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    The yeshivah in heaven – B’chukkotai

    The Chafetz Chayyim once stopped singing Eshet Chayil on a Friday night when he came to the verse, Noda bashe’arim ba’alah b’shivto im zik’nei aretz – “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits with the elders of the land” (Prov. 31:23).

    This verse, he said, may be interpreted to apply to the World to Come, where a learned person will sit with the elders of previous generations and exchange Torah thoughts with them.

    That there is a heavenly y’shivah we all know from the opening words of the Kol Nidrei service with its reference to y’shivah shel matah, the earthly y’shivah, and y’shivah shel ma’alah, the y’shivah On High.

    And the fact that scholars continue their learning after they have left this world is expressed in the rabbinic idea that the talmidei chachamim have no rest, either in this world or in the World to Come; “They go from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:8; Berachot 64a).

    The opening verse of B’chukkotai is, “If you walk in My statutes” (Lev. 26:3) which Rashi interprets, “If you toil in my Torah”. Rashi says “you” – not merely the intellectual elite. The Torah does not belong to any one class of Jew but to all of us.

    Whoever you are, says the Talmud, you will be asked when you seek admittance into the World to Come, kavata ittim laTorah – “Did you set aside time for Torah?” (Shabbat 31a).

    However, this does not mean that you need Torah merely for life in heaven, but also, and primarily, for life on earth. Indeed, with Torah you can help to make life in this world into almost a heaven on earth.

    Become acquainted on earth with Moshe Rabbenu, with Hillel, Rabbi Akiva, Rashi, the Rambam, the Vilna Gaon… and you find that they believed that a human being must always seek the path of truth, justice and peace.

    Not a bad recipe for heaven on earth! Not a bad reason to develop your Jewish knowledge!

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