Friday, July 11, 2008

Learning while Standing

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Sotah 49a) had stated: When Rabban Gamliel the Elder died, the glory of the Torah terminated and purity and abstinence perished.

Rashi cites the Gemora in Megillah ((21a) which states that from the days of Moshe until Rabban Gamliel, they would study Torah standing. Afterwards, people became weaker and they would study torah while sitting; they didn’t have the strength to stand.

The Gemora in Brochos (28a) says that when Rabban Gamliel was the Rosh Yeshiva, his policy was that any student who was not "tocho c'baro," his inside was not like his outside, would not be allowed to enter the Beis Medrash. Not everyone who applied was automatically accepted into his Yeshiva. Rabban Gamliel only accepted students who were honest and sincere, through and through, without any hints of fakery or hypocrisy.

The Gemora relates that there was a subsequent change in the leadership and Rabbi Elozar ben Azariah was appointed the new Rosh Yeshiva. He implemented a new policy: Everyone was invited into the Beis Medrash even someone who was not "tocho c'baro." As a result, the Gemora records: Many benches were added to the Beis Medrash.

Two questions can be asked. Firstly, how were they able to ascertain who was a “tocho c’baro” and who wasn’t; only Hashem is capable of peering into someone’s heart? Secondly, why does the Gemora state that many benches were added; we are not interested in the amount of chairs there were; it should have said that there were many more students learning on the account of the new policy?

Rav Nosson Gishtetner answers based on our Gemora: In the days of Rabban Gamliel, the sincere students would be learning standing; that was a symbol that he was learning Torah for the sake of the mitzvah and not for any ulterior motive. When the new policy was enacted, more benches were added because the generation was weaker and they did not have the ability to stand while they were learning.