months ago, a good friend of mine (currently living in England) and I were
speaking about something or another of deep importance. And somehow, the subject of squirrels came up
(don't ask). I mentioned that I missed
seeing squirrels, since we don't have any here.
Instead, we have stray cats. And
I, along with every non-Russian, happen to hate cats.
Yesterday, he was nice enough to send me a video of some squirrels he
saw, because … why not? That's what
So, I called out to the family, "Who wants to see
squirrels???" and immediately, all the children came rushing to me, since
they've only heard of such legendary beings from my wife and me and have yet to
actually see them.
They thought that they were "soooooooooo cute."
I happen to agree. Squirrels rock!
"If you walk in My statutes
(chukim) and keep My commandments" (Vayikra 26: 3).
Rashi quotes a Midrash which asks, "What are these chukim? You cannot say that Hashem is speaking about
keeping the mitzvos, because the next words ("keep My commandments")
clearly refers to keeping mitzvos.
Rather, it must refer to the mitzvah of being "osek b'Torah,"
delving into the laws of the Torah to understand them well and to use that
understanding to do the mitzvos properly. The
word “chok” represents an idea or law that needs to be learned deeply in order
In fact, that is why Ashkanazim say in the blessings of the Torah every
morning, "… Who commanded us to be engrossed in the words of Torah (l'asok
b'dvrei Torah)." This pasuk and
this Midrash are the basis for the language chosen, rather than "… Who
commanded us regarding the words of Torah," which Sfardim use.
Furthermore, the Shulchan Oruch states that if one says the brachos on
the Torah in the morning and doesn't learn until later in the day, he does not
have to repeat the brachos again. This
Shulchan Oruch is based on an argument that goes back many centuries, which we
will not go into here. However, Tosfos
and Rabbeinu Yona (Berachos 11a) ask why is this so? With other mitzvos, if one has a break
between the bracha and the mitzvah, he has to repeat the bracha. For example, if I say a bracha on taking a
lulav and then ADHD hits me and I see a bird, or perhaps a squirrel, and start
running after it, when I get back to my senses, I need to say the bracha again,
followed by the mitzvah. So, why is this
The answer they give is that the mitzvah of learning Torah is obligated
on a man 24/7. It is a continuous
mitzvah, unlike a lulav, which once you do, you are done with the mitzvah. Therefore, even if one makes a bracha on
learning Torah first thing in the morning and does not actually learn until
later in the day, he does not need to make a new bracha.
From here we learn the importance of not just learning Torah, but
learning Torah in depth, to properly understand it and use it.
My Rosh Yeshiva used to say that nowadays, with so much technology, we
have very little excuse not to use our time properly. Whether driving to work, riding the train or
bus, washing the dishes, etc., we all have access to devices, whether
smartphones or mp3 players, that allow us to listen to divrei Torah. A person who is in a location where he cannot
learn with anybody, can always find "somebody," either live or via
recording, to learn even Gemara with. What other time in Jewish history was it
possible for a working man to go through the entire Talmud all "by
On one hand, there is an abundance of impurity running free in the
world. Yet, Hashem was kind enough to
give us an abundance of opportunities to use our time wisely, no matter where a
person is holding in life or even where they are living.
With that, I leave you all with a wonderful Shabbos!