The sand is rapidly running through the hourglass, as the centrifuges in the secret Iranian nuclear plants spin furiously. It is quite clear that the Iranians are on the brink of attaining nuclear capability, and we are well aware of the danger that would face Klal Yisroel in that event, chas v’sholom. All the sanctions, threats, and computer worm attacks do not seem to be stopping them, and it is terrifying. And when we see how vulnerable we are to terrorist attacks anywhere in the world, we become even more terrified. Besides for pouring our hearts out in prayer to Hashem to protect us, we must be stockpiling our weapons and building anti-missile batteries. However, not through the conventional methods, rather through learning Torah!
The Gemara (Sotah 21a) reveals to us that a person who learns Torah is protected and saved from danger. Therefore, each posuk, mishna, or page of Gemara we learn is our greatest protection. We have no idea how many of our enemies plans have been thwarted through the Torah learned in the yeshivos and kollelim. The more yeshivos and kollelim there are, and the fuller they are, the stronger our fortifications. Those who are able to learn Torah full-time are very fortunate to have the great privilege of protecting Klal Yisroel, but it is certainly not limited to them. Every Yid can also do so, even those who must spend long hours working each day. By setting aside time every day to learn Torah, they will also have joined the “Torah Defense Forces.” And now, with the long Shabbos afternoons available, there is even more time to help power our Torah Shield to higher levels of protection.
In truth, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Shabbos 78a) tells us that Hashem gave us Shabbos and Yom Tov specifically in order to learn Torah. We can explain this on several levels. The first is as stated in the Midrash quoted by the Tur (O.C. 290). The Torah complained to Hashem: “When Klal Yisroel enters Eretz Yisroel, they will be busy tending their fields – when will they have time to learn Torah?” And Hashem answered: “Don’t worry, that is why I gave them Shabbos – so that they will have time to learn Torah.” Simply speaking, on Shabbos, when labor is prohibited, even the working man has more time available to learn. And furthermore, on Shabbos, when our minds are free of all our mundane pursuits and occupations, it is much easier to concentrate on our learning and dive deep into the ocean of Torah.
Many people indeed use this extra time to broaden their knowledge of Torah, either by going to shiurim or by choosing a study partner to learn a specific sefer every week. For example, R’ Yaakov Kaminetzky zt”l would encourage learning one chapter of Tanach each week. A steady, week-after-week learning program can produce amazing results!
Spending Quality Time
However, the following parable of the Dubna Maggid can help us understand the connection of Torah to Shabbos on a deeper level.
Chaim was in an extremely bad state financially and decided to go overseas for a few years, to try to put himself back on his feet. After traveling for many weeks, he found a job and began working. From time to time he would think of his parents and family, and he yearned to hear how they were doing. One day a poor man knocked on his door soliciting a donation. Chaim jumped for joy when he realized that this was Yankel from his home town!
“Please come in and spend some time with me,” implored Chaim, “I would love to hear about my family and friends!”
“Don’t delay me,” answered Yankel, “I must use every moment to collect money!”
“How much do you make on an average day?” asked Chaim. “I’ll give you that amount, so that you can spend the day with me instead of collecting!”
Yankel happily took the offer and they sat down to talk. However, after a few moments of sitting on the comfortable couch, Yankel began to doze off.
“Perhaps there is a bed available, so that I can take a nap?“ asked Yankel with a yawn.
“Of all the nerve!” stormed Chaim. “Do you think I paid you so that you could sleep?! I gave you that money so that we could spend time together, talking about my family back home!”
Hashem sent our souls far away to this world, on a mission to learn Torah and do mitzvos, and He would like to re-connect from time to time. He therefore tells us: “Take a day off on Shabbos and don’t worry about the expenses. Put everything on My bill, and let’s just spend quality time together!” (We saw this clearly in the Midbar, when Hashem gave the Jews an extra portion of “mon” every erev Shabbos so that they wouldn’t have to go out and collect it on Shabbos.)
And how do we spend time with Him? Through learning Torah! When one learns Torah, he is connecting himself to Hashem and Hashem rests His Presence on him. We have mentioned many times that the theme of Shabbos is “a Day with Hashem”– Hashem comes to visit us on Shabbos. What greater way is there to spend time with Hashem than to learn His Torah with Him? When the person spends this day in bed instead of just taking a refreshing nap, he has totally missed the boat of Shabbos! “This is not why I gave you off today!” says Hashem.
Prime Learning Time
But there is an even greater reason why we should learn Torah on Shabbos. The Ben Ish Chai (Parshas Shemos, 2nd year) writes that we are called “builders” because Hashem has given us the ability to build massive spiritual skyscrapers in Heaven through our Torah learning. We must realize that the only way to reach Olam Habah, the World to Come, is through learning Torah (see Kesubos 111b). When we learn, we are building great spiritual worlds in the next world, and the reward that awaits us there for each word of Torah learned is unimaginable!
The Ben Ish Chai continues: One who learns Torah on Shabbos accomplishes 1,000 (!!) times more than when he learns during the week! This is because Shabbos is “M’ein Olam Haba” – a preview of the World to Come, and a person is more connected to spirituality on Shabbos. Thus, his spiritual “building power” is greater. In fact, because of this, many Torah scholars say that they are able to achieve a deeper understanding of Torah on Shabbos. The Torah learned on Shabbos is on a totally different level than Torah learned during the week.
Let us end with a little math: The Gr”a tells us that one word of Torah is equal to 613 mitzvos. When you learn one word on Shabbos you multiply that by 1,000 and therefore you are getting the value of 613,000 mitzvos for each word. The Chofetz Chaim writes that an average person can speak approximately 200 words a minute. That means: one who learns on Shabbos for just one minute will receive reward equal to 122,600,000 mitzvos! In one hour: 7,356,000,000. In two hours 14,712,000,000 … okay, you get the point. It would be quite foolish to pass up such a golden opportunity!
Let us all merit using Shabbos, our “Time with Hashem,” to the maximum!
About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus, raised and educated in Los Angeles and subsequently Yeshivas Toras Moshe in Yerushalayim, is the Rosh Kollel of the Zichron Aron Yaakov Kollel in Kiryat Sefer , Israel. He lectures for the public and is the director of the Chasdei Rivka Free Loan Gemach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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