Readers’ Matzav: The Torah Crisis


gemara-learningDear Matzav Editor,

I am writing this letter mainly because I was greatly affected by yesterday’s letter on from the father who is struggling financially that it has pushed him to the brink, literally. I wish him much hatzlacha and was really amazed by the support and care expressed in the many comments, which showed that we are, truly, a caring people made up of individuals who are takeh concerned about each other.

My personal crisis is not financial-related (though I am surely in a similar boat to yesterday’s writer). Mine is what I would call a “Torah crisis.”

I always enjoyed learning and had a drive to know and understand Shas and halacha. Somehow, however, in recent years, life has shlepped me away from any serious learning. Life has thrown me curveballs that I could have never envisioned, and my schedule has prevented me from getting involved in good, solid learning each day. I am greatly bothered by this but don’t know what to do.

I wake up each morning and head to davening and then work. I work a long, tiring day and come home in the early evening totally exhausted. My lunch break is almost nonexistent. Following supper and Minchah/Maariv, I used to learn, even though I was thoroughly exhausted. In the last few years, though, that has been made impossible too, because I’ve had to take on a small supplemental job at night. By the time I’m done, the night is basically over and I have to get to bed to have strength for the next day. I can’t wake up early the next day, because as it is I am getting to sleep late enough. It is like a vicious cycle. I feel like I am spinning my wheels and can’t find a quality window of time during the day to do some quality learning, even if it is just for an hour.

I have a short commute each day, but I find that the little time in the car is my only period to relax my mind and just remove myself from the world, if only for 20 minutes each way. I don’t know if my mind is clear then to engage in a bit of in-car learning.

Am I the only one going through this? As someone who was involved in learning all my years, I now feel like I am drifting away into the world of the am haaretz. It’s sad to say, but my schedule makes it almost impossible to learn. I don’t want to continue on this path of losing what I already know in Torah and not growing in Torah. As we know, if one isn’t growing, he is automatically regressing.

What should I do?

Seeking to Learn But is Just Not Able


  1. >As we know, if one isn’t growing, he is automatically regressing.<

    The midas hoemes you have shines through in this statement. Your plight echoes mine. Mine is different in that I have more time than you do! But I have also had the curveballs thrown my way over the years. For a few years I also did not learn the way I should’ve.

    But I have found my way back, Boruch Hashem. My personal experience is that those feelings of ” I need to rest my mind” are atzas hayetzer. Once I hear a geshmakeh shaila, I am absorbed. Once I make time to sit and learn B’MENUCHA, no cell phone, no distractions, HKB”H in His infinite kindness gave me a geshmak for his Torah. Without that sipuk I would be squandering. BUT IT COMES. You can achieve it.

    I remember hearing b’shem the Chofetz Chaim, it might be in Machaneh Yisroel, that when a person works a whole week, but he has one hour set aside that he is KOVEA itim l’Torah where he looks forward to it, he plans his week around it in order not to miss it, it is as if he is learning a whole week! How can we miss such s’char and chizuk?!

    Once you get the sipuk, you will find time to learn. Your neshomo is rooted in emes and wants to connect to Hashem’s Torah. Your neshomo is obviously stirring to be bothered enough by it during the Ymei HaSefirah in preparation for kabolas HaTorah, so you obviously want it. NOW is the time to chap arein.

    Shavous is a yom hadin on the kamos and aichus of our limud HaTorah. Daven well for it and you will see greiseh peiros. I also found that a couple of hours of real learning on Leil Shavuos solidified a much better year for me in this area.

    I wish you every brocho of hatzlocho. Do it for yourself and the doros that are entrusted to you to pass it on with the hislahvus and hispaalus you remember.

    Hatzlocho Rabo!

  2. I suggest you take 5 minutes or so on Shabbos to learn a sefer like Binyan Olam or Mesilas Yeshorim. You will find that you will have more time for learning.

    BTW I am in the same boat and hope to practice what I preach.

  3. Please learn the chofetz chaim’s shaim olam. Learn the perek about the chazal of Shabbos y’hiye ben zugeich” – it’s beautiful. I would also suggest trying to take a 2 small seforim with you each day. If you find 2 minutes, open a mussar sefer and learn something small. If you find 2 more minutes later on open a mishna berura and learn a sif. At night force yourself to mincha/maariv 15 minutes early and pullout a mesechta. You will go to sleep knowing that you learned halacha, mussar, gemara. You will sleep well! Good luck!

  4. Someone once came to a choshuve Rosh Yeshiva and told him I don’t have a cheshek to learn what should i do? The Rosh Yeshiva replied do what i do when i don’t have a cheshek. What is that asked the young that the rosh yeshiva replied I learn anyways

  5. What is this shtick about everyone feeling the neccesaty to voice their personal tzores? In my day when someone had a problem, they would go to their personal rov or rosh hayeshiva and be shoel eitza. Today, everyone has to submit their woes and worries on line and get eitzas from people they do not know. Whats going on here?

