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Friday, 5 December 2014

Become a tablet fixer

Daf Yomi Yevamos 62

When they are writing the story of the Kiruv (outreach) movement of the late twentieth-early twenty first century, it will go down in history in terms of the success of Torah.   While yeshivos and kollels originally transferred over from Europe to a few centres of Jewish concentration, with time they began to reach out to communities around the world.  This phenomenon began in the Yeshivish (Lithuanian-style) world of Torah and was followed shortly after by the Chabad and Modern Orthodox -Religious Zionist camps. 

Today, thank G-d, kollels and yeshivos are flourishing.  We are fortunate to have a flourishing kollel here in Edmonton.   I come from Australia – in the relatively small Jewish community of Melbourne, they have four kollels – Chasidic, Yeshivish, Chabad and Modern Orthodox! 

A Beraisa taught: There were three things that Moses did of his own accord which accorded with the will of the Almighty: he separated from his wife, he broke the Tablets, and he added an additional day of preparation prior to the giving of the Torah.

How did he expound the need to break the Tablets?   If concerning the mitzvah of the Passover sacrifice, which is one of 613 mitzvos, the Torah states, “No stranger shall partake,” then regarding the entire Torah if all of Israel are unbelievers, how much more so should they not partake! 

Tosfos comments: This a fortiori argument is a little weak.  The Passover sacrifice is different for it is a holy offering and therefore off-limits to unbelievers.  In contrast, regarding the entire Torah, however, one should teach them and bring them back to return to G-d! 

For many years, people had an elitist attitude to Torah and mitzvos.  They contended that one must be completely committed before one should have the right to learn Torah or perform mitzvos such as putting on tefillin.   Torah is for a select few, they felt, and unbelievers do not deserve access.  That was how Moses felt, but Tosfos gently explains that on the contrary, Torah is the antidote to spiritual distance.

Our Sages teach that the Almighty declares, ‘I created the yetzer hara (tempter), but I created Torah as the antidote.”  The only way to fight assimilation is by spreading the light of Torah.  The more Torah-literate our people become, the more they will be receptive to Jewish engagement and commitment.   Too many of our brothers and sisters simply find religious life daunting and scary.  If only they could open up a siddur and follow the service or listen to a Torah lecture and be able to follow what was going on, they would not feel so estranged by their heritage. 

Every time you share Torah, you are mending the pieces of the broken Tablets.  Go and spread the Word of G-d!  He doesn’t want a few select favourites in His tent.  He wants every single one of His children to be engaged and infused with Torah.  May you merit being a Tablet-repairer!