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“If you walk in My laws/follow My decrees.” (26:3)

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The Midrash cites the pasuk in Tehillim 119, “I contemplated my path and my feet returned me to Your testimony.” It also presents Dovid Ha’Melech’s explanation of his allusion in the pasuk. Dovid Ha’Melech explained that every day he organized his activities and decided where to go.  He would begin on his way, but instead of proceeding to his intended destination, his feet literally propelled him to the Bais Ha’Midrash.

This Midrash begs further explanation.  First, what connection is there between the pasuk, “If you will walk in My laws,” and Dovid Ha’Melech’s statement ?  Second, Dovid Ha’Melech’s original statement must be clarified. He obviously did not plan imprudent outings only to be overruled by his more disciplined body, which returned him to the Bais Ha’Midrash.  Undoubtedly, Dovid Ha’Melech had important matters which demanded his presence.  Nonetheless, his plans were changed, and he ended up seated in the Bais Ha’Midrash. We still must endeavor to comprehend; if his activities were important, why did he find himself in the Bais Ha’Midrash ? If they were not that pressing, why did he plan to leave his studies to attend to those matters ?

Horav A.H. Lebovitz, Shlita, derives a noteworthy lesson from this pasuk.  Dovid Ha’Melech certainly executed his responsibilities in the most exemplary fashion. Any pressing matter would receive his undivided attention for as long as needed. His challenge was to establish his priorities, to differentiate between what was absolutely essential and what was not. The yetzer hara, evil inclination, attempted to persuade Dovid Ha’Melech that more things needed to be done, more “mitzvos” and acts of chesed had to be performed, all at the expense of Torah study.  Dovid’s remarkable focus and all encompassing desire to study Torah, however, enabled him to neutralize the insidious yetzer hara and return to his beloved Torah study.

We are confronted with a constant need to balance our mundane responsibilities with our spiritual obligations.  We are charged to study Torah at all times. Yet, as human beings living in contemporary society, we have responsibilities to fulfill, schedules to keep, and even Torah-oriented endeavors in which to participate. How do we prioritize our time ?  When do we perform the actual endeavor ourselves, and when do we delegate its fulfillment to others ?

The clarity of mind needed to render an appropriate decision emanates from Torah study, which hones the mind and balances the senses.  One must develop within himself a strong desire to study Torah. Without a relentless yearning for Torah, its actual study produces nothing more than a complacency which has little enduring value. Without a positive attitude, even Dovid Ha’Melech would have succumbed to his daily pressures and occupied his valuable time with what he perceived to be more critical matters.

This is representative of the guileful method employed by the yetzer hara to lure us away from Torah study. Regrettably, we defer to the yetzer hara’s deceitful arguments, because, after all, “we have responsibilities.” To counteract this argument, we must imbue within ourselves a love for Torah study to the point that it becomes integrated into our very being. Only through such a “natural” yearning for Torah will we discipline ourselves to realize that we really have more time for spiritual pursuits than we had envisioned.

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