What does the mishna mean when it says that if someone interrupts his learning to look at at the beauty of a tree, that he’s מתחייב בנפשו, he’s responsible for his own demise ( Avos 3:7)?
When a person is learning gemara in the yeshiva, and it comes 1:30, and now the mashgiach gives a knock on the table and says, “Now it’s time for mussar,” so you close your gemara and you open a Chovos Halevavos, and you start talking about a tree. In שער הבחינה you learn about the trees! Will you say that he’s מתחייב בנפשו because he stopped learning and started talking about a tree?! No! It depends why you’re talking about a tree. If you’re a man who is an environmentalist, and you’re talking about conservation, like a good liberal; or even if stam you become enthusiastic about nature by itself, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, “Look, you’re in the middle of doing something more important. You’re talking in דברי תורה. And you feel that Torah is so unimportant that you can interrupt it to talk about something else?!”
But suppose you interrupt your learning in order to praise Hashem; let’s say you heard thunder, and you want to make a blessing, or you saw lightning, and you want to praise Hashem. Is that called interrupting?! Or if you see in the springtime a fruit tree blossoming, there’s a bracha to make. Is that called interrupting?!
So when you interrupt to see the tree and to serve Hashem with the tree, it’s a mitzvah! Certainly you should do it. So if you’re interrupting in order to praise Hashem, and you’re saying, “This is such a beautiful tree that Hashem made. It looks like the trees of Gan Eden. I see the יד השם in this tree,” then of course it’s a mitzvah. And the purpose of seeing that tree is to remind us that there is a Gan Eden after this world. There is a chesed Hashem that is awaiting those who fulfill His commandments in this world. That’s what the tree is. When you see the chesed Hashem in the tree, it’s a reminder, it’s a promise to you, an intimation of the World to Come. Ohhhh! Now that’s a different way of looking at the tree. And therefore, in such a case, that person is rewarded for interrupting.
TAPE # 803 (August 1990)