I was reluctant to post on the topic of learning because the obligation is so different for women. I’m pretty sure that that’s when Mark posted the topic “Practical Ideas to Increase Learning,” he was looking for men’s advice about how to arrange daily sedarim in their busy lives. I have no advice on the matter, so men, feel free to ignore this post. I’m gearing this toward women.
The teshuva process is as much intellectual as emotional. Most of us spend a few intense years attempting to make up for a religious education that FFB’s receive in twelve. And then, just like with tefilla, kids enter the picture and learning is by necessity pushed to the back burner. Some women might miss it immediately while others are too busy with new responsibilities to think of other things. Sooner or later, though, we all begin to miss learning. And while many women I know opt for babysitters and periodic shiurim, on a day-to-day basis, I live on Torah tapes.
Let’s face it: housework is boring. I, for one, cannot face a sink full of dirty dishes without some intellectual stimulation. I used to be a radio news addict, but one day, I listened to my yetzer tov and put on a shiur called “The Antidote to Jealousy” by Rabbi Yigal Avisoff. That shiur changed my life.
Rabbi Avisoff said that the human mind is constantly working. Even while asleep, our minds are active, conjuring dreams. In the waking state, there’s not a moment in which we’re not thinking about something. But if our thoughts are not directed, if we just let our minds wander, inevitably, we start thinking about our problems, the perceived lacks in our lives, and this leads to thoughts of “Why can’t things be different for me? Why can’t I have what my neighbor has?”
The solution, of course, is to direct your thoughts. You can do this by distracting yourself with some form of entertainment, but the effect won’t last. In fact, chances are, if you tune into something the mass media has to offer, it will only increase your sense of lack because most of it is based on idealized conditions which don’t exist in real life. So if you want to do something constructive, something that could change you for the better and not just distract you temporarily, learn Torah.
After hearing that tape, I aimed to listen to a Torah shiur every day. I sometimes fall short of that goal, and because I listen while doing housework, I don’t hold myself to the same standard of concentration that I would give to a live shiur. But even if the kids are making noise and I miss a few points, it’s worth it, for them as much me. If nothing else, they learn that our home is a Torah home.
Since setting that goal, I have heard many inspirational shiurim which have propelled my growth as much as Rabbi Abisoff’s. As the Talmud tells us, “Great is the Torah because it leads to action.”
It’s for women, too. The tapes are available. All you need is a cassette player.