Toldos: Single Minded

We have received, since the beginning of the rainy season, around 10 minutes total of rain.  The air is dry, along with everybody’s skin, mouth, and noses, not a rain cloud in sight, and every time they predict rain…that prediction turns sour.   A few months ago, the weather forecasters were saying that Israel is due for an amazing winter this year, full of record-breaking rain, but I guess they forgot Who exactly is running the show.


And what’s even worse is my wife is hearing people in the street, religious people(!), saying how beautiful the weather has been.  This is called a CURSE, and a very, VERY bad sign.  Those same people who are enjoying this, will be complaining in a few months when the prices of fruits and vegetables will be super-high for terrible produce.


I guess this serves as a reminder that we need to pay a tad more attention when we say Shema every day.  If we did, we would be a bit more worried.

“Yaakov was and ‘ish tam’ who remained in the tents” (Bereishis 25:27). 


I was looking in my latest acquisition, a sefer called “Seder HaDoros," which is an excellent two-volume work I would recommend.  The first volume deals with the history of the world, and the second is an index of practically everybody mentioned in the Gemara, which is why I bought it.


I was reading what was written of Rabbeinu Tarfon.  I was previously under the impression that he was a contemporary of Rebbe Akiva.  But it turns out that there are several references in the Talmud that shows that he was Rebbe Akiva’s rav.  And in other places, it seems that they were friends.  “So what?” you might ask.  Well, there is a rule that when there is a disagreement between Rebbe Akiva and his contemporaries, the halachah follows Rebbe Akiva.  So, what do you do when there is a disagreement between Rebbe Tarfon and Rebbe Akiva?  It all depends on their relationship! And to know their relationship, you have to pay very close attention to the gemaras that speak about them.


What does any of this have to do with the above pasuk?


What is this "ish Tam"?  As we know, the word "ish" is man.  But what exactly is "Tam"? It is commonly translated as "simple" or "pure." However, Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch translates the word "tam" to mean "single-minded," which is an interesting translation.


In regard to learning and understanding your Torah, a person needs to be an "ish tam" according to Rav Hirsch’s definition.  He must have a single, focused mind on his learning, not allowing any detail, however small it may seem, to slip through.  He must constantly work and review his learning, just as an investor is constantly keeping up to date with the latest financial news.


Jewish law and Jewish thought is not something that can simply be deduced by reading a book here or there.  A person who truly wishes to understand them must be as focused and dedicated as much as possible.  The more focused you are, the more subtleties you pick up and understand.  And those small subtleties can make a difference whether something is forbidden or allowed.


Have a wonderful Shabbos!