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Parshas Vayigash - A Sage is Beyond his Years       6 Teves 5780

01/03/2020 09:23:41 AM


By now many of you have read some of the stories, heard the testimonials or saw the 13th Siyum Hashas this past New Year’s Day that people participated in from around the world and centered in MetLife Stadium. For those who may not have yet, and those who have there is always another angle that we can draw from this momentous occasion. With that caveat, I would like to share a few ideas that have been buzzing in my head for the last few months.

A true sage is recognized years later when his teachings are finally understood and perhaps experienced. I remember when I was in Yeshiva, Rabbi Wein Y”BL discussed the laws of Sukkah and who and under what conditions a person may be Patur/exempt from eating in the Sukkah. Keep in mind Sukkos on the East coast and Monsey in particular brought an early winter and was uncomfortable to sit in the Sukkah. At what degree would a person be exempt? Rabbi Wein in his imitable fashion with his Midwest accent said, “it’s not about degrees or temperature but attitude and dedication. If a person had a ticket on the fifty-yard line of the Chicago Bears playoff game and it was twenty below zero with a windchill of fifty below would he still go to the game? If the answer is yes, then he is not exempt from Sukkah either. If there is mesiras nefesh for a football game, then there needs to be self-sacrifice for the Mitzva to eat and sleep in the Sukkah”.

Well here I was thirty-five years later experiencing a cold winter day at a famous football stadium not to watch a game but to share in an experience of achdus, ahavas Yisroel and Torah. Now, I must admit it was not nearly as cold of an example Rabbi Wein described, but coming from Southern California it definitely would be a challenging Sukkah question. But Rabbi Wein’s insight and analogy goes deeper than the surface. How is it that you see the “polar bear club” plunging into ice cold water in sub temperatures or football fans in Green Bay taking off their shirts during a game with blizzard conditions? The answer is commitment, tenacity, dedication and love of the game that they don’t even feel the cold. So too, at this Siyum HaShas ninety-two thousand people braved the weather and didn’t even feel the cold. I was thrilled to have finally understood the depth of a great sage’s words of wisdom albeit it took a while, that is another dimension of the beauty of Torah.

Another small episode but not insignificant by any means was brought out by a Halacha/law of Tefilla/prayer. In Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 125:2 Mishna Brura daled says to keep your feet together during Kedusha because one needs to have more intense concentration to sanctify Hashem’s name. In this merit Hashem will settle a special sanctity upon the person from above. Through this act we fulfill the verse ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל and I will sanctify Myself among the children of Israel. The AriZ”L was very careful and scrupulous in this matter. Siman 95 discusses the reasons why we keep our feet together during the Amida and basically for any other part of sanctification. The Siyum HaShas venue was in the afternoon creating a situation that just about everyone would have to Daven Mincha at the event, this should not have presented a problem because Mincha (as well as Maariv) was part of the program. We are cruising on the Garden State Parkway, the Turnpike wasn’t bad, and all in all the traffic getting to the stadium was pretty light but as we got off to the service road it became a parking lot! Needless to say, the venue officially kicked-off at one o’clock we were walking into the building at about half past one. We started to hear the repetition of Mincha reverberating and booming from the Chazzan on the main loudspeaker. As the Shliach Tzibbur reached Kedusha everyone who was late running to get inside stopped cold in their tracks put their feet together and in unison responded with the Kedusha of everyone from inside as well all around the facility. As I looked around the only people who kept on walking were the security guards, building staff and the like. I can’t imagine what they were thinking as the foot traffic came to a standstill. Typically, these same gentile workers who are working the football games, concerts and the like never see a crowd of people who are late stop and not continue at whatever cost to run in to not to miss any part of the sport.

The ultimate reason is that we were not at the venue for ourselves, but rather to make a Kiddush HaShem, to sanctify God’s Holy name through Tefilla and celebrate Limmud HaTorah. The establishing of Torah and its importance can be highlighted and focused on from the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas Vayigash the Torah states in Bereishis 46:28 "ואת יהודה שלח לפניו גושנה" “And [Yaakov} sent Yehuda to Goshen”. The Rabbis teach us the purpose of this mission was to establish a Yeshiva in Goshen so that upon the family settling in a new land, Torah will be available as a key component of their continued Jewish existence in the Galus/exile. I would like to share five key takeaways from Yakov Avinu’s message for all time and future generations when it comes to the learning of Torah. Keep in mind it was Yakov who was the יושב אהל the one who sat in the tent of Torah learning in his Yeshiva.

  1. Yehuda was able to set up the Yeshiva because the infrastructure and more important the desire for Torah learning was set in place years earlier by Yosef himself adhering to the Mitzvos and bringing up his own children Ephraim and Menashe in a Galus/exile situation.
  2. Yosef told his brothers don’t delay in getting their father. Many interpret the message in different ways. I would suggest there are different ways to build Torah, let’s not argue about which way, just let’s get it done.
  3. Yakov wanted a permanent place of Torah study. Kvius, is keeping something on an ongoing basis, daily Torah study perhaps something similar to the daily kinds of Torah available today, Nach Yomi, Daf Yomi, Mishna Yomi, something that is day in and day out never to miss a day.
  4. Yakov wanted a set time of learning as it gives structure to a person’s day. As Rav Hamnuna states in Sanhedrin 7a “a person’s judgement in the next world begins with the question did you learn Torah every single day?”
  5. It states in Avos D’Rebbi Nosson 13:2 the establishing of Torah is not only learning Torah but hearing and listening to Torah. Not only does one need to learn on a consistent basis, but he also needs to listen to Torah on a daily consistent basis.

The underlying message of Torah learning is that it’s our lifeline. A true commitment to daily Torah study of at least an hour a day has the potential to change the lives of individuals, families and communities. Let us all draw some kind of inspiration and commit our families made of individuals, mothers, fathers and children to support the love of Torah through establishing a new daily commitment to Torah study.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, June 20 2021 10 Tammuz 5781