The BEST: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost (1923)

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Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l:

I know of few poems that express so forcefully the moral idea that binds us to the beit midrash [as Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”]. The narrator’s life would have been far simpler had he dismissed the lure of nature: “What all the fuss? Snow, ice, trees, woods – they are all worthless! We’re here today, gone tomorrow. Let’s get on with it!” Rubbish can be dismissed without a second thought. But in order to have a “lover’s quarrel” with the world, you must first see its value. Frost appreciated the hues and colors of the world. Though the narrator is attracted by the aesthete’s passive contemplation, morality’s voice within him eventually wins.

So, too, is it with us. It is easy to devote yourself to Torah if you are convinced that everything else is nonsense. Nonsense is easy to give up. But one who sees the beauty in God’s creation, who comes to love it, must be strong in order to devote himself to learning Torah. One must not divorce the world, but rather bear in mind one’s “lover’s quarrel with the world.”

[Read more at Yeshivat Har Etzion’s Virtual Beit Midrash and from the Tradition Archives.]

 

This is the first installment in TraditionOnline’s “The BEST” column, exploring exemplars of the best culture has to offer thinking religious people—click here for the column introduction.

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