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Imagine that you are sitting on your back porch learning Torah. You are concentrating, focusing, and really learning shtark. Suddenly, you hear screams from the neighbor’s yard. Cries of “Help, help!” become louder and louder! There is someone drowning in a pool! What do you do? Of course, pikuach nefesh comes first, so you jump into the pool and save the person drowning. You feel an unbelievable rush of excitement, as there is, seemingly, no feeling comparable to the satisfaction of saving a life.

Now imagine the same scene with one significant difference. You are learning and you hear the screams but you also hear about five others frantically trying to save the drowning person and you are 100% sure that any one of those five are more than capable of doing so. In that case, your obligation is to continue learning. The mitzvah of Talmud Torah is so great as to be more important than getting involved in saving someone’s life if the victim already has proper care. In this case our learning is more important than saving someone’s life, hatzalas nefashos, whether we are a talmid chacham or just an ordinary Jew.


Hakadosh Baruch Hu loves the Torah of each and every Jew, as the Sifra (Bechukosai 26:3) says, “Hashem is misaveh, greatly desires, that all Jews toil in Torah.” When it comes to tefilla, prayer, Chazal say Hashem is misaveh for the prayers of tzaddikim. Of course, He “enjoys” all of our prayers but this special term of misaveh is said only about the righteous. This is not the case when it comes to Talmud Torah. There, He is misaveh for the Torah toil, ameilus of all Jews. Hashem has a tayva for our learning!

Thus, we should imagine this scene and really feel a rush of excitement when we are simply learning Torah on our own without any fanfare. We should imagine that we are saving ourselves from spiritually drowning through our limud haTorah.

This kind of excitement is what the Chazon Ish lived with constantly (mentioned by Rav Shraga Neuberger) as he would always review and remind himself of the following Avos D’Rav Nosson (20:1): “Kol hanosein divrei Torah al libo mevatlin mimeno hirhurei cherev, hirhurei ra’av, hirhurei shetus, hirhurei zenus, hirhurei yetzer hara, hirhurei eishes ish, hirhurei devarim biteilim, hirhurei ol basar v’dam.” Paraphrased, this means that whoever places the words of Torah on his heart, whoever takes the mitzvah of Torah study very seriously, will find himself free of all worldly and distracting thoughts. Such a person will be free of the burdens of this world which all too often hold a person back from reaching his potential. He will be given great siyatta d’Shmaya to have what he needs in this world through a hishtadlus which will not be too distracting.

Rav Shraga said that we also could achieve daas Torah. The more we learn, the more we put our minds into the mind of the Torah, the more daas Torah we receive. Yes, we don’t have the fullness of daas Torah of Gedolim, but the more Torah we learn and place on our hearts, the more we align our daas with the daas of the Torah.

We need to learn Torah seriously and find topics, seforim, sugyos, which energize us personally. We need to realize that Hashem has a great desire, tayva, for our Talmud Torah. And we need to know that we are saving ourselves when we learn.

Let’s accept a new learning project upon ourselves. It doesn’t have to mean an extra hour of learning a day. Even a new five-minute learning session will accomplish great things over time. Five minutes a day in the car listening to a shiur can help you finish a tremendous amount of learning on a daily basis. It all adds up.


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Rabbi Boruch Leff is a rebbe in Baltimore and the author of six books. He wrote the “Haftorah Happenings” column in The Jewish Press for many years. He can be reached at