How can anybody know a happy medium concerning using one’s time for earthly things? I mean, how do you know how much time to give for gashmiyus, for necessary material things?
Now, that’s a difficult question. If you’ll be able to answer that, then you’ll become my rebbe. Actually, there’s no answer. It depends on the person and it depends on circumstances. It’s a very complicated question because הרבה עשו כרבי שמעון בן יוחאי ולא עלתה בידם – Many people tried to do like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and they weren’t successful.
Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai was against work. Now, today you have a lot of people who agree with him – for other reasons. He was against work because he wanted people to give their lives to study Torah. And when he came out of the cave where he had been for many years and he saw people plowing their fields, he was disgusted with them; how could people not understand the purpose of life and instead waste their days on such things?
Now, what did Hakodosh Boruch Hu say to him? Did He say, “Shimon, I love you. You’re so noble”? No; He said, “Shimon! Get back into your cave.” חיזרו למערתכם – “Return to your cave.” And Rabbi Shimon went back to his cave and he waited. He waited twelve months. Why did he wait twelve months? Now, listen to what he said.
He said, משפט רשעים בגהינם י”ב חודש – “The judgment of the wicked in Gehinom is twelve months.” He considered himself a sinner and therefore he waited twelve months in the cave and then he came out again.
And this time he was still dissatisfied with people, but he kept his mouth closed. So as he passed by and saw people plowing, in his heart he disapproved, but he had already learned discretion so he was quiet. Until finally he saw something that changed his mind. It was erev Shabbos, late in the afternoon, and he saw an old Jew running with two twigs of myrtle, hadassim, in his hand. So he asked the old Jew, “Why are you running?”
And the old Jew said, “I am running because it’s late for Shabbos and I’m bringing hadassim, fragrant leaves, in honor of the Shabbos.”
So he asked the old Jew, “Why do you have two of them?”
So he said, “אחד כנגד זכור ואחד כנגד שמור – One is for shamor and one is for zachor.” Hakodosh Boruch Hu, when He commanded the mitzvah of Shabbos, He said zachor and He also said shamor. There are two mitzvos of Shabbos. One is not to do work on Shabbos; that’s shamor. And zachor means to proclaim the Shabbos, to do positive things to honor the Shabbos, like oneg Shabbos and things like that.
“Oh!” said Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, “Now I see the greatness of these people. The greatness is not only in giving away your life for learning Torah. There’s a greatness of living Torah and these people are living it! And therefore, נתקררה דעתו – his mind was appeased.
So therefore, it says, הרבה עשו כמו רבי שמעון בן יוחאי – Many people did like him ולא עלתה בידם —and didn’t succeed. So the meforshim say, הרבה עשו – many didn’t; but some did. For some people, that’s the right way of living. If you’re capable, that’s the right way to do.
And that’s why we support kollel people. We support entire families in Yerushalayim that sit and learn Torah. They’re acclimated, they’re able to make use of their time and they’re succeeding. If you’re able to do it, good! But most people are not able to give all their time like Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.
But exactly how they gauge it, how much yes and how much no, it depends on the person and it depends on his age too. Up to a certain age, you should be in places of Torah, learning all day long. After a certain age, you also shouldn’t work too much; you should try to retire and get back to the places of Torah. In between, you also have to gauge it. But how much? It’s impossible for anybody to give a blanket prescription.
TAPE # 224