A riddle: If you’re stuck somewhere and you have no seforim with you, and you don’t know any Mishnayos by heart, how is it possible to still learn? The answer is that there’s a lot that you can still learn, no matter where you are, and no matter what the circumstances are. Read the following mashal to understand:
There was once a king with a fantastic palace. He had many workers who served him in his palace. There was a baker, a gardener, a barber, a window washer, a piano player, a dog walker, a carpet sweeper, and a pool cleaner. However, none of them actually lived in the palace. The only one who actually lived there was the butler, because he was needed for so many different things. However, this butler was very lazy. He really preferred to skip work altogether. But how could he not show up to work, when all of the other workers were always there? He would look bad!
But one day, the butler woke up and looked out the window. He saw that the ground was completely covered in a few feet of snow.
“Oh boy! That snow looks impassable! Nobody will come to work today! Finally, I can have a vacation day! I’m going to sleep in. Then I’ll spend the day playing card games with myself. This will be so much fun!”
The next day, although most of the snow was still there, a small amount had melted. The butler looked out the window and saw the workers trudging through the snow on snowshoes and skis. They were headed toward the palace.
“Oh no! Why did they have to come? Now I have to go back to work. Oh well. I’ll quickly run downstairs so that I can be the first one to report for duty. That way, I’ll gain favor in the king’s eyes.”
When the staff had assembled in the palace, the king spoke to them:
“I know how hard it is to travel in this terrible weather. I’m so grateful to all of you for your loyalty, that you made the great effort to come and be here today. I have a special reward for all of you!”.
And then, he went around the room, and gave everyone a gold coin. Everyone, that is, except for the butler.
“Um, your majesty? Aren’t you forgetting someone?”
“Oh yes, you. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you. Since I see that you like vacations so much, I’ve made a special arrangement for you to go on a free week’s vacation!”
“Really? That’s great! Where will I be going?”
“To the dungeon!”
“But why? What did I do?”
“Where were you yesterday? I needed you, and you didn’t show up!”
“But yesterday was a snow day! Nobody came to work yesterday!”
“Who cares about the other people? They couldn’t make it! But you live in the palace! You have no excuse!”
The mitzvah of learning Torah is the butler in the house. It’s always home! You can always do it! But what if you have no Bais Medrash, no shiurim, no chavrusas, and no sefarim? It doesn’t matter! You can still think Torah in your mind! But what if you haven’t memorized any part of the Torah? So what can you think about? There’s lots you can think about! Think about the miracle that you can breathe. Think about the beauty of snow. Contemplate the wonders of nature and realize how powerful Hashem is. That’s also Torah! Think about how Hashem provides us with all of our needs. Think about how Hashem protects Klal Yisroel throughout history. Realize how much He loves us, and strengthen your love of Him. That’s also Torah! Think about the great reward that we will receive for performing mitzvos, and the terrible punishments that await those who sin. Strengthen your feeling of fear of Hashem. That’s also Torah! Think about how many sefarim there are in the Bais Medrash that you haven’t learned yet. Think about how vast and endless is the Torah, which is really Hashem’s wisdom. That’s also Torah! Think about the great middos of the Avos, and think about how you can emulate them. That’s also Torah! There’s no end to the Torah that you can learn. No matter what the circumstances. No matter where you are. Even if you’re locked in a dungeon! You can always learn Torah. There’s no excuse.