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nd they raised their voices and wept again…” (Megillas Rus 1:14)

 

The Midrash Rabbah (2:21) comments that the word vatisenah (“and they raised”) is written without an alef, because their strength waned as they cried.

One of the reasons we read Megillas Rus on the day of Matan Torah is to learn from Rus’s personal example how to prepare to accept the Torah. We see in Megillas Rus (1:9-14) that despite Naomi’s repeated dissuasions, both Rus and Orpah refused to part from her. They both continued crying until they had no more strength.

Clearly, they both harbored a strong desire to accept the Torah. Yet obviously that strong desire was not enough — Orpah didn’t merit receiving Torah, and Rus did. What did Rus have that Orpah lacked? (Rav Moshe Schwab, Me’archei Lev)

The year was 2016 and the Summer Olympics were approaching. Nestled in my little Jerusalem suburb, I had little connection to this worldwide event. But when I boarded a United Airlines flight to the States, I was bombarded with gold medals and banners that proclaimed United as a proud sponsor of the US team.

This theme continued in the security video, which featured athletes. I saw how to put on an oxygen mask while doing a cartwheel and learned how to evacuate from a water landing by watching Olympic divers.

It was certainly a change of pace. Then as I waited for takeoff, the film shifted to a documentary. With the screen inches from my face, it was hard to ignore, and despite my disconnection, I was drawn to the topic.

United followed the career of several unlikely Olympic contenders, all hampered by disabilities that dogged their steps in their quest for the gold. As I watched them speak of their struggles, I was humbled by the sacrifices each made to achieve his goal.

Orpah was sincere in her willingness to sacrifice and accept a life of Torah. But Rus made it clear she wasn’t sacrificing anything by accepting Torah. To her it was a privilege; without Torah, what was life? We learn from here that one cannot merit receiving Torah without prefacing it with a deep understanding that Torah is our life.

“I’m a bad choice as an Olympic contender,” said one single mom of two. “But I’ve had this dream for so long I can’t give it up.” To pursue her dream, she woke at 4 a.m. to go running and hired a babysitter at night to train. Months of hard work led to the Olympic Trials Marathon in California. She made it three-quarters of the way through the course, then dropped out.

Despite my indifference to marathon-running, my heart went out to this woman who’d worked so hard, but fallen short.

“How do you feel?” A reporter thrust a microphone in her face.

“I’m good. I’m at peace.”

“But what about your hard work and the sacrifices you made? Aren’t you frustrated about all the time spent?”

“Not at all.” Her smile was genuine. “It’s an honor to have gotten this far.”

One of the prerequisites to receiving the Torah is to value it properly, to understand that by living a Torah life we aren’t sacrificing, but benefitting ourselves. Without that understanding, a person is lacking the tools to merit Matan Torah.

This woman’s words struck a chord within me and I thought of them again last week. I attended a siyum for my husband’s kollel in honor of finishing Seder Nezikin. Obviously, a siyum and the Olympics are worlds apart. But as I sat with the other wives of the kollel listening to the Hadran, I felt moved to tears that I’ve merited being part of the world of Torah.

“We work and they work. We get up early and they get up early, but we get up early and receive reward….”

I thought of the hours given to help my husband achieve this goal. Of the time my son got stitches and I sat holding his hand and wishing it weren’t kollel hours so my husband could be there instead of me. Of the days before Pesach, juggling our schedules because the daf is every day and doesn’t take bein hazmanim.

I stood with my children as the Hadran continued and those struggles filled me with pride. “The Torah should never leave us.”

It’s an honor to have come this far. And chasdei Hashem, the Torah has no finish line. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 592)