The Activist’s View on Life by Dovid Gottesman


One of the many famous, albeit confusing, statements of the Vilna Gaon orders every person to think the following three thoughts:  that he is the only person in the world, that he has but one day to live in this world, and that there is but one Daf of Gemara in the world. Rav Yissachar Ber MeiRituva explains the Gra’s logic as follows: if a person can truly see himself as the only person in the world, he will not make the mistake of trying to push off his responsibility to another so that he can learn Torah without having other responsibilities. If a person can truly believe that today is his only one in this world, he will not make the mistake of trying to push off his responsibility of learning Torah until tomorrow. If a person can truly believe that there is one Daf of Gemara in the entire world, he will learn that Daf with all of his strength and will make sure to truly understand it, as opposed to reading many Dapei Gemara without understanding them.

Rav Yissachar Ber connects this concept to a Pasuk from this week’s Parashah.  The Pasuk states, (VaYikra 25:8) “VeSafarta Lecha Sheva Shabbetot Shanim, Sheva Shanim Sheva Pe’amim,” “And you shall count for yourself seven groups of years; seven years seven times.”  Here, what does the word ‘Lecha’ add? Rav Yissachar explains that while Beit Din counts every year until the Yoveil, they must still realize that every day is new and has the potential for greatness. Even though a year can seem slow and drawn out, and even more so, forty-nine years, one must understand that on each and every day, he is a new person, and he can change even the most ordinary day into an extraordinary one.

The Chafeitz Chaim applies this idea to Keriat Shema as well. The Torah states (Devarim 6:5), “VeAhavta Eit Hashem Elokecha BeChol Levavecha UVeChol Nafshecha UVechol Me’odecha,” “And you shall love Hashem your God with all of your heart, and all of your soul, and all of your belongings.”  The Chafeitz Chaim asks how one can serve Hashem in these ways? The answer, he explains, comes from the Pasuk that follows these methods (Devarim 6:6), “VeHayu HaDevarim HaEileh Asher Anochi Metzavecha HaYom Al Levavecha,” “And these words that I command you today should be upon your heart.”  The Chafeitz Chaim understands that “VeHayu HaDevarim HaEileh” teaches that even the smallest amount of Torah learned is worth a lot. He derives from the singular form of “Asher Anochi Metzavecha” that a person should think that there is only Hashem and him in the world, and he expounds from “HaYom” that a person should think that today is his sole day on earth. When all of these feelings are “Al Levavecha,” set in one’s heart, one can appreciate and love Hashem, because he will realize that every day, no matter how mundane the day may seem, is a beautiful gift from Hashem, which has potential for great contributions and accomplishments.

The Din of Democracy by Leead Staller

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