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Before Yaakov Avinu passed on, he gathered his children together and addressed each one directly.

To Yissachar he said, Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey, resting between the boundaries. He saw that tranquility was good, and that the land was pleasant, and he bent his shoulder to bear and he became an indentured laborer” (Bereishis 49:14-15).


Rashi explains that like a strong donkey that carries heavy burdens, Yissachar bears the yoke of Torah devoted to the service of Hashem. He is like a donkey, which travels day and night and only rests on the way, between cities. Our commentaries note that the name Yissachar – yesh schar – means “there is reward,” alluding to the great reward of 610 worlds that every righteous person will receive in the future for his toil in this world.

R’ Nissim Yagen elaborates further, citing later commentaries, that since Yissachar is wise and perceptive he willingly exerts himself to preserve and safeguard Torah and mitzvos. Yissachar sees “the land was pleasant,” representing materialism and the pleasures of life, and understands that often that which appears satisfying and pleasurable is essentially not good for the individual. For example, one could use drugs and believe he is experiencing tranquility and bliss, when in truth he soon finds himself in a very bad situation. He therefore works hard and carries the onus of Torah because he discerns its goodness, and he is willing to endure hardship because he knows it is the right thing to do.

Also, Yissachar sees the World-to-Come and Gan Eden, which he knows is good, in contrast to the ephemeral enjoyment of this world. He therefore decides to expend his efforts to meet the challenges of living a spiritual life, and to work for his portion in the next world.

What is that great good that is accrued in Gan Eden? In trying to describe it, the Ramban notes that if one would collect all the physical enjoyments of a lifetime, it would not compare to one minute of pleasure and satisfaction in the World-to-Come. In Yeshayah (64:3), Rashi points out that “no prophet’s eye saw what Hashem will do for him,” meaning that even the Nevi’im – who prophesied only regarding the days of Moshiach – could not envision the greatness of Gan Eden.

Service of Hashem is a labor of love that includes mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice), but man’s instinctive inclination is to choose what is easy and pleasant. It is particularly in this era, which R’ Elchonon Wasserman describes as “the period of the footsteps of Moshiach,” that the Evil Inclination tries to dishearten us and weaken our vigilance in matters of holiness.


The Secret to Building the Oujda Yeshiva

The Pele Yoetz cites the Talmud (Sanhedrin 19b) that one who teaches his friend’s child is considered as if he fathered him, and says that such an individual has the power to annul a Heavenly decree, and in the future will merit to be seated in the Heavenly yeshiva. In describing the praise and reward for one who benefits the masses, the Zohar includes those who establish institutions of Torah and teach Torah to others.

R’ Raphael Baruch Toledano, the Rav of Meknes in Morocco, devoted his life to fighting against the anti-Torah sentiments that abounded in Morocco. When a new school system was instituted, R’ Toledano immediately perceived their nefarious plan to eliminate Torah learning within the communities of Morocco. To counter their attempts and stem the tide of assimilation, R’ Toledano established yeshivos throughout Morocco.

One Shabbos, R’ Toledano heard that the city of Oujda, near the border of Algeria, had no Talmud Torah and the children were in imminent danger of joining the new “school system.” He immediately made plans with his good friend, R’ Yitzchak Ochana, to travel to Oujda by train on motzoei Shabbos.

When R’ Yitzchak arrived at his house that night, he saw that R’ Toledano had taken ill. He was lying in bed, and his children were trying to discourage him from leaving his bed. However, as soon as R’ Toledano saw R’ Yitzchak, he jumped out of his bed like a lion and said, “The entire city of Oujda is waiting for us to come. The pure Torah education of our children is hanging in the balance. Now is not the time for me to remain in bed.”

He quickly put on his coat and left the house. The train was full, and the two rabbis sat on the steps of the car all through the night. When dawn broke and they arrived at their destination, they met with the dignitaries of the community to hammer out a plan for the formation of a yeshiva for the young people.

R’ Baruch spoke of the importance of teaching Torah, especially to the younger generations, and he outlined the inherent menace of the “new school system.” But when he concluded his presentation, the people present began to offer all the reasons that it would be difficult for them to form their own yeshiva. The community felt that they could not compete with the new school, and they did not have the necessary funds to establish their own yeshiva in Oujda.

R’ Baruch listened to everything, and then began to cry bitter tears. The people wanted to know why he was crying. After all, they had not said that the cause was unimportant; they just felt it could not be done.

“I’m not crying for you,” said R’ Baruch; “I’m crying for myself. Our Sages tell us (Brachos 6b), ‘Any person who has the fear of Heaven, his words are heard.’ I am afraid that I don’t have fear of Heaven (yiras Shamayim). The guilt is mine and my plan for a yeshiva will not be fulfilled.”

When the people of Oujda heard these words, many began to weep, and an irrevocable decision was made to build the yeshiva immediately.


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Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, a prominent rav and Torah personality, is a daily radio commentator who has authored over a dozen books, and a renowned speaker recognized for his exceptional ability to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide.