Bechukosai: Grab What You Can Eat

My oldest daughter had the day off yesterday and went to Tiveria with two of her best friends.  They were planning on going on one of the many boat rides on the Kinneret, where the boat pulls you while you're holding on to some floating mattress.  They just agreed on a price, 50 shekels for "10-15 minutes," when a short Sphardi fifty-something-year old lady (with her "bobo" [a head-covering they like to wear which tends to be at least the same height as their body for some reason]) comes with her friend and asks what they are going on.  My daughter explains, and she says, "Sounds like fun!  Can we join you?"  She turned to the boat driver and simply said, "You will take us all for 40 shekels for 15 minutes," to which he of course agreed … because you always listen to the short Sphardi lady.

Throughout the entire ride, she was yelling and screaming, a mix of Tehillim, "Ima-le, Ima-le, Ima-le", "abba-le, abba-le, abbe-le" along with more Tehillim and repeat.  The girls had a very difficult time holding on and laughing at the same time.

After their ride, the ladies offered to take the girls in their car to daven at Rebbe Meir Baal HaNeis, followed by the beach.

Only in Israel.

Life for Jews has always been difficult.  At least for the past several thousand years.  The world, for us, has been topsy turvy, with only brief breaks of respite.  Obviously, the respite that we have been enjoying for the past many decades is starting to crumble.  However, even with such times of peace, one has to balance his work, family, health, and a whole slew of other stresses in life, and still focus on his spiritual duties, which is the reason he is here on earth.  Due to all of these stresses, our religious ones tend to fall by the wayside.  We're always hoping for that free time to sit and learn or to properly perform mitzvos. However, that time never comes.

Rav Yaakov Meir Schecter (who himself has not lived an easy life) writes that the Gemara (Eruvin 54a) says, "This world is like a wedding banquet – grab and eat!"  Life is not simple and it gets difficult, however, we should try our best to grab whatever we could.  But how does one do this with so much on our heads at all times?

The Mishnah in Avos says, "Don't say, 'I will study when I have time,' for perhaps you will never have the time."  The Kotzker Rebbe said on this, "Perhaps that is the very thing that G-d wants from you, to study when you do not have the time."

Rav Schecter continues:  "I would like to offer the following piece of advice: Grab whatever you can without worrying about the outcome.  You will soon see that you gained much more in the moments when your mind was unsettled, than in the times you were calm.  This is alluded to in another Mishnah: 'Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty, will ultimately fulfill it in wealth.'  Precisely by studying Torah in the 'poor' times, when things are not going so well, we will eventually come to study it amidst 'riches' – when things will go very well.  For in this world, the main time to serve G-d is when times are difficult."

He continues and offers advice to have different learning "cycles" planned for different periods of life.  We can have structured times of learning, where we learn gemara or halacha.  And we have unstructured times of learning, like waiting for the bus, or for appointments, where we have something "lighter," such as the parsha, or saying Tehillim.  And when you don't understand a certain concept, move on!  If you sit too long and cannot figure it out, you're more likely to give up.

We have plenty of pocket-sized chumashim, mishnyaos, Tehillim, etc. We have hundreds of only audio Dvrei Torah dealing with all areas of learning that can be accessed wherever you are.  We are living in a time where you can literally listen to Dvrei Torah wherever you are on a whole range of topics.  You can transform a ten-minute walk into a ten-minute walk while doing a major mitzvah.  You can't handle gemara right now?  No problem.  There's mishnayos.  Too difficult still? No problem.  There's parsha, Jewish outlook, Jewish law, on levels from beginners to expert.  It's all there for our taking.

A friend once pointed out that two of the main commentaries on the Shulchan Oruch that we were learning at the time wrote their commentaries while either on the run for their lives, or constantly being forced from one location to another.  Yet, here we are, living a rather comfortable life, and we cannot reach such levels.  Thankfully, Hashem is not looking for us to accomplish what others accomplish in their lifetimes.  He's only interested in our doing our best and grabbing what we can grab.

With that, I wish you all a quiet and peaceful Shabbos.