Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

The Forgotten Adirei HaTorah Heroes

 

The Olam HaTorah is still very much inspired by the twin manifestations of kavod haTorah that we were zocheh to experience in recent weeks. It began with the massive outpouring of chizuk and kavod haTorah at the Adirei HaTorah event at Wells Fargo Center and culminated in the amazing manifestation of ahavas haTorah and ahavas gedolei Torah when men, women and children came out by the thousands in Lakewood, despite pouring rain, getting soaked to the bone just to catch a glimpse of the sheyorei knesses hagedolah, the leading senior gedolei Yisroel from Eretz Yisroel.

Most of Us Are Not Just Spectators. We Are Players!

As a resident of the Lakewood community for more than three decades, I felt so proud to be part of a kehillah kedosha that so profoundly values limud haTorah. You see, when it comes to the Lakewood kehillah, most of us are not just spectators. We are players! Let me explain.

Some years ago, at one of the Siyumei Hashas, a person who was interviewed in one of the frum publications spoke about how inspired he had been from seeing so many Yidden coming together to celebrate Torah and the participation and drashos of the senior gedolim. He had been so inspired that he said, “I don’t want to just be a spectator anymore. I want to be a player. I want to be counted among those who are learning, not just celebrating the limud haTorah of others.”

When it comes to Lakewood, the vast majority of community members are yungeleit themselves still learning in kollel, some older yungeleit and some younger yungeleit. Even those who are no longer learning in kollel are yungeleit who spent many years in kollel and still spend a significant amount of time each day engaged in limud haTorah. They understand kavod haTorah and understand the value of Torah because they themselves live that life.

Even those not in yeshiva anymore are, by and large, bnei Torah. In fact, I recently heard Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch say that in Eretz Yisroel, those who have been forced into the workforce by circumstances have to learn from their brothers in America how one can remain a ben Torah by making limud haTorah and living like a ben Torah focal points of their life, even as they spend time during the day engaged in earning a parnassah.

Either way, this brings me to an email I received in the aftermath of the Adirei HaTorah event. The email was from a yungerman, himself a talmid chochom, an alumnus of the Philadelphia Yeshiva and Brisk who learned for many years in Bais Medrash Govoah in kollel until the needs of his growing family forced him into the workforce. He has married off several children and still has children at home as well.

This is what he wrote to me the day after the Adirei Torah event:

At last night’s inspiring Adirei HaTorah event, as well as at the prior two such events, no mention was made of the parents/in-laws of the Adirei HaTorah.  

These parents are supporting their children through their kollel years, and for many, it is done with great difficulty. It is a choice made by parents not only out of the necessity of marrying off their children, but with conviction and pride that this is what we want for our children…  

In subsequent conversations with this yungerman and others who are simultaneously giving monthly support to not just one couple but often three or four couples, I learned that many of these parents are supporting their couples with tremendous mesirus nefesh. Mothers and fathers are taking on extra jobs just to be able to meet their obligations to their married children. Most of them rarely, if ever, take vacations. They simply can’t afford the cost of vacations and the cost of missing work. They do this because they have tremendous ahavas haTorah. They want nothing more than for their children to grow to become gedolei Torah, and the homes that their children build should be homes that are rooted and based in deep devotion to limud haTorah.

Often, they are literally taking from, and forgoing, their own basic necessities – not luxuries – in order to support their married children in kollel. Are they not true Adirei HaTorah heroes?

Recently, I met with the great gaon, Rav Dovid Cohen, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chevron, and I asked him if I should raise this issue publicly. I was afraid that perhaps it would take the focus off the yungeleit, the heroes who are the ultimate focus of the Adirei HaTorah campaign. His answer was striking. He said that the entire tachlis of Adirei HaTorah is to show that limud haTorah is the ultimate purpose of the briah, and the pe’er habriah, the crowning glory of creation, are those yungeleit who are engaged in learning. Praising the parents who literally take away from their own “lechem and cholov (bread and milk)” so that their children can learn is the greatest testament to the fact that they recognize that limud haTorah is the tachlis and those who learn Torah are the pe’er habriah. Of course, their invaluable role should be stressed and hailed.

Yes, we all understand that the philanthropists who give large sums to support limud haTorah get a lot of play at the Adirei HaTorah event, and they should. At the same time, it is important to remember that it is not just dollars and cents that must be measured. Degrees of sacrifice and mesirus nefesh must also be stressed over and over again. The degree of sacrifice of the yungeleit was stressed by multiple speakers at the event. The sacrifice of their wives was also stressed, but the profound sacrifice of their parents, who spend their middle age years chasing their tails to meet the colossal obligations that they have undertaken because they value limud haTorah, has somehow been forgotten. How can that be?

The Scourge of Entitlement

It is important that this not be forgotten for another reason as well. We live in a generation of entitlement. Many bochurim and girls, as they approach shidduchim, take it as a given that “my parents need to offer support or I will not be able to learn in kollel or find a shidduch.” This should not be taken as a given or some kind of entitlement.

Parents do this because of their tremendous love for their children and their love for Torah, but they are certainly not obligated to do this. When they are thanked publicly at an august event such as the Adirei HaTorah asifa, in the presence of gedolei Yisroel, the young couples will also better get the message that parental support after marriage is not an entitlement. Rather, it is a great and heroic act of mesirus nefesh, and a tremendous degree of hakoras hatov is obligatory.

Again, just to reiterate, these words should in no way be taken as a way of removing the focus from the Adirei HaTorah. On the contrary, the sacrifices that parents are making just show how much they value the limud haTorah of the Adirei HaTorah.

Shouldn’t this be acknowledged?

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