As we enter the month of September and approach the High Holy Day season, I would like to thank all of those individuals who have been working intensely to ensure that we will have meaningful and safe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in our community. Our nation continues to battle a serious health crisis. The precautions we must take as a result of the pandemic have caused a number of significant logistical issues that we are facing as we continue to finalize our High Holy Day game plan. Thank you to all of those individuals who have taken the initiative in working to ensure that we will be able to hold services under these conditions, and thank you to everyone in the congregation for their patience and understanding as we continue to work through this pandemic together. We conclude our summer study of Pirkei Avot by looking at the sixth mishnah in the fourth chapter:"Rabbi Yishmael bar Rabbi Yose said: 'One who studies Torah in order to teach, is given the means to study and to teach; and one who studies in order to practice, is given the means to study and to teach, to observe and to practice'." It is evident from this teaching that, in addition to the inherent value in the study of Torah in of itself, there is also an additional level of Talmud Torah: to study Torah in order to put it into practice. For example: It is one thing to learn the laws of returning lost items, "hashavat aveida", as set forth in the chapter "Eilu Matziot" of the Bava Metzia volume of the Talmud. It is quite another thing to study Eilu Maztiot with the goal in mind of putting that knowledge into practice and being able to know how and when to return lost items in actuality. It is in regards to this high level of Torah study, "halomed al manat la'asot", that Rabbi Yishmael bar Rabbi Yose tells us, that "one who studies in order to practice, is given the means to study and to teach, to observe and to practice."
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz passed away this past month in his native Jerusalem. He was 83 years old. Rabbi Steinsaltz was recognized as an outstanding educator and scholar. He headed numerous Torah institutions and academies, and authored several books geared towards explicating Jewish mysticism to the general public. But Rabbi Steinsaltz's life work was his translation of the entire Talmud, from its terse Aramaic into a modern easy-to-read Hebrew. This project, which the rabbi initiated in 1965 and only finished in 2010, served to open up the study of Talmud to the masses. From a work that, due to its difficult and peculiar style, remained the study of the scholar alone, Rabbi Steinsaltz's easy-to-use commentary and translation transformed the Talmud into a work that was accessible to the masses. Indeed, in certain communities in Israel, Rabbi Steinsaltz's edition of the Talmud is ubiquitous on the local shul's bookshelf. The
he later translation of the rabbi's work into English and other languages, has served to turn the Steinsaltz Gemara into an international phenomenon. It is at this time of the year, as we prepare ourselves for the heightened sanctity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that we are looking for additional ways to attach ourselves to our Jewish tradition, and to God and to His Torah. Let us consider honoring the legacy of Rabbi Steinsaltz by taking upon ourselves at this holiday season to allow the study of Talmud into our lives. I would like to suggest a modest proposal: By taking upon ourselves to study just a few lines of Talmud a day, we can finish an entire tractate of the Talmud over a relatively short period of time before one of the next major holidays. By studying one of the following tractates, we will have studied Torah, according to the dictum in Pirkei Avot, "in order to observe and to practice."
Here are some practical suggestions: Masechet Beitzah deals with the laws of Yom Tov. It is 40 pages long. By studying just a few lines a day, this tractate can easily be finished by Pesach time. Masechet Megillah is 32 pages long. It deals with the laws of Purim and explicates the story of Megillat Esther. The holiday of Purim is approximately six months away. This tractate can be easily finished by Purim by studying a bit more than a page a week. Masechet Sukkah contains 56 pages. It deals with the laws of how to construct a kosher Sukkah, as well as the laws entailed in the lulav and etrog. Once again, by studying just a few short lines a day of this masechta, it can realistically be completed before next Sukkot. The Talmud can be studied alone, or with a partner. Additionally, there are many resources available today that can greatly ease and assist this course of study, such as the aforementioned Steinsaltz Talmud and the excellent Artscroll Schottenstein translation. By allowing the study of Talmud into our lives, we can greatly appreciate our knowledge and awareness of our traditions and practices, thereby fulfilling the words of Rabbi Yishmael bar Rabbi Yose that "one who studies in order to practice is given the means to study to teach, to observe and to practice."
May we all merit to have a good and blessed year. May we all be inscribed in the book of life for a sweet new year of health and happiness,
Rabbi Peretz Robinson