Describing scenes and events from Tanach or Gemara in picturesque snippets using everyday language pumped life into Jewish life and personalities from thousands of years ago.
In this week’s dvar Torah Parshat Pekudei—Torah: The Heart of Our Nation, Rav Miller brings Dor Hamidbar to life.
(All quotes used with permission from Toras Avigdor.)
Okay, we know they were ridding themselves of their slave mentality too.
“Yeshivas Hamidbar,” says Rav Miller. They were learning Torah.
And they loved it. They were on fire for learning.
Try to imagine a place where you could access talmidei chachamim ten times greater than the Baba Sali, the Chafetz Chaim, Rav Aryeh Levine…
Try to imagine a place where daas Torah was clear as day and easily accessible—after all, Moshe Rabbeinu was right there.
In fact, women were included in this too. Rav Avraham ibn Ezra says that all the women gathered at the entrance to the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting), where Moshe Rabbeinu taught them himself. (And I cannot remember exactly where the ibn Ezra wrote that.)
Can you imagine hearing a shiur directly from Moshe Rabbeinu?
You know your favorite speakers? Well, imagine them, but something like 10 times even better.
(I guess Moshe Rabbeinu must have considered women pretty important if he insisted on giving the shiurim himself, rather than relegating it to a lesser prophet.)
And there was no foreign influence. Rav Miller points out that no one tried to get their hands on any Midianite newspapers. (Nor were there bamboozled Jews to print up newspapers like Idi’ot Rishonot or Ha’shegetz.)
The Holy Leftovers
What is a talmid chacham a leftover or remnant from?
Dor Hamidbar, Yeshivas Hamidbar!
Extending this even farther, Rav Miller insists that a man studying Gemara with or without Tosfos or Shulchan Aruch—he’s part of Yeshivas Hamidbar, one of the most prominent and stunning yeshivahs to have ever existed in the history of Mankind.
Rav Miller also relates several heart-warming anecdotes from his personal experiences with Torah Jews back in pre-WWII Baltimore and Slobadka. And because Rav Miller heard or saw these events himself, he gives it over to you as if he’s your friend sharing a nice chat with you.
Take It 1 Line at a Time
One line of Torah is more important than all the mitzvos put together.
How can that be?! It's astonishing!
All the mitzvos together, the tefillin and mezuzos and tzitzis and matzah and korban pesach, all the obligations of the Torah cannot compare to one thing of the Torah.
You sit down, open a gemara and learn one line, it's such a tremendous happiness, such a great achievement, that it eclipses, it far outdoes all the good things together.
If you can open the gemara for one line, you should know what you're doing for yourself in this world. I’m not saying you’re a talmid chochom already; that takes work after all.
But you’re already joining the aristocracy of the Am Yisroel; you’re emulating the upper class, the elite of our nation.
Here’s more on learning just one line of Gemara (and REALLY learning it):
If you would learn one line a week, you know that in ten years you’d know something!
One line a week, and you’d review it constantly.
One line a week; who couldn’t do that?!
And so, there won’t be any excuse to give on that great day when the question will be asked, “Osakta batorah? Did you engage in the study of My Torah?”
Everybody must study the Gemara. And it’s not hard.
It’s difficult to learn a lot of Gemara, the whole Shas, but one line?!
The Real Aristocrats of Am Yisrael
I was once walking on Eastern Parkway and a man with a big beard approaches me - "Rabbi Miller," he calls out.
"Who are you?" I asked, and he tells me his name. Whoooo! He was in the yeshivah with me years before.
He was a nobody, mamesh ah lo klum [a literal nothing]. It seemed hopeless.
And now he has a big beard - a frum Jew. And his grandchildren are learning in Yerushalayim, he tells me.
That's a result of the Beis Medrash. I can tell you stories like that without end. Again and again.
And what about women?
Certainly, a wife whose heart is happy when her husband learns Torah and even encourages him to go out to the beit medrash receives a weighty share in his Torah learning.
But not only that, says Rav Miller. Every child a woman raises is like finishing Shas several times. So maybe your husband never finished Shas even once, but if you have 2 children, then it’s like you’ve completed the entire Shas many, many times.
I’ll let Rav Miller have the final say:
"Ein umatenu eleh umah baTorah - Our nation is a nation only because of the Torah.”
And it’s those who keep pumping the blood of Torah through the veins of our nation, who are keeping us alive.
And therefore it’s the Torah learners who are the aristocrats of our nation, the ones whom we admire and emulate.
And the more a person is mechaber himself to the Torah, the greater of an aristocrat he is.
Once you understand this, you have gained a new perspective on the Am Yisroel, and you’ve learned to see our nation the way Hashem sees them.