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“It is an eternal covenant of salt before Hashem.” (18:19)

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Rashi explains that Hashem entered into a covenant with Aharon HaKohen. He called it by the name of something which is “healthy” – meaning it does not spoil – and which makes others “healthy” – meaning it preserves other things from spoiling. Salt’s unique properties; its own “health,” and ability to preserve the “health” of others make it the symbol of the covenant.

It is a well-known and accepted fact that the study of Torah has a lasting effect on a person. The question that, regrettably, has been the source of contention is: does the study of Torah influence others in its proximity? Does a yeshivah or kollel in a community raise the spiritual and moral consciousness of that community? Or, is the effect exclusively centered upon the lomed, learner, himself? Horav Chizkiyahu Mishkovsky, Shlita,  relates  the  following  incident that occurred between Horav Arye Leib Shteinman, Shlita, and a wealthy philanthropist that sheds light on the above question.

The philanthropist asked Horav Shteinman the following shailah, halachic query: “For many years, I have been supporting a number of yeshivos in America, yeshivos in which the students are engrossed in all-day Torah study in the tradition of old. Recently, I have been approached by the leadership of a number of reputable kiruv, outreach, yeshivos to lend my financial support to their institutions. Shall I diminish my annual contributions to the “mainstream” yeshivos, so that I can support the kiruv yeshivos or not? After all, if I decide to diminish my yearly contribution to the regular yeshivos, it will not have an effect on their learning. Their spiritual development will continue unabated. If anything, their physical state of affairs might change, but their learning will not change. If I contribute to the kiruv yeshivos, however, I might reach those who would otherwise not be reached. I will be saving young Jewish men from spiritual extinction. What should I do?”

Horav Shteinman responded with the following powerful statement: “Do you think that the unparalleled surge of young people returning to the fold is a gift from Heaven? No! It is because there are young men studying unpretentiously in yeshivos throughout the world. The merit of their Torah study has brought about a resurgence of desire for spiritual development among our people. If you decrease your contribution to the yeshivos, you will cause a reduction in the number of baalei teshuvah, those who are returning to Torah Judaism.”

We may add that Horav Shteinman was not addressing someone who was distant from Torah, but one who was a ben Torah himself. It is regrettable that we do not appreciate the value and far-reaching effect of our learning. Perhaps, if we did, our diligence in Torah study would increase, and so would our pride in this endeavor.

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