Who doesn’t want to be happier at work? New research concludes that greater happiness and satisfaction at work doesn’t come from more vacation days, additional downtime, or even more perks. This study found that the best way to ensure that you’re happy at your job is to spend more time learning.
Among the 2,049 workers surveyed, including freelancers and entrepreneurs, in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Australia, India, Singapore, and Hong Kong, those who were “heavy” learners — devoting more than five hours a week to things like reading, taking classes, and watching online courses — reported being happier, less stressed, more productive and more confident than those who spent less time learning.
Science is only now catching up to what our Torah knew all along. Learning, studying, and attending shiurim have been among our core values since the Torah was first given thousands of years ago. We are not just the rabbis or teachers of the book, but we are the people of the book, a people devoted to continued education and lifelong learning.
The pasuk says, V’hagisa bo yomam va’layla, toil in Torah day and night. We are mandated to be a community of “heavy” learners, finding time each and every day to study. Doing so not only helps us gain knowledge and improve ourselves, but it turns out also guarantees to make us happier, more satisfied, more confident, and more productive.
A few months ago, our Beis Medrash of BRS organized a trip to New York to expand our exposure to Torah leaders and gain inspiration for continued learning. Over the course of our two days, we visited several Yeshivos and met with extraordinary Talmidei Chachamim including Rav Naftali Jaeger, Rav Yonasan Sacks, Rav Baruch Simon, Rav Yaakov Glasser, Rav Moshe Weinberger, Rav Ephraim Wachsman, The Skverer Rebbe, Rav YY Jacobson, Rav Zvi Sobolovsky, Rav Mordechai Willig, Rav Moshe Tzvi Weinberg, and Rav Avraham Schorr. After a quick stop at the Rebbe’s Ohel, our group returned to Boca on fire, inspired and passionately committed to not letting a day go by without learning Torah.
Each Rav shared Divrei Torah and graciously engaged us in questions and answers. Many of the messages overlapped, though each brought their own distinct approach to Torah and a Torah way of life. While every Rav offered ideas that were transformational, Rav Avraham Schorr, Rav of Congregation Nezer Gedalyahu in Brooklyn, not only gave us inspiration, he sent us back with homework.
The Gemara (Chagiga 9b) teaches:
א”ל עבדו ולא עבדו תרוייהו צדיקי גמורי נינהו ואינו דומה שונה פרקו מאה פעמים לשונה פרקו מאה ואחד
“Hillel teaches the one ‘who serves Him’ and the one ‘who does not serve Him’ are both referring to completely righteous people. But the pasuk is hinting at a distinction between them, as one who reviews his studies one hundred times is not comparable to one who reviews his studies one hundred and one times.”
In order to qualify as a true eved Hashem, one who serves Hashem, you must be willing to study a Torah text not just one hundred times but review it one hundred and one times.
Said Rav Schorr, if the Gemara promises that reviewing 101 times is the key to being an eved Hashem, it must be true. He therefore turned to our group and challenged us to take one blatt, one page of Gemara, and learn it each day for 101 days straight. Don’t skip, don’t get bored with that one text. Never miss a day, he enthusiastically charged, explaining: “The first 30 days will take a long time. By the 40th and 50th times it will take 15 minutes. By the 90th time you will walk on the street and recite the page by heart.”
He told us of a Jew he knew who had recently passed away who, in addition to his other learning, reviewed the same Torah material for forty years in a row, every single day. The man suggested that when the Gemara (Shabbos 31a) tells us that we will each be challenged by the heavenly court, kavata ittim l’Torah, did we establish set times for Torah learning, it means did we learn the same thing, in the same place, at the same time, each and every day. Achieving that level of kevi’us, of consistency and constancy, will transform a person and mold them into a true eved Hashem.
Rav Schorr concluded by saying, “Take the first page of Maseches Berachos and learn it for the next 101 days in a row. Never miss a day. I’ll tell you what you’ll do afterwards, you won’t stop.”
Honestly, I knew our group was moved, but I didn’t think anyone would take him up on it. One hundred and one days is a long time to not miss. This was a group of doctors, lawyers, and businessmen with busy lives juggling family responsibilities with professional obligations, leaving very little discretionary time. Maybe they had time to learn a little each day but would anyone really take on this challenge, reviewing the same page of Gemara 101 days in a row?
The hundred and first day after our “fly-in” trip fell out on Lag Ba’Omer. Our group held a BBQ reunion. We ate, sang, and shared memories of the trip, but what happened next literally brought tears to my eyes. One of the members of our group had made laminated copies of Daf Beis, the first page of Maseches Brachos, and given it out to the group when we returned from the trip. Now, on Lag Ba’Omer, a day dedicated to celebrating the survival and continuation of Torah She’b’al Peh, the group went around reciting the page of Gemara. Though only one person at a time had the actual page in front of them, several others, who were celebrating their 101st consecutive day with this daf, recited it in unison by heart.
One of the people from the group who had completed the challenge said that his goal at the outset was by Day 40 to be able to learn the page without using the Artscroll. He did it, and by day 101, he was literally reciting the page – a full page of Gemara, two sides – by heart. It was an absolutely inspiring and breathtaking thing to see.
Another member of the group described that at times in life a person can feel lonely, but ever since he has mastered this page of Talmud, he feels he is never alone because Berachos Daf Beis has become his friend and accompanies him wherever he goes. No doubt the person who said this is special, but he isn’t a Rosh Yeshiva, a Gadol HaDor. He is a professional, a “regular guy,” someone we would consider among the ba’al ha’batim in our community. Yet, that daily commitment to study and the acquiring of a real ownership of one page of Talmud transformed his relationship with Torah learning, with Hashem, and even to a degree with himself, and it can for you, too.
I would have expected the group to say, “That was an interesting experiment,” feel proud and accomplished for having succeeded, and move on. But Rav Avraham Schorr was 101% correct. He said, “I’ll tell you what you’ll do afterwards, you won’t stop,” and he was right. Some in the group have continued with Berachos Daf Gimmel and started a new count, others are taking on Shabbos Daf Beis, but in the end, all those who had finished the assignment just wanted to continue one way or another.
As we celebrate Shavuos, a day that doesn’t commemorate the Torah being given thousands of years ago, but a day on which we each stand at Har Sinai again and receive the Torah anew, we must ask ourselves, do we want to be happy, do we want to be productive and do we want to be less stressed?
It is time to become “heavy” learners, setting aside time each day to study, grow and improve. Find something that interests you, learn it, and take the time to review it again and again. I’ll tell you what you’ll do afterwards, you won’t stop.