Nine years ago, the idea of enacting a “Basic Law: Torah Study” was mentioned here for the first time, and thank God, the coalition now intends to enact such a law * There are three goals for the law: a declarative determination that the Torah is a supreme value; greater funding over other studies; and postponing the recruitment of Torah learners * Rabbi Haim Druckman ztz”l fulfilled in his life the commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” both in the simple sense, and as interpreted by our Sages “That you shall make the name of Heaven beloved”
Recently, I was happy to hear that the coalition intends to establish in a Basic Law the value of Torah study, an idea I raised about nine years ago as part of this column. The title of the article in ‘Revivim’ of October 24, 2013, Issue 565 was: “Basic Law: Torah Study”. Friends who searched the Internet claim that this was the first time this idea was brought up in a printed article. It seems that this is an opportunity to repeat the basics I wrote in that article, with a few additions for accuracy and clarification.
The Value of Torah study
First I wrote: ” When attempting to present a vision for the State of Israel, it is imperative to first address the mitzvah of Talmud Torah (Torah study), because the unique vision of the Jewish people is revealed in the Torah; the further we expand and deepen our study of it, the more we will understand our special role as a nation, as individuals, and as family and community members.
This mitzvah is so great that our Sages said it is equivalent to all the commandments.
“Rabbi Tarfon and the Elders were once reclining in the upper storey of Nithza’s house, in Lydda, when this question was raised before them: Is study greater, or practice? Rabbi Tarfon answered, saying: Practice is greater. Rabbi Akiva answered, saying: Study is greater, for it leads to practice. Then they all answered and said: Study is greater, for it leads to action” (Talmud Kiddushin 40b). There are two meanings to the conclusion of our Sages: First, that Talmud Torah is great. Second, that it leads to action. It follows that if Talmud Torah does not lead to action, it is not great. From this we also learn the importance of action which stems from the Torah.
The Three Levels
The Jewish nation’s study of Torah must take place on three levels:
1) Study aimed at promoting great Torah scholars who will elucidate issues for the benefit of the Clal (general populace), including morei hora’ah (law deciders), community rabbis, dayanim (judges), and ramim (rabbis) for advanced yeshiva studies.
2) Study aimed at training rabbis working in the fields of education and counseling: teachers, instructors, counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
3) Torah study for all Jews, in order to know the basics of Torah – its general rules and details – so one can manage his life according to its path. To achieve this, a lot of study time must be dedicated in the formative years of one’s life, and later on throughout the years, to set times for Torah study.
At the end of the article I wrote: “In order to secure this utmost national value in our public life, a “Basic Law of Torah Study” should be enacted, affirming that “The State of Israel is committed to encourage and fund the study of Torah in Israel,” while detailing the three levels of study mentioned above.
The Purpose of the Law
There are three main objectives for the law: the first, in principle, to establish in a Basic Law the supreme status of the value of Torah study, and the vision that Torah study will add light and blessing, faith and morality to all areas of life, to Israel, and to the nations of the world. As the prophet said: “In the days to come, The Mount of the LORD’s House shall stand firm above the mountains and tower above the hills; and all the nations shall gaze on it with joy. And the many peoples shall go and say: “Come, let us go up to the Mount of the LORD, to the House of the God of Jacob; that He may instruct us in His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For instruction (Torah) shall come forth from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Thus He will judge among the nations and arbitrate for the many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war” (Isaiah 2: 2-5).
The second objective is to enshrine in the Basic Law the greater funding for Torah study relative to all other important studies. And also in relation to members of different religions, who will not be able to claim that the governmental funding for Torah study comes from a budget intended for all religions, but rather, as the vision of the Jewish state, the value of Torah study has been enshrined on its banner, in order to spread faith and morality in Israel, and to all the families of the world.
The third objective is enshrining in the Basic Law the postponement of the recruitment of Yeshiva students whose Torah study is for the sake Judaism’s existence, and the fulfillment of the vision of the People of Israel.
Torah Study for the Growth of Talmidei Chachamim
As mentioned, Torah study should take place on three levels. One, the study of Talmidei Chachamim (Torah scholars) who delve deeper into the Torah in order to understand its foundations and reasons, and reveal its light to the Clal, to the family, and to the individual. To clarify its halachot (laws) and guidance; what is mutar (permitted) and what is assur (forbidden); what mitzvah is obligatory, and what is reshut (optional); Sabbaths and holidays; legal procedures; resolving personal and public conflicts; establishing decent work procedures; long-term planning for a healthy, spiritual life for society, and the economy. These Torah scholars will also lead the communities, teach in yeshivas, and serve as judges in the Jewish Law courts.
From this, it will be possible to have a good and blessed influence on the entire world. For thanks to the developing science and the enormous power given today in the hands of humans, we desperately need moral guidance. There are nations who live in unprecedented abundance, but their lives are liable to lose their deep spiritual meaning, and thus become dreary and futile. Beside them live nations, many of whom are poor, destitute and suffer from hunger and disease, and their terrible frustrations are liable to erupt and endanger the world.
It is the role of the People of Israel to spread the light of faith, Torah and morality to the world, and thus, extend blessing and vitality to all peoples. To this end, we need to develop Talmidei Chachamim who will devote themselves to their studies while at the same time, have knowledge of the culture and its values, so that they can illuminate and guide the actual lives of the individual, and society.
Torah Study for the Training of Educators and Counselors
The second level relates to the training of Talmidei Chachamim who will engage in education, teaching, counseling, and therapy. There is no need to expand on the field of education and its importance, but it is clear that in order for teachers to be able to fulfill their mission, they must know a great deal of Torah – in breadth, and depth. For psychologists and social workers as well, it is appropriate that in addition to all the wisdom and professional knowledge accumulated over the generations, they should delve deeper into the areas of the Torah that pertain to their vocation, so they can continue the light and blessing of the Torah into their professional lives.
Torah Study for All
The third level relates to the mitzvot of Torah learning imposed on every Jew, who should attempt to encompass all the foundations of the Torah, in Halacha, Mussar (ethics), and Machshava (thought). This is because studying the Torah with Derech Eretz, honesty, and an ayin tovah (positive outlook) strengthens the national and personal identity of every Jew, and reveals the light of his soul. Out of this, one’s character traits are perfected, and brings him to perform good deeds. That is why every Jew is obligated in the mitzvah of Torah study (Rambam Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:8).
Moreover, each person’s individual study contributes to the entire Clal. First, because it is impossible to create a good society without all its members being full partners in its vision. Second, since there is no person who is similar to his fellow man, consequently, every Jew who studies Torah reveals in it, his own special spark. And since part of the study is done in a group, thus his insights arise as questions or answers and are included in the general study, deepen the understanding, and take part in the complete revelation of the Torah.
Unfortunately, within the framework of institutionalized education, students are unable to learn everything that is needed to guide life from a Torah point of view. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on perfecting the study program, and developing frameworks for setting times for Torah study for adults.
Torah Scholars and the Soldiers
Since one of the objectives of the law is to regulate the postponement of the service of yeshiva students, it is necessary to mention the general purpose of public Torah study. The Torah designated the Kohanim (priests) and the Levites to be Torah learners and teachers for the Jewish people, but in no way is this a separation from Clal Yisrael. On the contrary, in Israel’s camp in the desert, the Kohanim and Levites resided in the center of the camp. And in the Land of Israel, in addition to the Temple being in the center, the Levites and the Kohanim were scattered throughout the tribes of Israel, so that they would be connected to all of Israel wherever they were, and could teach them Torah. The terumot and ma’asrot (tithes) that the Israelites gave to the Kohanim and Levites, was also intended to strengthen the connection of the Torah scholars to the working people, with whom they rejoiced in good days of abundance, and grieved with in times of sorrow and hardship.
Furthermore, one of the main roles of the Kohanim and the Levites was to encourage military service, since in addition to the Kohen Ha-Gadol (high priest) who was responsible for the work of the Temple, another Kohen was appointed whose role was to encourage the warriors of Israel, and he was called the “Kohen Mashuach Milchama” (a Kohen who is anointed for purposes of war) (Deuteronomy 20:2-4). With him were other Kohanim and Levites who accompanied all the soldiers in Israel to their camps, and their job was to encourage the soldiers by blowing trumpets and saying words of encouragement, as a rabbinical and educational corps. They also served as military police, since it was the Levites who served as policemen, who dismissed from the camp those entitled, and punished those who evaded the campaign (Mishnah Sotah 8:6).
Rabbi Haim Druckman ztz’l
This week we attended the funeral of Rabbi Haim Druckman ztz”l, who in his life fulfilled the mitzvah “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart”, both in the simple sense, and also in the sense of what our Sages said: “That you shall make the name of Heaven beloved, in that he should read Torah, and learn Mishna, and serve Torah scholars, and he should be pleasant with people in his business transactions. What do people say about such a person? Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah, fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah, woe to the people who have not studied Torah. So-and-so, who taught him Torah, see how pleasant are his ways, how proper are his deeds. The verse states about him and others like him: “You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Yoma 86a).
In addition to his special leadership and outstanding devotion, Rabbi Haim Druckman ztz”l was the beloved and faithful student of our teacher and mentor Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda. Like him, he explained and repeated to his students, the necessity of studying Torah in the name of all of Israel, and for the sake of all of Israel. And that the Second Temple was destroyed because the Torah scholars did not recite the initial blessing over the Torah, in other words, they did not learn out of faith in God “Who chose us from all the nations” and from that “gave us His Torah”. As a continuation of this, he taught that true Talmidei Chachamim should be the first to understand the magnitude of the mitzvah in military service, and the magnitude of the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel and engage in its development from a scientific, social, and economic point of view. Talmidei Chachamim should increase shalom (peace) in the world, because shalom expresses the divine idea that unites all parts of Am Yisrael, and the goodness and truth in all views.
The “Basic Law of Torah Study” is intended to raise Talmidei Chachamim like the example of Rabbi Haim Druckman ztz”l.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.