Thursday, August 7, 2008

“The Precepts of Hashem… Gladden the Heart”

Chazal teach that it is forbidden to learn words of (most areas of) Torah on Tisha B’av because they make a person joyous and such a state is incompatible with the nature of the fast day. The proof for the Torah’s ability to lift one’s spirits is taken from the verse: “The precepts of Hashem are right; they gladden the heart.” (Tehillim 19:9)
Unfortunately, some people don’t really feel the joy of learning. The Ohev Yisroel, zt”l, writes that although learning Torah gladdens the heart, one who pushes himself to proceed faster than he can realistically manage is in too much of a rush to enjoy his learning. We must be upwardly mobile spiritually, but only one step at a time.
A number of chassidim once asked Rav Mendel of Vitebsk, zt”l: “Why do we find ourselves depressed by unholy thoughts? We are learning and praying to the best of our ability. Doesn’t the verse say that Hashem’s precepts gladden one’s heart?”
Rav Mendel responded, “It says in Pirkei Avos that a person is considered wealthy when he is happy with what he has. This also refers to one’s spiritual attainments. Even though the Tanna D’bei Eliyahu writes that we should always ask when our deeds will come to those of the Avos, this does not mean that we should be unhappy with what we have accomplished. It is just meant to goad us to always strive for more!”
He concluded, “One who truly wants to serve Hashem will be thankful for every little bit of learning that he has achieved while he continues to yearn for more. It is only this type of Torah study that can save a person from depression and negative thoughts. This is what the verse means when it says that the Torah’s precepts gladden one’s heart. As Chazal tell us, the Torah is like an elixir; if one is worthy, it is an elixir of life, but if not it is like poison. One must always be happy with what he learns, for ‘Torah study is equal to all the other mitzvos!”


A Simple Jew said...

Excellent posting! Thanks for the chizuk.

Micha Golshevsky said...

My pleasure, that's why I"m here!