Double Purpose of Learning Torah on Shabbat

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Kedusha often symbolizes itself by the concept of withdrawal; for example, Kedushat Shabbat obligates a person to refrain from productive work of the 39 melachot. However, we must also sanctify the Shabbat through positive actions, and not merely through passive abstentions. One such way we are Mekadesh the day, according to Ramban (Shemot 20:7) is “to turn away from preoccupying thoughts and give our souls pleasure in the ways of GD, like visiting the sages and prophets to hear the word of GD”.

When the Shunamite woman tells her husband that she is going to visit the prophet Elisha, he asks her, “Why are you going to him? Today is not Rosh Chodesh nor Shabbat” (Melachim Bet-4:23). The Ramban quotes the Gemara (Rosh HaShana 16b) which infers from this pasuk that on those days, on Rosh Chodesh, there is a Mitzvah to visit the prophet or the Chacham in your midst. Similarly, we find that in the days of the Talmud, everyone would gather on Shabbat afternoon to listen to a scholar’s communal lecture. Furthermore, the Rabbis even created a prohibition against studying Ketuvim on Shabbat to ensure that people would come to the public drasha (see Shabbat 115a).

Thus, on Shabbat, learning Torah is double Kiyyum; it is a fulfillment of Talmud Torah as on any other day of the week, but it also a fulfillment of “Le’kadesho”, which is imbuing the day with Kedusha and spiritual delight. Learning Torah is, and it should be, a delightful experience.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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