Wednesday, October 18, 2006

On Torah Learning and Olam Habah - Part II

Last year, I posted about a song often sung during Hakafos. The song's first two lines are:

Olam Habah is a gutta zach
Learning Torah is a besser zach...

(Translation: The World to Come is a good thing, learning Torah is a better thing...)

As I explained last year, I didn't understand the rationale behind the song.

As it turns out, before the fifth Hakafah on Simchas Torah, the rav of my shul stopped and explained the song's origin.

The song, he explained, was written by R. Chaim Volozhin. His rebbe, the Vilna Goan, passed away on Chol HaMoel Sukkos in 1797. He was afraid that the students in his yeshiva would not be able to properly celebrate Simchas Torah having just lost such an esteemed rebbi. He therefore composed this song to show that while Olam Habah (which the GRA certainly attained) was a good thing, celebrating the Torah was also a cause for joy.

I'm still not sure that I agree with the implications of the song, but at least now I have a better understanding and appreciation of it.

The Wolf

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The song, he explained, was written by R. Chaim Volozhin. [...] He therefore composed this song to show that while Olam Habah (which the GRA certainly attained) was a good thing, celebrating the Torah was also a cause for joy."

And you believed that?!

BrooklynWolf said...

Why? Do you have some basis to doubt its authenticity? If so, please elaborate.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

The concept behind the song makes sense philosophically. It jives very nicely with another story often told about R. Chaim of Volozhin. One of his students was planning to leave the yeshiva to go out into the business world and he was trying to discourage him from doing so. The student said, "look, rebbi, I'm still going to be shomer mitzvos and kovea ittim, so you don't have to worry about my olam haba." R. Chaim supposedly responded, "I'm not worried about your olam haba. I'm concerned about your olam hazeh."
The idea is that when your steeped in Torah you are already in olam haba right down here in olam hazeh. You get the best of both worlds.

The Answer said...

Wolf:
Here is my take on the song. It is the difference between learning/mitzvos Shelo-lishma and Lishma. If you do mitvos, including Torah learning, for the Olam Habah, that is not the best way. Rather, learn Torah Lishmah; don't even think about the Olam Haba implications when learning. Only think about how wonderful the Torah is, what it says, what it's practical implications are, and the Chasidim would add - Dveikus.