Well Protected


By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

The Gemara in Sotah, daf chof alef, amud alef says that learning Torah is a protection for a person and saves a person. The Gemara in Sukka, daf nun bais and Kiddushin, daf lamed says that Hashem proclaims, “I created the Yetzer Hora and I created its antidote; the Torah. (Tavlin)”

The Mesilas Yesharim in Perek Heh says that the above Gemara may be explained using the following parable. A person who isn’t feeling well goes to a doctor who gives him a prescription of medicine. If the person ends up taking a different prescription than what was prescribed he will obviously not be healed from what ails him.  In our case Hashem has given us a prescription of Torah to beat the Yetzer Hora and if a person is coming onto something else, he will never be able to defeat the Yetzer Hora.

The following question arises; what would happen if a person learns Torah, but it would be “shelo lishma,” for an ulterior motive. Would his learning protect him from doing sins or does the prescription only work if one learns Torah lishma?

The Ohr HaChaim in Parshas Bechukosai, Perek Chof Vov, posuk yud daled  expounds upon the posuk, “If you will not listen to me and you will not do these mitzvos.” The language used at beginning of the parsha giving the same message is the inverse, “If in my laws you will keep.” The first posuk in Bechukosai teaches us that if you want to keep Hashem’s mitzvos via being osek” in Torah, the Torah will protect you. The Torah then says this again in the opposite way; if you will learn Torah, but it won’t be lishma then he will not be able to do all the mitzvos as the Torah won’t serve as a protection from the Yetzer Hora. The Torah will only protect if it is learned lishma.

In Parshas Shelach the Ohr HaChaim explains that the reason the Torah did not protect Doeg and Achitophel was based upon the Gemara in Chagiga, daf tes vov, amud bais which says they had a complaint (tina) in their heart against the Torah despite the fact that they were the most learned men in their generation. However, since their learning was shelo lishma, their Torah did not protect them thereby causing them to be destroyed because of their sins. We see again here that Torah shelo lishma does not provide protection.

The complication here is that the Or Hachaim contradicts himself in the beginning of Parshas Shelach and mentions that mitzvos shelo lishma which the Gemara says is a protection while the person does the mitzvah will work even if it is done without the proper intent. 

To reconcile this inconsistency I thought we could use the answer of Tosfos who asks the following question; in some places in Shas we see the concept mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma,” yet in regard to the Tanna Elisha ben Avuya the Gemara says he became an apostate because he learned Torah shelo lishma. How can this be explained? Tosfos clarifies that it depends upon what the ultimate goal of the person is. If the person wants to reach the level of learning Torah lishma and the only way to arrive at this level is if he sometimes learn shelo lishma, then Hashem will help him arrive to the lishma. The Torah will then protect him as it is considered as if he is learning lishma. On the other hand, like in the case of the Tanna where the sole intent of his learning was always going to be shelo lishma (only for honor and the like) then even if during his lifetime he may have learned sometimes lishma it is considered as if he learned shelo lishma and such learning will not protect the person

Let us keep our ultimate goal in mind and be protected both bruchniyos and bgashmiyus via our Torah learning. 

Do you have a topic or discussion you want to read about? Please send comments or questions to hymanbsdhevens@gmail.com or Berachsteinfeldscorner@gmail.com



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