By Nosson Chayim Leff
In Parshas Netzavim (Devarim, 30: 21), Moshe Rabbeinu tells us: “Lo ba’shama’yim hi …” (“The Torah is not high up in the heavens”, and therefore, presumably inaccessible. Rather (Devarim, 30:14), “ka’rov ha’davar ei’lecha me’od” (“the Torah is easily within our grasp”).
Knowing that the Torah is easily within our grasp is a cheering thought. But the Sfas Emes (echoing the Chidushei HaRim) adds a powerful qualifying condition: This easy access to the Torah applies only to a person who yearns for Torah with his whole heart. That is, we are talking here about a person who is attached (emotionally and spiritually) to the Torah. So attached that if, in fact, it were necessary to go up to the heavens to gain access to Torah, he would try to do so.
A beautiful thought, you may say, but does it work in the real world? The Sfas Emes implicitly addresses that question. He tells us that access to Torah depends on one’s ye’gia (input of time, effort, and strain). Hence, if a person truly longs for the Torah, he/she will make the effort to attain it, For such a person — i.e., one who puts in the ye’gia — the Torah will not be distant. And as the person comes closer, he/she will perceive the Torah as having been easily accessible from the start. Unfortunately, the converse is also true.
For a person who is unwilling to put in the ye’gia, the Torah will always seem — and be — distant and inaccessible.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff and Torah.org.