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48 Ways to Acquire the Torah: Way #45

Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #45, “Studying in order to act.”

To acquire the Torah is an intellectual exercise, but if it is only that, it is vacuous. It vanishes. Torah unites mind and behavior. Its intellectual integrity is fatally impeded if it does not shape one’s life.

This is only logical. The Torah lays down ritual and ethical imperatives. If one studies them but does not implement them, one’s Torah study is deficient. An analogy: A new immigrant bones up on the citizenship requirements, pledges loyalty to the new country, then proceeds to commit a crime. Knowledge alone can kill the purpose.

Still more.

To live the Torah is to enliven the intellectual exercise. Take Shabbos. If one lives it, its laws come alive. Take tzedakah. If one gives it, nurturing other people’s lives, the laws of tzedakah — how much to give, and to whom — come alive. The life of Torah is a symbiosis of study and practice.

When I went off to yeshiva as a young man, I was filled with trepidation about the looming intellectual challenge. The late Vilu Hochstadt told me, “If you live the life of the yeshiva, your studies will bear fruit.” So it was.

The 45th way to acquire the Torah: Studying In Order To Act.

Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor |

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