July 5, 2022

Yevamot 117

Today’s daf (Yevamot 117a) contains a stunning insight about our relationship with Torah – as derived from a verse in Mishlei 27:19.
The verse states כַּמַּיִם הַפָּנִים לַפָּנִים כֵּן לֵב הָאָדָם לָאָדָם – ‘As water reflects the face, so too does the heart of one person to another’ – which is explained by Rashi, according to the reasoning of Rabbi Yehuda, to mean: ‘According to the face and the heart that your direct towards Torah, your heart readies itself to learn. If you toil, you will find [that you can understand Torah]. If you do not toil, you will not find [that you can understand Torah].’

This concept that our relationship with Torah is affected by our attitude and effort towards Torah study is a fundamental one, and just as this verse teaches us about love which is reflected between people, it also teaches us about love that is reflected between ourselves and Torah.

In fact, it is on the basis of this concept that Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank explained in a letter to one of his students (see ‘Shvivei Or’ p. 25) that: ‘given this idea, you should not be saddened by the significant effort that you are investing in your study of Torah. On the contrary! You should be joyful about it because you are toiling, and the essence of toiling in Torah is the essence of success in the service of Torah’.

Real love and real relationships require real effort – and what Rashi is teaching us is that to be in a relationship with Torah requires not just feelings but also endeavour – meaning, both love and effort.

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