Part 18 - You can feel it!
Of the tikkunim we have mentioned so far, there is one that is very, very powerful. A great tikkun for this sin is to learn study Torah. In learning about the mitzvah of Shmirat Habrit, you are performing the mitzvah of tsuva for past actions, as well as performing the mitzvah of learning Torah.
Our sages state that the spilling of seed causes a blemish in the mind. A great healing for the damage we do to our mental abilities is to occupy oneself with Torah. Torah study has a very positive impact on the soul, on the Jewish People, and on the world as a whole. It is a tremendous way to connect to Hashem. Each day in our daily prayers, we go over the impact of Torah learning. At the beginning of the morning service, we recite from the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, 127a: These are the precepts of which a person enjoys their fruits in This World, but whose principal remains intact for him in the World to Come. These are they: honoring ones father and mother, the bestowal of kindness, early attendance at the house of study morning and evening, hospitality to guests, visiting the sick, providing for a bride, escorting the dead, absorption in prayer, bringing peace between man and his fellow man, and the study of Torah is equivalent to them all.
The greatest mitzvah we can perform for our benefit in both this world and the next is the study of Torah.
What exactly is Torah study?
Is it two men in Yeshiva discussing a Gemara about the Laws of a Nazirite vow? Is it a lecture on kosher dating? Is it someone reading the Book of Isaiah? All three qualify as Torah learning. We are learning Torah right now.
Torah learning is not merely a passive act. It is not like reading a book where you acquire knowledge or the experience of a story. When you learn Torah, you are unlocking the secrets of the Universe. You are actively bringing your neshama (soul) closer to Hashem. The experience of reading Torah is a lot different than in reading the Wall Street Journal.
Philosophers like to argue the eternal question, what came first? Was it the chicken, or was it the egg. What was the beginning of existence? Our sages have the answer. When Hashem created the Universe, He did it using the Torah as its blueprint. The details about everything in existence come straight from the Torah. This means that the answers to all the questions about our existence are in the Torah! Before wasting money on marriage counselors, psychiatrists, or scientific theories, we can find clarity in all aspects of our daily lives from our own faith. The Torah not only addresses how we should live, it dictates the laws of life itself.
For example, what is the exact length of a lunar month? NASA was able to determine that the exact time it took for the moon to orbit the earth was 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds, or 29.530588 days. Around 2,000 years ago, Rabbi Gamaliel states the exact time for a lunar month in the Talmud. His calculations put a month at 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds, or, 29.530588 days. He did this before satellites, computers, and supersensitive watches that can time to the millionth of a second. There are many examples of this. When you learn Torah, you are unlocking the doors to the secrets of daily existence. When you learn Torah, you are tackling all of life’s daily issues from the Source.
Torah learning is at the core of a Jew’s existence. However in today’s world finding the time for Torah learning can be difficult. We all have our daily jobs to do. We have our morning routine. All of us have the daily demands of a job, spouse, children, and the daily errands we have to do each day.
With all of these obligations, is it possible to study?
Absolutely. For something this important, we make time. At the end of our lives, we will have to account for all our deeds before the heavenly court. Each of us will have to face a day of judgment for everything we did – or did not do – in our lives. One of the questions we are asked is if we set a fixed time for Torah learning. We recite in our prayers that Torah learning benefits us in this world and in the next one.
In Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s The Path of the Just, the great Kabbalist attacks this very issue.
He asks an important question: why do we work so hard? We work hard because we all strive for excellence. We want to be on the highest rungs of the social ladder. We want to have wealth, and honor, and respect. It is human nature to want to be a step above the guy right next to you.
This is why we work. This is why we are prone to exchange time we could be using to learn Torah for extra hours in the office – so we can all advance our careers, our wealth, and our reputation.
The Ramchal (Rabbi Luzzatto) explains that this is EXACTLY why we need to portion out a part of our day to learn Torah.
