Chovos Hatalmidim | Chapter 11 | Harav Y Reuven Rubin Shlita

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Chovos Hatalmidim

Chapter 11

By Harav Y Reuven Rubin Shlita

Pizza can certainly be a “soul food”. Yes, that drippy oily concoction has in it the potential to bring a youngster closer to Torah learning. I can well understand that any reader of these lines will wonder what category of foolishness has taken possession of me.  Please indulge me for just another few moments, and perhaps all will become clearer.

The Rebbe speaks to the crippling problem of young students who go thru the years of they’re learning with no real feeling of spiritual connection. This is a subject in which the Rebbe expends great effort in trying to explain to his young readership exactly what the problem is and how to go about changing it.

“Dear Student, I’m sure that you must have asked yourself the following questions: If Torah is everything, and even HaKodesh Boruch Hu lives, so to speak, within Torah, then why am I not becoming spiritually elevated even though I’m learning? Although there are times that I do feel myself on a somewhat higher spiritual level, is that minuscule degree of spiritual ascent all that I am supposed to achieve?”

Once more the Rebbe aims his well-honed spiritual love for Klall Yisroel not merely at his own times, but for all those in the future.

“And why is it that there are people who learn Torah and then abandon it, chas v’sholom, descending to the lowest of the low? Where is Chazal’s promise that the Torah’s light will bring back those who have strayed from it?”

It’s as if the Tzadik was somehow reading over our shoulders and seeing today’s hiemisha press pages.

The Rebbe never asks questions without offering clear answers.

“It’s true that through learning Torah one connects with HaKodesh Boruch Hu, Who teaches Torah to Klall Yesroil. But in order for that connection to take place, one has to know how to learn Torah.”

The Rebbe explains a passage from the Zohar that tells us “whoever learns Torah with nothing more than his dry intellect, as though he were studying a mundane subject, loses his portion in Olam HaBah.”  That a powerful statement, one that can be extremely upsetting. The learning of Torah is meant to be a tool to come towards Hashem, Who has concealed Himself within the Torah.

“You want to purify your soul; Rabbi Akiva already said (Yoma 85b) “Just as a mikvah purifies those who have become impure, so does Hashem purify Klall Yesroil.” But only those who come to the Mikvah and immerse themselves in its waters can be purified.”

The Rebbe is telling us that we must try to get beyond the surface of learning and saturate our Torah learning with a surge of love for Hashem that has already started to be developed.

As we have seen before, the Rebbe speaks often of the sleeping soul that often lives within us.  He points out that when you are sitting and learning it is difficult to stir your soul with lofty thoughts whilst you are trying to understand a difficult Torah subject. Your mind is fully occupied, and hence your strength is sapped.

So you ask, when am I meant to get inspired? What can I do to enflame my soul so that the Torah I learn should feel real?

Says the Rebbe “inspire your soul before you start learning; discover it, and connect to Hashem.”

And that’s where my dripping slice of Pizza comes in.

Our young thirst for warmth and a sense of bonding. The pathway to their sleepy neshomah has to start with a connection to role models who understand where they are coming from. In a recent chapter we wrote about creating ways that will allow our young to invest themselves in the performance of Mitzvos. Here the Rebbe speaks even deeper, here he illustrates how to wake up sleeping souls before sitting down to the arduous task of learning.

The Rebbe explains that a slumbering body can be awoken suddenly and immediately respond, however the neshomah needs to be forced to exert itself. Our youngsters are living in a world filled with stimulation, technological and otherwise. What they crave for is simplicity. In the turmoil of a busy world, their inner heart needs a calming word of undiluted friendship and kindness. Sharing “downtime” with a mentor who is a Ben Torah can waken the inner soul of a perplexed youngster who just doesn’t get what all this learning is about. Preaching down on them, creating more and more rules will only put their neshomahs into a deeper sleep. A shared time, yes, even with a snack that may well not be on the menu of every Rosh Yeshivah, may open the portal of their hearts. In this way youngsters will see that a Ben Torah is alive with warmth and caring for them, and this will start a spiritual cascade that will prepare them to learn Torah with a whole new attitude.

They will realise that learning Torah isn’t just some dry subject that isn’t relative to their world, just the opposite, they will now be receptive to its true content, that which is the essence of Hashem.

The avodah of our Tzadikim has always been to enliven our Yiddishkiet so that our neshomahs will be alive despite the odds standing against us.

Witnesses have spoken of the wonders in Avodah they witnessed in the presence of the Rebbe Ztl, he surrounded himself with the youngsters, they stood in the front row. The davening was loud, word for word, musical, and soul stirring.

This is the Tzadik that speaks thru his sefer and calls upon the young to awaken their souls before they sit down to learn. Then their efforts will be rewarded with a sense of connection with a living Torah, with Hashem.