Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai
Volume 2: Number 15
January 25, 2006
Mitzvah 16: The Mitzvah being attached to Torah Scholars and their disciples.
Mitzvah 16 – It is a positive commandment to be attached to Torah Scholars and their disciples.
Hafetz Hayim: Scripture states, “And to Him shall you cling” (Deut. 10:20) which the sages explain to mean “Whoever adheres to Torah scholars, it is as though he were attached to the Shechina (the presence of G-d)” Therefore a person should marry a daughter of a Torah scholar, and he should give his daughter in marriage to a Torah Scholar. He should eat with him, and have him benefit from his wealth. He should wallow in the dust of the feet of Torah scholars and drink in their words thirstily. It applies everywhere and at all times, for both men and women.
Before we begin to understand this Mitzvah, we need to understand who is a Torah Scholar. In its simplest form, it means someone who has studied Torah, the Five Books of Moses. This is a kind of study that is open to everyone all the time. It only requires that we pick up a Torah Commentary and study the words of those who have come before us. The Hafetz Hayim, however, refers to “Torah Scholars” in the widest sense, that is someone who is well versed in the Bible, Talmud, Legal codes and Midrash. A Torah scholar in this sense is not “just” a rabbi, but one who’s scholarship is also well known and admired. This is the kind of scholar that deserves our support. Such a person has given his or her life to understanding the words that G-d has shared with us and the interpretation of those words as understood by sages in every generation. These scholars provide our best link to the past and help to keep Judaism alive, fresh and an important part of our life.
Little wonder, then, that we should want to have such a scholar in our family. That we should want to raise our children to be such scholars, to have them marry a such a scholar and to have such scholars in our social circles. (this is the implication of “wallowing in the dust of their feet”) We should make every effort to listen to what they teach us and even if we don’t always understand their lessons, if we drink in their words, understanding will inevitably come.
This is not a mitzvah created by the Sages of antiquity to garner support for their profession. I don’t think they saw it as self serving at all. It is a mitzvah that grows out of the understanding that not everyone can be a scholar and that the world does need others to provide the necessities of life. This mitzvah allows everyone, however, to benefit from the work of scholars and helps to bring greater understanding and light to our world. It is a great mitzvah for both men and women to be a scholar, but if that is not possible, to at least bring scholars into their family and to treasure their learning.
Next week: Mitzvah 17: Respect for the Aged and for Scholars