In this week’s portion, Hashem asks us to follow in His ways and assures us that “He will confirm you as his holy people – if you uphold His laws and go in His ways. “Then all the people of the earth will see that the name of Hashem is proclaimed over you and they will revere you” (Deuteronomy 28:4-5).
The Torah tells us that our association with Hashem’s name will improve our approval rating. Is it the fact that His blessing will make us successful and the success will bring reverence? Or is it simply stating that if one is righteous then his presence will inspire awe? Or perhaps the promise is greater. Hashem assures us that His guidance and His name, will stand behind our every action. And they will be touched with awe, reverence and immortality.
In 1923, when Rabbi Meir Shapiro was but 37 years old, he had a revolutionary idea. If all Jews were to learn the same folio of the Talmud and follow a set calendar, not only would Jews complete the Talmud after seven years, but world Jewry would have one unifying thread to bind it together. Thus the concept of the Daf Yomi (the daily Talmud page) was formulated.
Selling this idea was not easy. Many rabbinic leaders felt that a two-sided page a day was too quick a pace for complex Talmudic issues. It often took weeks to analyze even one side of a page! However, the idea was received warmly by the great sage and tzaddik, the Chafetz Chaim, who encouraged Rabbi Shapiro to present it at the first Knessiah (World Congress) of Agudath Israel held in Vienna, Austria in 1923.
The Chafetz Chaim also understood that Rabbi Shapiro perhaps would be looked upon as too young to present such a revolutionary idea. He was worried that the relatively young iluy (genius) would not be able to garnish the respect from older, more conservative Rabbis, whose support was needed for his idea to be accepted. But the Chafetz Chaim had a plan.
“I’d like you to introduce your idea at the Knessiah,” he told him. “But walk in to the hall at least one hour late. I’d like you to arrive after the session is already in full swing.”
Rabbi Meir did not understand what the Chafetz Chaim had in mind, but agreed to follow his directive.
On the day of the main session, the room was packed. The Chafetz Chaim, as one of the elders of the generation and one of the most revered sages of the century, sat on the dais which faced the huge crowd. As planned, about an hour after the opening remarks, Rabbi Shapiro entered at the back of the hall.
Immediately, the Chafetz Chaim noticed him and leaped to his feet. “Rabbi Shapiro has arrived!” he exclaimed as he rose from his chair in respect. Shocked at the Chafetz Chaim’s actions, the entire dais, too, arose. In a few moments, the entire assembly stood in honor of the man whom the Chafetz Chaim so honored.
With an expression of disbelief, Rabbi Meir, his head bowed with humility and awe was led to the dais.
The Chafetz Chaim turned to him in the presence of the entire assemblage and proclaimed. “Now the Rav will address us with a novel idea.” History tells us the rest of the story.
More than seventy years later, on September 28th, 1997, more than 100,000 Jews, world over, will attend the tenth siyum (completion) of the Daf Yomi. They will fill Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, and assembly halls and convention centers across the globe. Together they will not only celebrate the tenth completion of the entire Talmud by rabbi and layman alike, they will also celebrate the tremendous feat inspired by one man’s idea and the almost-divine encouragement of a great sage that stood up to the challenge.
The Torah tells us this week that every idea needs a divine handler. Hashem’s blessing assures that the world will appreciate that seemingly mortal ideas are actually His ideas – and they will become eternal. In addition to the blessing of wisdom, Hashem gives the blessing that wise words and advice will be heard and revered. It is not only what you know, but Who you know. And when that someone is G-d Almighty, then the blessing is assured. As the Torah tells us that “the people of the earth will see that the name of Hashem is proclaimed over you – and they shall revere you.” Because when G-d’s name speaks – people listen.
L’iloy Nishmas R’ Moshe ben R’ Eliezer of blessed memory
Gittel bas R’ Hersch Mordechai of blessed memory
The entire Drasha family is invited to join us in the dedication of The Yeshiva of South Shore’s Early Childhood Center, and the groundbreaking of Yeshiva Gedolah and Mesivta Ateres Yaakov. 1170 William Street Hewlett, NY 11557, 516-374-7363
Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.