Rabbi Mordechai Willig

Ramat Bet Shemesh, Or L’17 of Marcheshvan at Aish Kodesh

K’viyat  Ittim Latorah

The Gemarah in Brachot (35b) discusses the dispute between Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi). These Amoraim explain the apparent conflict between the Pasuk ואספת דגניך  as opposed to the advice given to Yehoshua לא ימוש ספר התורה הזה מפיך.

Rabbi Yishmael says: Follow the minhag Derech Eretz by working your land and learn Torah when you are not working. Rashbi differs and says that the former Pasuk ואספת דגניך  is talking about when the Jews are not worthy, and therefore they will have to work themselves, while the Pasuk in Yehoshua is referring to the ideal situation, when Jews are doing the Mitzvot and then their work will be carried out by others. The Gemarah then says that many tried to follow Rashbi andלא עלו בידן , while those who followed Rabbi Yishmael by working and learning, עלו בידן , succeeded.


In Menachot (99a) there is a dispute between Amoraim on how to fulfill the mitzvah of לחם פנים לפני תמיד . Does tamid mean constantly, every second, requiring the Kohanim to insert the new breads while removing the old ones or does it mean simply that a night cannot pass without the bread. (Rav Yossi)


In the context of Tamid, The Pasuk from Yehoshua לא ימוש ספר התורה הזה מפיך is quoted and Rav Ami says- according to Rav Yossi, since tamid is not literal, even if you only learn one Perek in the morning and evening (shema) you fulfill לא ימוש. This is supported by Rashbi. Rabbi Yishmael differs by discussing the learning of Greek wisdom (Chochma Yevanit). He says that you need to find a time when is not night or day והגית בו יומם ולילה and learn then, but since no such time exists, you have not heter to learn it.


The Rishonim ask: In Menachot it seems that that the opinions are the opposite of those in Brachot- Rashbi in Brachot says Torah learning must be constant, while in Menachot he seems to imply that you fulfill your requirements by reciting one perek in the morning and one in the evening. Rabbi Yishmael also seems to be contradictory as he requires constant learning in Menachot, while allowing Minhag Derech Eretz in Brachot.


The answer is, that Menachot is dealing with the minimal Halachik  requirements, while in Brachot the Gemarah is discussing Hashem’s true desire, רצונו של מקום. Rashbi holds that the minimal requirement is a perek in the morning and evening, but Hashem’s true will, is for us to learn constantly.


The Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chaim that after davening and  learning, one should engage in work. In Yoreh Deah, the Mechaber says that if you learn one perek in the morning and one in the evening, you fulfill your requirement. The Mechaber takes both kulot – Rabbi Yishmael in Brachot and Rashbi in Menachot. The Rambam also describes the ideal situation as working together with learning. He sets the number at 3 hours of work, 9 hours of learning, but this situation one would be unable to support a household in our days.


What is the great virtue of working? יגיע כפיך כי תאכל אשריך וטוב לך.. 


Do we in fact hold like the Shulchan Aruch? The Beur Halacha explains that this psak is for the majority of the people, but individuals who are able to, may devote their lives to learning. He derives this from the words in Brachot: Many followed Rashbi and …. Many (רבים) but not all. The Rambam hints to this too (end of Shmita and Yovel).


We see that the default position of the Shulchan Aruch is not to just sit and learn automatically after high school, marriage etc, without working.

The Yissachar and Zevulun pact was very specific – it was a private agreement agreed to beforehand. The only paradigm we see the use of public funding for those sitting and learning is Maaser for the Levi’im יורו משפטיך ליעקב.  However the Levi’im were a very small percentage of Bnei Yisrael as their Shevet was very small in numbers. So too we should assign a small percentage to learn, while the rest need to work. We also see that the work ethic is the one praised by the Torah שמח זבולון בצאתך ויששכר באהליך.


Were we to assign a percentage of Jews to sit in Kollel, the questions become more complex: Do we figure this percentage based on all Jews or only those Shomrei Torah Umitzvot?


The Gemarah says that we are Mevatel Torah for a mitzvah that cannot be performed by others. This may include כיבוד אב ואם  as well as other personal issues.


How about family commitments? The Shulchan Aruch in Siman 246 explains that כל איש ישראל חייב בתלמוד תורה בין עני בין עשיר... and the Mechaber goes on to list those with difficulties such as ill, etc. The highest level of hardship mentioned by the Mechaber is      בעל אשה ובנים implying that family commitments – helping with kids and family etc, are a valid reason to suspend learning.


Story is told of R Hillel Zaks a grandson of the Chafetz Cahim in Lakewood. The Mashgiach approached him why he had been absent for minyan for several days. He told him about this poor woman who had many little children and was barely managing. The Mashgiach inquired who this lady was as he might also help with the chessed. Rav Zaks replied: “My wife”. We can infer from here that helping in the house is דוחה  Talmud Torah  - if it is דוחה  Tefilla Btzibur which is דוחה  Talmud Torah, so too it must override Talmud Torah.


Feminists are wrong when they bemoan the fact that they have the task of watching the kids, “enabling” the husband to learn. נשים במאי קא זכיין? שמגדלין בינהם לת"ת. They receive a great reward. (The fathers should want to do carpools to get this merit.) Why doesn’t the Gemarah simply answer that they do their own Mitzvot such as Niddah, Candles etc.


Another Gemorah says גדולה הבטחה שהבטיח הקב"ה לנשים יותר מאנשים. Why?


Rashi and many other Rishonim, in their explanation of שכר in this world (Va’etchanan) explain that some people get more rewards in עולם הזה diminishing their rewards in עולם הבא. Some people get less in עולם הזה increasing their rewards in עולם הבא.


This can be applied to men and women. While men enjoy learning and the glory of being considered a lamdan and being the spotlight in the Beit Midrash, the women work in the background. Since the man gets his glory in this world, his reward is less in the next world – it evens out. Women who got less reward in this world, get more in the world to come. Therefore, the question of the Gemarah נשים במאי קא זכיין? Is really – why do women get a greater merit than men in the world to come? The answer is, that they did not get the reward for this mitzva in this world, so in the world to come, their reward is greater.


There are certain synagogues that recommend the reciting of שלא עשני אשה quietly as not to insult the women (even when none are present). Why do men say that Bracha – The Tosefta in Brachot says that since men have more mitzvoth, they say this Bracha. Women have the great privilege from Hashem to have children to allow the future of Klal Yisrael. He made womenכרצונו  with this unique ability. Therefore He exempted them from those mitzvot dependent on time and those required all the time (Talmud Torah). Rav Soloveitchik said many times that the level of Kedusha of men and women are equal.


In a harsh letter, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l called the feminists “Kofrim” a term not usually used by Rav Moshe, those who wanted to learn and be equal to men. Even in animals you find that the mothers care for the children while the fathers go and supply food. Hashem intended for this norm to be maintained by humans too.


This attitude towards women is not apologetic or a cover-up. Hashem could have allowed men to have children too, but in His infinite wisdom He designated that 50% of the population should have children and therefore granted them certain privileges and exemptions.


Practical Questions and Suggestions: