ROSH HASHANAH EDITION 5779 SECTION A PAGE 4
Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #18, “All nighters”
Why do college students pull all nighters? The stakes are too high to do otherwise. The same for attorneys who burn the midnight oil on the eve of a trial, or ER surgeons who know that often they must be at their best during the wee hours.
In the acquisition of the Torah, the stakes are high, the trial is imminent, the sense of emergency palpable. The opportunity to commune with the Divine via His word is not to be squandered; the need to guide one’s life based on knowledge of Torah is pressing; and the breadth of the Torah is vast. Limited sleep, especially given everything else one must do, facilitates these goals.
Perhaps there is another connotation to “limited sleep.” Sleep can cradle one’s best thinking. I remember being stumped by a comment of the Vilna Gaon. He cited five sources for one of the laws of mikveh. The problem was, only four of the five substantiated the law. Why did he also cite the fifth? I was at an impasse, troubled for six weeks. There were no commentaries that addressed this issue. Suddenly one night at 1 a.m. I bolted, awakened my poor wife, and said: “I got it!”
I didn’t even write it down. I knew I’d remember it in the morning. I went straight back to sleep. Still, my sleep was limited . . . what a blessing.
The 18th way to acquire the Torah: Limited Sleep.
Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9a, Joy; Way #9b, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues; Way #12, Exchanges with students; Way #13, Deliberation; Way #14, Scripture; Way #15a, Mishnah; Way #15b, Limited Business Activity; Way #16a, Limited Marital Relations; Way #16b, Portion Control; Way #17, Limited Pleasure
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