father. "How will you support children?" "Don't worry, sir, God will provide," replies the fiance. The conversation proceeds like this, and each time the father questions him, the young idealist insists that God will provide.
Later, the mother asks, "How did it go, honey?"
The father answers, I like him, he thinks I’m God.
As we celebrate our reception of the Torah on Har Sinai, I’d like to speak about learning Torah.
There is a Mishna in kiddushin where Rav Meir said: One is obligated to teach nhis son and easy and clean occupation and pray to the One from whom one’s livelihood and truth emanates. Rav Nehorai said: I forego all occupations and teach my son only Torah.
This Mishna is teaching two seemingly diametrically opposed perspectives on being Jewish. Rav Meir perspective was that he wants to teach his son to make a living and to Honor God. Rav Nehorai said that he will forgo teaching his son to make a living and just learn Torah all day.
Which is the correct approach?? The verdict is still out on that one. Part of the Jewish world feels strongly that working is a necessary way of life, while another part of the Jewish world values learning all day above all else.
The brisker Rav, quotes another gemara in trying to make sense of this mishna.
The gemara in berachot 35b shows a disagreement between Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on this same question. Rabbi Yishmael teaches, “because there are verses like the torah shall not depart out of your mouth, and you shall study it night and day, I might have thought that it is to be taken literally. That the ideal way to be Jewish is to study Torah all of the time.” But since there is another verse which says, “and you shall gather in your corn.” Which implies that one needs to combine the study of Torah with a worldly occupation.
But R’ Shimon Bar Yochai takes issue with this perspective. He argues that, “if a man ploughs in the ploughing season, and sows in the sowing season, and reaps in the reaping season, threshes in the threshing season, winnows in the winnowing season…what is to become of the Torah!?!?!? Therefore, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai teaches, that the ideal way of life for a Jew is to study all the time, and if we’re doing God’s will, our work will be done by others. God will provide.
The gemara points out that lots of people have lived according to Rabbi Yishmael and been successful, both in Torah study and in making a livelihood. While lots of people who have tried to live according to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai have not had the same luck.
The Brisker Rav explains that both are valid ways of life, but it depends on who you are. If you are as a great as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, then God will provide if you dedicate yourself to studying Torah. But for the rest of us, we need to make a living and find the time to study Torah.
But if we adopt the opinion of Rabbi Ishmael it seems like we’re are totally ignoring the verses that teach us how one should study torah all day, and that the words of Torah should never leave your mouth.
Rabbi Yaakov Meir Schachter teaches that when people are living their daily lives, raising children, earning a livelihood, it’s not possible to be learning Torah night and day. But we can fulfill the requirement of being involved w/Torah all day when our goals in our daily tasks are for the sake of the Torah. When we raise our children to be good Jews and when we work so that we can live a life filled with Torah and Mitzvot, than the times that we’re resting and even the times we’re relaxing are considered to be a chariot for Torah. Because we are focused on fulfilling our obligations, and everything else we do is helping us get there!
The lesson is, we need to make sure that our eye is always on the prize. We don’t work in order to rest and be able to retire, we work for the sake of Torah. The best way to keep this kind of focus, is to be קובע עיתים לתורה, to set aside a specific amount of time, every day, to participate in some sort of Jewish learning. Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day, will help keep our focus on the meaning of Jewish life. And that is living a life based on the lessons of the Torah, and dedicated to spreading the light of Torah.