First Web Chabura - Rabbi Yehuda Shmidman

May 27, 2018

Main Ideas of  Inaugural Web Chabura Conference 

May 27 2018  Sivan 13/14 5778

The question that was posed to the chabura members: What do you hope to gain from this chabura?

Speaking for myself: I found within myself a very strong desire and hope to connect and "reconnect" with so many wonderful people that I've had the pleasure and privilege to have some connection with in the past, people who have given me so much in so many ways, and to expand that to many more.

Q: Could this medium really be a way to experience a true feeling of connection - the computer screen is a far cry from "being there" in person. Can there be a sense of connection engendered essentially through the sharing of ideas?

 A: My hope is yes, because the true essence of a person is their da'as, their intellect, their understanding. The peak achievement of a person as described by the the Navi (Yirmiyah 9), is "understanding and knowing Hashem." Of course this is not merely "book knowledge" it can only come through  actually acting and living according to the ways of Hashem (as Radak explains there), as the pasuk concludes "I am Hashem who does kindness, justice and righteousness in the world", but ultimately the final achievement is defined as "understanding Hashem". As such, there is hope through real exchange of ideas a real connection can be forged.

There are many sources in Chazal that indicate clearly that each person has a unique perspective and a unique share in Torah. In addition my personal experience has shown clearly over and over how each individual has something to contribute in any learning situation, at times in a manner that it sheds amazing bright light to clarify and uplift to a whole new level!

Q: But one could ask, is this even a proper goal to have in the effort to face the challenges of life and to understand the aspects of Torah that relate to them? Granted forging a real connection, a "oneness" with members of Klal Yisrael is a great spiritual achievement as the Maharal says in Avos perek 1 that the primary role of the Kohain Gadol was to unite the Jewish people to one another, and to their Father in Heaven. Clearly, the creation of that unity is a great spiritual achievement. Nevertheless, shouldn’t the goal be purely the ultimate goal, one of understanding Hashem and His Torah?

A: The Rambam in Avos perek 1 says the highest form of Ahava the one for wich the Taana exhorts a person very strongly to acquire a true close friend, is the love of "maala", of spiritual achievement, where the desire of each is for "the true good" - meaning understanding Hashem and his ways - and each wants to be helped by his friend as "the good" comes to both of them, together. Note, the Rambam doesn’t say each recognizes the need to help, and be helped by his friend, which definitely is true, as the Gemorah in Makkos 10 described the great need for Torah scholars to study together (see Maharsha there), and as Rabbeinu Yonah says in this Mishna that each person needs the direction / correction of a friend who sincerely wants his spiritual success, through which they can accomplish complete t'shuva, rather the Rambam says he WANTS to be helped by his friend, apparently even if it would be possible to achieve the goal by himself, each wants, PREFERS to achieve it via his beloved friends help.

We see, the true essential form of striving for spiritual achievement is in such a manner that it is saturated with connection, the entire striving should be for us to reach it, for us to gain the understanding of Hashem, together. As such we certainly need to gain the true sense of connection and deep feeling of love, respect, and oneness in order to be prepared for this true form of striving.

I asked myself, can I relate to this idea of the Rambam, to WANT to be helped, rather than accomplish independently? First I thought, if it would be by one of my children, for SURE, I would rather do it with them, through their help more so than by myself! Then I realized, there are a good number of people about whom I am so fortunate and so blessed to be able to say, I would prefer to be accomplishing together with them, via their help, rather than be alone, doing it by myself!

Hashem should bless us to pursue, and achieve the understanding of His Torah and His Ways of Kindness and Truth, together!  

Chat Transcript