While I was in Israel earlier this year I picked up a wonderful book that had just been released called HaMasmidim. Written in Hebrew, this book is filled with stories about Gedolim and their dedication to the study of Torah. The stories are meant to be a source of inspiration and a guide to help boys in the perseverance of Torah study. The book appears to be geared towards children and young adults but I believe that the stories in it are appropriate for all ages. Beautifully bound, with clear type and side-bar pictures of the Gadol being spoken about, this book is something like I’ve never seen. It also has what I think is one of the best introductions to any book that I’ve ever seen before. The following is my attempt to translate the intro as best I could but the original Hebrew is really much better:
Dear reader! In the book before you are descriptions that enlighten the heart about the dedication to Torah of the Gedolei Yisroel, throughout every time period. The stories tell about how they (the Gedolim) clung to Torah like one who thirsts for water, and in only the Torah did they look all their lives. Likewise, the stories describe how they trembled from the idea of Bitul Torah and how they used sechel to overcome the Yetzer Hara in this area.
But it is very important to stress that many of the Gedolei Yisroel and Talmidei Chachamim that lived during all the time periods as well as today, were not born with special characteristics – they had regular character traits. The truth is that even in you, dear reader, are the same characteristics that they had! And if you ask, how did they merit to grow into Gedolei Yisroel…?
The answer is simple – they succeeded in strengthening their determination that from them would emerge a Talmid Chacham along with the knowledge that with the study of every word of Torah they were fulfilling a Mitzvas Asei D’Oraisa and they were giving nachas ruach to the Creator of the world. Therefore, they were always careful to arrive to learning on time and with the time between sedarim they did not engage in frivolous activities, and they succeeded to use each moment to review what they already learned. Thus, with consistency and patience, with tefillah and supplication, they completed and knew another chapter and another masechta, until they became, with the help of Hashem, Gedolei Torah.
Therefore, dear reader, you, too, with the help of Hashem, if you will be determined and set your mind to it, nothing will stop you from becoming a true Talmid Chacham!
We hope, that these real life examples that are filled with with pictures (of the life of these Gedolim) will encourage you to go in their footsteps and you will want throughout your life to be a Talmid Chacham, and with Siyata D’shmaya you will be!
There was just something about that introduction that struck a cord with me. As someone who loves to hear Gedolim stories, it is often possible to come to a point where you just think that the Gedolim were born this way and what they do is not possible for any of us to achieve. Their actions are beyond our capabilities so why even try. Of course this is not true and this introduction emphasizes that message; the message that many of the Gedolei Yisroel started off with the same characteristics as the rest of us and through their effort they became who they became. The stories that follow in this book are incredible. Each chapter has the theme of a particular attribute necessary in the success of Torah study and the stories that are told are really one of a kind. As I mentioned, I am particular to Gedolim stories and having heard many of them I believe that the stories in this book are wonderful. If you are looking for a source of inspiration in limud haTorah and ahavas haTorah along with a good story then this is the book for you.
The original text of the article may be found here.