Dealing with Adversity-Torah Shields from Harm

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 98b teaches that if one wants to be saved from the pains of chevlei Moshiach, one should engage in Torah and gemilus chassadim. Is Klal Yisrael experienc­ing chevlei Moshiach (lit. the pains of the era of Moshiach, the trying period leading up to the Geulah) at this time? Harav Elya Ber Wacht­fogel, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshiva Zichron Moshe of South Fallsburg, responded, “I think we can say that. We are living in the period of ikvesa d’Meshicha. (See interview on Hamodia. com). If so, it is fitting to understand — even to a small degree — how the special qualities and potential of Torah and chessed generate much-needed brachah and shemirah at this time.

In this week’s installment, we’ll address the concept of Torah.

The Nesivos Shalom (Torah, maamar 3) tells us that Torah is especially mesugal (capable of) bringing one closer to Hashem, than all other mitzvos, because it is equivalent to all the mitz­vos. Torah permeates the entire body, from the brain and heart to the most corporeal parts of the person. It purifies one’s mind, emotions and the totality of the person. Chazal tell us that the Torah one learns from his youth is assimilated into the bloodstream.

Additionally, Torah impacts all the situa­tions one finds oneself in, as we find in Mishlei (6: 22) “As you go forth, it will guide you; as you recline, it will guard you … (Metzudos David comments this means from brigands; Malbim explains that even when one is reposing and one’s intellect is not engaged with Torah, it has a protective quality.)

The Torah can even help us confront perilous situations, says Nesivos Shalom. The Gemara (Sotah 21a) says “Torah magna umatzla — Torah protects and saves a person.”

The Gemara in Makkos (10a), when discuss­ing the arei miklat — the cities of refuge — says that divrei Torah, words of Torah themselves, provide refuge, i.e. they protect from harm.

Once a young man was hit by a car in front of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, the yeshivah of Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l. Since a yarmulke was spotted on the ground next to him, it was assumed that the boy was a Yid. When the incident was related to Rav Moshe, he definitively responded,” The boy is not Jewish.”

He explained, “I was learning Torah in the yeshivah then. It is unimaginable that a Jew­ish child would have been hurt right outside.” (Of course, it would take a Gadol of Rav Moshe’s stature to make such a statement, his tremen­dous humility notwithstanding.) It turned out that a non-Jewish teen had been bothering and chasing a Jewish boy. The boy’s yarmulke fell off but he feared to stop long enough to retrieve it lest he come to harm. The car hit the non-Jew at the exact spot where the yarmulke rested.

Torah serves as a safeguard not only in a physical sense but spiritually as well. Maseches Kiddushin (30b) tells us, “Barasi yetzer hara, barasi lo Torah tavlin — I created a yetzer hara, and I created the Torah as a medicine.”

Harav Chaim of Volozhin writes in his Nefesh Hachaim (Shaar 4: 18) regarding the benefits of limud haTorah: “An individual who takes upon himself the yoke of the holy Torah — for its own sake and in a truthful fashion — will be elevated above all matters of this world. He will be taken care of by Hashem with [a level of] Hashgachah Pratis that is above natural forces and the mazalos, since he is attached to the Torah and to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, as it were … the forces of nature will be placed in his control.”

Can a few words of Torah or one act of kind­ness truly make a difference? A well-known story illustrates the answer.

There was once an old man who used to walk on the beach every morning. One morning, after a big storm, the beach was covered with starfish. The daily visitor noticed a small boy walking, stopping occasionally to pick up a starfish and throw it into the ocean. The man asked the boy to explain his actions. “The tide washed these starfish onto the beach. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless they make it back into the water.”

The man replied, “But there must be thou­sands of starfish here. You are not making much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up another star­fish and threw it into the ocean. Then he turned back to the man, smiled and said, “To that one, it made a difference!”

The mitzvos we do create malachim. Every word of Torah we learn fulfills a mitzvah, says the Vilna Gaon; through our Torah study — even a small amount — we are creating malachim that shield us and other Yidden from harm.

Every bit of learning, every mitzvah, every tefillah has the power to benefit Klal Yisrael, protect a soldier in battle, save a hostage. All those small deeds together ultimately amount to something huge.

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on vari­ous topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

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