To Sit and Learn or to Earn a Living

In the Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Talmud Torah, chapter three, Rambam describes that G-d gave the Jewish people three crowns. Here are his words:

"With three crowns was Israel crowned: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood and the crown of kingship."
The three crowns of the Rambam are also represented in the Temple. Which three vessels in the Temple are described as having a golden crown "zer zahav saviv" ? 1. The table (shulchan) which provides food and sustenance and therefore represents kingship (malchut). 2. The golden alter (mizbeach hazahav) which obviously represents priesthood (kahuna). 3. The ark (aron) also has a golden crown around it and the ark contains the tablets of the covenant and a Torah scroll and so represents Torah.

But there is a fourth vessel in the Temple, the Menorah. It is also a symbol of Torah; in medrashim we have a double symbolism for Torah. Why does the Menorah have no "zer"? It represents a crownless Torah. The Sfat Emet explains this in the following way. He asks, why is there no altar (misbeach) in the Holy of Holies (Kodesh Kadoshim)? Why is the ark all alone while the Menorah shares its space with the mizbeach and the shulchan?

He aswers that the Menorah with its seven branches represents the seven branches of wisdom (chochma). The seven sources of chachma are used in Torah study. And the mizbeach in the middle reminds one that (while one can learn Torah not for its own sake (leshma) but for personal enjoyment or for honor) one should learn Torah for its own sake or for the sake of heaven, or in other words for the sake of the altar which represents man's connection to G-d, the priesthood. So too the physical world (as represented by the table containing bread) should also be for the sake of heaven (leshem shamayim). And so both the Menorah and the table need to be in the proximity of the altar. They need to be for the sake of something else.

But, in the Holy of Holies there is no altar because on that high level there is no concept of acting leshem shamayim or not. Acting leshem shamayim only applies when one is far from ones goal. Then, one must ask am I doing this for the right goal or the wrong goal. But if my action are at the highest level, then I am at the goal so I am not concerned with my motivations. The ark represents Torah at the highest level, at a level united with G-d. Moses (Moshe) was at this level. He was connected to G-d so much that he was beyond leshem shamayim. He had lost his ego and so could not even ask am "I" doing this for the right reason. He had no self concern. He had united himself to G-d (davuk bashem). This is the meaning of humility of Moshe. He did not focus on himself, even though he knew he was great. Thus Moshe could prophesy while awake. Generally one had to loose awareness of oneself to prophesy. Most people can do that only while asleep. Moshe was like that even awake. So he could prophesy while awake. He was having devekut with Hashem. So one even can't ask is Moshe acting leshem shamayim; he is one with Hashem, devekut. The level of Moshe is also beyond chochma. His learning of Torah is direct and clear.

So, the Menorah represents Torah, but it it the Torah of the Jew who learns leshem shamayim. He uses chochma to learn Torah and keeps his eye on the mizbeach. But he is not truly immersed in Torah, so he must share the room with the table and the altar. The ark also represents Torah. But it represents the Jew immersed in Torah. At this high level there is no need for the symbolism of the altar. This is the "Crown of Torah", thus the Rambam's words at the end of the Laws of Shmitot and Jubilees describing the Torah Jew as Holy of the Holies (kodesh kodashim) refer to not the Menorah Jew but the ark Jew since the ark is in the Holy of Holies. This is the Crown of Torah. The Crown of the Torah may mean it authority (koach), in which case Torah authority is only given to the ark Jew. And this Jew is allowed to throw of the yoke of earning a livelihood.

But many have pointed out that only a sage such as Shimon bar Yocha is on this level but not us. We must follow the teaching of Rabbi Yishmoel that we must work and learn Torah. But we see there is the concept of some people just learning and it is part of the Jewish system (even if not strictly applicable today). For more about Shimon bar Yochai see Nefesh HaHayim. There it is discussed that the Torah verses in the shm'a which discuss the blessing of working (asafta deganecha) a seeming contradiction the Rabbis Shimon's ideal of only learning Torah. He quotes Rabbi Shimon's explanation that this section refer to one who is not doing G-d's will (enan osim razon shel makom). The Nefesh HaHayim notes that the first section (parsha) of shm'a is in the singular. The second section is almost entirely in the plural. In the first parsha there is no discussion of doing mitzvot (kabalat miztvah), just a general acceptance of G-d authority (kabbalat ol). The second parsha has the discussing of working. The second parsha also has the threat if one doesn't listen. The first parsha require a triple level of commitment, "all your heart, soul and might" second only discusses "heart and soul" but no "might". Haym Veloshiner, explains that the first parsha is the ark Jew: Shimon bar Yochai. He serves with the third element, his might (maodecha) explained to mean with his money. I.e. he has given up entirely on money. Money means nothing to him.

But second parsha is the regular Jew. He keeps his money. Also, the second parsha describes the Jew who does mitzvahs. The first parsha is beyond mitzvoth, it is ol malchut. Like Rabbi Shimon holds (according to the Ohr Somayach ) that one who learns all day doesn't need to wear tefilin because he is already immersed in Torah. Not because of the general rule of "osek bemitzvah patur min hamitzvah", but that learning is the fulfillment (kiyum) of the mitzvah. Like Ben Azai's answer to the why he had no children. Immersion in Torah is the fulfillment of having children.

So, the second parsha is ein osim razon shel makom. But the ark Jew is razon shel makom. But the masses of Jews must live as the menorah Jew (hence the plural in second parsha). By all the vessels it says "You (singular) should make" (veasitah), but by the ark it says "You (plural) shall make" (veasu). This hints that the ark Jew has to be relies on the people. He needs public support.

Rav Aron Kutler says the permission to accept money today for Torah learning is based on the Shach, "Et Lasot". This idea can be traced back to the persian exile when the Jews were heavily influenced by Persian ways and the Anshe Kannesset Hagadola said as quoted in Pirke Avot "Hamidu talmidim harbeh." We may ask, what is the hidush? Normally we would prefer getting only the best students, hamidu talmidim tovim. But when people have forgotten Torah, after the Persian exile, we first need to build up the numbers. Then later we can be more exclusive.