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“This is the matter of the murderer who shall flee there and live.” (19:4)

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Chazal derive from the word hju “and [he shall] live,” that we must provide every opportunity to sustain the inadvertent murderer in a manner that goes above and beyond mere existence. He must live with vitality. What is the meaning of life for a Jew ? How is true chiyus, living, defined in Torah vernacular ? The Torah in Devarim 30:20 states, “For it (the Torah) is your life and the length of your days.” A Jew’s chiyus is Torah, his breath of life is Torah study. As life has no trade-off, so, too, does the Torah have no trade-off. One cannot choose between a life of Torah orientation and one that is not Torah oriented. One cannot barter Torah for anything else.

If one has fully accepted the notion that Torah study is the essence of life, no exchange can be offered for it. Just as an individual cannot barter in regard to life, one cannot trade when it comes to the Torah.  Every time the yetzer hara, evil inclination, attempts to entice him to leave the Bais Ha’Midrash or to take off “some time” from his daily schedule allotted for Torah study, he will respond by saying, “This is my life, and there is nothing more important!”

This idea follows logically from the halacha which Chazal derive from the word hju. If one must go into exile because he has killed someone inadvertently, his rebbe, Torah teacher, is to accompany him (Makos 10a). The Rambam in Hilchos Rotzeiach 7:5 comments, “The lives of wise scholars and seekers of (Torah) knowledge are worthless if they cannot study Torah properly.” The Nimukei Yosef adds that even if a great Torah scholar happens to live in the city of refuge, his own rebbe must nevertheless be “exiled” with him. One cannot always learn from another rebbe as well as from his own rebbe, with whom he has established a special bond.

Horav Benzion Baruk, z.l., derives from the Nimukei Yosef’s commentary a profound insight. One may have the opportunity to study Torah with a superior teacher. If there happens to be, however, another teacher from whom he may study better, with whom he has a stronger and closer relationship which is more conducive to his educational growth, he must seek out this other teacher. After all, his life depends upon it! This is a remarkable statement. Torah learning is our life, and it behooves us to study with the one who will best maximize our efforts and potential.

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