Stand for Talmud study - stender for gemara in Hebrew

By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

Avimi was Rav Chisda’s rebbe. Or was it the other way around? As presented in the Gemara, it is difficult to determine who was the rebbe and who was the talmid.

Avimi was a very demanding rebbe. His prized talmid, Rav Chisda, forgot some parts of Torah he should have known. Rav Chisda later commented that he received figurative blows from his rebbe on account of his forgetfulness.

Sometime later, the tables were turned. The rebbe, Avimi, forgot the masechta of Menachos. He went to his very own talmid, Rav Chisda, to teach it to him.

The rebbe now became the talmid. Still, the Gemara wonders why Avimi had to travel to Rav Chisda, his student, to learn from him. Avimi was Rav Chisda’s rebbe and could have summoned his own talmid to appear before him. The Gemara says simply that Avimi thought he would be more successful this way. Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, zt’l, explained that this way was more humbling. Avimi, who had castigated his student for forgetting his learning, was forced to admit that he himself forgot a masechta. That was embarrassing enough, but then to act like a student before his own student was even more humbling. The more humble a person is, the more he becomes an appropriate receptacle for Torah. Avimi chose the more humiliating route because he wanted to seize the opportunity to force himself to act and feel humble.

Rashi explains that Avimi chose to come to his talmid because he wanted to fulfill the dictum that was stated about learning Torah: “Yagati u’matzasi,” I toiled and found. Although hard work can often lead to success, success is by no means guaranteed. One must beseech Hashem to make his endeavors successful, but, again, there are no guarantees. This isn’t true when it comes to learning Torah. When someone toils in Torah, he is guaranteed success.

Avimi chose to travel to his talmid to fulfill a measure of toil. My rosh yeshiva, HaGaon Henoch Leibowitz, pointed out that this Rashi supports an inference of the Vilna Gaon. The dictum does not state, “I toiled and I achieved,” but “I toiled and I found.” Even when one toils in Torah he does not achieve success. Rather, Hashem gives him a present in recognition of effort. The student finds this present. There is no direct cause-and-effect relationship between his learning and his achievement in Torah. Consequently, it makes no difference where the effort to learn Torah lies. Even if the extra effort one exerts is simply on the way to learn Torah, that suffices to guarantee some measure of success. Here, Avimi chose to travel to his talmid because he wanted to guarantee some measure of success in his study of Maseches Menachos. He wanted to exert extra effort on the travel.

Sometimes it takes tremendous effort to get up early in the morning to learn Torah or attend a shiur. Of course, one earns more reward for a mitzvah depending on how hard that mitzvah was to perform. But from this Gemara we can glean a new insight: The more effort one exerts even in the preparation stage or travel stage of Torah study, the more success he will have. If one finds it hard to get up in the morning to learn, he should contemplate this idea. Because it is hard for him to get up so early, he is guaranteed more success in his Torah learning. Perhaps this idea — and strong coffee — can get him through his daf yomi shiur.

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com

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