Dec 14, 2009

This is Gan Eden

Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, the Ponovezher Rav, related that in his youth in Lithuania candles were not yet in widespread use. Instead, they used homemade candles which consisted of a small dish filled with oil or kerosene and a wick of flax or cotton.

That winter, 100 years ago, two new things came to the city. First, a candle factory opened that sold real candles. Second, the first Vilna Shas was published which were volumes of Gemara with clear, fine print.

That Purim the community’s gabbaim held a meeting and discussed what to buy the rav for Purim. In addition to the usual food and wine in a basket, they added a new Gemara Bava Basra and two packages of candles. (They could not afford to buy an entire set of Shas).

The Ponovezher Rav was the child who carried the mishloach manos.  It was a heavy load and he felt he was going to collapse from the weight. He placed the basket on the table in relief and stood off to the side. The rav, who was a big talmid chacham, after removing the food and wine took out the packages of candles and then the Gemara. He opened it and looked at the new print. Then he closed it and gave it a kiss. He was very emotional. He broke the silence and said, “Now I know what Gan Eden is – a Gemara from the Vilna Shas and candles to learn it by.”

The load that R’ Kahaneman had carried, so very heavy at first, seemed all at once to be light. From that day forward he carried that same load all his life, working to build yeshivos, to bring Gan Eden to Jews.

There are children, young adults and older people who don’t think learning Torah is Gan Eden. They find it painful, boring, unpleasant. Someone once asked a rabbi – when Moshiach comes we will learn all the time?! That’s awful! That’s gehinnom!

How tragic when a child grows up to feel that learning Torah is gehinnom, the diametric opposite of what it is, Gan Eden.

How sad it is when parents say of their children, “He’s not a learner.”

The truth is, those children haven’t met the person who can show them that learning is Gan Eden.

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