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“When He finished speaking to him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moshe the two Tablets of Testimony, stone tablets inscribed by the finger of Hashem” (Shemos 31:18).
The Hebrew word for “when He finished,” is kichaloso. The Sages interpreted the defective spelling as if to read “like His challah” – His betrothed (kallah=bride). Therefore they inferred from the allusion that Hashem gave Moshe the Torah as a present, just as one presents the bride to the groom.
What was the significance of this present and why was Moshe in need of it? And, perhaps even more important, why was he given the Torah as a present while we are not?
Rashi explains that it was humanly impossible for Moshe to learn the entire Torah in only forty days and nights. Therefore it had to be given to him as a present. In other words, it was not the actual comprehension of the Torah which was gifted him, merely the ability to learn so much in so short a time. Apparently, since Moshe was the one chosen to convey the Torah from Hashem to the Jewish People, he was eligible to receive a super-human grant. This, then, would not apply to almost anyone but him.
However, the Midrash Tanchuma (on this parashah, Chapter 16) explains it differently.
Rabbi Avahu said, “During the entire forty days that Moshe was On High, he learned the Torah and forgot it. At the end of the period he said, ‘Master of the Universe, forty days have ended and I still know nothing!’ What did the Holy One, Blessed is He, do? When the forty days were complete, He gave him the Torah as a present.”
In another piece (Parashas Emor, 5761) I brought the explanation of the Chidushei Harim of the Gemara (Megillah 6b) which says that only if one claims, “yaga’ti umatsasi - I toiled hard and I found the Torah,” is he to be believed. For Torah can only come through hard toil. The Chidushei Harim asks that these two concepts are seemingly contradictory. “Toil” indicates hard work and strain, while “finding” indicates acquiring something with no effort at all, like walking down the street and finding some money. How then does the Gemara state that “finding” Torah is the result of “toil?”
The answer, he says, is that Torah is not merely a wisdom which can be learned with fine intellectual capabilities, but rather a spiritual being which one must be deserving of in order to comprehend. Therefore the only way one can achieve success in Torah study is if it is given to him by Hashem as a present, making it something which he “found.” However, as a prerequisite for this present, one must prove himself deserving of it. How is this done? By toiling to learn Torah, he explains, one shows that he realizes how precious the Torah is, and only then is he granted it as a gift.
Consequently, it is not the toil itself, which makes the Torah comprehensible to the student, for no matter how hard he works he could never understand the Torah on his own. But, rather, it is the toil which proves that he deserves to be given the Torah as a present. Therefore, only if one says, “I have toiled and I have found the Torah,” is he to be believed.
According to this, it was not only Moshe who was given the Torah as a gift, but everyone who works hard to try to learn it receives the same present. And just as everyone has to prove himself worthy of the bequest, so Moshe had to work hard for forty days to try to understand the Words of Hashem. Otherwise, we may ask, why didn’t Hashem grant him the Torah right away? Why only when the forty days were completed?
So there really is not that much difference between Moshe and all of us. Everyone who works really hard to learn Torah will be given his portion to him as a reward. This is such a definite tenet that the same Gemara brought above declares the opposite to be true too: “If someone claims ‘I toiled hard and I did not find the Torah,’ he is not to be believed.” The Sages were convinced that anyone who would really show true effort and appreciation for the Torah would be granted to understand it properly.
There is, by the way, another way that one can be privileged to acquire Torah, although in a slightly different form.
One can also show his appreciation of Torah by supporting those who study it and those institutions which teach it. We know that Chazal promised an equal share of reward to those who make it possible to learn, with those who actually learn thanks to them.
I saw in a sefer, although, at the moment, I do not remember which one (perhaps Tuvecha Yabiu), that some great rabbi said that in the world-to-come the supporters of Torah will be placed in the same section as those who learned Torah due to their support. However, lest it be torturous, rather than blissful, for them to be in a place where they don’t understand what is being discussed, they will be taught all of the Torah which was learned in their merit. Thus they will be given the Torah as a gift, albeit not in this world, in the World of Truth.
Another reward for those who honor the Torah is mentioned in the Gemara (Shabbos 23b), “One who loves the Rabbis, will have sons who are rabbis; one who holds the rabbis in esteem will have sons-in-law who are rabbis.”
All of this is, of course, besides the blessing of life which Torah always brings with it. The following story was written by Rabbi Zalman Sorotskin zt”l, about his father-in-law Rabbi Eliezer Gordon zt”l, the Telzer Rav and Rosh Yeshiva, in his work Hadeah Vehadibbur, (brought in Tuvecha Yabiu, Parashas Terumah).
Years after Rabbi Gordon was married, and already had several sons and daughters, he was still living by his father-in-law, the tzaddik Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Neizer zt”l. Rabbi Neizer’s financial situation had become tight. Nevertheless, when they came from many towns with requests that Rabbi Gordon move there and serve as their rabbi, Rabbi Neizer always refused. His wife began to argue with him. “How long are we going to continue to support him?” she asked. “Our own livelihood is so difficult to maintain. Why can’t he go out on his own already?”
But her husband always retorted, “My dear wife. Who knows who is supporting whom? We - him, with our money, or he - us with his Torah!”
This repeated itself even when they came from the illustrious town of Eishishuk. But when they came from Slabodka, Rabbi Neizer could no longer withstand his wife’s opposition to the ongoing situation and he was forced to agree.
However, on the very day that his son-in-law was to leave his home, Rabbi Neizer came home from shul, with his tallis and tefillin under his arm, and as he crossed the threshold of his home, he collapsed and died R.l!
At his funeral, his wife cried and said, “Woe. I killed you. You told me many times that you are not sure who is supporting whom. Now I realize that he was keeping us alive with his Torah.”
Unfortunately, she realized a bit too late.
May we always show our appreciation of Torah, by learning and supporting it, and then we will be granted with life and the understanding of the Torah, in this world and/or in the world-to-come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network