It's not how often you learn, but how deeply you engage. * Even sporadic moments can deepen your relationship with Torah and loved ones alike, leading to true transformation. * On Hayom Yom for 11 Elul.
Have you ever felt the thrill of reigniting the spark with a long-time partner after a period of emotional or physical distance? Just a single heartfelt conversation can bring back years of closeness and understanding. In this context, it's not the number of interactions but the depth and quality of that particular engagement that matter most. This idea beautifully parallels our main theme today, focusing on the transformative power of sporadic yet meaningful engagements, especially as it relates to the study of Torah.
The Hayom Yom for the 11th of Elul sets the stage for this concept. It shares a teaching from the Tzemach Tzedek, which discusses the impact of intermittent Torah study. He states, "'In This World the meaning of the passage means one who studies Torah only intermittently; in Gan Eden they interpret the passage to mean that he studies Torah and the Torah 'takes him apart,' the words of Torah possess him.'"
This naturally prompts the question: can sporadic interactions with Torah not only be educational but deeply transformative, effectively taking the person apart and putting him back together again?
To understand the power of even sporadic Torah study, it's essential to learn the traditional perspectives on this topic. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 99b makes an unsettling comparison, likening sporadic Torah study to adultery. Reish Lakish elaborates, "This is a reference to one who studies Torah intermittently, who is like an adulterer." The argument here centers on commitment. Just as marital fidelity requires continuous emotional and physical investment, so does the study of Torah warrant regular and committed attention.
Rashi, the medieval commentator, provides additional context to this Gemara: "ואינו לומד תדיר תדיר כמי שאין לו אשה ובועל פעמים זו פעמים זו" (He doesn't study continuously, like one who doesn't have a wife and engages only intermittently). According to Rashi, sporadic Torah study lacks the depth and richness that come with consistent engagement.
Ben Yehoyada extends this metaphor, stating that anyone who separates a man from his wife is, metaphorically speaking, committing adultery: "רי זה נקרא 'נֹאֵף אִשָּׁה' כי כך נקרא ונחשב כל המבטל זווג איש עם אשתו בעלמא." The message here is clear: Intermittent study is like a wedge driven between you and your 'spiritual spouse,' the Torah.
Now, circling back to our initial question. If sporadic Torah study is generally considered unfavorable, then how does the Tzemach Tzedek offer such a positive twist, saying that these moments can possess us and transform us deeply?
The answer is both simple and profound. When the words of Torah "possess" you, even if you interact with them sporadically, they can catalyze a significant shift in your life. You're not just a casual reader flipping through pages; you're allowing the text to resonate with you, to permeate your thoughts and actions. The Tzemach Tzedek mentions that in the spiritual realm, the Torah "takes him apart"; it fills the gaps, the cracks, and the voids in our lives with divine wisdom.
So what does this mean for us today? In our modern, fast-paced lives, it's easy to excuse ourselves from regular Torah study. However, even when time is scarce, brief but focused engagement with Torah has the potential for deep impact. These sporadic moments of study can lead to the transformation of our moral compass, reorient our values, and offer a more unclouded view of our life's purpose.
Therefore, next time you have a brief moment to engage with the Torah, seize it. Don't underestimate the potential of these fragmented experiences; they have the power not only to inform but to transform. In doing so, you will find that every word of Torah becomes a building block in the creation of a life more attuned to ethical living and spiritual wisdom.
As we ponder the impact of sporadic yet meaningful engagements with the Torah, we can extend this lesson to our interpersonal relationships as well. Giving undivided attention to your partner, friend, or family member—no matter how brief—can transform the dynamics of your relationship. Just as allowing Torah to 'possess' us can lead to a transformative experience, offering someone our focused attention—even intermittently—can possess the capacity to deepen mutual understanding, respect, and love. In a world rife with distractions, from digital notifications to endless to-do lists, the act of carving out time to be genuinely 'present' speaks volumes. It tells the other person that they are valuable enough to warrant your undivided attention, thus imbuing the relationship with a new layer of emotional depth and significance.