How can a person, who works all day and then has responsibilities at home and ends up having an hour to an hour and a half to learn in the evening, learn with the added maaleh of ameilus/toiling in Torah that is so highly-praised by Chazal?
You are asking a very good question. Being amel b’torah is not depend and on the amount of time that a person learns, and is not reserved only for rabbanim and kollel people. The Mishna was talking rather that you take your learning seriously, and trying the best that you can in your situation. I am not the heavenly accountant to calculate people’s schar, but if you only have and hour, hour and a half to learn after a long day of work, (aside from Sundays etc.) and you go to learn even though you are tired, and when you get there you take that time seriously, that is being amel b’torah. That hour of learning can be worth hundreds of hours of learning in shomayim, because it is pa’am achas b’tzar.
I once heard a beautiful idea from R’ Aryeh Finkel zt”l, that will make you jump for joy, and it is a tremendous chizuk for all difficult situations. He was saying it from the Ruach Chaim, (R’ C. Velozener zt”l) but I haven’t found it inside. We know that “Pam achas b’tzar m’meah p’amin sh’lo b’tzat”- Doing a mitzvah once when it is b’tzar is worth more than 100 times doing the same mitzvah without pain. However we don’t know what is considered tzar? Say R’ C. Velozener, that the gemora says that even if a person sticks his hand into his pocket to get out a quarter, and mistakenly he took out a dime, and now he has to re-stick his hand into his pocket to get out the quarter, that is already considered tzar. Let’s call this a unit of tzar. Now the mishana is saying that if a person does a mitzvah, and there is absolutely no difficulty in doing it, he will get tremendous reward in gan eden forever, which even one second of such pleasure chazal say is better than all the pleasures of this world. That is all if the mitzvah was easy… without any pain if difficulty at all. Then what is the reward for doing a mitzvah when it has the difficulty of doing it equal to one unit of tzar, obviously 100 times the first mitzvah. Says R’ Chaim Velozener, that what is the sechar for someone who does a mitzvah when it entails 2 units of tzar… not 200 times the original mitzvah, but 100 times the second mitzvah… meaning that it is 10,000 times the sechar of the first mitzvah. If we will then calculate the reward for a mitzvah done with 3 units of tzar, the reward will be 1 million times the reward of doing the same mitzvah without tzar. Now let’s think how many units of tzar it is for a person to go learn aftr a long day of work, and actually concentrate and give it his best? I would put it at least 50-60 units of tzar… Do the calculation yourself, because I don’t have a calculator that can give me the correct number!
This is a tremendous chizuk for all the times that it is difficult for us to go learn or to do any mitzvah. It is a windfall of opportunity, for such a tremendous amount of sechar, in such a short amount of time.
Chazak Chazak V’nischazek
See Midrash Shmuel Avos 6-4.