On Sunday, Jan. 5, I had the privilege to attend an event at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., that happens only once every seven-and-a-half years.
No, I am not referring to a Giants home win, but the Siyum Hashas. The Siyum Hashas is the completion of Daf Yomi, a cycle of learning one page of the Talmud each day, which culminates in completing the entire Talmud once every seven-and-a-half years. Around 90,000 Jews gathered for this incredible celebration, joined by tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands via live streaming, including close to 20,000 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Besides my desire to be there to personally witness such an event, I attended because I was chaperoning teens from across the country (22 from Maryland, 350 in total) to kick off our national NCSY Yarchei Kallah weekend.
Yarchei Kallah is held each year over winter break. It is a weekend where Jewish teens from all different religious backgrounds come together from across the country to grow, study and learn to appreciate their Judaism and their heritage.
Each year, I look forward to this weekend, and it is definitely one of the highlights of my year. To witness firsthand Jewish teens coming together for the sole purpose of growth over their winter break is beyond words. It is truly a sight to see!
This year’s program was purposely scheduled to begin on Jan. 1 in order for us to bring all the Yarchei Kallah attendees to the Siyum Hashas at MetLife Stadium. To be honest, it was a huge gamble. We had no idea what to expect. So many things were stacked against us. This event was not being run by our organization, it was going to be extremely cold outside, and it was an environment that many of our teens were not accustomed to.
However, I was forgetting a key factor in all of my concerns —- and this is the concept brought down in regard to Yosef Hatzadik, Joseph the Righteous One. Those past few weeks, we have seen the story of Joseph play out, from his being sold by his brothers into slavery, his tumultuous time in Egypt, and finally with his rise in power and the ultimate reunion with his brothers and family. This entire saga begins with us being told that “Joseph was but a lad,” he engaged in childish things.
What is the Torah trying to teach us by specifying this description? There is an explanation given to us by Rabbi Aharon from Karlin which explains this in an unbelievable way. What the Torah is teaching us by calling him a lad is regarding Joseph’s mindset, that despite his challenges, despite everything he went through, Joseph maintained the perception of a young one, the attitude of a lad.
He maintained his optimism, hopes and dreams. What the Torah is telling us is that like Joseph, we also need to maintain a youthful passion for life, the energy and the enthusiasm that we had when we were younger.
Our teens have shown me time and time again that what they desire most of all is to grow, learn and gain from their experiences. What I sometimes fail to remember is that our teens aren’t yet jaded by life! They are excited to try new things and experience new opportunities that are sent their way.
Was it cold? Of course. Was it different? Most definitely. But that didn’t prevent our teens from taking it all in. The Siyum Hashas experience was an an absolutely worthwhile investment to kick-start an unbelievable weekend.
The message we need to learn from our teens is the same message we learn from Joseph. Harness the passion, energy and enthusiasm that we all had in our youth and infuse it into our current lives in everything that we do. This will enable us to become happier and more fulfilled. We spend so much of our time telling our teens what they need to do in order to be successful in their lives, sometimes it’s worthwhile to take a step back and learn from them how to be successful in our lives.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and successful new year.
Rabbi Mordi Spero is Baltimore City coordinator for NCSY Atlantic Seaboard.
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