Parshas Haazinu #1
Nurtured by Torah
“Let my teaching fall like rain, [and] my words flow like dew, like a rainstorm on the grass, and like raindrops on blades of grass” (Devarim 32:2).
On the last day of his life, Moshe Rabbeinu prophetically foretold the future of the Jewish people until the end of time in the Song of Haazinu. Haazinu predicts the lengthy cycle of sin, punishment, and consolation in future generations. Moshe began by reminding the nation of the importance of Torah, as essential to life as rain and dew.
The Sifri explains the analogy of rain and dew. Rain falls on grass, lifting it up and causing it to grow; the same is true of Torah, which elevates man and makes him great. Drops of dew on the grass refine and nurture the blades of grass; Torah does the same for man.
Rav Moshe Sternbuch elaborates on the Sifri. He writes that with these words, Chazal teach us that there is a difference between those who learn Torah and fulfill mitzvos, and those who do not. Torah and mitzvos uplift us and make us grow, “sanctifying and elevating all of our perceptions and senses.” A student of Torah attains a higher level, far above those whose interests and occupations are totally secular in nature. In comparison, the latter have no understanding of life’s true purpose.
People who are continually involved in Torah enjoy satisfaction and fulfillment unknown to those whose pursuits are entirely secular. Unlike material pleasures which come and go and eventually lose their appeal, the pleasure derived by the soul from Torah is never-ending (Taam V’daas).
A secular journalist in her twenties was suddenly granted a very personal look into the life of a frum family when her new, second iPhone was given the phone number that had previously belonged to “Minda” from Cleveland. She began receiving text messages about appointments for Minda’s haircutting business, orders for her husband’s erev-Shabbos sushi delivery, and mazal tov’s for her new baby. This woman had never seen or experienced anything like it: “The texts only gave me snippets of Minda’s life, but it was clear it was vastly different from mine.” She eventually shared a few of Minda’s messages with her friends on Twitter, and not long after, got a text message from Minda’s husband, asking her to forward his wife’s new number to people trying to reach them.
She did so gladly, and was soon handling “requests to put some Minda haircuts into an upcoming kollel auction, neighbors wondering if they could borrow a car-seat adapter, an acquaintance looking for a ride, another trying to drop in on New Years [Rosh Hashanah], [and] something about a ‘hashgacha job’…. They stood in stark contrast to what was on my personal phone: a mix of one-sided conversations with robots – Twitter verification codes, Uber arrival alerts, Cleanly pickup warnings, invitations to track a Seamless order – and rambling, emoji- and abbreviation-filled conversations with friends. If [Minda’s] text-istence was evidence of her strong ties to her community, mine was evidence of my love of Seamless. My Venmo alerts were often the only evidence I went out and did something.”
A month later, the journalist’s phone was stolen, and she could not afford another new phone only for personal use. She went back to using her original business number, ending her contact with Minda. “Losing Minda’s number felt like losing a community… Minda has supportive friends and strong community ties; her life is one to aspire to.”
This journalist was not exposed to Torah itself, and had not actually met frum people living a Torah life in person – yet even this brief glimpse into the world of a Torah-observant family was enough to show her that this was a “life… to aspire to” (“I Got a New Phone and Became Someone Else (A Hairstylist in Cleveland)” by Alyssa Bereznak, New York Magazine, March 22, 2016).
Question for Discussion:
What has Torah added to your life?Click Here To Respond
“Jeff,” a successful accountant from Chicago, now learning in yeshivah in Jerusalem, had everything: a successful career with a six-figure salary, a condo, nice car, and more. He could not understand why he was not happy; what could he possibly need that he did not already have? A ten-day trip to Israel with Rabbi Shalom Garfinkel of Chicago’s JET YP (Jewish Education Team Young Professionals), including time learning in Ohr Somayach, showed him that he was not lacking additional materialism – he was missing spirituality. The more he learned, the more he realized that his life, although comfortable, lacked clear principles and a strong foundation.
The JET group was invited to the home of a family of American olim for the Friday night seudah. Jeff spent a long time speaking with “Tzvi,” the family’s husband and father, about his transition from an intensive fulltime career in the United States, to a life that combines working and Torah learning in Jerusalem.
Jeff saw that it really can be done. He returned to Chicago, quit his job, put his condo up for sale, and bought a one-way ticket to Israel. He now spends at least five hours a day learning, and with Hashem’s help, continues to grow.