Parsha Ki Savo
Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8

You Cannot Learn Now...or Now...or Now...©
By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mrs. Ida Simmons Belk and Mr. Will Belk, may they rest in peace.

"Accursed is the one who will not uphold the words of this Torah, to perform them."
Deuteronomy 27:26

There was a Yid who was strongly encouraged to move from a newly developing New Orthodox community to an old established Orthodox community which had several shuls, a yeshiva and a Bais Yaakov. This Yid was also nudged by the dean of the Yeshiva where he was employed to move to the more Orthodox side of town. It was the opinion of the Rav of his shul and the dean of the yeshiva that he would have more time to learn and develop his Yiddishkeit. It would be better for his wife and children also... This Yid sold his home and moved into this very frum community.

Prior to his moving into this community he learned on the average about four hours a day on his own and with various rabbium throughout the week. He and his wife were very happy in their own community. They had friends visit during the week and guests on Shabbos. There was no reason for them to move except for the pressure of their local shul Rav and the dean of the yeshiva.

When the Yid moved to the community, his learning at a formal institution did increase for a short time. His overall learning did not increase at all! He would learn before davening at the yeshiva for a half hour. After davening he would learn with one of the local rabbium for a half hour to an hour. He would occasionally learn around Mincha time and then usually before Maariv time. He had very little time to learn on his own after moving into the community. He was supposed to have two hours off during lunchtime. This never developed.

After living in the community a short time, he was informed by the dean of the yeshiva that he would have to change his reporting time in the morning. This Yid was very unhappy about the elimination of his formal learning time with an institutional rabbi. He protested to the yeshiva dean, he protested to the yeshiva dean over the Bais Midrash, he protested to the rabbium he learned with and he protested to his former shul Rav, all to no avail. He tried to set up a different learning time, but an adequate time could not be scheduled due to the required flexibility of his position.

He began rising an hour to an hour and a half earlier to replace the lost learning time. He would now arrive at the yeshiva between 5:45 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. to study by himself. Shortly after this change in the Yid's learning time, the dean of the school noticed him entering the building to study or would see him in the Bais Midrash. This Yid's private learning time was constantly interrupted by the dean of the school. In fact, it became so constant that he completely stopped coming to the Bais Midrash to learn.

He also attempted to learn more in the evening but the same problem developed. In both of these instances he protested to the yeshiva dean, he protested to the yeshiva dean over the Bais Midrash, he protested to the rabbium he learned with and he protested to his former shul Rav, each time to no avail.

As a result this Yid resigned his position from the yeshiva and became reclusive. He was strongly disappointed with the religious leaders who encouraged him to move into this community to increase his learning. In fact, these religious leaders only used learning as a draw for this Yid and his family to return to the community. They did not support his time for learning. They did not define his time for learning. They all watched as this Yid's learning went to virtually nothing.

The members of this frum community could not understand this Yid's reclusion His family was invited to many homes as Shabbos guests. They accepted many of these invitations. Various leaders of the community inquired about his reclusion. He explained that after what he had been through, he felt like his soul had died! They could not understand his spiritual devastation while working for what many thought to be such a holy institution in such a frum Orthodox community. They had no idea of the surrounding problems. This Yid was spiritually damaged by the insensitive actions of the religious leadership.

Rabbi Elie Munk relates in his sefer, The Call of the Torah: "In the Talmud Yerushalmi (Sotah 7:4) R' Shimon states that this verse {'Accursed is {the} one who will not uphold the words of this Torah {to perform them}.' Deuteronomy 27:26} refers specifically to the responsibilities assumed by the leadership of the people - the Beth-Din, the king and the elders. Even a Torah scholar, who is a good Jew in every way and yet fails to use his knowledge and position to reinforce Torah - such a person may also be accursed...

"The Talmud recounts that when a Sefer Torah was discovered in the Temple courtyard opened at the verse, Accursed is one who will not uphold the words of this Torah, King Josiah tore his clothes in recognition that Hashem's admonition was now being directed to him (Yerushalmi Sotah 7:4). He realized that he had the power for directing and inspiring the people but failed to do so. Thereupon he summoned the people to establish a new covenant between G-d and Israel (II Kings 22:11-14)."

Now Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel translates Nachmanides on this subject a little differently: "Rabbi Tanchum...said, [Even if a person] learned and taught [Torah], observed and fulfilled [its commandments], but had the means to enable [others to study the Torah] and did not do so - he is included within the curse."

Now we know that this was in reference to the person called for hagbaah, the one responsible for lifting the Torah high for all to just view the written script after the Torah reading in the synagogue. Now can you imagine, the Sanhedrin, the Bais Din that ruled it was incumbent upon all men and women to see the written words of this Torah and to bend the knee and say "This is the Torah which Moshe set before the children of Yisroel," what their ruling would be for one who interrupted Torah study or diverted one from study of Torah or for one who stood idly by when one's Torah learning was jerked away from him? The fact is, we can all learn a lesson from the example in this story. If you plan to send a child to a day school, a yeshiva or a Bais Yaakov, observe the Jewish staff members' personal learning habits before and after work hours (if they have any free time). Are they so overcome by the daily work load? Does their learning suffer?

Every day school, yeshiva and Bais Yaakov of quality and in correct position with the words of the Torah MUST insure that every Jew employed and volunteering in their institution shall have daily time for Torah learning. If you doubt what I have written, do your own survey.

It is important for each of us to assess our situation in the workplace, wherever that may be. While there is no denying that it is important to earn a living, there is also no denying that learning the Torah is commanded by Hashem. One must find a harmony between the two. And if harmony cannot be found, then one needs to search for the place that does not impede their learning.

Baal Shuvas, in their eagerness to make a contribution to Yiddishkeit, need to periodically step back and assess if the way they have chosen to contribute enhances or impedes their Torah learning. If it impedes, it is essential to make an adjustment and contribute in a different way, even if it means contributing to a different organization.

One should be careful to support institutions that insure secured learning time for every Jewish employee and volunteer as they would the students of that institution. A failure to be conscious in this area could have an adverse effect. Why would one support an institution that violates Torah halacha? While it is a fact that many Jewish organizations need the dedicated efforts of employees and volunteers, each institution must insure that employees and volunteers have the opportunity for quality learning time. I do not define quality learning time between midnight and 5 a.m.!

The Chofetz Chaim was once asked how he learned so much over a period of years. He said, "Five minutes here and five minutes there." One never knows when they will be in a traffic jam designed for a few minutes of learning. One usually knows that they will be waiting at the doctor's office, the dentist's office, the attorney's office, etc. Go prepared. Always be prepared to learn while waiting by carrying a sefer and a learning cassette everywhere you go. Over the past few years I have read the sefer, The Power of Words through several times at stoplights, traffic lights and waiting...

Please take a few minutes to read:

Torah or Bust

Wishing you the best!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

P.S. I would like to thank our editor, Rachel Gold, for her invaluable assistance and contribution to this article. 

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