Shavuos – Letters of Courage
Before his passing, my grandfather, Aryeh Leib Klempner, told me how fortunate I am for studying Talmud in Yeshiva. He said he remembered his grandfather sitting at a table learning Gemorah and that he feels a lack in his Jewish personhood never having studied Talmud. It’s Torah, and in particular, Torah sheBaal Peh, the Oral Torah, that makes us Yidden and keeps us Yidden. Every Jew has a relationship with Hashem and every Jew has a relationship with Torah sheBaal Peh.
On Shavuos we decorate our homes with flowers. We commemorate the flowers that blossomed on Har Sinai during Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah. We visualize Har Sinai at that wonderful moment. Bedecked with arrays of color. We can assume many different types of flowers. The most stunning flower arrangement in the history of the world with each flower adding its unique beauty to the whole. Each flower, like an instrument in an orchestra, beautiful on its own, even more so when included in the symphony as a whole.
Each of us, as Yidden, were represented by a flower on Har Sinai; and each flower represented a cheilek, a portion, of Torah. Each of us has a unique portion of Torah. A good friend from Teaneck, New Jersey, once told me that although he struggles with certain areas of Torah study he loves immersing himself in Midrash, in the esoteric and metaphoric teachings of the Sages. This friend encouraged me to find my own niche in Torah. To find the areas of Torah that I excel in. Because each of us has a special Torah purpose to accomplish. The question we need to be asking ourselves come Shavuos is: “What special Torah purpose am I responsible to accomplish? What special Torah purpose must I accomplish that nobody else in the history of Klal Yisroel was yet able to accomplish?”
Some love learning the Daf. For others it’s halacha, Jewish law. Some devote their minds to kabbalah, the esoteric teachings of Torah. Others enjoy pilpul, brilliant Torah mosaics in which individual arguments are scaffolded to create an elaborate unifying whole. Everyday I try my best to learn Chok L’Yisroel, an ancient daily Torah schedule instituted by Rav Chaim Vital at the bequest of the Arizal. The Chok includes a daily portion of Torah, Neviim, Kesuvim, Mishna, Gemara, Zohar, Mussar, Halacha. Chok L’Yisroel enables a Jew to fulfill the obligatory mitzva of learning kol Torah Kulah, the entirety of Torah. While learning Chok I feel as if I’m connecting to the daily limud of my grandfather’s throughout the generations, a comforting and empowering thought.
In yeshiva, I had the privilege of hearing Rav Ezriel Tauber speak. The topic of the shiur was “Giving Hashem the Switch.” Rav Tauber said that one night after giving a shiur he retired to his hotel room. The hotel boasted access to over one hundred cable channels in each room. Rav Tauber took out a mesechta, tractate, of Gemara hoping to learn that day’s daf. After learning not more than the first few words of the amud, the page of Gemara, he fell asleep on the bed. Several hours later he woke up feeling pitiful, thinking to himself, “My zeide the Chasam Sofer would stay up all night energized by the Torah he learned, while I can’t manage to get through the day’s daf.” Then, looking at the remote control, Rav Tauber said to himself, “But one thing I can give Hashem that none of my holy ancestors were able to is ‘the switch.’ I might not be able to stay up the whole night learning, but I’m also not staying up the whole night wallowing in a mud that my ancestors were never exposed to.”
The Maggid of Mezritch once told his talmidim to go out and spend the day doing a special mitzvah of their choosing. The talmidim came back that evening and recounted for the Maggid their special mitzvahs. All had shared except for the Rebbe Reb Zussia. Finally, when the Maggid called upon Reb Zussia to share, with great embarrassment Reb Zussia explained that he left the Beis Medrash planning a special mitzvah but then on his way he encountered an old woman who needed help cutting fire wood. So he spent the morning chopping fire wood. Then in the afternoon he stacked the wood. Then in the evening it got cold, so he made a fire for the old woman and cooked supper for her. By then it was too late to do the special mitzvah he had planned. The Maggid called out to his talmidim, “Reb Zussia bested all of you.”
Mussar. Halacha. Chumash. Gemara. Rambam. Rashi. Kabbalah. Midrash. Mishnayos. Chok L’Yisroel. Chassidus. Sheilas v’Tshuvahs Rebbe Akiva Eiger. Igros Moshe. Brisk. Satmar. Lubavitch. Each of us has our unique cheilek in Torah that has been gifted to us to share with Klal Yisroel. Now it’s up to us to find it and learn it!
Have a Gut Yom Tov and a Torah Yom Tov,