Abe Goldstein has been coming to minyan every day all his life. But each morning, he runs out of shul straight after davening, not even staying for the Life Yomi shiur.
One day, I confronted him. “Mr. Goldstein, why don’t you stay for a few minutes of Torah?
“Oy, rebbenyu,” krechtzed Mr. Goldstein, “I’m not as young as I used to be. I don’t have the kop for it anymore.”
“But Reb Avrum,” I exclaimed, “you’re a savvy, successful businessman. How can you tell me you don’t have the head for Torah?”
The Mishnah states: “One may not sharpen a knife on Yom Tov, but one may scrape it upon another [knife].”
Rav Huna explains that the Mishnah’s prohibition refers specifically to sharpening with a stone; however one is permitted to sharpen a knife using a piece of wood. Nevertheless, Rav Yosef rules that if the knife is so blunt that it cannot even cut by pressure, then one may not sharpen it under any circumstances on Yom Tov.
Rav Yosef’s words offer a deeper insight: ‘One may sharpen a knife that amad (became blunt) on Yom Tov, just as long as it can cut when one applies pressure.’
Amad means ‘blunted,’ but it also means ‘stood.’ We all believe strongly in the importance of educating children and young adults. But many of us reach a point in our lives when we are at a standstill in terms of education. We’ve “graduated,” and enter the workforce, never needing to open a book again.
But when you stand still and do not seek to further your education, you slowly lose your ability to think sharply. Many people satisfy their thirst for knowledge with easy fixes like reading a daily newspaper, because there’s no pressure. But Rav Yosef warns that your mind can only be sharpened if you apply pressure.
Remember how hard you worked in the pursuit of knowledge when you were back in college or yeshiva? You were willing to subject yourself to the greatest pressures – late nights, long weekends and short lunch-breaks – in order to become smart, educated and knowledgeable. Back then, you were sharp, you understood deep, abstract concepts and ideas!
You haven’t lost that edge! But if you want to remain sharp throughout your life you must be prepared to push yourself to the limit in the pursuit of knowledge. Memorize tractates of the Mishnah! Spend time learning the Talmud from the original! Subscribe to an academic journal!
As long as you are still prepared to push yourself, you will remain sharp as a tack! Never stop challenging the limits of your mind. If you rest, it will rust!