Yearning to Learn

As much as I’d love to be eloquent when it comes to speaking Torah, it’s difficult when one, such as myself, slacks reading the holy text, going to Torah classes or synagogue. But, with my love of email and all, I get my dose of inspiration through the newsletters of my favorite rabbis. One of these is Rabbi David Wolpe who recently wrote a post about just this, yearning to learn:

Knowing where to find information is not the same as possessing it. Each fact we learn is arranged in the matrix of all we already know. One who knows how to Google “Shakespeare sonnets” cannot be compared to the one who has memorized Shakespeare’s sonnets. The latter carries the words with
him. The former is an accountant of knowledge; he knows where the treasure is, but it does not belong to him.

Real education instills a desire for knowledge, not merely the tools to acquire it. We are shaped by what we know and what we yearn to know. The Talmud tells us that as a young man Hillel was so desperate for words of Torah that he climbed on the roof of the study house to hear the discourses of his great predecessors, Shemaya and Avtalion. Noticing the darkness, they looked up and saw the young man on the skylight, covered with snow. The rabbis rescued Hillel, washed and anointed him, and sat him by the fire.

“If you want to build a ship,” wrote Antoine de Saint Exupery, “don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the sea.”

The above was written by Rabbi Wolpe. Of course, he could say it better than I could. The moral of the story for me was, before we feel guilty for not doing the things we feel we are supposed to do to get closer to G-d, let’s think about why we want to get close to G-d in the first place. Then maybe we’ll take the steps we feel are right to build that relationship.

If you would like to read more inspiration from Rabbi Wolpe, you can check out all his columns here at

Shabbat Shalom!