As printed in The Academy News

Rabbi Shmuel Borenstein - From Elchanite, 1960.

Rabbi Shmuel Borenstein – From Elchanite, 1960.

I have been told by some retired friends that retirement is one long vacation where you can take cruise ships around the world, spend the winter in Florida, and relax on some fancy resort. However, the Torah has a different definition of retirement. In the beginning of Parshas Vayeshev, Rashi brings down the Midrash of, בקש יעקב לישב בשלוה “that Yaakov wanted to dwell in peace and tranquility.” As Rabbi Nisim Alpert Z”L explained, Yaakov felt that it was time to retire. Hashem answered that it is wrong to retire in the classical sense. Retirement isn’t the end of Torah learning; it is a new beginning in order to go “Malah Malah BaTorah” and elevate oneself much further in the learning of Torah.

In the beginning of Parshas Bechukosai, the Torah says Im Bechukosai Telechu, to which Rashi says shetihyu ameilim batorah, that we should be working hard, toiling and becoming inspired by the study of the Torah. But the obvious question is how learning Torah is a chok, a law with no apparent reason or satisfactory explanation. The Or Hachaim explains that learning Torah is a chok because one must learn Torah even if he mastered the material. The gemara (Makos 10b) states that “I learned much from my Rabbeim, I learned more from my friends, but I learned most from my students.” I owe deep gratitude to my talmidim for inspiring me to grow in learning and challenging me to new deeper levels of understanding with their thought provoking questions, and insights.

Borenstein-298x300The Seforno explains Im Bechukosai Telechu that we should conduct our lives by the standards of the Torah, in the way that we talk, dress, act, and behave in our everyday endeavors. The Baal Haturim adds that the acronym אבת is a remez that we should go in the path of the avos. [Shetelchu bederchei avos.] We should follow the example that our Rabbeim set for us. Baruch Hashem, when I look back at the many talmidim that I had over the years, I see many fine people who characters shine and whose ameilim batorah, effort in Torah, is clearly evident.

I would like to thank the administration, my fellow rabbeim, and especially my talmidim, for making my years here at MTA so meaningful. Now, I feel ready to retire in the sense that I can look back at my years here at MTA and feel that I accomplished something important. As Rabbi Hecht put it in his retirement speech, I truly hope that I served as a “bridge” to connect my own children, and my own students, to the ethics and teaching of the Torah tradition handed down to us by our parents and our rabbeim. I give everyone the berachah that you should continue to grow in Torah and avodas Hashem and achieve your utmost potential.

Rabbi Shmuel Borenstein (’60)


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