This week I had the opportunity to attend a siyum that Azriel Yudkowsky made on Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, all six tractates of Mishnah. At face value, the celebration was quite simple – almost as if this were just another daily occurrence. In real life, however, this celebration was huge. The completion of Shishah Sidrei Mishnah is something for us all to be jealous of if we have not yet completed this difficult feat. I was told that to make such a siyum one must commit to learn approximately one perek of mishnayos per day. This requires the steadfastness and the rigor of creating a daily schedule that incorporates learning one perek per day. It is important to mention that Azriel is the second boy to complete the entire Mishnah this year. I am also amazed to watch every night as a whole group of middle-school boys crowds around Rabbi Schochet before the Kollel Maariv to study with him. We as a community must congratulate the talmidim and their families for their tremendous dedication to limud haTorah.
Rabbi Frand, in one of his weekly articles on the parsha, discusses a midrash in this week’s parsha that says: Rabbi Yochonon said, “G-d only reveals Himself to idolaters at night – a time when people separate from one another – as it is written: ‘G-d came to Avimelech in a dream at night’ (Bereishis 20:3) or ‘G-d came to Bilom at night’ (Bamidbar 22:20). However, G-d reveals Himself to Jewish prophets during the day, as it is written, ‘And he sat at the opening of the tent in the heat of the day (Bereishis 18:1)’.”
What is the meaning of this midrash? The Ateres Mordechai explains that this midrash is teaching a very significant difference between Judaism and other religions. Many religions believe in a basic dichotomy between the physical and spiritual. They believe that if a person really wants to reach the highest levels of spirituality, he must separate himself from physical things, be celibate, become a monk. The more separate a person can become, the more holy he can become.
Judaism teaches us just the opposite. Torah teaches that the highest form of holiness comes through material matters. As the Kotzker Rebbe explains, “V’anshei kodesh tiheyu li – holy people you shall be to Me.” I want you to be both “holy” and “people,” not holy angels. We believe that a person can sanctify that which is physical. He can take a meal and make it into a Shabbos meal. He can take any act and elevate it to a higher form. That is our goal. “Through all your paths, know Him” (Mishlei 3:6). By infusing all our activities – our eating and sleeping and drinking and work – with holiness, we can become close to G-d.
Join us at Pawtucket early in the morning, at our daily minyan in school, in the yeshiva or kollel at night, or in school on Shabbos, and you will see our students integrating Torah as a mainstay in their lives – and you will better be able to understand the meaning of the posuk “V’anshei kodesh tiheyu li — holy people you shall be to Me.”
Rabbi Frand closes his article by stating that the essence of a Jew’s life is about taking his daily activities – the accounting and the doctoring and the practicing of law – and infusing them with kedusha (holiness). Every act that a person performs should be for the sake of Heaven.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman