pirkei avot 3:7 (continued) - Priortizing Time

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah          for her neshama.
Elisheva Malinefield!

Rabbi Yaakov used to say, “Regarding the one who learns while traveling, if he stops his learning to exclaim, 'What a nice tree! And what a beautiful ' The law regards this person as if he has just made himself deserving of the death penalty.”

What's wrong with learning and soaking in the scenery at the same time? If anything, it sounds quite balanced and relaxed. Apparently, Rabbi Yaakov was introducing an idea which needs further analysis, especially in today's craze for instant gratification.

To start, anything we consider a challenge requires a concentrated effort. Popular experience has it that no moron will get his driver's license if he turns on the radio, or lights up a cigarette, during the road test. The driving instructor will always, without exception, accuse the offender of dividing his attention between the road and the miscellaneous. "The law regards this person as if he has just made himself deserving of the death penalty,or to be more precise, undeserving of his license.  

While studying for the road exam isn't exactly rocket science, passing it can be unnerving. Therefore, if one is a little edgy and needs all his powers of concentration to pass, how much more focus one must require in terms of more complex subject matters? An old school European (stereotypical) Jewish mama isn't impressed with a son-in-law who's studied law or medicine for nothing. Perhaps the more noble minded among them equate the boy's pedigree with an ability to work hard and to stick things out (I mean, as opposed to seeing him as a bank account).

One of the ingredients for success is prioritizing, i.e. budgeting one's time well. Steeping oneself in a subject means either sinking or swimming; a person doesn't have the option to wile away time with chatting on the phone or going fishing. Moreover, in a sefer (book) called The 48 Ways to Wisdom Rav Noach Weinberg explains one of the key ways to making progress in any given subject: hasmada, continuity. People must learn for a significant amount of time without interruption. Otherwise, they will neither learn nor retain the material thoroughly. Go on YouTube, search 'instrumental piano' and you'll find the world agrees. There are a range of pieces that are not only slow and soothing but also over three hours long. The easy access serves two purposes: (1) to aid in the studying process and (2) to offer minimal distraction.

My personal view on this subject is as follows: when involved in school, a particular craftsmanship or kollel (learning seminary for [married] men studying Torah), one must be somewhat disciplined in order to use his time well. To start, he needs a realistic set of goals to keep himself wired. Next, he must follow a daily routine (and refuse to break from it). Most important, he should do one thing at a time. Rav Eliashiv, the most recent posek hador (leading halachic authority of the generation), was famous for using almost every hour of the day for Torah study. After his passing, people remembered that when entering his office to ask sha'alot (questions), his demeanor was entirely on them. He'd be poring over a sefer (book) but the moment a man came into the room, be it for two minutes or several hours, he had the Rav's full attention. While this may have seemed unremarkable in the average Joe, Rav Eliashiv learned over seventeen hour days. Whether he was learning or receiving the public the Rav was present and focused.

May our lives be blessed with good influences.

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