The first pasuk of Tesaveh says, “take for you pure, pressed olive oil for illumination, to kindle the Menorah continually” (Shemot 27:20). The Ramban comments that when the Torah writes “continually”, it really means 24 hours a day. Many rabbis point out that the Menorah signifies Torah, and if that’s so, we should be learning Torah all the time. Just as the Menorah must be lit continually, so too we should constantly worry about setting ourselves time for learning Torah, as the Navi once said, “you shall meditate it [Torah] day and night” (Yehoshua 1:8). The difficulty with this idea is why is it so necessary? Isn’t it enough to learn just a little bit? Why is it so important to be thinking about Torah all the time?
Now if they are crazy for these silly games, which is only temporary excitement, all the more so we should go crazy for Torah!
Last year, Rav Yitzhak Cohen of Yeshiva University, addressed the “Super Bowl” issue. He described the scene as, “110 million people watching and going crazy! They get so excited for this game! The Knicks were playing the Suns and the game was tied with 10 seconds left. He hit the game winner and 50,000 people at the arena went wild! These people go absolutely crazy for these events! Now if they are crazy for these silly games, which is only temporary excitement, all the more so we should go crazy for Torah! Torah is everlasting happiness!”
This is the kind of excitement and happiness that we are supposed to experience on Purim. It actually seems pretty simple. In those days, the Jews were doomed. There was a decree to annihilate the entire Jewish nation and Hashem saved us once again. We can understand why this is the happiest day of the year. It makes sense that we are supposed to drink a lot to be merry.
However, having simcha for Torah is not as easy. Learning Torah for some is a very menial task. The other day I spent almost two hours trying to understand a Tosafot and barely made progress. Was it fun for me? Did I walk out of there with great simcha? No, I walked out of there with great frustration! So how can we create simcha for Torah like the ‘crazy’ people have for sports, or better yet, what we have for Purim?
Rav Cohen presented a simple answer: just keep learning and you will see results. Rav Dovid Miller of YU related a mashal to me: The king built a 200 story building and announced that anyone who reaches the top will receive a great reward. 100 people started running up the stairs. Slowly but surely, people started to quit because it was more difficult than they thought. At the 50th floor, there were only ten people left. 70th floor, 6 people. 80th, 3. At the 99th floor, there were 2 people remaining. As they both reached for the 100th floor, guy faints. The last guy is about to quit as well when he peeks over the 100th floor and sees an elevator waiting to take him to the 200th.
The lesson of the story is that if we serve God on a day to day basis, we may not see any growth. After 40 years, one still may get frustrated over that difficult Tosafot. But one day, Hashem will show us the light we’ve been striving for. Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l explains, “Hashem gives reward to those who struggle. In the future, He will open up gates of light and understanding of Torah for man, until he connects his soul to more learning, and his happiness of learning Torah will be greater than all the happiness in the entire world”.
The reason why it’s so important to learn and live Torah as much as possible is that if we continue to put in effort, God will help us get over that last step. As opposed to the sports games that generate short-term pleasure, God is giving us the opportunity to bask in the joy of Torah and life. While Purim should be the happiest day of the year, it doesn’t mean the other days aren’t. On the contrary, we should use Purim as a model as to how we should act throughout the year. Not that we should get drunk every day, rather we should realize that we can be happy every single day. We don’t have to wait for Maryland to beat Duke (which is awesome by the way) because we have the Torah, which leads to eternal happiness.
Hopefully over the next few days, we will rejoice in wiping out the name of Amalek when we read Parashat Zachor, in celebrating our redemption from Haman, in the Torah that we have every day, and with God’s help the Ultimate Redemption Bimheira Biyameinu Amen!