Establishing Times for Torah Study During the Days of Selichot
We have already mentioned in previous Halachot the words of the great Acharonim as well as Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l that the main goal for us during the month of Elul and the Ten Days of Repentance in our generation is to repent for our sins. Emphasis should not be placed solely on fasting, completing Tehillim several times, or reciting many supplications; rather, one should repent fully by sorting through one’s deeds and mending one’s ways; this will subsequently give meaning to the aforementioned things.
King David said: “I do not fear severe transgressions, for they are severe. Of what am I afraid? Of light transgressions, for they are light.” This means that King David said that there is no need for me to distance myself from severe transgressions, for I know that they are severe and I will not come to transgress them. However, I do fear light transgressions which bring one to transgress more severe sins. Rabbeinu Yehonatan Eibeschitz zt”l explains this concept in his Sefer Ya’arot Devash where he writes that it is clear that any G-d-fearing individual would never come to transgress a serious sin, such as adultery, G-d-forbid, and it would never even cross one’s mind. Rather, one starts off by looking at forbidden sights and tells one’s self that it is not such a terrible sin to gaze at a woman’s beauty. Then, one sins by speaking words of nonsense and tells one’s self that this too will not cause him to transgress any sin. This pattern continues until one transgresses the most grievous sins in the Torah. This is what is meant by “fearing light transgressions,” for one does not fear serious transgressions since one would not even think of performing them; only light sins bring one to transgress the severe ones.
Thus, one must prepare many fences and boundaries around specific sins one feels he must distance himself from so as not to transgress them, throughout one’s life and especially during these days. One must think deeply which things cause one to stumble and distance himself from these things. (If one has unfiltered internet access at home, one must filter it so as not to come to sin.)
Nevertheless, one cannot be saved completely from the Evil Inclination without learning Torah, for one who is connected to the Torah by establishing a set Torah class or learning partner for one’s self every day is guarded from sinning and will never stray from the path of Hashem. Rabbeinu Yehonatan Eibeschitz writes that not only must men establish set times for Torah study; rather, women must also establish some sort of set learning schedule for themselves from a Mussar work (such as Peleh Yo’etz and the like) whenever it is convenient for them. This will serve as a fortified wall so that one will not easily fall into the trap of the Evil Inclination.
We shall now recount a tale in order to emphasize the importance of daily Torah study:
Approximately twenty-five years ago there was a certain community in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem where all the residents were wealthy businessmen who sent their children to secular schools. A certain rabbi arrived there and tried his utmost to teach Torah to the members of this community. He would go and speak to the wives of these men in order to convince them to encourage their husbands to attend his class every day. Additionally, he would commission young Torah scholars to learn with the men every night, encourage them to attend Selichot services every morning, and other things of that nature.
On the other hand, there was another community in Jerusalem which was very similar to the former community besides for the fact that the community members did not learn Torah; the local rabbi would do his job by delivering a sermon on Shabbat night as well as a class on Tuesday after which he would return to his home to deal with his own issues. Now, twenty years later, we can see precisely what has emerged from each of these respective communities. The children of those businessmen from the Ramot community now consist of many G-d-fearing Torah scholars, especially their grandchildren. Working individuals now establish set times for Torah study and send their children to be educated in religious schools. Those who learn spend all their time immersed in Torah study.
In contrast, it is quite unfortunate to see the members of the other community of whom many of their children are irreligious, very few of which attend synagogue on Shabbat, and all of which show blatant disregard for modesty, adherence to Halacha, and respect for Torah scholars. All this was caused by a lack of connection to Torah study and a Torah scholar who is completely dedicated to the Torah. This message speaks volumes.