Taking It With You: U’va l’Tzion: Vain & Futile
“Blessed is He, our Lord, Who created us for His glory, separated us from those who stray, gave us the Torah of truth and implanted eternal life within us. May He open our heart through His Torah and imbue our heart with love and awe of Him and that we may do His will and serve Him wholeheartedly, so that we do not struggle in vain nor produce for futility.”
“I ask two things of You: Do not withhold them from me before I die: Keep vanity and falseness far from me; give me neither poverty nor wealth, but allot me my daily bread, lest I be sated and deny, and say, ‘Who is God?’ and lest I become impoverished and steal, and, in vain, grab the Name of my Lord (Proverbs 30:7-9).”
The Gra understands this verse as Solomon’s prayer about the gift of Torah study; an approach we can apply to this section of U’va L’Tzion:
“There are two possible negative approaches to Torah study: The first is a person who studies with the intention to argue. His study is dishonest, as he is studying God’s words to fight God. His heart is filled with destructiveness as he studies.
“The second is the person who studies without any evil intention, achieves greatness, and then, abandons all that he learned.”
“So that we do not struggle in vain nor produce for futility,” addresses both of these issues; one is understood as the “barren woman,” who “struggles in vain” to have children. The other is ‘the woman who buries her children,” who “produces for futility.”
The person who studies Torah only to battle God, will never have Torah (See Malbim, Isaiah 49:4; “rik,” or “vain,” is a shell without anything inside). He is the barren woman.
The one who studies and then abandons is the “woman who buries her children (Pesachim 49b), and his Torah study produces only “futility.”
We pray that:
“Blessed is He, our Lord, Who created us for His glory,” that we merit to be expressions of God’s glory,
“Separated us from those who stray,” that we merit to use Torah and Mitzvot to protect ourselves from straying from His path,
“Gave us the Torah of truth,” that as we study Torah we understand that it is Absolute Truth,
“Implanted eternal life within us,” that we merit to experience a Taste of the World to Come in our Torah study and Service of God,
“May He open our heart through His Torah,” that our Torah study open our hearts to God and all that He teaches us, so that we are deeply affected by our learning,
“Imbue our heart with love and awe of Him,” that our Torah study will nurture a deep love of God that will develop into awe as we protect the preciousness of that love,
“That we may do His will,” so that all we do is an expression of His Will,
“Serve Him wholeheartedly,” and that we become completely invested in our Torah study and Service,
“So that we do not struggle in vain,” so that we do not approach our Torah study with ulterior motives that will make our learning and Mitzvot a “barren woman,”
“Nor produce for futility,” and that God protect whatever we accomplish and learn so that we have not produced for futility.