Rabbi Chaim Bruk and his family

By R’ Chaim Bruk

This Shabbos, Parashas Bamidbar, is within the Shloshet Yemei Hagbalah, the three days in which Am Yisrael prepared for the original Shavuot at Har Sinai and days that are utilized by us, today, as a preparation for the holy two days of yom tov. Shavuot is a wonderful time to reflect on the fact that “Atah vechartanu mi’kol ha’amim,” that Hashem, at Sinai, chose us from all other nations on earth, from all His other children, to be the world’s beacon of light and to resolve to make His Torah a permanent fixture in our life.

One of the biggest issues that plagued Jewish communities back in the days before the revelation of Chassidus, and sadly even some time after, was the classification of Jews as Torah Yidden (bnei Torah) and balebatish Yidden, Jews who are devoted to Torah study and those who aren’t. That division is unhealthy and must be remedied in our own communities today. Sure there are yoshvei ohel, those who sit 24/7 in the tent of Torah, toiling with selflessness to understand another Malbim or Taz, but even a ba’al eisek, a working or business person, must have the same devotion, same connection, even if the quantity of time he or she studies is less than those in a “kollel.”

The Rebbe, zy’a, would often talk about the concept of kevius b’nefesh, which means that it isn’t a set-aside time for learning, but an unbreakable soul experience for Torah study that is locked into our life at a particular time. The difference may seem trivial, but it’s anything but. When it’s a soul-set time, it means that whatever else I’m doing during the day is secondary to my permanent self, which is the “me” that learns Torah for a set time each day versus just catching a shiur on the run as a bonus to everything else I do during the day. Simply put, you could learn Torah for 17 hours a day and the Torah teaches you nothing, and you could learn Torah for 17 minutes a day and everything you do revolves around the Torah.

It’s a mindset.

Each week, on Wednesday, I teach a parashah class that is broadcast on the Chabad.org Facebook page known as Jewish.TV. Hundreds of Jews, and some gentiles, from around the world join together for a half-hour or so to study an idea from the parashah with insights from Chassidus. I do my best to convey the Torah’s message in a way that anyone, no matter their background in Torah study, can understand, appreciate, and internalize, as these life-altering ideas embedded in the words of Moshe come to life. Torah needs to be accessible to all, and today, more than ever before, it is. Chavie does the same on Wednesday morning with her women’s Tanya class that is broadcast on Zoom and later uploaded to YouTube.

There was a time that men and women who were busy at work, raising a family, caring for elderly parents, or just overwhelmed by life couldn’t get to a shiur and forfeited the sweetness and vitality that Torah offers us. But today? No excuses—Torah is available at your fingertips and you don’t have to be retired, with lots of “spare time,” to take a few minutes and study Torah. There are apps, websites, “Meaningful Minute” clips, and so many other ways to tap into the wisdom of Torah and the Divine. One can buy a set of Daily Dose of Torah from ArtScroll, Daily Wisdom from Kehot, or sign up for the weekly Chayenu booklets which can, and will, change one’s life.

The Torah was given specifically in a desolate desert, a place of vast emptiness and zero distractions. Hashem wanted us to know that the amount of time spent on learning isn’t as important as the quality and focus of the time we spend engrossed in the Divine wisdom. Whether it’s the daily daf, the daily Rambam, the daily Chitas (Chumash, Tehillim, and Tanya instituted by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory), or any other daily study option, as long as it’s set in your soul, making it invaluable to you and as necessary as eating and drinking each day, your life will be a Torah conduit, and there ain’t nothing like it.

Eight years ago, when my Savta Chana passed away in Israel, the family split the entire Talmud to learn in her memory. I took upon myself a large tractate of Talmud and I managed to conclude it before her first yahrzeit. I realized then that despite my busy life, despite my other ongoing shiurim and public classes, I can manage to squeeze in another 20–30 minutes of unadulterated Torah study, so I kept the study going. I started from the first talk the Rebbe gave in 1950, and now I’m some 18 volumes later at the end of 1956. We have the time, we have the ability—all we need is the will to do it and we can change our own lives, making a paradigm shift and making Torah our anchor, our constant stabilizing factor, through the storms of life.

Shavuot isn’t just about cheesecake and blintzes; it’s not even just about Tikkun and Aseres HaDibros. It’s about a recognition that we have a Torah, an opening to the Divine, and if we tap into it, our lives will never be the same … and that’s a good thing. Walt Disney once said, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island.” He’s right about books in general, but how much more so when dealing with the Book of all Books, the Chamishah Chumshei Torah, the holy Five Books of Moses.

Ki heim chayeinu v’orech yameinu”—for they are our life and the length of our days. 

Rabbi Chaim Bruk is co-CEO of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana and spiritual leader of The Shul of Bozeman. For comments or to partner in our holy work, e-mail rabbi@jewishmontana.com or visit JewishMontana.com/Donate.


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