Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Early Start

The Pnei Menachem of Gur, zt”l, recounted that in 1942, when he was still a bochur, his father the Imrei Emes, zt”l, sent him to Tzfas to learn with his elder brother, the Lev Simcha, zt”l. The two made a seder to learn Seder Zeraim, both the Mishnayos and the Yerushalmi. Many years later, the Pnei Mencahem recounted some of the powerful encouragement his brother had given him to take advantage of the time and learn while he was still a youth.
“In Bava Metzia 85, chazal tell us that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because they did not bless תחילה, which most take to mean before learning. But there is another way to read this. It can also mean that they did not capitalize on the blessing of youth and learn Torah when they were still young. Squandering their youth is what caused this terrible destruction. We see from this the preciousness of learning when one is still young...”
On another occasion, the Lev Simcha said, “The gemara in Bava Metzia 107 regarding the importance of eating breakfast seems difficult on the face of it. We have certainly seen many people who have eaten an early breakfast but have not come to such might. In Kotzk they would explain that the word פת has a numerical value of four hundred and eighty, the same as the word תלמוד. In this context the gemara means that those who learned Talmud in their youth easily outdistance many who learned later on.
“This resonates well with another pointed teaching of Kotzk: if people were born old and grew young, they would know how use these precious years properly. Because it is not this way, people do no recognize the importance of youthful learning when they are still young.”
But Rav Tzvi Hirsch of Ziditchov, zt”l, learned this passage differently. “Since פת is gematria תלמוד, our gemara is teaching the vital importance to having a daily gemara seder in the morning. One who learns gemara in the morning hours when he is still clear will easily outdistance someone who learns when his mind is unfocused...”

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