Wednesday, February 23, 2005

SCALING THE SUMMIT

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Who has not felt the magnetic pull of the siyum hashas? Held in scores of locations around the world, wherever there are Jews who treasure Torah and Torah study, the event is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people.

What is the nature of that powerful attraction? Is it the speakers or the ancillary activities surrounding the event? Not likely. The speakers’ names are not revealed beforehand. That indefinable attraction comes instead from the neshama of the Jew, pulling him to the Torah and drawing him into an historic celebration of Torah study.

People from smaller cities who are hosting their own celebration will be flying in to New York. They want to be part of the big event. Whether or not they know it, they want to be mekayeim the berov am hadras Melech.

I was told of an individual who plans to fly in from Paris to attend the siyum in New York. He just feels that he must be there—or he’ll be missing something irreplaceable.

Like a moth flutters to the light bulb, we flock to Torah. Whether they learned the daf or not, people want to be there; they want to be part of this uplifting, one-of-a-kind event that celebrates Torah study for its own sake.

Torah people want to demonstrate by their physical presence that the legions of G-d fearing people continue to grow year after year. Seventy years after the Nazis tried to wipe us out, we are still here. Despite centuries of crusades, inquisitions and pogroms, we are still here. Haskalah and Reform tried to destroy our soul and separate us from Torah, but we are still here.

Jews were burned at the stake for the study of Torah, yet we persevered, never giving up. The church burned wagonloads of Gemorahs, thinking they had rid the world of them for all time, but they were wrong.

Yisroel v’Oraisah v’Kudsha Brich Hu Chad Hu.

The Talmud preserves the Jew and the Jew preserves the Talmud.

So this week we are publishing a list of names of people whose tremendous self-sacrifice merited them to attain an enviable spiritual milestone—completing the study of Shas. We want to pay them tribute, not for commercial purposes but solely to acknowledge their achievements that enhance all of Klal Yisroel.

New York City holds an annual marathon every November and 26,000 or more people run around the city. The day after the race, the New York Times publishes a list of all the entrants. It stretches over pages in tiny print.

What a mark of pride for those who ran in the marathon! “Did you see my name in the paper?” they all ask their friends the next day. The city is proud of its runners and the newspaper of record is proud to list them.

Shouldn’t we be proud of all those who learned a blatt of Gemorah day after day after day in the pursuit of the lofty goal of completing Shas? In the quest to squeeze in another hour or more for Torah study each day, they accomplished much more than they had ever thought possible.

Who knows how many days these daf yomi learners awoke long before dawn for no other purpose than to learn? Who knows how many nights these people fought off sleep so that they could finish the blatt of the day? Nobody will ever know how often and at what cost pleasures and other activities were deferred in favor of the daf.

On buses, in cars, waiting on line, at simchos, on airplanes and at every opportunity they could squeeze in a few minutes of Torah, out came the Gemorah as they chapped arein a few lines.

They recognized that every minute is an opportunity for ma’mad har Sinai and they took advantage of it. There is no other way they could have reached this milestone.

Shouldn’t we hold these individuals up on a pedestal? Their accomplishments speak so eloquently for themselves. “Look at what they did,” those accomplishments silently acclaim, “Look at how much they were able to learn. If they could do it why can’t you and I!”

Torah is our lifeblood. Torah is what defines us as a people. The People of the Daf truly exemplify the devotion to Torah which is necessary to preserve it and hand it down from generation to generation.

People who work at full time jobs and have undertaken the study of daf yomi tell you that the daf has transformed their lives. If you could somehow peek in on their schedule—you’d have to rise at five in the morning to do that–you couldn’t help but be humbled.

You’d see them rising at the crack of dawn or long before… shlepping through the snow or through unbearable heat… plugging away even when dead tired, until they finish the daf. You will see how they miss meetings at work, you will glimpse them on Shabbos afternoons in the winter giving up their coveted Shabbos nap in order to learn; you’ll spy them in a corner with a Gemorah catching up on a big sugya while everyone is catching up on the latest gossip and news.

Most of them don’t like to talk about themselves and are embarrassed when you ask them about what it takes to keep their commitment to the daf yomi going. To this natural modesty is added the anivus that becomes part of one’s personality from learning Torah with pure intentions.

But that is not the only reward they receive.

Ask these individuals about the inner satisfaction. Ask them about the long-range impact on one’s life of always looking to chap arein a few minutes here and a few minutes there to learn another couple of lines of Gemorah.

Ask them whether there has been a change in the way they look at the world. Ask them whether there has been a change in the way they perceive rabbonim, Roshei Yeshiva and bnei Torah.

Ask them whether they have seen any improvement in their dikduk hamitzvos since they started doing the daf. Ask them how it has impacted their emunah and bitachon.

Ask them and listen to their answers.

Because it is the people like they who have quietly, each in his own way, accepted upon themselves the yoke of Torah, who can teach us a thing or two. Every day when they sit down wearily at the Gemorah, they are demonstrating that their ozen heard at Har Sinai Avodai Heim Velo Avodim L’Avodim. They are avodim to the daf and not to other avodim.

It is commitment of this magnitude that has kept the Gemorah alive through the ages, from the days it was orally transmitted as Torah Sheb’al Peh, through the time it was first written, then copiously copied and only many years later, printed in many different lands. Through all types of torture and madness perpetrated on our people, it was the lomdei Torah, the avodim with the determination of the modern-day mesaymim who kept the Gemorah alive.

What has kept Gemorah study alive was not speeches and articles extolling its virtues; it was the gift of Providence coupled with single-minded determination of exemplary Jews who relentlessly clung to their Gemorah and shtender.

One by one, singly or together with a chavrusa or at a shiur, these loyal soldiers who sit hunched over the Gemorah, rocking back and forth, racking their brains to figure out the p’shat in a Tosefos or a Rambam while no one is looking, are the ones who constitute the strength and backbone of our people.

That avdus, that determination is what keeps us going until this very day despite all the nisyonos that surround us. That avdus is what keeps the love of Torah aflame in our hearts and souls. That avdus is what draws tens of thousands to the Siyumim being held across the world.

That same avdus is what fills Batei Midrashim with precious kollel yungaleit who forsake many earthly pleasures for the spiritual contentment of sitting by a blatt Gemorah.

Long after the spotlight has been turned off and the arenas emptied out; long after the siyum hoopla has passed, these people will go back to waking up early and going to sleep late so that they can learn a little more. They will go back to their habit of squeezing out of the day another bit of eternal life. They will go back to climbing rungs in ahavas haTorah and yiras shomayim.

They will go back to being shining examples of how one scales mountains inch by inch, step by step, until one reaches the summit, inspiring their families and all of Klal Yisroel.

Avodia heim velo avodim l’avodim.


May we all merit that great day when we will be freed from the yoke of Golus and be reunited under the banner of Torah in Zion, bimheirah b’yomeinu, amen.

1 Comments:

Blogger aishel said...

Amazing! Thank you!

7:53 PM  

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