On Sunday evening, May 24, United Kollel streamed a powerful pre-Shavuos event with three star-studded speakers. The first speaker, HaRav Shlomo Miller, Rosh Kollel and co-founder of Kollel Avreichim Institute for Advanced Talmud Studies in Toronto and head of the Toronto Beis Din, began by imparting that “marbeh Torah, marbeh life. We have a purpose in life.” Even with the batei midrash, Torah is still alive. Everyone is still learning. He shared a d’var Torah from Parshas BaMidbar that the numbers counted were all round numbers, to teach us that every Jew is alive for a purpose – “especially now, when your learning is bringing down the Sh’chinah.” When you are learning by yourself in your house, then Hashem is your chavrusa. When it is difficult to learn, we have a higher elevation in learning. Now we can really appreciate learning in yeshivah. “When we return to our batei midrash, it will be like rebuilding a beis mikdash m’at.”
Following this, Rabbi Oren Reich, well-known speaker, posed the question: What is the test of purity for a person? He explained that a human being is measured by what he praises, what he looks to, who are his role models. He pointed out who the celebrities in our society are. Their lifestyle is the hallmark of emptiness, shallowness, and superficiality. These celebrities represent the measure of a weak value system. Klal Yisrael always exhibited admiration for our greatest talmidei chachamim. We hang their pictures in our homes. We stand up for g’dolei Yisrael. A greater test of our value system is our actions. To what do we dedicate our spare time? Klal Yisrael allows Hashem’s kingship to be revealed when groups of klal Yisrael appreciate the life of b’nei Torah and make themselves so much a part of it. He then spoke about the partnership of Yisachar and Z’vulun. Why is Z’vulun’s name mentioned first when he was not the one learning full-time but rather the one supporting Yisachar’s Torah learning?
He quoted the Chasam Sofer that every partnership is based on understanding that I can’t do this alone. Yisachar was involved in Torah learning, but he needed the support of someone who appreciated Torah study, so he needed the partnership of Z’vulun. In the Beis HaMikdash, the Shulchan representing the supporters of the Torah was on the right, and the Menorah representing the Torah was on the left. Yisachar understood the idea that “If there is no flour, there is no Torah. Z’vulun, on the other hand, understood that if there is no Torah, there is no flour. He understood that Torah gives meaning to life. Z’vulun is exhibiting a greater appreciation of ruchniyus, so he is mentioned first. Rabbi Reich taught, “Only Torah defines the quality of life.” We are meant to accept the Torah with much joy.
Next, Rabbi Yissocher Frand, well-known speaker, spoke about the difference in terms of preparation for Pesach and Sukkos compared to Shavuos. The former two holidays require a lot of physical preparation, while Shavuos preparation is mental preparation. This is more difficult than physical preparation. “Shavuos is a time to understand and appreciate what Torah does for us as human beings.” He taught that the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash came because when klal Yisrael learned Torah they didn’t recite the blessing on the Torah before learning. Why would that be the catalyst for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash? Rabbi Frand cited Rabbeinu Yonah that the blessing on Torah learning is emblematic of not having proper appreciation of Torah. Torah is so special that it requires its own brachah. Rabbi Frand elaborated that humans are complex with many facets to their personality. We have different forces pulling at us at different times. If not for the power of Torah, I would be so fragmented. Torah gave me a clear identity that leads to inner peace. It took parts of me and melded it into one entity.
Rabbi Frand asked, “Where would we be without Torah? How would we act? We must contemplate what Torah does for us. It makes us into mentchen. It makes us better people.” We need to think what life would be like without Torah. Look at the street. Read the newspaper. In this pandemic, it is easier for us to appreciate Torah. People are stuck for two months and many feel they are going out of their minds. The sale of board games skyrocketed and barbells sold out. “Because what on earth should I do to fill my day with?” For Jewish people, it is not the same, “because with Torah there is always what to learn.”
Local kollelim are a place you can be inspired. In community kollelim, we see men with devotion to learning Torah and serving Hashem.
Rabbi Frand stressed that preparation for Shavuos centers on contemplating what I would be without Torah. I would be lost.
He noted how Ruth and Orpah grew up with the same background and nurturing, yet they took such divergent paths. Orpah decided it was too much of a sacrifice to take on a Torah lifestyle, while Ruth embraced it, because to Ruth it was not a sacrifice. She knew the value of a real life. She understood that a life without Torah is not worth that much. We should remember that Hashem gave us the Torah so our lives will be meaningful.
This shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber