Monday, September 19, 2005

Going The "Right" Way With Torah

The Talmudic sage Rava said, "For those that go right with it (words of Torah), it is the potion of life, for those that go left with it (words of Torah), it is the potion of death" (Shabbat 88B). This is a seemingly strange statement. What does Rava mean? Rava's terminology reminds me of what Abraham said to Lot, "Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me; if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou take the right hand, then I will go to the left.'" (Genesis 13:9). But here it is obvious that Rava is not talking about directions of the compass!

Fortunately for us, Rashi provides an explanation of Rava's words: "Those that go right- Those that are occupied (with the Torah) with all of their might and concerned to know its (the Torah's) secret, like a man that uses his right hand which is the main (hand)."

I understand that from Rashi's explanation that "those that go left" are not overly occupied or concerned with words of Torah. For them the Torah is like an unimportant hobby, something that they occupy themselves with only after all of the "really important" things are done. The Torah is the potion of death for such people. This is a very harsh statement! Rava is telling us that the Torah has to be the main thing. Even if one spends the majority of their day making a living, he must set aside time for learning Torah. While he is learning, he must strive with all of his might to understand and of course apply what he has learned.

I hope that in the coming year that I will merit, along with the rest of Israel to be among those that "go right" with the words of Torah, that the Torah will be for us an elixir of life, and as such we will all merit to be written and sealed for a good year.

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