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ואם תלכו עמי קרי ולא תאבו לשמע לי ויספתי עליכם מכה

If you will behave casually with Me and refuse to heed Me, then I shall lay a further blow upon you. (26:21)

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Rashi explains keri, casually, as applying to one who is observant, yet his performance of mitzvos is, at best, erratic and haphazard. His attitude toward mitzvos is not one of obligation, but rather, of convenience and choice, sort of being in the “mood” of performing a mitzvah. Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, writes that when his Rebbe, Horav Moshe Schneider, zl, would read this pasuk, he would weep. He remarked that this pasuk refers to the Jew who fulfills mitzvos, who studies Torah, but it is not an obligation for him. He learns when he wants, attends a shiur at will. He could even be a yeshivah student who keeps his sidrei limud, studying during the yeshivah’s designated times, but will not feel the need to learn during bein hazmanim, intercession, vacation times. One who is not fully devoted to Torah study falls under the rubric of teilchu imi keri, “behave casually with Me.”

The Rosh Yeshivah underscored the notion that the kelalos, imprecations, of the Tochachah, Rebuke, are not earmarked for someone who is a rasha, wicked sinner, but rather, for one who takes his religious observance at will, whenever it fits his fancy. Toiling in Torah is not an added characteristic to learning, it defines one’s Torah study. Without toil, it is not limud haTorah.

The Rosh Yeshivah would go as far as to distinguish between a yeshivah bachur who devotes himself wholly to Torah and a yeshivah “student” who takes a course of study and might even excel in it. One must never forget that Torah is from Hashem, its Divine Author, and as such, demands a different attitude than one would have towards secular pure academia.

Horav Isser Zalmen Meltzer, zl, related that the Netziv, zl, was once asked by someone about the sidrei ha’yeshivah (the designated times for Torah learning in the Volozhin Yeshivah). The Netziv replied that in Volozhin, times were designated for eating (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and sleeping. No times were “designated” for learning. On the contrary, one should learn all the time – unless he is either eating or sleeping.

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