The Torah Scholar’s Ambition

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Behar 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: What ambition should a yeshiva student have? To be a great Torah luminary?

Answer: That can be worded better. His ambition has to be to grow in Torah, to increase his Torah. We must avoid haughtiness and expressions such as “great Torah luminary”. A person requires a bit of sense and a bit of humility. Not everyone can become a great Torah luminary. It depends on one’s talents and prospects. But he must grow in Torah, each person in accordance with his ability. Or, it can be worded differently: the goal is to become a Torah scholar. This is something to which every Jew should aspire. “And all your children shall be disciples of Hashem” (Yeshayahu 54:13).

There are different types of Torah scholars. There are professional Torah scholars, for whom Torah is their trade, like Shul rabbis or yeshiva rebbes, and they earn a living from this. There are non-professional Torah scholars, like carpenters, engineers or soldiers, who are full of Torah. Being a Torah scholar is the ideal, normal state of every Jew. He should be full of Torah, full of spiritual, moral and halachic thoughts.

Therefore, in Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook never led training programs for rabbis, teachers or rabbinical judges. Every student was supposed to learn all of these things himself. The main thing, rather, was to raise up Torah scholars. That is the ideal image of the Jew: a Torah scholar!

In various cultures the ideal was to be a knight, a monk or a gentleman. For us, the longed-for goal is the Torah scholar. As noted above, not every Torah scholar has Torah as his profession, but being a Torah scholar is what constitutes his personality.

As much as a person can, he should grow in Torah. For this there are Yeshivot. The first was the yeshiva of Moshe. It is true that Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov also learned in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, Noach’s son and great grandson. Yet we do not know exactly how they learned there.

The yeshivot have carried on until our own day, and they have the glorious goal of raising up Torah scholars. To become a Torah scholar one must learn with diligence, work on perfecting one’s character and increasing one’s fear of G-d. One must also show enormous self-sacrifice. According to the effort, so the reward.

It’s not just a matter of the quantity of knowledge, but of devotion to study. The main thing is not to know but to study, and that study will leave its mark on the person’s whole personality, and the person will bring a blessing to his Nation.