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How Sweet It Is

By: Rabbi Hanoch Teller

This is the parasha of the revelation; of the giving of the Torah. The verses describe how Bnei Yisrael arrived from the wilderness to the foot of Mount Sinai. At that point the nation was asked if they wished to accept the Torah and a united people responded, “All that the L-rd has spoken we will do.”

From that point on we have had the challenge of continuing to actively accept the Torah and make it the most central component of our lives. Below is some anecdotal information about a man whose very being broadcast the centrality and paramount importance of accepting the Torah.

The Ponevizher Rav was a man of many loves. His decades in the rabbinate in Lithuania demonstrated his passionate love for his fellow Jew; his words and actions conveyed his deep love for the Land of Israel. But clearly his greatest love was that for the Torah itself. His devotion to Torah, his intoxication with its sweetness, was so powerful that there were often times that he would grab his head as if possessed and exclaim Briederlach, lohmer b’emmes lernen Torah! Oy, vee zees is dee Torah! Dear brothers, let us truly learn Torah! Oh, how sweet is the Torah!”

Later in life he would recall with pangs of nostalgia the deep commitment Ponevizh’s Jewry had for Torah learning. Simple people who toiled all week for a meager living, their only free night was leil Shabbos, and they used this opportunity to its fullest. All the seats in the shul were filled every Friday night by Ponevizh’s residents diligently learning late into the night.

The shiurim commenced at midnight (!) and the elderly residents of the town were anxious to attend. But what could they do? In the winter the streets were sheets of ice and walking in the dark was extremely hazardous. Their solution to the problem was reminiscent of the Hillelian example of the ultimate Torah dedication: to avoid slipping and falling, the old and the infirm would crawl to shul on their hands and their knees!

May we all be privileged to reaffirm our commitment to what we celebrate in this week’s Torah reading.

Shabat Shalom






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