The passuk states והבאתי עליכם חרב נקמת נקם ברית. Onkelos translates “and I will bring upon you those who kill with the sword, and they will punish from you the punishment for that which you transgressed (דעברתון) the Torah.” The lashon עברתון means to be עובר-transgress. The Torah commands us to fulfill both mitzvos aseh and lo sa’aseh, and if we don’t keep them, Hashem will bring against us warriors to battle us since we transgressed the mitzvos of the Torah.
The Pas Shegen explains the lashon of עברתון differently, it means pass over as the Gemara brings: אין מעבירין על האוכלין do not pass over food. Hashem will bring warriors to battle against us since we left the Torah to be placed in the corner, remaining idle, not taking it to learn. Rav Shmulli Perkal gave a mashal; for Pesach we take out our Pesach kitchen from storage. We bring out pots, pans, and silverware to use, and then after Yom Tov we return it back into storage. For Sukkos we take out the walls, sechach, and Sukkah decorations from storage, and then after Yom Tov we return it back into storage. On Shavuos we take out the Torah by learning it the entire night and we celebrate receiving the Torah, and then after Yom Tov we return it back into the Aron Kodesh or onto the book-shelves back into storage. The Torah calls out from its corner whoever wants can take me and learn with me.
The Gemara brings Pupus ben Yehudah found Rebi Akiva who was gathering many groups of people and they were learning Torah. He said, “Akiva, are you not afraid of the kingdom?” Rebi Akiva responded, “I will give you a parable: a fox was walking by the banks of the river, and he saw fish collecting together, swimming from place to place. The fox asked, ‘From who are you running away?’ They responded, ‘From the traps which people are bringing upon us.’ He said, ‘Come upon the dry land and you and I will dwell together safely just as your fathers and grandfathers joined me.’ They responded, ‘Is it about you whom it is said that you are the wisest of the wild animals? You are a fool! If in our environment which we live we are afraid of danger, in the dry land where we can’t live of course we will die!’ Said Rebi Akiva, “So too it states about the Torah כי הוא חייך וארך ימיך it is your life and lengthening of your days, if we will not go to learn we certainly won’t survive.”
The Maharsha explains that Rebi Akiva compared fish to the people which were being gathered together to learn. He compared the sea to Torah, just as the environment of fish is the sea and on dry land they are unable to exist, so too a person without learning Torah is unable to exist, he is missing the essence of his being. Also he compared the fox to the nations of the world, just as our forefathers did not learn which caused the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed, so too living amongst the nations causes us to not learn.
I heard that whenever it rains the fish come up to drink more water. This is fascinating, fish are completely surrounded in water, yet they seek more water. So too is with the Torah, we are supposed to have an unlimited desire to constantly learn more.
May Hashem help us fulfill the Torah and constantly learn with unlimited desire for more!