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Ahavas ha-Torah"…that same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai….For they had departed from Refidim, and had come to the wilderness (Midbar) of Sinai…" (Shmos 19:1-2).
This possuk has the order of their travels backwards. It relates that they came to Midbar Sinai before telling us that they departed from Refidim. The order should have been reversed.
The Ohr HaChaim explains that "Love doesn't follow the straight path" and so the possuk skipped, out of order, to the main point. Hashem had been waiting from the beginning of Creation to give Torah to Klal Yisroel. His desire was so intense that when the moment came, He immediately jumped and proclaimed: they had come!
If so, then we are further perplexed by the possuk: why did it have to repeat that they had come to Midbar Sinai, you just said that.
The Ohr HaChaim answers that we have to understand that laziness is a major obstacle to the attainment of Torah. Wherever Torah is mentioned, there is also some indication of resolve and exertion. Chazal interpret the possuk "This is the Torah, when a man dies in a tent" Bemidbar 19:14) as referring to dying in a tent of learning; one must literally kill himself in toiling over Torah. Therefore the possuk mentions that they came to Midbar Sinai to receive the Torah after departing Refidim. This name is related to the word "rifiyon" meaning weakness. They left their laxity in the study of Torah and came to the wilderness in order to learn Torah. If you want to learn, you have to give it all you've got!
Adapted from Zekainecha v'Yomro Lach, p. 141, shmuezim from Rav Sholom Schwadron, zt"l.
In our society it's hard for us to comprehend the concept: "there isn't." The reason is very simple. Because, "there is"! There is a salary, baruch Hashem, We have credit cards, a bank account, a savings account. So, life goes on around "there is." "There is." "There is." "And there is."
Why aren't there great talmidei chachomim today of the stature of the previous generations? Today we have plenty of Olam Hazeh. And when there is Olam Hazeh, there isn't Olam Haba.
I remember a certain person, a Chareidi, a very observant fellow, very careful about every mitzvah. I was present once in his home on a very hot summer day. He got a sudden urge to go to the beach. But before getting on the bus he called the weather station to find out if the water was calm, and what was the weather forecast at the coast. Then he would know if he could go to the beach. To his great disappointment he heard the announcement on the phone that today the beach was closed.
You wouldn't believe it. His face fell; you could see lines of tension on his forehead. Like a terribly tortured soul he lifted his eyes to Heaven and with a deep sigh he said, "Oy! Ribono Shel Olam! 'Look upon my affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins'" (Tehillim 25:18). Then he regained his composure and said, "Alright. It should be a kaparah."
Should we laugh, or cry? You decide. But this little story says everything. Everything today revolves around "there is." A person feels a bit limited, and just a bit, and he becomes more or less tormented.
Today the concept "there isn't" belongs to ancient history. But in those days the situation was exactly the opposite. Life streamed along with "there isn't." The feeling of "there is," so prominent today, was buried deep in distant dreams, almost together with "when Moshiach comes." Those luxuries, whose lack today turns us into truly tormented beings, in those days even the thought of them was proscribed by "Do not turn after your hearts."
But if you think that those generations were plagued by bitterness of their poverty, you are mistaken. When the animal of the person (read: his body) is not stuffed with food and luxuries, his soul shines, his eyes glow with life and not death. His face is anointed with joy, the joy of being a person, not the joy of bodily animal lusts.
An animal has no concept of happiness or bliss. It is totally engrossed in grub feelings of physical pleasure. To enjoy, and enjoy, and enjoy again. This generation preceeding the Moshiach "looks like the face of a dog" (Sota 49b). Even the pleasure on one's face is more similar to that of a dog. Once one could discern on people's face the countenance of deep bliss which is the function of human beings alone. Today is conspicuous mostly the pleasure of an animal in the form of a person.
What happens in the yeshiva dining room when the chicken isn't spiced enough? The bochurim complain. When I was a bochur I learned in Petach Tikva. What did we have? A slice of bread with some black coffee. That's all. When once in a while we had the good fortune that they gave us a little piece of chalva, or leben, that was considered a Yom Tov!
Nu, what are you thinking, that we didn't enjoy ourselves? No! We enjoyed that piece of chalva exactly the way you enjoy a piece of steak. Why? Why is it that today they enjoy steak? Because that's the maximum! By us the maximum was chalva.
Therefore, don't pity those generations.
But that's all well and good when there was some dry bread and a bit of water to soften the bread. What happened when even that was not available? That was shver! What did they do?
"What did they do?" is a stylish question for today's generation. Then, it wasn't a question. Simple. They didn't do anything; they remained h u n g r y.
In such conditions what remained? One thing and one thing alone: Love of Torah!
The love of Torah filled the empty space of Olam Hazeh. They were filled with pure Yiras Shomayim. Learning Torah satisfied their hunger. It blew life and hope into their hungry bodies. And there is a tremendous amount of power and strength in a person whose veins are flowing with one thing and one thing only: Love of Torah!
So is it so strange that they knew so much? Have you ever seen someone with such a strong love of something, and not succeed in getting it?
And from this type of Torah came out great people! Oh ho! Not just great people: Malachim! Angels! With that type of Torah, with that type of Ahavas Torah, they were transformed into Malachim in the form of people!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network