95. Toiling to Acquire Torah

Talmud Torah 3:11

A person should optimally support himself from his own efforts. The pious people of earlier generations did this. By doing this, a person will merit honor and benefit both in this world and in the Next World, as per Psalms 128:2, “If you eat the work of your hands, you will be happy and things will be good for you.” “You will be happy” in this world and “things will be good for you” in the Next World, which is purely good.

Talmud Torah 3:12

Words of Torah will not with remain with someone who does not apply himself with enough effort, nor will they remain with a person who studies among temporal pleasures like food and drink. Rather, a person must make sacrifices for Torah, pushing himself to the limit, not giving in to sleep. The Sages drew an allusion to this from Numbers 19:14, “This is the Torah of a man who dies in a tent….” The Torah can only be fully acquired by one who metaphorically “gives up his life” in the tents of study. King Solomon said likewise: “If you falter under pressure, your strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10) and “Also (“af”), my wisdom remained with me” (Koheles 2:9), meaning that the wisdom he acquired through anger (“af”) is what he retained.

The Sages said that a covenant has been made ensuring that whoever who tires himself in Torah study in a study hall will not soon forget it. Whoever tires himself in Torah study in private will become wise, as per Proverbs 11:2, “Wisdom is with the humble.” One who raises his voice in his studies will acquire the content permanently, while one who reads silently will forget it quickly.