Thursday, August 13, 2015

Then the cause must be bitul Torah

So we all know the Gemara that tells us to respond to our afflictions by examining our deeds. If that examination doesn't turn up any insights, then the cause of the afflictions must be bitul Torah.

Some people think of the bitul Torah as a kind of backdrop/fallback independent of anything else. We must fill our hours with Torah so if we are being punished from above, that's a likely cause if we can't identify any other cause. The approach is mechanistic, like a workflow in a factory. If not a then b.

R' Shimon Schwab explains it in a more holistic manner. The cause is our deeds but if we can't figure out what we did wrong then we need to study more Torah because the Torah teaches us how to live. If we had studied more, we'd know what we did wrong.

With this explanation, the ikur and cause of our suffering is still our deeds (The Vilna Gaon gives fixing middos as the purpose of life- Even Shelaimah Chapter One). And the Torah study isn't this independent thing but is tied in intrinsically with action.

Some may shudder at the idea the action is ikur. (See The Rav Thinking Aloud where R' Soloveitchik says that indeed action is ikur and the saying of Chazal of kneged culam doesn't mean Torah is greater but that it teaches us about action.) Does such an idea lead to more Torah study or less?

I say it leads to more because the study has such an important tachlis. It guides our lives and our behavior. I find this idea very motivating for study.

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