“Blessed are You Hashem, Who is giving the Torah.” (Conclusion of the Daily Blessing of the Torah)
Rav Aharon Kotler was a leading sage of the last century who was also the founder and Rosh Yeshiva (Head) of the Lakewood Yeshiva – a school for advanced Torah study. A wonderful book about his life and teachings was published by Feldheim: “The Legacy of Maran Rav Aharon Kotler” by Rabbi Yitzchok Dershowitz. Within this very inspiring work, the author gives us the following summary of Rav Aharon’s teachings on how the Torah develops and expands our potential:
Everyone has great potential and they can achieve a lot more than they imagine. Hashem enjoins everyone, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:11). Hashem gives generously! Everyone has a wonderful portion in Torah which he can acquire. Yes, the Holy One, Blessed be He, says, “And I will fill it”; however, you must do your part! You must desire it. You must pray for it! You must dedicate and immerse yourself in Torah. All this is part of, “Open your mouth wide.”
Not only is your portion in Torah greater than you imagine, even your potential – your capacity to learn Torah – can be expanded. This is because “I will fill it” has a second meaning based on another vital principle in Torah learning. In nature, a filled vessel cannot take in more, due to lack of space. When it comes to Torah, the opposite is true – the more one fills himself with Torah and mitzvos, the more he can subsequently learn.
This, explains the Rosh Yeshiva, is because the Torah actually “expands” a person’s nefesh (soul). Thus, a person errs if he judges his potential according to his capacity of today, because expanding his nefesh means that his very capacity to absorb Torah becomes greater. And when one uses his newly expanded capabilities to toil and absorb Torah, those abilities become that much greater. This process, too, is included in the Torah’s admonition of “Open your mouth wide.” It means expand your vessels, your potential – And I will fill that too.
Since the process continues on and on, don’t limit yourself. Aspire for greatness in Torah, and with that, aspire for all the greatness in spirit and deed that the light of Torah can give a person – when it enters.
In addition to all the above, Rav Kotler pointed out that whereas one could achieve greatness at all times, in our times – the post Holocaust era – we can achieve even more success, as we are helping to replace the great loss of Torah which took place during the Holocaust. He therefore said to his students: “In our times, you can grow more than would normally be expected, as long as the learning is with diligence and purity.” And he also said:
“Why do we find that today’s students grow more in Torah than is warranted by their abilities and by their efforts? This is the fulfillment of Hashem’s guarantee that the Torah will never be forgotten by the Community of Israel.”
The Divine guarantee mentioned by Rav Aharon is found in the following verse:
“And as for Me, this My covenant, shall remain their very being,” said Hashem; “My spirit which rests upon you and My words which I have placed in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth nor from the mouths of your children nor from the mouths of your children’s children,” said Hashem,” from now on to all eternity.” (Isaiah 59:21 – translation of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)
The words of this covenant will give us an inner light that will lead to greatness in spirit and deed, as Rav Aharon said, “Aspire for greatness in Torah, and with that, aspire for all the greatness in spirit and deed that the light of Torah can give a person – when it enters.”
We desire to be filled with this light not just for ourselves, for the light of Torah is to inspire all people and all nations. In this spirit, Hashem told us:
“I will set you as a covenant for people, as a light for the nations” (Isaiah 42:6).
And when this goal will be fulfilled, promised Hashem: ”Nations will walk by your light” (Isaiah 60:3).
Light and Shalom,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
P.S. The above insights from Rav Aharon Kotler are cited in the book, “The Legacy of Maran Rav Aharon Kotler” by Rabbi Yitzchok Dershowitz. This amazing and uplifting work is about the life and teachings of one of the great spiritual leaders of our people during the 20th century. This leading sage also had a major role in helping many American Jews to rediscover the joy and power of Torah study. The teachings and stories in this book can help us to become the spiritual children of this great sage. This book also helps us to appreciate the life-giving power of Torah study and how each of us can tap into this source of power. I have personally become spiritually stronger after reading it.
It is especially appropriate for the Chanukah season of light, when we rededicate ourselves to the study of Torah, for as King Solomon said, “Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23). This work is published by Feldheim: www.feldheim.com