Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts On The Daf - Nedarim 81

Nedarim 81 contains a digression from the discussion of Nedarim and a discussion on why sometimes the sons of Torah scholars do not become Torah scholars in their own right. The gemara offers five different amoraim with their own specific answers to the question. I would like to address two of these in particular.

R' Yosef answers that this does not occur "so that it is not said that the Torah is their inheritance." The commentaries on the daf have two sharply divergent views on who R' Yosef is speaking about. The Ran explains that the children of the Torah scholars will not learn because they will say that the Torah is their inheritance and there is no reason to study it (since it will be coming to them anyway). Rashi (or as another member of my daf chaburah calls him, "non-Rashi") writes that the children of Torah scholars do not become Torah scholars so that the regular people will not view Torah as the ultimate province of the Torah scholars and be dissuaded from learning Torah.

Another answer is given by Ravina who says that it is because they did not make the blessing before they learned Torah. Ravina then links the thought to a statement of R' Yehuda about a pasuk in Jeremiah where it says that the Jews will lose their land because they have left my Torah. The gemara relates that the people asked the wise men of their time why this was occurring and they were unable to answer the question until Hashem said that the reason was that the people had stopped listening to Him.

The Ran explains (in the name of R' Yona's Megilat Sisarim) that the rationale that they lost the land because they did not make the blessing is a logical thought. If the reason why the land was lost was because they simply were not learning Torah, then of course the scholars would have been able to answer the question. Instead, the people were learning and the scholars could not understand why the loss occurred. Only Hashem who is aware of people's inner thoughts was able to provide the answer - that they were not making the blessing before they learned.

The Ran explains that they were not making the blessing before learning Torah because they did not consider it worthy enough to make a blessing over. This was a direct result of their lack of learning Torah L'shma. Because they were not studying Torah for proper purposes and did not deem it important enough to make a blessing before studying, Hashem removed them from their land. Similarly, those who become Torah scholars, but don't learn L'shma will not merit having children who are Torah scholars.

The "non-Rashi" brings this thought into sharper focus. He notes that the actual language of the blessing includes the phrase that our children and our children's children will learn Torah. If these people did not take the task seriously and did not properly recite the bracha to ask for assistance that their children would learn Torah, then of course they would not merit this result.

I cannot leave this topic without making reference to a story told by R'Frand during one of last year's Thursday Night shiurm. He spoke of a man who was walking on the street in Tel Aviv and was asked to join a minyan. The man protested multiple times, stating that he was not religious and had never been in a synagogue. Eventually, the man agreed and joined the short prayer service. The man later became Orthodox as a result of the experience.

Meanwhile, the gentleman's father became the butt of jokes on his Kibbutz. How could his son become Orthodox when his father had raised him to despise religion. The answer was that it must have been the prayers of the grandfather for his son. While the grandfather was unsuccessful in convincing his son to become frum, his prayers did not go unanswered. Instead, the grandson became the beneficiary of his grandfather's prayers and tears. It should be no great surprise that the synagogue where the man's journey to religion began was the same shul that his grandfather himself had prayed in.

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