Shabbaton Mechanchim: Chashivut HaTorah

This week's parasha, Vayigash, contains one of the most dramatic moments in all of Torah. The brothers discover that the powerful emperor who has been tormenting them, accusing them of being spies, jailing Shimon and threatening to take Binyamin as a slave, is in fact their long lost brother, Yosef. Their brother whom they cast into slavery 22 years ago.

When Yosef says the words, "Ani Yosef!" the brothers are rendered speechless with shock. Yosef comforts them, expresses his forgiveness and then gives the brothers instructions to bring Yaakov down to Mitzrayim.

Towards the end of these instructions, Yosef warns them, "אַל־תִּרְגְּז֖וּ בַּדָּֽרֶךְ - Do not quarrel on the way." Rashi explains this strange statement, saying: "Do not become involved in a halachic debate lest you be led astray," -in other words, don't start discussing matters of halacha, so that you don't get distracted and lost on the way.

Imagine. The brothers have just faced the shock of their lives in meeting Yosef once again. Surely the brothers' thoughts would be taken up with their fateful, shameful decision to sell Yosef into slavery all those years ago?

Or, at the very least, they would be preoccupied with trying to work out how to face their father whom they lied to and watched suffer all this time?

While it is true that there is a Mitzvah to study Torah as you travel- we say in the shema ודברת בם בשבתך בביתך ובלכתך בדרך""- who would be able to study at such a difficult time of soul-searching?

Yet Yosef seems to assume that the brothers would naturally involve themselves in Torah study during their travels- to the extent that they would get distracted and lost on their way home!

How could the brothers learn Torah during such stressful times?

The answer, according to Rabbi Baruch Leff, is simple. How could they not? We all have things we enjoy doing that relax us or distract us when we're stressed- playing sports, listening to music, shopping for new clothes, eating chocolate- but for the righteous amongst us, it's limmud Torah that soothes the soul. Even under tremendous pressure, it was only natural for the brothers to search for mental calm in Torah study.

This is especially true when we consider that the Torah is Hashem's instruction manual for Life and the brothers were searching for specific guidance as to how to deal with their current troubles. As with any and every nisayon we experience to this day, guidance can only be found in serious Torah study.

I would like to suggest that this is the true meaning of "ואהבת את ה' אלוקיך". Do I turn to Torah for guidance when I'm troubled, or do I distract myself with sports and videos? Do I get excited about shiurim as much as I get excited about new clothes and chocolate? We have an incredible opportunity this year to immerse ourselves in limmud Torah- an opportunity we will likely not have again during our lifetime. Let's grab this opportunity with both hands- perhaps, once a month we could learn with our roommate instead of going out in the evening? Let us try to follow in the footsteps of the brothers; turn to limmud Torah in our spare moments and learn to find comfort in Hashem's will rather than in more materialistic means.

May we all be zocheh to use every moment of this year wisely, to find joy in Torah, and to understand what it means to "love Hashem our G-d." Shabbat shalom.