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The Torah portion of Ha’azinu is the song of Moshe Rabeinu in which he predicts the future of the Jewish people and the world at large.
In the introductory part of the song Moshe compares his words (and the Torah in general) to rain and dew. As it says (Deut 32:2), יַֽעֲרֹף כַּמָּטָר לִקְחִי תִּזַּל כַּטַּל אִמְרָתִי – May my lesson drip like rain; and my words flow like dew.”
There are various interpretations as to why the Torah is compared to rain and dew. Here are several of them.
- Gives Life
Rashi says that the Torah gives life to the Jewish people just as rain gives life to the world.
- Enables Growth
The Ibn Ezra says that just like rain enters the ground and causes the seeds to sprout, so too Moshe was praying that his words would enter the hearts of the Jewish people and assist them in their spiritual growth.
- Streams of Wisdom
The Seforno says that the Torah is compared to rain in that it is like a stream of wisdom. But only the Torah scholars can grasp this level of the Torah. For the simple people who only grasp a small portion of the Torah, it is compared to dew which is a fraction of the amount of water that falls as rain.
- Hidden and Concealed Torah
The Ben Ish Chai explains that the revealed Torah is like dew which is always needed. Whereas the hidden aspects of the Torah are compared to rain. Just as rain is sometimes needed and sometimes not needed (e.g., in the summer) so too it is sometimes appropriate to share these secrets (if the students are worthy) and sometimes it is not appropriate to share them (if the students are not on the level to appreciate it).
- Written and Oral Torah
The Ohr HaChaim says that the Written Torah is compared to rain as it is the foundation of everything. While the Oral Torah which expands on the Written Torah is like dew that furthers the “work” of the rain. In addition it is best to only study the Written Torah during the daytime whereas the Oral Torah can be studied at any time. This is why the Written Torah is compared to rain that has a specific season whereas the Oral Torah is compared to dew which falls every day.
- Teacher or Independent Learning
Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Kahana of Romania and Jaffa (died 1956) wrote (Be’er Chaim pg. 171) that rain which only falls from time to time represents the learning one receives from one’s teacher since one may not be able to study with his teacher all the time. Whereas dew, which falls every day, represents one’s independent learning which can be done at any time or place.
Since Torah learning is compared to dew in terms of consistency the rest of this article will focus on the importance of studying Torah, and specifically halacha, every day.
Halacha Every Day
The Talmud says (Megillah 28b and Niddah 73a) תָּנָא דְּבֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ כׇּל הַשּׁוֹנֶה הֲלָכוֹת מוּבְטָח לוֹ שֶׁהוּא בֶּן עוֹלָם הַבָּא שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר הֲלִיכוֹת עוֹלָם לוֹ אַל תִּקְרֵי הֲלִיכוֹת אֶלָּא הֲלָכוֹת – “The school of Eliyahu taught: Anyone who studies halachot every day, is assured of life in the World-to-Come, as it is stated: ‘Halichot (the ways of) the world are his’ (Chabakuk 3:6): Do not read the verse as halichot (ways); rather, read it as halachot (laws). (The sages understood the word עוֹלָם/world in this context to be referring to the World to Come.)” Many recite this line as part of the morning prayers.
Summarize and Synthesize your Learning
The Me’iri (on Niddah ibid) says that the Talmud is referring to one who, after completing a section of Talmudic study, summarizes it all in his mind in a manner that he can rule practical law based on his learning.
Full Membership in the World to Come
The Ben Ish Chai quotes the Arizal that the expression יֵשׁ לוֹ חֵלֶק לְעוֹלָם הַבָּא (has a portion in the World to Come) refers to one who needs the assistance of other tzadikim (righteous men) to achieve his level in World to Come. This is because his Divine service in this world was (somewhat) dependent on others.
Whereas the expression בֶּן עוֹלָם הַבָּא (a member of the World to Come) refers to someone who achieves their reward without the assistance of others as they served G-d in a consistent manner that did not require constant the assistance of a tzadik.
When one studies Halacha they are able to assist others in observing the Torah as they can teach them what the Torah says to do in various circumstances. As such, they deserve to be full members of the World to Come since they inspired others rather than needing to be inspired by others.
The Underlying Reasons
The Maharsha (on Niddah ibid) says that the Talmud is not only referring to studying practical halacha but also to studying the underlying principles upon which the halacha is based. Understanding these concepts is often critical to reaching the correct halachic analysis.
Learning Halacha without the Reasons
Elsewhere the Maharsha says (on Sotah 22a) that one who learns halacha without the reasons (e.g. by studying Shulchan Aruch – the Code of Jewish Law) is also deserving of the World to Come. But this is on condition that he does not give halachic rulings based on this study. This is because one who does not understand the reason for the halacha may not realize the small nuances that change the ruling. As such, if he rules without this understanding it is considered as if he destroyed the world rather than assisted it.
Halacha more Important than Gemara
The Derisha (Y.D. 246 quoted in Shach 5 and Taz 2) writes that if one has time to study one topic of Torah every day they should spend that time studying halacha (Jewish Law) rather than Gemara (Talmud) with Tosfot (an early in depth commentary). As the Talmud specifies the need to study Halacha every day. And it is only through learning halacha that one will know how to live as a Jew.
The Alter Rebbe (author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch) writes (Laws of Talmud Torah 2:9) “A person who is not able to study a tremendous amount of Torah must spend all his time studying a topic that is relevant to action – these are the halachot that every person needs to know in order to fulfill all of the mitzvot properly and to be careful not to transgress on any prohibition, G-d forbid.
These are things that one cannot ask the scholar (or rabbi) of the city (due to their frequency). In addition, one may not realize that he needs to ask these questions if he doesn’t know anything about these topics… Each halacha (law) should be studied with its reason based on the Talmud and it’s commentaries such as the Rosh and the Beit Yosef (at least). One should also review these studies.
“Even one who is wise and is able to study and remember the entire Oral Torah should first study and review the halachot that are necessary for daily living. These come before the study of other halacha that is not as necessary for practical living.”
From the Lubavitcher Rebbe
The Lubavitcher Rebbe often encouraged the learning and teaching of practical halacha. Here are some excerpts of his letters about this topic (from Sha’arei Halacha UMinhag vol. 3 pgs. 154 – 155).
- If I had the power
“If I had the power I would establish in every place where Jews live, no matter what type of Jew, that there be a shiur (class) in halacha that is relevant to daily living. This is especially important in shuls.”
- The Purpose of Man
“The very purpose of man is to fear G-d and to guard his mitzvot (based on Kohelet 12:13). As such it is essential to study the aspects of the Torah that lead one to fear G-d and the learning of halacha which is necessary for a person to be able to guard the mitzvot.”
- When Giving Classes
“I have pointed out many times to those giving classes that, among the clases there should be one about halacha that is necessary for daily living. Most of which are found in Shulchan Orach Chaim.
If there is not enough time (to learn from the Shulchan Aruch) one should study from Kitzur Shulchan Aruch or from the laws printed in various siddurim such as Derech Chaim. So long as one knows what to actually do. I.e., the blessings on food, when it is permissible to interrupt during the prayers etc… [This is especially important] when the teacher is a Rav as he is given special powers to be successful in teaching those around him. “
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
“Since there is a limited time for learning one should first learn select sections of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. It is not necessary to go in order but, rather, to review the sections that are relevant for daily living once or twice. If any explanation is needed the one giving the shiur should explain it. This will enable them (the attendees) to spend the time that they have to study practical halacha… (As it says that) Torah study is great because it brings to action.”
May we merit to study, teach and practice halacha and fulfill the very purpose of our creation.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach