In Parshas BaMidbar, Hashem instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to make a special count of Sheivet Levi from ages 30 to 50, as they were chosen to do the work in the Mishkan. Later, though, in Parshas B’Haaloscha, Moshe is told by Hashem to inform the L’viim to serve in the Mishkan from the age of 25. These two instructions appear to contradict each other.
Rashi explains that at the age of 25, the L’viim would come to study the halachos about how to perform the service, but the actual service was only performed beginning at the age of 30. He quotes the Gemara: “From this we learn that a student who has not seen any improvement after five years of study is unlikely to succeed.” Chazal do not assert that if a student has not had total success after five years, then he will never succeed. Rather, the Gemara refers to the lack of “improvement” over a five-year period. In truth, such a situation is not common. Too often, schools and teachers do not apply themselves to work with and put an effort into academically weak students. They are only interested in dealing with the highly intelligent and successful students. Because of that, the weaker students are left by the wayside and leave the study of Torah, because they were not given a fair chance in their education.
Chacham Rav Nissim Toledano zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Shearit Yosef in Be’er Yaakov, had a strict rule to raise money for the yeshivah only between Purim and Pesach, when there were no shiurim in the yeshivah, since this time was dedicated to review. One year, Rav Nissim traveled to the United States to raise money, leaving the yeshivah in the hands of the hanhalah. There was one student in the yeshivah, a boy from a non-religious family near the secular city of Caesarea, who was having difficulty in his studies. Rav Nissim constantly tried to help him, but it was a struggle. The boy’s parents were not in favor of the yeshivah system altogether and wanted him to attend the army. He, too, vacillated between staying in yeshivah or joining the Tzahal, and due to his struggle to succeed in Torah learning, the decision to leave the yeshivah was not long in coming. A few days after Purim, the boy informed the hanhalah that he had had enough and was joining the army.
The decision was met with a minimal amount of objection, and the boy soon had his suitcase packed. Unable to say goodbye to Rav Nissim, who was out of the country at the time, he figured he would write him a letter explaining why he felt it was much better for him to leave rather than stay. As he was walking down the front path of the yeshivah, the postman happened to be walking in, and the boy half-jokingly asked him, “Hey, is there any mail for me?”
The postman looked at his stack of mail and pulled out a letter. Indeed, there was a letter addressed to the boy standing in front of him, who was just as shocked as anyone to have received a letter. He thanked the postman and continued walking to the bus station, where he finally sat down and opened it up – his curiosity burning inside of him.
What he saw next shocked him. The letter was from the Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Nissim Toledano! The boy began reading: “To my dearest student, my beloved talmid, whom I treasure deeply and only wish for him the best...” This was just the opening sentence of salutation. The warmth of the Rosh Yeshivah came gushing forth in the next few lines. “How are you? I cannot stop thinking about you and worrying for your success in the yeshivah, while I am here, so far away from you! I know how hard it is for you – all the trials and tribulations you go through on a constant basis – and I wish there is something I can do to help you succeed...” Line after line of similar prose was written in the Rosh Yeshivah’s warm and familiar style.
Instantly, tears welled up in the boy’s eyes. Somebody did care about him! Somebody wanted him to succeed! It was clear and apparent that Rav Nissim loved him and would do everything to help him! He became acutely aware that he was blessed to have such a mentor – so how could he possibly turn his back on him now? He stood up and walked back to the yeshivah, where he informed the hanhalah that he was back to stay! When they asked him what had changed his mind, the best he could do was simply show them the letter – how Rav Nissim had poured refreshing balm on his tired soul!
This time, the boy did succeed in his studies, under the constant care and concern of Rav Nissim. But not only did he save one soul, the boy’s brother was urged to join the yeshivah, and two of his sisters married students of Rav Nissim. With one letter, he rescued four households!