Torah Tidbits with Chana Citron
In the weeks between Pesach and Shavuot it is customary to study one chapter of the Pirkei Avot each Shabbat after Minchah. One reason for this is that during these weeks one should work on character refinement, middot tovot and how to be a mentsch. Pirkei Avot details the different ways in which one should work on themselves. This week we will read the second chapter, where we learn the teaching of Rabban Gamliel that “All Torah study that is not combined with work, is not lasting”. The Baal Shem Tov explains that the “work” here, refers to the mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael - love for a fellow Jew. This is a biblical command which is stated in this week’s parsha of Kedoshim - ve’ahavta lere’acha kamocha - Love your fellow as you do yourself. Why is this mitzvah referred to as work? The Baal Shem Tov explains that it is not enough to simply be loving or kind to another Jew when the opportunity arises. Rather, like a job, a person should put effort into this mitzvah and pursue opportunities to engage in it. One should constantly be on the lookout for the opportunity to help another Jew in any way possible. In addition our love and concern for another Jew should not just be on a physical level but also to show concern for their spiritual well being.
The teaching of Rabban Gamliel tells us that if Torah study is combined with work it will be lasting. Therefore, as one studies Torah, and actively looks for opportunities to fulfill the mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael, they are assured that the Torah they study will be lasting. What does this mean? When a person shares his/her money with others, G-d will bless them with more so that they are able to spend more time studying and do so in comfort. When a person shares their Torah learning with others, they gain a better understanding and insight into the learning and so their learning is lasting.