Opinion: Ready for the Long Winter Zeman – Getting Over the Hump


yeshiva-toras-chaim-miamiAs a bochur, I always had a sense of dread when I returned to yeshiva for the winter zeman. The winter zeman is the longest one of the three, stretching five or six long months of uninterrupted learning during the freezing cold winter. When I got married and continued learning in kollel, I again experience this dread for the first few days of the winter zeman.What was behind this dread? After all, I was happy with what I was doing. I only wanted to learn, and while I learned, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I thought about this a lot, and I discovered a secret about learning which remains true with me – and many others – to this day.

Learning Torah is not something that is naturally pleasant to most people. It takes a long time and tremendous effort to get to the point that the experience is so enjoyable that all you want to do is continue learning non-stop. Think about this past bein hazemanim. How much learning did you expect to accomplish, and how much did you actually end up doing? Most of the time, you will come up way short of your original estimate.

Learning Torah is a tremendous undertaking – at first. Only after you throw yourself into the learning, even when you are truly not in the mood and there are a hundred other things going on in your life, do you begin to enjoy the learning.

The long winter does appear daunting at first. But that makes the challenge all the more appealing. Dive right in. Before you know it, you’ll be savoring the experience.

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  1. Winter zman can be really tough. When I was in yeshiva, the Rosh Yeshiva once noticed I wasn’t learning well during a long winter zman (with 2 Adars). He told me I was getting burned out, and needed to recharge. He told me to take a few days off, and relax. When I came back, I was feeling much better, and learned better.

  2. Don’t look at the winter, look at TODAY

    Lekutai Maharan #272 (a translation):

    “Hayom Im Kekolo Tishmau” (Tehillim 95-7) – “Today!! If you heed His voice”.

    This is an important rule in the service of God: One should focus only on today. Whether with regard to livelihood and personal needs, one should not think about one day to the next, as is brought in the holy books. Also with regard to his serving God, one should not consider anything beyond this day and this moment.

    For when a person wants to enter the service of God, it seems to him a heavy burden; he cannot possibly bear such a heavy load. However, when a person considers that he only has that day (to deal with), he will find it no burden at all.

    In addition, a person should not procrastinate from one day to the next saying, “I’ll start tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll pray more attentively, and with more enthusiasm”; and likewise for other devotions. For a person’s world consists only of the present day and moment. Tomorrow is a different world entirely. “Today!! – if you heed His voice” – specifically, “TODAY’.

    Understand this.

  3. Excellent letter!

    I recently bought a sefer called “sheva p’amim yipol tzaddik” printed in Israel. Thin mussar sefer. I’m in middle of learning it, it’s an incredible sefer with incredible chizuk for limud haTorah. I guarantee it will help greatly!