The next world is very much the opposite of this one. In this world, our status is based on our physical labor. We are viewed by our peers in terms of how much we make? How nice is our home? How prestigious is your job? In the next world, praise is ALSO based on our labors in this one. However, it is our spiritual labors we are servants to in the next one! All of the physical and emotional joys we all work so hard for are not as enjoyable as the spiritual pleasures in the next world. Once we realize this, it becomes equally as important to learn Torah, and to build your place in Heaven, as it is to pursue anything else on earth. that determine our fate. If we don’t set aside time for Torah in this world, even if we are materially successful, our place in the next world can be very low. The same maids, taxi drivers, and personal assistants that were servants to us in this life – may become the people that were servants to us in this life -- may become our superiors in the next one! All of the physical and emotional joys we all work so hard for are not as enjoyable as the spiritual pleasures in the next world. Once we realize this, it becomes equally as important to learn Torah, and build your place in Heaven, as it is to pursue everything else on earth.
This is why we need to learn every day. While we have the free will to actively choose to serve Hashem. Once our life is over, the window of opportunity is shut closed.
Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein said that in Heaven, there are a billion people asking Hashem for another chance.
For an opportunity this crucial – we find a way, we make time.
How do we do it? How do we meet the needs of the people we love, perform the daily responsibilities we all have, and set aside time for Torah? Doesn’t learning Torah mean that we have to change the whole fabric of our daily lives? Doesn’t this duty require that everything be different?
Yes and no.
We can learn Torah within the parameters of our day to day routine. You can learn Torah so many different ways. Along with the traditional method of sitting with a learning partner and opening up a page of Gemara, the 21st century provides us all with a lot of innovative ways which we can set aside time for daily learning. I have posted them on my site, 25 Ways to Help Israel. It is the page, 5 Ways to Incorporate Torah into Your Life without Changing a Thing.
A great way to learn is to listen to a lecture on your MP3. Once upon a time, a lecture was a logistical undertaking. You had to find out where it was, get directions, and then spend as much time commuting to and from the lecture as you did attending it. Now you can cut out the schlep. Modern technology has enabled us to download Torah lectures from the internet, to your computer, to your MP3 player. In many instances, you can even download lectures from your computer to the MP3 player in your cell-phone. In doing so you can learn Torah during your daily commute, over your lunch break or even during an evening walk.
Do you realize the power of a Torah lesson during your commute? According to Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi, there are 60,000 mitzvot you are performing in a single hour. The Chofetz Chiam estimated that the average person speaks about 200 words per minute. Assuming each word has 5 letters on average, over the course of a 60 minute Torah podcast, you will be learning 60,000 letters of Torah! That’s quite a lot of mitzvoth. Imagine what you are doing if you listen to a lecture 365 days a year? Or 220 workdays a year? One simple addition to your everyday workload in this world has so many wonderful consequences to our ‘earnings’ in the next one. There are many sites where you can simply download lectures. Aish HaTorah and Chabad have websites with thousands of Torah lessons. Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi is my favorite lecturer and he is available on his Divine Information site. The website Torah Anytime has hundreds of lectures which you can download as well. You can save these lectures on your computer, and copy them to any hand held device.
Every morning you have the opportunity to turn your subway into a Yeshiva by performing 60,000 mitzvot on your daily commute! Twice a day we can integrate Torah learning to our daily lives without changing our routines at all. Someone told me that if you read half a chapter of Torah a day, in a year you can read the entire Torah! Reading half a chapter of Torah can be done in a matter of minutes. Every seven years, thousands of Jews across the world celebrate learning the ENTIRE TALMUD. They accomplished this monumental feat by learning one page a day.
Some of the best accomplishments are made in gradual increments.
We also learn by reading articles. Everyone reads the morning paper. How about downloading a couple of articles from Torah sites? My two favorite sites are from Aish HaTorah and Chabad. The articles about Jewish Faith from Breslov International are also amazing reads. They have articles about the portion of the Torah we study for that week, Jewish ethics, Jewish history, Jewish Faith and publish features on the major issues we all face each day. What does the Torah say about relationships? What does the Torah say about dating? About marriage? About the value of time itself? We learned that the Torah covers all of existence which means that every single aspect of your life where you have questions, you can search the Torah for answers. These articles do exactly that. They provide Torah solutions to the day to day challenges of our daily life. Along with gathering insights to a happier life, you are fulfilling a major mitzvah and performing a great service to Your Creator. Along with printing out articles, you can read them from the net.
We can make a daily ritual of reading a couple of articles from Torah websites before we surf the web.
