Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Intensity of Learning Halachah

Chazal tell us that Yosef warned his brothers not to learn halachah on the road to their father. Rashi there explains that their intense concentration on clarifying the law would very likely cause them to err on the way home. Someone who is deeply absorbed in his learning might fail to notice any number of landmarks along the way.

Reb Yaakov Rosenwasser was once privileged to travel with the Imrei Emes, zt”l, by train. At that time, the Imrei Emes was still a relatively unknown young man, but since Reb Yaakov had heard that he was the son of the illustrious Sefas Emes, zt”l, he decided to observe him closely during the course of the lengthy journey.

“I noticed that he learned the whole time. At one point, we had an unpleasant surprise. The train was derailed! No one was hurt and we waited outside for the technicians to come with the proper equipment to get the train back on track. Everyone was conversing or relaxing, some were sauntering around and others were enjoying the pleasant scenery. I was still observing the young prodigy. I noticed that although he got off the train like the rest of the passengers, he immediately made his way to a nearby tree and continued learning as if nothing had happened.”

Fixing the problem on the rails and getting the train back on track took several hours, but the Imrei Emes kept learning with the same fiery devotion all the while. Even when they brought a crane to place the train back on the rails and everyone else stood there watching in curious amazement, he did not even look up from his Gemara once! When the repair was finally done, one of the young men accompanying the Rebbe walked over to him and tugged on his sleeve. The Rebbe followed the young man back onto the train.

Reb Yaakov concluded, “It was then that I calculated that the Rebbe had been standing there learning with intense concentration for six straight hours. And he looked as fresh as before he started!”

No comments: