Today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 23a) contains a teaching by Rav Yochanan that ‘whoever learns Torah and does not teach it to others is comparable to a [fragrant] myrtle in the wilderness’ where no one is able to enjoy and appreciate its scent. However, some claim that Rav Yochanan actually taught that ‘whoever learns Torah and teaches it in a place where there are no other Torah scholars is comparable to a [fragrant and] myrtle in the wilderness – which is appreciated by those who enjoy its scent’.
From the first teaching we learn that with the opportunity of Torah study comes the responsibility to share it – and that those who fail to do so undermine a core value of Torah, and from the second teaching we learn that sharing Torah in locations where no others are doing so is a unique privilege – which is particularly appreciated by those who find themselves in such locations.
Personally, I’ve long held firm to both perspectives. One of the things that keeps me up at night is the curse (Devarim 27:26) directed towards those have ‘studied and taught Torah, observed and fulfilled its commandments, and also had the means to enable others to study yet did not take this opportunity to do so’ (see Yerushalmi Sotah 7:4), and I also believe that Torah sharing and Torah teaching should not be limited to some locations but, instead, should be available even to the lone person who finds themselves in a physical or metaphorical wilderness. And Baruch Hashem, the reach of the internet means that wherever you are, Torah is now available. As Rabbi Sacks so beautifully explains, ‘every time something new happens in the technology of communication, I feel it is as if Hashem Himself is knocking on our door and saying: “Use this technology to make Torah great and accessible to as many people as possible.”’
Yet notwithstanding all this, it is important to remember that Torah is referred to in our daf as a fragrant myrtle, and as such, if we want our Torah to be sought in even the most distant of places, it must be a type of Torah whose scent uplifts and inspires those who encounter and learn it.