Maran Ha-Rav Kook Returned Sefarim!


[Talk in the Yeshiva during Lunch]

 

Maran Ha-Rav Kook would quote a saying from earlier generations: "If you act according to my custom, you will attain what I attained" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah 64 #14).  This means that in order to internalize someone's Torah, one must first follow his ways and act according to his positive traits.

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah pointed out one of Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s positive traits: he would never burden another person to return Sefarim that he had taken from another place (ibid. #16). 

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah hung a note in the Yeshiva that reflects this same idea: "Anyone who takes a Sefer belonging to the Yeshiva and does not return to its proper place is no longer allowed to use the yeshiva's Sefarim."  This is a condition for using the Sefarim.

 

This “ruling” is based on various considerations:

1. If the person does not return it, he places a burden upon another person who looks for the Sefer and cannot find it.  He wastes that person's time with a fruitless search: in the end, the book will not be found.  The librarian of the Yeshiva is also burdened with the returning of Sefarim instead of learning Torah.

2. Some explain that there is also an issue of subjecting a person to "Avodat Parech".  "Avodat Parech" is when a slave is forced to perform unessential labor.  When a person labors at creative and important work, he feels self-satisfaction, but when he works hard for no reason, he feels frustrated.  The Torah obviously only states this prohibition in connection to a slave, and not to a free person who has the choice to refuse to perform the labor.  Nonetheless, not returning Sefarim has an aspect of "Avodat Parech" to it.

3. There is also an issue of shaming Sefarim. When they are left around instead of shelved, they can easily be ripped or ruined (this is true all the more so in our Yeshiva, where the Beit Midrash is also where our meals are eaten). 

 

A person must therefore return a Sefer immediately after using it, or at the very least, at the end of the Seder of learning.  If it is the only copy of that Sefer in the Yeshiva, it should be returned immediately, since someone may need it.

If a person is sitting and learning and sees Sefarim which others left around, he is not obligated to return them, but it is a kindness if he does so.  If they are left around in a disrespectful way, however, he is obligated to return them.

It is written in the Sefer Chasidim that one of the signs that indicates a person’s level of fear of Heaven is his relationship to Sefarim.

 

This is the general rule: before a person learns Torah, he must have proper character traits, and only then will he merit Divine assistance in his learning.