  6. You can learn heavy subjects on shabbos and light torah subjects on tape /cd during your car rides.also a few minutes before or after mincha mariv you can learn halachah or the way your schedule sounds like mine .hatzlachah

  7. I hear you.
    Welcome to the world of unsustainable Tri-State Orthodox economics. We expect that we can maintain a frum lifestyle with all necessary accoutrements – tuition, housing, kosher food, clothing. Let’s not begin to talk about other “life cycle” expenses (bar mitzva, wedding, bris, kiddushim, mi sheberachs, etc) and expenses deemed necessary as derivative from halacha (sheitels, extra beds, sets of dishes, pesach, etc). It doesn’t work. We end up working like animals most of the day only to watch 99% of it go out the door because of the added financial burdens we have and place upon ourselves over and above the in-place financial burdens of living in the tri-state area (taxes, higher cost of living).
    Somehow we’ve come to live in an economic bubble, believing that with tefilla and bitachon, HKB”H will magically suspend the laws of economics for us while keeping them in place for the “goyim”. It doesn’t work that way, as can be anecdotally derived from the writer of the letter quoted in this author’s piece above and attendant comments.
    So because of all the burdens placed on us here, we in general have little time for Torah, are constantly exhausted, and negatively impact shalom bayis. By far and away the biggest burden is education. Yet we labor through all this to educate our kids. Tell me, if all this is the price we pay, what kind of chinuch is that??!!

  8. chazal tell us you have to steal time away from the yetzer horah try to memorize a few perakim of mishnayos or shaklah vitarah of gemorah and whenever you got a minute learn baal peh that in hashems eyes can be concidered greater than one who does not have to work and learns regular sedarim

  9. Hi keep on your work in todays world you have to be tankfull that you could make ends meet, I assume that you have some time on Shabbos and may be Sundays you could catch up some learning. Try to give a few dollars to somebody thats learning that will go on your chashben. HATZLACH

  10. You say your problem is not financial. If for whatever reason you can not learn use your money for Torah. Start a program of learning or make it easier for others to study Torah. Use your money for good. Actions (good ones) are just as an important part of Torah.

  11. i have a few suggestions that might can put on a Torah tape/cd in the can call the Chazak line 1 718 258 2008 during your lunch can learn in between courses during the Shobbos Seudahs…you can tell your family about the Mihagim, Halachos about Yomim Tovim coming up..the same with the weekly Parsha…you can say Tehillim while you are waiting for someone…you can have people email you things on Halacha, Parsha, Daf Yomi…you can go to the Mikvah in the mornings…I;m sure you already give Tzeddukah, you can give a little more than usual, it can be a few cents, a few cents can go a long way…remember you are Hashem’s child, don’t ever forget that…even though we don’t know you, you are still a person with a Neshoma…have a great Shobbos 🙂

  12. Hashem gave us Shabbos so we can learn!!
    If you can’t fit it in during the week, at least try on Shabbos.
    You should also try to never go a day without learning something morning and night, even if you are exhausted. How about trying to add five minute after/before Shacharis and maariv.
    Those five minutes can really add up.
    Hatzlacha rabba and keep trying.

  13. Yes I feel just like you.I’m working at a professional job which required a Masters degree, but I’m thinking of retiring and going back to part time Kollel.My financial situation would be much better thanks to programs etc. I would live a much less stressed life and best of I would have plenty of time to learn and spend with my family.

  14. Never despair. If you can only use those few minutes in the car then use them. Remember we are given credit for ameilus B”TORAH. The little that you can squeeze in is worth more than you can know. There is a story told of a talmid of the Chozeh(I believe it’s from the Chozeh if my memory serves me correctly) who confided in the rebbe that he had prayed this year on the yomim noraim that he should once again have more time to pray and learn like in days past, when he didn’t have to go out to work. The rebbe told him that in Shomayim they find his request amusing since now he didn’t have as much time yet he still tried hard; it was counted for much greater merit. Never under estimate your koach of tefilah or learning in any situation.

  15. A few pieces of advice.
    1. Put on your night table a mishnayos and learn 2 mishnas a day. Never go to bed without learning.
    2. sign up for a halacha email a day or dvar torah a day.
    3. Come 5 min. early to shacharis and have a seder kavuah in mishnah berurah.
    4. Shabbos kodesh and sunday! Come to shacharis 15 min or 1/2 hour early and be maavir sidrah and learn some Rashi veramban. 1/2 hour before mincha have a seder with your son!
    5. sunday morning continue shabbos sedarim.
    Been there and was mechazek myself.

  16. You adress a very serious issue. While this would best be brought to a Rav or Rosh Yeshivah, I would suggest that at the minimum try to make up for it on weekends. Chap some learning Friday night after the Seudah or better yet make an early Shabbos and Chap a few hours after the seudah. Wake up early shabbos morning and cut down on your “oneg shabbos sleep” and put in some major hours. Motzai shabbos learn an hour or whatever and then again Sunday find a few hours to learn. What you need to do is MAKE time for it. Prioritize your weekend time and you will see how many hours you truly have but don’t currently take advantage of. I won’t tell you what to do, but I wake up 5:00 Shabbos morning and learn until 9 then I go to Shul.

