by Shoshana Behar
As the end of the year approaches, students at Northwest Yeshiva High School (NYHS) begin to excitedly make their plans for the summer. Notably, what these plans often do not include is time to sit down and learn Torah every day. As I noticed this, I began to question whether or not my friends and myself, as Jews, have an obligation to learn Torah over summer vacation.
This question is one that is addressed by many commentators. The first response, given by the Tosafot, is given based on a verse in Parashat Devarim: “You must mediate in Torah day and night.” Tosafot says that this means that in every free moment we are obligated to study Torah.
At first, fulfilling this commandment over summer vacation would seem to be as annoying as spending all of break doing homework. However, our Sages teach us otherwise. In the Gemara in Kiddushin 40b it says, “Great is study for it leads to action.” In other words, as you begin to become more knowledgeable in Torah, you will have the ability to do greater things.
Rabbi Ronald Isaacs supports this concept by writing, “In the first paragraph of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-8) the Jew is charged to express his or her love for G-d through constant study.” Rabbi Isaac asserts that studying Torah will bring you closer to Hashem, and it is also a guide for living a moral life.
From these ideas we are able to see how important learning Torah is; we are obligated to do so because it will help us grow into better people whose actions are inspired by strong Torah values. However, there is one more reason we are commanded to learn Torah day and night. Sifre (a commentary on Numbers and Deuteronomy) tells us that only through Torah are we able to “recognize the one who spoke and caused the universe to come into existence.” We learn that we are only able to connect to G-d and be able to truly love Him by learning Torah.
What we learn from this is learning Torah is so much more than something we need to do in school for nine months every year. Instead, the study of Torah allows us to grow into learned, G-d loving, strong valued Jews, and this is a year-round mission.
So when school ends and summer comes around, and we are all able to stop doing school work for about three months, our Torah studying should not stop. Everyone should take a few moments out of their day to learn Torah, become closer to G-d, and invest in their own personal growth.