One of the great challenges of life is having the right priorities. When we spend too much time on fun and neglect our other responsibilities, we fail at the business of life. Even if we are engaged in healthy pursuits such as charitable activities or our study, but neglect more pressing obligations such as parental attention or spousal time, we are dropping the ball. The Gemora teaches us, “Ein tov ela Torah – True good is Torah,” as it says, “Ki lekach tov nosati lochem, Torasi al taazovu – A goodly merchandise I have given you, do not neglect the Torah.” (It is fascinating to note that the gematria of lekach tov (goodly merchandise) is 155, which is the same exact numerical value of Daf HaYomi.)
What exactly does the Gemora mean by saying that ‘good’ refers to Torah? Everyone wants to live the good life. We hope to have a good summer; we pray for a good Shabbos and a good season. We also want to have good children and a good marriage. The Gemora is revealing to us that the Jewish definition of ‘good’ revolves around Torah. This is eminently logical since Hashem declared, “Vayar Elokim es kol asher asah v’hinei tov me’od – Hashem saw all that He made (in Creation) and behold it was very good.” Yet, although everything is good, Hashem tells us that, “Vahagisa bah yomam v’lailah – And meditate in them day and night,” so the Manufacturer of the world is telling us that above and beyond all the ‘good’ of this world is the occupation of Torah.
Similarly we are taught “Ein simcha k’simchas HaTorah – There is no joy like the joy of Torah.” The serenity of the soul, the tranquility of the mind, the sweetness that permeates the heart when a person fills himself with the Holiness of Torah is unmatched by any worldly pleasure. This is why the reward of nitzchias, of eternity, is to continue to delve into the secrets of the Torah and not to be surrounded by beautiful nymphs, basking in sunlight and bathing in oceans of fragrant, soothing waters.
So the good Shabbos is a Shabbos where we make time to look at the weekly Torah portion; it’s when we get exhilarated by an exciting shiur and spend time studying with our children and grandchildren. The good summer is a summer when we make it our business to have a Torah project learning a joyous masechta like Berachos from cover to cover or buying a sefer on prayer so that, once and for all, we will actually understand what we are saying to Hashem. The good marriage is where the Kol Torah, the sound of Torah, is heard often and the centerpiece of the home is the ArtScroll Shas and not a big-screen television. The good life is when a Sunday morning starts off with a Dirshu shiru, or a daf or a chavrusa or a Rav Avigdor Miller tape, and not with the Sunday News or the Times crossword puzzle. It is a life that is not plagued by the challenges of boredom for there is so much that is exciting to learn. It is not suffused with melancholy for the Torah is uplifting and meaningful.
Such a lifestyle also, in general, avoids many of the nuisances and obstacles of life, for Hashem has a way of paving the way for those who learn Torah regularly so that they shouldn’t be interrupted from their holy pursuits. Hashem doesn’t want the serious Torah student to need to take a second job so He won’t raise his tuition or medical policy. His roof will not spring a leak and his carburetor won’t fail for Hashem says, If he wants to learn, I don’t want to disturb him, for it is for him that I created the entire world.
As Hashem says at the end of Creation, “Vayehi erev, vayehi voker, yom HA-Shishi – And it was evening, and it was morning, The Sixth day. The word HA-Shishi has an extra letter hei which equals five, representing the Five Books of the Torah. It is also the hei heyedia, the definitive hei, which converts the word hashishi to refer to the sixth day of the month of Sivan, the day of the giving of the Torah so, at the end of creation, Hashem indicated that everything was created for the learning of the Torah.
So, while we might enjoy socializing or the pleasures of athletics and swimming, let’s not lose sight that the good life always revolves around spending time with our sweet and Holy Torah. In the merit of our Torah dedication, may Hashem bless us with the blessings of Torah, for long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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