  17. To 5: do you have a rav, and do your kids have someone they can go to?
    To the letter writer: worth tracking down, a motzei Shabbos navi shiur of Rabbi Reisman’s about how galus batters us. The springboard was a few common workplace shailos. You may well get a lot of chizuk from it.

  18. Start off small – a mishna in Perkei Avos after davening. After a few weeks, add another. During lunch, learn one Halocha in Kitzur. Add another as things move along. You will see how much you accomplish.
    I tried it – it works!

  19. by calling this a crisis, you’re belittling real crisis out there such as the shidduch crisis. What’s the difference, you ask? Your “crisis” is a normal, expected thing that would happen in your situation, and it’s also very individual. It doesn’t compare to 100s (1000s ? ) of girls who should be married and raising their own families but are not. That is not natural.
    Good night. I’m going through an “I’m tired and I have too much to do” crisis. Stay turned for the letter…jk

  20. Anonymous (23), as long as you’re alive you will have the opportunity to utilize every minute, be”H. You mean, now that you have less pressure and more time…

  21. I just want to say thanks for the great Chizzuk. Because of you I really appreciate the Fre time I have to use it properly. Thank You. May Hashem bless you with More time.

  22. I saw this on and thought this was relevant and inspiring:

    Parshas Vayikra: Rav Shimshon Pincus – The Precious Snoring Of The Korban Ani

    The Korban Mincha, a measure of flour, brought by the poor man is precious in Hashem’s eye’s more than the fat cow of the rich man. Why? “V’nefesh Ki Sakriv Korban” (Vayikra 2:1), Hashem understands that paying for this paltry gift is like giving away his entire being, his nefesh. He sacrifices the pennies he needs to live on, and offers it up to Hashem. To us it may look pathetic but to Hashem it is priceless.

    Today we do not have Korbanos, but we have Limud HaTorah which is more dear to Hashem then multitudes of korbanos. Here also, says Rav Shimshon Pincus, we have the Korban Ashir and the Korban Ani. How pathetic does it look when a person comes to Shul at the end of a long day of work, sits down in a Shiur struggling to keep his eyes open. He spends half the Shiur dozing and half trying to concentrate and follow.

    In our eyes this is a very weak Torah learning, but not in Hashem’s eyes. Hashem sees this person sacrificing his entire being. He’d rather be home relaxing and eating since his energy is long gone. But he chooses to use the last ounces of strength left in himself to drag himself to the Bais Medrash to give it to Hashem. That he brought with him a few kernels of wheat instead of a fat cow is irrelevant. What matters is that he sacrificed whatever he had and offered it to his Creator.

  23. I used to learn every day an additional hour besides the daf hajoimy, than I stopt it. Today, even if I want to add up learning an hour more, I dont’t find this spare hour anymore! Why? Because I used to make sure not to go to sleep at night without that additional hour of learning, even if I had to steal that hour from work or sleep or resting time!! Good luck and Hazlocho

  24. I must say that found myself in a very similar situation to you. As a new father I found myself working endless hours in order to make ends meet, without time to study or even think. By the time I got home it was just a quick snack, a shower, lights out, and then 6 hours later back up for another grueling work day that would end the same way as the night before.
    This is what I have to say:
    You’re providing for your family and that is called “responsibility.” With responsibilities comes sacrifice.
    In order to raise a family you have to pay a heavy price because nothing worthwhile in this world comes for free.
    Until you have the financial flexibility to drop the night job, then learning time will be harder to find. That’s the nature of the beast.
    Every time I see my son smiling and my wife cooking delicious shobbos meals, I’m reminded that it’s all worth it.
    You have to sacrifice yourself on the alter of life sometimes. My hope for myself and for you is that sometime in the near future we will find the financial stability to spend less time earning money and more time doing the quality things.

  25. Please listen, I will tell you what the Chasam Sofer said in a similar situation.Someone asked him what he should do since he goes away on business often and has no time to learn.
    The response was, it says
    ????? ?? ????? ????? ?????? ???? ?????? ??????.
    The chasam sofer said, read the posuk differently.
    ????? ?? ????? ?????. Learn alot at home when you are not doing business and have alot of spare time.
    ?????? ???? ????? ??????. When you’re away on business and have no time, learn a little in the morning and a little at night, and that is enough.

    YOu are now in life at the “away on business” stage. You can’t learn alot, and don’t let the neurotics make you feel guilty. You are supporting a family and there is no bigger mitzvah.Learn a little when you can, and that is enough.

  26. This letter highlights, in my opinion, a problem with our mindset. There is asharp divide between the “aam haaretz” and the “learner”. You are either one or the other. How about emunah that hashem put us in our exact circumstances for a reason? And if you feel that it was your choice to be in this situation, then your responsibility is to change your entire life, not just your schedule.