A Different Type of Question During This Yeshiva Break

Typically, during Yeshiva break, members of my community contact me with the following types of questions:  Is this hashgacha acceptable?  Can I eat these foods from the hotel continental breakfast?  How can I construct an eruv so that I can carry in the yard of the home that I rented for the week?  I feel blessed that my congregants are sensitive to the halachic issues that they face and strive to do what is right even while on vacation.

This year was different.  I dealt with other questions or comments this week.  Like “If there are two blessings that we need to recite before saying Shema, why don’t we say that for the Shema that is said by korbanot?  And why do we only say one out of three chapters at that time?” Or “In light of today’s daf, how did we develop a custom to put stones on graves out of respect, if in the times of the Gemara it was a sign of something negative?”  Or “My thoughts on Chapter 12 of Sefer Yehoshua are that all the “echad’s” are to remind us that it was with Hashem Echad’s help that we were able to conquer all the kings.”

This year, while many in our community are vacationing, they are still studying and are engaged in Torah study on a regular basis and they are sharing their questions and thoughts with me privately or in our community Nach Yomi or Daf Yomi WhatsApp chats.  When we engage in Torah study on a fixed, daily basis, it puts a lot of pressure on us to complete the required daily study and it teaches us the value of sacrifice and commitment, but I think it does a lot more for us.

This past week in the daf yomi learning, the Gemara (Brachot 17) states, “margla b’fumai d’Rabbi Meir” – Rabbi Meir was wont to say the following idiom, or “margla b’fumaihu d’Rabbanan d’Yavneh” – the Sages of Yavneh were wont to say the following idiom.  The Gemara also lists idioms for Rava, Abaye and Rav.  These were things that were on the tip of their tongue, beautiful ideas that they would typically think about and share with others.

When we study Torah on a regular basis, our entire frame of reference changes.  We think differently and our small talk changes to topics of greater value.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”   We not only change ourselves when we engage in Divine ideas, but we change our community through these conversations with other members of our community, when such talk is “margla b’fumai” – when such conversation is on the tip of our tongue.

I value the concept of vacation, as it provides everyone with the opportunity to disconnect a bit so that we reconnect with ourselves and members of our family and to recharge and reenergize ourselves.  At the same time, when I receive these new types of questions and comments from my congregants during my vacation, that provides me all the energy that I need.

About the Author
Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.
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