WARNING! We are commanded in the Torah not to steal. Any job is a legal agreement. You agree to perform a specific task, and your employer agrees to pay you for that task. Taking time off outside your lunch or coffee break for any purpose is considered a form of theft! You are taking money from your employer, and giving nothing back in return. Even if you are taking “downtime” to perform the mitzvah of Torah learning, you are transgressing the eighth of the Ten Commandments not to steal.
Rabbi Luzzatto uses this exact example in The Path of the Just. It is very important to learn Torah – please don’t turn this tremendous mitzvah into a sin by taking time from work to do so. If you have any questions, please consult a Rabbi. You can ask a Rabbi anything at this website.
A very pleasant way to incorporate Torah into your life is to go to amazon.com and find a good book on Judaism. You can select anything. You can read about how to become more observant, why to become more observant, what being Kosher is all about, what are the laws of Jewish sexual morality. How do we cope with the specific phase of life you are living right now? How about improving the relationships we have with the members of our family, or our friends? Why not alternate between reading a book on the New York Times best seller list, and a book on Am Yisrael’s best seller list?
Another way is to get a Haveruta. A haveruta is a learning partner. You sit with another person and learn Torah together. Today, you can learn with someone on the phone. You can be at home, or at lunch, or even on a train, and sit with a book and learn with a Torah scholar on the other end of the line. This is good for those who have a free hour on Sundays, those who are early to rise, or would like to better utilize some of the time they spend watching TV or surfing online.
Keep in mind that we will be seeing a lot more beautiful sunrises in our future. As you take on more and more of the laws of Shmirat HaBrit, you will be surprised as to how early you will be getting up in the morning. You will be sleeping less and less and you will function with more energy and alertness. Going from 8 hours of sleep a day to 6.5 hours of sleep a day gives you 90 minutes of totally free time. This is time you never planned to have and, therefore, have nothing scheduled for it. Why not dedicate some of this time to learning? You can read a chapter from the Five Books of Moses, or the Tanach each day? You can learn a line from the Book of Jewish Ethics, or Pirkei Avot? You can even create a prayer session, or increase the amount of time you pray. In observing the laws of Shmirat HaBrit, we will be better equipped to fulfill the verse in Psalm 57, “I wake up the dawn.” According to the Shulchan Aruch, the verse implies that “I awake the dawn, but the dawn does not awake me.” In guarding more of the laws of sexual morality, we literally create time out of thin air. We can create a fixed time for Torah learning and prayer in this space alone and incorporate Hashem into our lives very efficiently. This sanctifies our day and infuses us with even more energy to take on life’s daily challenges.
Another great Tikkun is to cry. Crying is very difficult. In almost 25 years, I have yet to shed a tear. However, the tears any of us shed bring great light to the world. They are a good atonement for the sin of gazing at women. Chazal, our sages, teach that the eyes see, the heart desires, and then the body acts. A great correction for misusing the eyes given to us by Hashem is to use those very same organs to shed tears. If one cannot shed tears, we can express regret in our hearts when we pray.
Every time you are successful in garnering the energy to resist the temptation to peek at these people, you are bringing massive amounts of light into this world and performing a big tsuva. Every time you fall, and make the mistake of ‘checking out’ that woman in the seat next to you, or peering at that face online, you are making a stain on your soul. If you can’t cry every time you succumb to temptation, at least express sincere regret that you weren’t able to hold back yourself. Crying over ones sins is a very high level of Kedusha, regret is just beneath it.
When you do tsuva for sexual sins, you will feel much more Divine energy inside you. You will be happier, your days will be full with doing, you will accomplish much more with your life. Eventually, you will do so much more. You will realize that had you taken on this mitzvah sooner, you could have done so much more with yourself a lot sooner.
The heights we could have reached sooner and the peaks we could be standing on today had we performed this tsuva a little sooner are enough to cause us regret.
When you pray for forgiveness, whether in the daily Shemonei Esrei prayers, in Psalms or in personal prayer, have this regret in mind.
It is a fallacy to limit a mitzvah to an act. It is an incomplete assumption to feel that in order to perform a mitzvah, you have to physically do something. An emotion can be a mitzvah. Feeling regret over past actions is a mitzvah. The feeling is an act of tsuva. The same Divine Light we can bring to the world by performing the act of prayer or Torah learning, we can bring by the ACT OF FEELING regret.
Each day we can perform hundreds, even thousands of mitzvoth in simply utilizing our prayers, our actions, and even our feelings towards Holiness.
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