Who’s Your Teacher

The Sages, seeing that his mind was clear, entered his chamber and sat down at a distance of four cubits. ‘Why have ye come?’ said he to them. ‘To study the Torah’, they replied; ‘And why did ye not come before now’, he asked? They answered, ‘We had no time’. He then said, ‘I will be surprised if these die a natural death’. R. Akiba asked him, ‘And what will my death be?’ and he answered, ‘Yours will be more cruel than theirs’. He then put his two arms over his heart, and bewailed them, saying, ‘Woe to you, two arms of mine, that have been like two Scrolls of the Law that are wrapped up. Much Torah have I studied, and much have I taught. Much Torah have I learnt, yet have I but skimmed from the knowledge of my teachers as much as a dog lapping from the sea. Much Torah have I taught, yet my disciples have only drawn from me as much as a painting stick from its tube.

Sandheden 68a

And My Master Yeshua of Nazareth is the Greatest of them all.


Keeping to a Torah Learning Schedule

In the opening verses of Parashat Ekeb, Moshe promises that we will be rewarded “Ekeb Tishme’un” – in exchange for obeying G-d’s laws.

While this is the plain meaning of the Pasuk, later scholars have uncovered for us deeper layers of meaning. One such interpretation suggests that this Pasuk alludes to the vital importance of maintaining a consistent regimen of Torah learning. The letters of the word “Ekeb” can be rearranged to spell the word “Keba” – “fixed” or “consistent.” Accordingly, the verse alludes to the famous exhortation of Shammai in Pirkeh Avot, “Aseh Toratecha Keba” – “Make your Torah permanent.” We become worthy of the beautiful blessings described here by the Torah if we make our Torah study “Keba” – a fixed, permanent part of our schedule which we observe consistently and without fail.

The story is told of Rabbi Shelomo, a wealthy jeweler in Halab (Aleppo) who had a successful business appraising, buying and selling jewels. Each morning, he attended the morning prayer service, remained to study Torah, went home to eat something, and then opened his shop at around 11am. One morning, as he was walking to the synagogue for Shaharit, an Arab merchant approached him and said, “I need to come to your store and show you something.”

Rabbi Shelomo explained that he could not meet with him then, but he would be at the store at 11am.

“You don’t understand – I am visiting in town for a short while, staying in this hotel,” the merchant explained. “I have a precious jewel which I need appraised.” He took off his turban from his head, carefully unwrapped it, and showed Rabbi Shelomo an exquisite jewel.

But Rabbi Shelomo explained that he must keep to his schedule. He bid the man farewell, and proceeded to the synagogue.

Afterward, as he made his way back, he was surprised to see an ambulance and a lot of commotion outside the hotel where that merchant was staying. After some inquiries, Rabbi Shelomo discovered that the merchant suddenly died, and as he had not paid for his hotel stay, the authorities were auctioning off his clothing to pay the bill. Rabbi Shlomo bid a small amount on the turban, and he bought it. He opened it up – and, sure enough, the precious jewel was still there. It now belonged to him.

When he refused to appraise the jewel at the expense of his learning schedule, it appeared as though he was losing business, but Hashem rewarded him in full.

A woman from Deal once called me in the wintertime and said she needed to meet with me to speak about a certain urgent matter. I informed her that I give a class in Deal every Tuesday during the winter at 12:45pm, and I’d be happy to meet her at 1:45pm. She told me she wouldn’t be able to meet me then, because at that time she played cards.

There is a lot for us to learn from this story. If this woman’s card game was inviolable, and could not be missed even for an urgent matter, then certainly, we should keep to our Torah learning schedule and not miss any classes for trivial matters.

“Ekeb Tishme’un.” If we ensure to make our Torah learning “Keba,” and keep to our schedule regardless of everything else going on in our lives, we will then be worthy of Hashem’s blessings and will be rewarded in full.