An appointed time for Torah study in the everyday life
The Parasha in the daily Life - Parashat Vayetze - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5780
On Yaacov's departure to Haran, he returns to Shem and Eber's Beit Midrash for another fourteen years: "Hizekiah said: "At the age of sixty-three our father Yaacov received the blessings. Stayed another fourteen years at Eber's" (Bereshit Rabbah 68:5).
In our Beit Midrash we usually ask: Why does Yaacov return to Shem and Eber's Beit Midrash? After all, Yaacov had studied there before in his youth? אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים׃
"There is no one who would labor at the Torah as our ancestor Yaacov did. It is just as you say (in Bereshit 25:27): But Yaacov was a perfect man dwelling in tents. It's not written here 'dwelling in a tent' but dwelling in tents. He would go out from the Beit Midrash of Shem and enter the Beit Midrash of Eber. Then he would go from the Beit Midrash of Eber to Abraham's Beit Midrash. (Midrash Tanchuma Buber Vayishlach 9)
According to this Midrash's count, Yaakov is already sixty-three years old! Why doesn't he rush to Laban's house to start his own family? Why is he delaying the establishment of his family from which Am Israel is to start? And why did he go to Shem and Eber's Beit Midrash?
Some have said that the Shem and Eber's Beit Midrash was special in that its founders faced extraordinary spiritual challenges, and a challenging environment: "Shem, Noah's son who was saved from the flood generation, was saved not only from the flood waters but also from the flood generation people and environment and their destruction. Eber was born and lived in this same generation, of those who wanted to build a tower with its head in heaven to rebel against G-d, but he did not drift away with them and remained in his righteousness. Only Shem and Eber, who remained untouched of these corrupt environments, and not Abraham and Yitzhak, could have taught Yaacov the Torah he needed to remain undisturbed in the environment of Laban, a corrupt and wicked man". ("Emet Le'Yaacov" to Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky, p. 164-166).
In our Beit Midrash we usually answer the question in a way that might teach us about the purpose of the Beit Midrash:
Yaakov embarks on his great mission to start Am Israel, a great long-term mission, and he will face challenges he had not experienced so far. In order to fulfill the mission, he must return to the Beit Midrash and engage clearly in Torah study. Hence, the beginning of every major and meaningful move in the public and private's life must include a thorough, in-depth, and renewed Torah study in the Beit Midrash (this is also how we interpret Yehuda's mission to establish the Beit Midrash in Goshen before the descent to Egypt, and the beginning of Am Israel).
In our times, many high school graduates choose to devote a significant amount of time to 'learning Torah for its own sake' in the Beit Midrash. Among the many learning objectives there is the personality building and preparation for the spiritual challenges they will face in their daily lives and during their military service. There are graduates, girls and lads, who return to the Beit Midrash for another significant period, "just to study Torah" after their military and national service, before they go on with their lives.
This study provides them with tools to continue their studies afterwards, and to "set times for Torah" - till one hundred and twenty! And to incorporate these "Torah times" into the complex and demanding practical life tasks: relationships, home and family, profession and livelihood, continued personal development, integration into the community and working on behalf of the public.
The Torah learning is the most important Mitzvah in the Torah:
וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד כֻּלָּם
"And the study of the Torah is equal to them all". (Mishnah Peah 1:1)
This obligation is imposed on everyone in every stage of life: "Every man in Israel is obliged to study the Torah, whether he be poor or rich, whether he be physically healthy or ailing, whether he be in full vigor of youth or of great age and weakened vitality; even if he be dependent upon alms for his livelihood, or going around from door to door begging his daily bread, yea, even he who has a wife and children to support is obliged to have an appointed time for the study of the Torah, both during the day and at night, for it is said: "But thou shalt meditate therein day and night" (Rambam Mishneh Torah-Torah Study 1:8).
The "appointed daily time" is also the guarantee to keep the Torah in the daily life, as a Torah that is applied in life and not only as a conceptual theory that exists among those sitting in the Beit Midrash, who are not challenged in the field of life.
יָפֶה תַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה עִם דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, שֶׁיְּגִיעַת שְׁנֵיהֶם מְשַׁכַּחַת עָוֹן
"Excellent is the study of the Torah when combined with a worldly occupation, for toil in them both keeps sin out of one’s mind" (Pirkei Avot 2:2)
Torah marks the values and goals of life. From it, we derive the spiritual and mental strength to deal with life's challenges and it is the secret of success. Daily learning also influences the surroundings, for them to be full of moral and sacred values in the everyday life.