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Rabbi's Week In Review- August 11, 2020

08/11/2020 10:44:24 AM

Aug11

This past week, those of us who are regulars for weekday-morning prayer and study held a celebration. We, along with a significant portion of the Jewish world, completed study of the second tractate of the Babylonian Talmud — Tractate Shabbat. We have been engaged in what is known as Daf Yomi, a page [of Talmud] per day. Through Daf Yomi, in about seven years and a little over five months we will have studied from each page of Talmud.

Our celebration is known as a siyyum, a completion. We also honored the memory of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who died this past week. Rabbi Steinsaltz was more responsible than anyone else for the resurgence and popularity of Talmudic study.

While our morning group can find meaning and modern relevance within the Talmud, studying a page of Talmud each day, regardless of what deeper meaning is or is not derived from such study, has its own purpose. The story we read from Talmud to complete Tractate Shabbat discusses a rabbi sitting in a tub of water to measure the volume of water. In other words, he was not doing anything of great import. Rather, he was pretty much just passing time.

As we “pass the time” during a COVID-19 pandemic, there is joy and purpose in coming together to study for its own sake. We come together in community to study the words of the sages. Often, the related stories elicit a smile; sometimes a tear is shed. Mostly, we just like being with friends, with our Kol Ami family to share the stories.

The prayer that is recited when a tractate of Talmudic study is completed is known as Hadran. It is saying farewell to the tractate, and that we look forward to returning to it one day soon. It is saying that, as we are thinking about you, the tractate, the tractate is likewise thinking about us.   

How odd that we engage in conversation with a book of study as if it were a relationship between two people. The prayer is like we are saying goodbye to a dear friend. We know that every morning, we can reliably turn to the next page of Talmud, which has become for us an old friend, to share thoughts and feelings. On the one hand, it can be seen as just passing the time. On the other hand, how wonderful it is to connect with community as a means to pass the time.

Wed, September 23 2020 5 Tishrei 5781