Beyavneh

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+ 115 Sustaining the World

by Avraham Shoar

In his youth, the writer, Avraham Shoar, was the chavruta (study partner) of Rav Kook in the beis medrash of Lutzin. He tells that young Avraham Yitzchak’s diligence was extraordinary. If a short amount of time passed without learning Torah, he felt real anguish: a actual physical pain:

One day (tells Avraham Shoar), he told me: “I have decided that two nights a week, we should learn mishmar (extended learning). Two nights a week, let us learn until dawn.”

I remember one such mishmar night, typical of the character of this extraordinary man. We were learning Chulin from the Talmud together. We were engaged in halachic dispute. I stood my ground, and we argued at length until we at last came to a shared understanding.

It was late. We were learning at the bimah. Around us was silence. In the adjoining dormitory, all the students were already asleep. Before us, burning above the holy ark, was the ner tamid—the eternal light. And we took a short rest from our toil and sat and conversed.

He said to me in a secretive voice: “Do you know, perhaps just the two of us are now sustaining the entire world. Perhaps the Holy One, blessed be He, is judging the world right now. And mankind’s sins are being considered, and they outweigh the good.

“Now the angel Michael, the one defender out of a thousand, picks up the words of our Torah learning and places them on the scale, and our words of Torah help outweigh the other side. If so, we have merited to sustain the entire world. And we are still just children. This is the first year that I am wearing tefillin, and as for you, you are not even bar mitzvah.”

As he spoke, I was lifted to the highest worlds. I could see, almost with my own eyes, the heavenly host: the fiery scale, the angels and cherubim. They were weighing the acts of humanity, and behold, they placed upon the scale the page of Chulin that we were learning, with the commentaries of Rashi, Tosafot and the Maharsha. And this page gave merit to the entire world.”

As I sat, submerged in my visions, Avraham Yitzchak’s voice continued. I heard him say with great simplicity: “A day will come when and I will be great in Torah. And then...” He touched me so that I would turn to him, and I saw his face burning, his eyes brilliant and sparkling like fiery coals set in milk. And he whispered: “I will go to the land of Israel, to the holy city of Jerusalem, and I will found a yeshiva there, like Kerem Beyavneh. And students from all over the world will gather there, and ‘from Jerusalem will come forth Torah.’”

These were the youthful dreams of Rav Kook.

These were his desires and yearnings when he had just become bar mitzvah.

Malachim Kivnei Adam, pp. 4-5