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Parshas Emor - The Ups & Downs of Streaks    11 Iyar 5782

05/19/2022 01:20:45 PM

May19

It is not even on the list of the Major League Baseball records considered unbreakable. Nevertheless, no one has done it on or off the field. They tried to beat DiMaggio, but like everyone else, they failed. In M.L.B.’s ‘Beat the Streak’ game, fans build virtual lineups in the hope of topping Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, yet after twenty years, no one has won. Streaks are fascinating and, particularly over time, can become a contagious hobby to track, but… are they records which should be sought after?

Schedules and structure are keys to success. The daily regiment that is termed “seder HaYom” -the order of the day - is a built-in system that the Torah instructs us to follow throughout our lives. The obligation to daven/to pray three times a day helps structure our day from morning to night. We need to schedule our lives around these daily events, with the knowledge that two of the three davening times are seasonal moving targets, changing based upon the rising and setting of the sun. In addition, davening – praying - is only half of the spiritual structure of a Jew’s day; the second part is learning. Those who have the opportunity and commit to a regiment of daily Torah study find that it gives them great personal satisfaction, increased knowledge, and sharpens their thinking skills. In addition, a daily learning routine shows commitment to all family members – wives, , children, siblings, parents as well as to employers and employees. That commitment forms an additional layer of satisfaction felt when others view them as productive role models for everyone else in their lives. There’s no question that spiritual growth in a home requires the commitment for everyone to be on board. As with everything in life, conflicts arise, time constraints need to be addressed, and ultimately… sometimes something must give.

A few weeks ago, I heard a story from my son about someone who met with his chavrusa (study partner - a Bengal fan no less) for over one hundred and seventy eighty days straight without missing a day of learning in person! This continued uninterrupted, including every Shabbos and Yom Tov, through snow, sleet, ice, and ferocious winds; nothing stopped their streak. As Pesach was approaching, a dark reality began to grow, hovering over their remarkable schedule. One of them was considering spending Pesach away from his chavrusa and was growing upset about their learning. This learning became and (still is) a major part of their families’ lives. The concern was taken seriously, and they agreed to approach the Rov of the chavrusa regarding this dilemma of whether to remain at home for Pesach rather than going to relatives to continue their learning. Prior to meeting with the Rov, they agreed to follow his decision.  The Rov, a highly-regarded Rabbi of the individual who asked the question, was presented with this question: “We have learned together for one hundred seventy-eight consecutive days. I am very torn because over Pesach we are going to have to miss a day.” The Rov listened carefully but answered quickly and sharply. He asked,” Would your wife stay home for Pesach?” The individual replied to the Rov,” Honestly, she probably would because she’s a tzadeikes (righteous woman). She wouldn’t want to, but she would stay home.” The Rov responded, “I will tell you a Maaseh/a story. There was a twenty-two-year-old bachur/young man who had not missed a minyan since his bar mitzvah. He was now sitting in a car with a renown Rosh Yeshiva, driving to a friend’s wedding. They were stuck in traffic, and he began to cry because he was going to miss Mincha, something that he had never missed, but was going to miss now because they were late. So, the Rosh Yeshiva said to this young man who had not missed a minyan since his bar mitzva,” There are no streaks in Judaism.” The Rov looked directly into the eyes of the young man who was anxiously waiting for a response to his dilemma regarding one hundred seventy-eight day learning span with his chavrusa and said, ”There are no streaks in Judaism but there is Shalom Bayis!”  

This notion of counting and having a streak is reflected in several Mitzvos and places in the Torah. The book of Bamidbar is also known as “sefer HaPekudim”- the book of Numbers or remembering - because Hashem instructed Moshe to count the Jewish people a few times. Rashi explains that Hashem counted the Jewish people in order to display his love and affection for His children. A second example is found in the Talmud, Gemara Beitza 3a, that an item that is counted is not subject to nullification. For example, if a non-kosher egg gets mixed up within a thousand kosher eggs it is not nullified; all the eggs are forbidden. The reason: since eggs are sold by the dozen (counted), they are each considered important and cannot lose their status. Every day in davening we recite a verse from Yeshayahu HaNavi found in Isaiah 65:23: "למען לא יגע לריק ולא ילד לבהלה, כי זרע ברוכי ה' המה וצאצאהם אתם"   “They will neither labor in vain nor give birth in vain, for they are God’s blessed seed, and their offspring [will remain] with them”. Every moment of life is precious; the time that passes will never return. Therefore, time needs to be counted and recorded. This is one of the explanations given regarding the counting of the Omer.

In this week’s parsha the Torah in Vayikra 23:15 states "וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את עומר התנופה שבע שבתות תמימות תהיינה"  “You shall count them seven complete weeks after the day following the [Passover] holiday when you brought the omer as a wave offering, until the day after the seventh week, when there will be [a total of] fifty days”.  I would suggest that the counting is only forty-nine days, and even though it says up until the fiftieth day, that fiftieth day is not counted. Once we hit the forty-ninth day, the cycle is completed, and the streak ends at that point. The Gemara in Menachos 85 discusses a teaching from Rebbi Chiya who asks when is there temimos? When are there complete days? The answer is quoted from a Midrash:” There is completion when the Jewish people are doing the will of Hashem”. When Klal Yisroel is fulfilling, performing the will of Hashem, peace is brought to the world. This refers to the greatest period in Jewish history during the reign of Shlomo HaMelech when there was world peace. Only when the counting of the omer is ‘complete’ is the concept of Shalom introduced. A sense of completion is necessary to encapsulate the Shalom/peace. If the counting were to continue on and on, it would never finish, making completion elusive. Shalom Bayis is attainable when something is finite. A proper hashkafa - outlook - is when there is a beginning and an end, just as we celebrate the end and completion- the siyum- of something of the Torah. The counting of the omer is a process of reaching the end, to be prepared for the next stage of kabbolas HaTorah.  So too, with everything in life, it’s not about the streak; it’s about setting the goals and then completing them. 

Tue, August 16 2022 19 Av 5782