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Torah Study? More Precious Than Heaps of Gold

Published on Sunday October 10th, 2021

This is the story of a Talmid Chacham (scholar) who was traveling by boat. In this boat, there were also rich traders who carried expensive goods with them. Only an intelligent Jew sat with his books and was studying. The tradesmen questioned the Jew: "Do you also carry merchandise with you?” The wise man answered "Yes, but my merchandise is more expensive than all your goods combined."

Gold or Diamonds?

The shopkeepers heard this and began to try and guess what the precious commodity the Jew was carrying with him could be. Was it expensive silk, beautiful gold jewelry or maybe even diamonds and precious stones?

Out of curiosity, they began looking for the goods. They asked the captain where the Jew’s merchandise was. He said to them, "That Jew? He did not bring any goods with him at all."

The shopkeepers checked his room, and saw for themselves that there was nothing there. They searched and checked, but found nothing.

The traders taunted the Jew: "You are not a trader, just a simple poor man who doesn’t even have a dime." But the wise man was silent and did not answer.

The Bandits Arrived

The boat continued on its way, when suddenly pirates attacked the boat and took all the goods. The rich merchants were left with nothing but the clothes on their back. The money and their merchandise was all gone.

The wise man said to them, "Now you understand that my merchandise is more expensive than yours."

When they arrived on dry land, the wise man entered the Beit Hamidrash (study house) and began to speak divrei Torah (words of Torah) with those present. The latters immediately saw that the guest was a great sage.

The Speech

They hurried to bring all the talmidei chachamim, and the guest made a magnificent speech. They immediately prepared a great meal in his honor and praised him.

The wise man replied to his hosts: "Please, take care of the traders who came with me by boat and whose bandits stole all their goods and left them penniless." The Jews obeyed him and prepared a place to sleep and also gave them some money so that they could buy food and return to where they came from. The merchants were so grateful that they came to beg pardon for having mocked him in the boat. He replied: "Didn’t I tell you that my merchandise is much more valuable than yours? Your merchandise can vanish, while mine will exist forever".

And to this, King David answered: "More precious is for me the teaching of your mouth than heaps of gold and silver coins".

The Legacy Remains After All

The Jewish heritage is a part of our genetics. The moral that Judaism has conferred on the world is the book of human rights. Only the One who created the world can spare all of his creatures.

The demand to respect each creature, the prohibition of corruption and of greed, the divine order to respect His language, the sanctity of life, the Mitzvah of "loving one's neighbor as oneself", are all things that no one could have formulated except for the Creator of the world.

But What About Internal Wars?

What is the Torah’s objective? It is to overcome negative and destructive impulses, and choose good. To do good by choice is the highest expression of good. And we are elected for the mission of the Torah. We can fail but we can also succeed. We can destroy, but also build. We can choose to do the worst of the worst, however also perform unmeasurable good.

Perfect as an Angel

The angels are perfect: they do not have a yetzer hara. They do not have free will. They do not fail. They cannot choose right from wrong - because they are good anyway.

The angels wanted the Torah to stay in the sky. Moshe replied to them: "In the Torah it says that one should respect one’s father and mother - do you have a father and a mother? In the Torah it says that one shouldn’t kill - can you kill an angel? For sure not! In the Torah we speak about leaving Egypt, were you there? No! From there we learn that the Torah belongs to us, human beings, specifically via internal wars! The Torah is especially adapted to us”.

Our mission is to choose between right and wrong. This is how we serve G-d. We are promised that for anything for which the choice and the test are difficult, the rewards are all the greater.

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