Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #9, “Joy”
Rabbi Isaac Orlansky (1898-c.1992) was the happiest person I ever knew.
He lost his wife and all but one of his children in the Holocaust.
He survived WW II in Siberia, half-starved and half-frozen.
How did he have the widest smile I have ever seen? His smile was so wide that creases from his smile were permanently engraved on his face, such that even when he wasn’t smiling he seemed to be smiling.
He brought with him to Siberia a few sheets of paper — a few pages of Torah. To conceal them from the Communists, who would confiscate them, he rolled them into a bottle cork.
These few pages of Torah were enough for Rabbi Orlansky to sustain his joy in the most unjoyous of times, on one of the most unjoyous places on earth.
Joy is necessary to acquire the Torah.
Torah study spurs joy. Torah’s teachings, mysteries, prophecies, narratives and laws (about which Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kuk wrote, “Just as there are laws of poetry, there is poetry in law”) — all instill joy in their students. So how can one acquire the Torah if one is empty of joy? It would be like expecting the joy of victory in a sports contest without entering the contest.
“There is no joy like the resolution of doubts,” it is said about apparently conflicting statements in the Talmud. The Torah is difficult to grasp on a first and sometimes even on a hundredth reading. With persistence, patience and desire, when a student of Torah does resolve a conflict, he is filled with a joy to which none can compare.
The ninth way to acquire the Torah: Joy.
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