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Parshas B'Har/B'Chukosai - Re-Reading a Book       25 Iyar 5781

05/07/2021 11:10:39 AM


One of the most annoying but perhaps hugely beneficial phrases I have heard was repeatedly recited during my elementary and high school years. While passing out tests, my teachers always told us to  ”Make sure you go over, review, and check your work.” This phrase stood as a constant reminder to us that once you handed in your paper there was no way you could ask for it back should you remember something later. The annoying part in elementary school was that after we handed in our test, we could do other work, read, or do anything else so long as we were quiet. In high school, the entire period was dedicated to taking the exam and therefore once we handed in the exam we could leave. This was especially tempting if it happened to be the period before gym, or better yet, the last period of the day. It never dawned upon me until recently that I was usually the first one to finish and never bothered looking any test over, while the smartest guys in the class held onto their exams until the very last minute. I am not sure if they became smarter because they went over their work, or they were just smart and knew that it was beneficial for them to review if they had the time. I would guess it was probably a combination of the two; I had neither. (They may have had a higher GPA, but I had a better shooting-from-the-floor percentage.)      

Review, in general, is possibly the most effective method of learning, not only about retention but also helped to gain clarity and a deeper understanding of the material. One of my Rabbeim in Israel, Rabbi Liff, always reminded us of his Rebbi, Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz’s  (famed Rosh Yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim) slogan “aoyb ikh hat nisht barikhtn, es s vi aoyb ikh keynmol gelernt” -  loosely translated:  ”Im Nishta Chazird Nisht ke Learnt”. If you do not review, it is as though you never learned it in the first place.  At the top of every page of Gemara/the Talmud there are four wider lines of Rashi and Tosafos which serve as a hint to review at least four times. The Gemara in Pesachim 72a says, "One, who reviews a subject 40 times, is guaranteed it will be rooted in his memory as if it were placed in his pocket." The Mishna Brura 114:41 says, "Reviewing one’s studies 101 times ensures that they will not be forgotten. The Gemara Chagiga 9b teaches us that you cannot compare reviewing something one hundred times to one hundred one times.

Why is it necessary to emphasize the concept of review repeatedly? The answer lies in the fact that review is one of the major keys to success. If that is the case, why is it so challenging? The answer is nothing short of common sense; review is boring. We think we know this material already. Learning something new for the first time is exciting and desirable; it’s new knowledge for us to gain. Review, on the other hand, does not give us that same push or drive because we think we know it; it is old. Yet the oldest book in history is one that we review over and over again every year: the Torah. The reason we do so without complaining is because it clearly does teach us something new each time. But that lesson should carry forward to any type of study and review.  

Unfortunately for me, bad habits don’t die young. Fast forward from my school days to today, I still do not review things as much as I should. This reality, or better yet nightmare of having to “go over, review, and check my work”, reared its ugly head a few months ago. I had been working on a second book and there is an editing process that seems to never end. In essence, I am constantly reviewing the same material, looking for errors and omissions. The process has taken over two years and some of the material was almost outdated. It was during the final review that I read something that needed to be re-written in order to make it current.  Surely today we read books or watch movies that are not current and clearly not as interesting. By reviewing, I was able to catch one of those outdated messages and bring it up to speed. This, of course, is all necessary because I am human, and to err is human. The Torah, on the other hand, is immutable and therefore will never have this problem. The Author of the Torah wrote it for all time, only as God can do: no mistakes, no errors, no omissions, and no rewriting will ever be necessary. This lesson itself is found in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshios of B’Har and B’Chukosai the Torah describes in Vayikra 25 verses 25-34 the redemption of land from a Jew who ran into financial difficulty and therefore needs to sell his land in Israel. This applies not only to the redemption of land but to repossessing houses in walled cities that a man was forced to sell when he became destitute. While the laws of redemption vary if a house is in a walled city or an open field, in each scenario there exists the ability to reclaim the land within a certain time frame, thereby allowing the individual to return to his ancestral property. Why is it so necessary to retain the same piece of land? Why can’t he or his close relative just buy a different piece of land? I would suggest - with some literary license (Jewish drush) - that a person knows his land. He knows the land that he worked on previously and going back to it will yield a better product overall.  By working his old land, he will be doing Chazara/review on something he has already studied. He knows it thoroughly and does not need to learn it anew.

This week we conclude the book of Vayikra, and as per the custom for the completion of every Sefer, we call out the words “Chazak, Chazak, V’NisChazeik”. When we review and learn the Torah over again, it ultimately gives more and more strength. The introduction to Mesilas Yesharim, ‘Path of the Just’, tells us ”He [the author] is not coming to teach us anything new. Rather he comes to review those things we already know.” We are familiar with the notion that an angel comes to teach the entire Torah to a baby in utero, and legend has it the Malach touches the baby on top of the lips and the baby forgets all the Torah which had been learned. If that is the case, why learn it in the first place? The answer is straightforward: once something was learned it is easier to relearn it the next time.

To you, my readership, you may readily see that my messages do not contain some incredible new ideas. I choose, instead, to take the ideas, the concepts, and scenarios of everyday life and through them remind us all how to view them from a Torah perspective. Thoughts and ideas are not merely the things that you all know; by packaging them in a unique and different way, by presenting them from a different angle or perspective, it helps us to see, to focus with new insight. It is a Chazara/review of important lessons which help and guide us as we live our lives, which, in turn, help our families grow,  and ultimately strengthen our community. Therefore, it is with great thanks to Hashem, and my personal joy that I announce a Chazak Chazak for the publication of my new book Raising a Community, a Family, and Ourselves. Wishing you all continued growth, strength, and ever-deepening chochma/wisdom as we continue to grow together.……..


Raising a Community, a Family and Ourselves along with Developing a Torah Personality can be purchased by clicking here via my author page at Mosaica Press.

Sun, September 25 2022 29 Elul 5782