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What is a Torah scholar?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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A. A scholar is one who studies, and the Torah is the basis of Judaism. Therefore, a Torah scholar is one who studies Torah—right? Wrong. A Torah scholar is one who approaches the Torah with the attitude of wanting to know the truth, and not for the personal enjoyment of the study. Ask an English professor or a country singer why they do what they do, and they’ll most likely tell you, “I enjoy it!” But the true Torah scholar studies not out of enjoyment or as a profession, but out of a selfless devotion to coming close to G-d by studying His Will. True Torah study is a humbling experience, one that should never be approached as a hobby. Thus, a Torah scholar could also be a plumber—the former describes his sincere, earnest will to study G-d’s Will, and the latter is merely his day job.

B. Since Torah study is the greatest Mitzvah one could perform, next to giving Tzedakah, the Torah scholar is historically the most respected personality in the Jewish community. (Torah study itself—both learning and teaching—is Positive Mitzvah #11.) However, the humility factor comes into play again, and the Torah scholar, closer to Truth than the average layman, remains humbled by its power.

C. In Positive Mitzvah #209, the Torah accords great respect to the Talmid Chacham (pronounced TAHL-mid KHAH-kham), literally “wise student,” the traditional phrase for the Torah scholar. One is to rise before him, give him front-row seats and otherwise show him honor. The classic books of Halachah advise parents to marry their children to Torah scholars, and Jewish communities seeking leaders always inquired as to a candidate’s Torah knowledge as the primary deciding factor. Devoting oneself to a Torah scholar, becoming his disciple, serving him, studying under him, and learning from him, is considered devoting one’s self to G-d, as the Torah scholar, having internalized more Torah, is more in tune with G-d’s Will than you.

...sometimes your ego gets in the way... so you need a teacher to point out when you start getting a little too caught up in your mind’s own smug conclusions
How do I become a Torah scholar?


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What is a torah scholar?

Posted by: Reven Banilov, BROOKLYN, NY on Apr 07, 2005

This wonderful essay gave me the true meaning of being a talmid chacham. Before reading this article, I thought that torah scholars were just readers of torah, now I learned that is is not so.

Good essay

Posted by: Shemuel Fuentes de Lemos, Bend, Or, USA on Jan 23, 2008

I would like to point out that seeking the truth is indispensible to a Talmid Chacham and that the study of Torah is very important to our survival as Jews. We owe a debt of gratitude to those Chachamim who have devoted their lives, in order to carry the flames of knowledge to this present generation a the ones to come. If it wasn't for them we woudln't be reding from this web sight. Their devotion has maintained our survival as Jews. Many lost thieir lives in countless atrocities throught history. I ponder this all the time and am truly grateful to those who uphold the highest virtues of Talmud Torah.
Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Tzedakah
"Tzedakah," commonly translated as charity, literally means righteousness, or the right thing to do. Giving to those in need is one of the most important of G-d's commandments.
Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.