Just Five Minutes

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This past week, Rav Zevulun Charlop tz’l, dean of RIETS for over 30 years, was niftar at the age of 94. While I unfortunately joined RIETS after Rav Charlop’s retirement, I still had the distinct zechut to interact with this great talmid hakham and hear Torah from him on several occasions as a student in Yeshiva University. I vividly remember Rav Charlop telling us the story of his father, Rav Yechiel Michel Charlop, leaving Eretz Yisrael for New York. Rav Yechiel received a letter from his esteemed father, Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlop (the great tzaddik of Jerusalem, prime disciple of Rav Kook, and Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz HaRav), expressing dismay over his decision to leave the Holy Land. However, Rav Yaakov Moshe implored his son (who was a prodigious Torah scholar himself) to make sure to study Torah at least five minutes every day. With those five minutes, Rav Yaakov Moshe felt confident that his son would be alright. 

After completing the story, Rav Zevulun Charlop emphasized to us the gravity of his saintly grandfather’s words. Even just five minutes of Torah study a day can change a life, or lives. 

I have been thinking about Rav Charlop’s words for the last three months, but even more so as he was returned to the city of his grandfather for burial this past week. 

One of my talmidim recently visited wounded soldiers. One soldier, after discovering that his visitor was an American yeshiva student studying Torah on the outskirts of Jerusalem, emphatically told him that his Torah has made so much of a difference. My student, getting emotional, responded that he doesn’t see or feel the effect of what he does. The soldier shouted at him, “ani margish et zeh! I feel it! Go back to your yeshiva and tell everyone!” 

I am taking up this soldier’s call. Please forgive me for sharing a message that may seem cliché. Just because people keep talking about it doesn’t make it less true or important; in fact, the opposite is the case. The tragedies for Klal Yisrael are unbearable, and our desperation should be exponentially growing. When there are holy Jews sacrificing everything for the nation of Klal Yisrael, every Jew behind the front lines must respond. It is obvious that we are obligated to do anything we can in the physical realm to aid in the war effort. It is also obvious that once those physical obligations are dispatched, we must reformulate our schedules to include far more prayer, Torah study, and acts of hessed. Torah learned on behalf of our holy brethren on the front lines, or in enemy hands rahmana litzlan, is particularly potent.

Famously, Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi (Makkot 10a) quotes the words of David HaMelekh, עומדות היו רגלינו בשעריך ירושלם. Exegetically, he explains “what causes our feet to have the capability to stand in war? The gates (yeshivot) of Jerusalem that toil in Torah.” It is easy to be cynical about these ideas; after all, they can easily be abused to absolve oneself from taking up responsibility for the Jewish people in the physical realm. But I challenge you and emphatically declare: five minutes of Torah study is certainly far more effective at saving lives then five minutes of watching a sitcom. Five extra minutes of Tehillim will help a fellow Jew in captivity far more then wasting five minutes in the dregs of social media. How can a Jew waste his time with frivolous and meaningless pursuits, claiming that he has done all he can to help Klal Yisrael at this time? It is time to take up the call of Rebbe Yehoshua and fill the gates of Jerusalem with the milhamta shel Torah. Even five minutes can change everything.


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