A number of years ago, on Simchas Torah morning, after the Kiddush ended, I carried our (then) three-year-old son Dovid beneath the canopy spread atop the bimah, for Kol Hane’orim (the special aliyah for all children who aren’t old enough to recite the blessings on the Torah on their own). When the aliyah ended, all the adults began to sing hamalach hagoel. I noticed the look of confusion and nervousness in Dovid’s eyes, as he tried to understand why we were singing his bedtime song in shul.
As soon as we finished, he shared with me his logical conclusion: “Abba, the Torah is going to sleep!” It made sense considering that the Torah which had been open moments earlier was now closed and covered with a small blanket, just like Dovid when he goes to sleep.
We relate to the Torah not merely as a guidebook of laws, but rather as a living entity – a “Toras chaim,” which, in turn, infuses us with vitality and life.
Every morning we recite the birchas haTorah, thanking Hashem for imparting to us His holy Torah. There is a unique halacha regarding the recitation of those berachos: If one removes his tallis after Shachris and chooses to put it back on a few hours later, he recites a new beracha when doing so. Similarly, each time one sits down to eat a meal in a succah on Succos he recites the special beracha of Leishiv BaSuccah. One can recite that beracha a few times throughout the day. However, one only recites birchas HaTorah one time in the morning. Even if one goes to work and doesn’t have a chance to learn from a sefer until the evening, he does not repeat birchas haTorah when he sits down to learn later. [Most opinions state that even if one takes a significant nap during the day, he does not recite a new birchas haTorah upon awakening.]
Tosafos (Berachos 11b) explains that, unlike all other mitzvos, there is no definitive time when we are commanded to engage in Torah study. Rather it is an all-encompassing mitzvah that we are obligated in constantly. Furthermore, every nuance in the life of a Jew contains halachos, and therefore, one is always involved in Torah, even when not actually studying its texts.
On Simchas Torah morning, as I was walking to shul with one of my older sons, I recounted to him an experience I had several years ago:
It was during the winter, and I was visiting a rebbe of mine in Highland Park, NJ for Shabbos. As we were leaving his home for the fifteen-minute walk to shul, my rebbe told me that each Shabbos he walks with his neighbor to shul, and they review the content of the Gemara they learned that week while they walk.
I must admit that I was a little bored as I listened to their discussion, because I was not familiar with that particular Gemara. But it definitely left an impression upon me. One of them would relate a question or answer that the Gemara says, and then the other would add another point which the other had missed, and so it continued all the way to shul. I was impressed at how they maximized their time in such a beautiful manner.
I suggested to my son that, being that we had reviewed the same Gemara he had learned in yeshiva a few times over Succos, we could try to review the content of the Gemara too. He agreed, and it was the most fulfilling and productive walk I had had in a very long time, even though my feet weren’t happy with the walk.
As I have for the last few years, on Chol HaMoedI had the zechus to help facilitate a community-wide learning program. It was a most magnificent sight to see over fifty boys learning with fathers and chavrusos each morning of Chol HaMoed, before heading out on their daily trip.
Quite a few fathers noted how enthralled they themselves were with the program and how much it enhanced and transformed their Chol HaMoed.
The Torah never sleeps. As we state in Shema: “And you shall teach them to your children, and speak in them, when you are sitting in your home, and going on your way, and when you lie down, and when you wake up.”
If we feel sluggish it is only because we are the ones who must be asleep.
The beautiful Yomim Tovim of Tishrei have awakened us from our spiritual slumber and reenergized us. Now our job is to make sure we don’t fall back to sleep.