How can someone figure out a happy medium concerning using one’s time for things of this world? What I mean is how do you know how much time to give for gashmiyus, for material things for yourself and your family, when it takes away time from your avodas Hashem?
Now, that’s a very difficult question to answer. If you could answer that, then you become my rebbi! Because actually there’s no one answer. It depends on the person and it depends on the circumstances.
It’s a very complicated question because we know that הרבה עשו כרבי שמעון בר יוחאי ולא עלתה בידם – A lot of people tried to do like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, to learn only, and it didn’t go for them. Rabbi Shimon was against working but that didn’t work for everyone. Now, today you have a lot of people who agree with him – but for other reasons. Rabbi Shimon was against work because he wanted people to give their lives to study Torah. And so, when he came out of the cave where he had been hiding for so many years and he saw people who were plowing their fields, he was disgusted with them. To see people who didn’t understand their purpose in life and they should waste their days on such things! It disgusted him.
Now what did Hakodosh Boruch Hu say to him? “Shimon, I love you. You’re so noble!” Is that what Hashem said? No! Hashem said, “Get back into your cave! ” חיזרו למערתכם – “Get back in there.” 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 Rabbi Shimon 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 so he waited twelve months and then he came out again.
And this time he was still dissatisfied, but he kept his mouth closed. So as he passed by a field and saw people plowing, in his heart he disapproved, but he had already learned discretion, so he kept his mouth closed. Until finally he saw something that changed his mind. It was late on erev Shabbos, and he saw an old Jew running with two twigs of myrtle in his hand, hadasim, 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 hadasim, fragrant leaves, in honor of the Shabbos.”
So he asked the old Jew, “Why do you have two, one in each hand?” So he said, “אחד כנגד זכור ואחד כנגד שמור”. Hakodosh Baruch Hu when he commanded the mitzvah of Shabbos, he said זכור ושמור – 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 onegShabbos 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 Torah. There’s a greatness in 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 couldn’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 (the Rav is referring here to his shul) support entire families in Yerushalayim who sit and learn Torah. They’re acclimated to that lifestyle; 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 did. And therefore exactly how to 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. And after a certain age, you shouldn’t work too much either – 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