We’ve Learned Nothing in 2,000 Years

Baruch Hashem, I am a student of the Daf Yomi and will be finishing Shas for my first time. For the last 7+ years I have attended Daf Yomi classes in 4 countries, listened to shiurim online and learned many pages myself on various airplanes (thanks to ArtScroll!). I am excited to be finishing and am quite proud of my discipline and effort yet, despite this accomplishment, I will not be attending the Siyum Ha’Shas. Allow me to explain.

The most wonderful thing about the Daf Yomi is that it unites world Jewry. I have often thought of my fellow Jews in Australia, Brazil and South Africa and how they are studying – and struggling – through the same page of the Talmud as I am. Jews of all kinds; Sefardim, Ashkenazim, Haredim, Yeshivish, Modern or any of the other silly labels we love to slap on ourselves, are all united in this amazing project. One nation, one people, one page of Gemara…. now THAT is the unity we desperately need!

I remember travelling to London about 5 years ago. Naturally, I asked about the times of the morning minyan and found that this Shul also had a Daf Yomi class. After dovinning, I simply joined the class and opened my Gemara. I didn’t ask what page they were learning and within 8 seconds, felt right at home. This scenario repeated itself in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Houston, Boca Raton, Los Angeles, Kew Gardens Hills, the Catskills and across Israel; in the Golan, Hebron and even in Eilat! Sitting next to me – in all those cities – were Jews of all kinds; white shirts and black pants, suits and ties, shorts and sandals etc… One nation, one people, one page of Gemara. Unfortunately, this unity was short lived.

For what are we crying on Tisha B’av? Why do we mourn, fast and say “Kinot”? People think it is because of the destruction of the Bet Ha’Mikdash but they are wrong. We are still crying – 2,000 years later – because that beautiful Bet Ha’Mikdash has not been rebuilt!!! Please remember that, according to most opinions, when the first Bet Ha’Mikdash was rebuilt, there was indeed no fasting on Tisha B’av. Of course not! Why fast when the Bet Ha’Mikdash is standing in all its glory? Therefore, we fast today for the simple reason that 2,000 years have passed and we have still not learned from history. Every child will tell you that the second Bet Ha’Mikdash was destroyed because of “sinat chinam” (baseless hatred) a horrific sin which exists to this very day, for had there been “ahavat chinam” (baseless love – or a better term: true Jewish unity) the third – and final – Bet Ha’Mikdash would be standing today in our capital city!

I have always felt that the Daf Yomi would be the leader of that “Ahavat Chinam”. In all my experiences attending those various Daf Yomis across the globe, nobody ever asked me what Kashrut I observe, how big my Kippa was or if my wife covers her hair. We were all one nation, one people studying the same page of Gemara.

And then it came crashing down.

That beautiful unity, that amazing “achdut” and that wonderful feeling of being one family was shattered with the announcement – here in Israel – of the Siyum Ha’Shas.

Monday – the 11th of Menachem Av (July 30th) will be – and this is a direct quote: “Siyum Ha’Shas Ha’Sefardi” in Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem.

Tuesday – the 12th of Menachem Av (July 31st) will be “Siyum Ha’Shas Ha’Haredi” in a special complex being built for this occasion in Maalot Dafna, Jerusalem.

Thursday – the 14th of Menachem Av (August 2nd) will be “Siyum Ha’Shas shel Ha’Tzionut Ha’Datit” (the Siyum Ha’Shas for Religious Zionists) in Binyanei Ha’Uma, Jerusalem.

There it goes, or as a famous sports announcer used to say when a player hit a home-run: “Kiss it good-bye”. For 7+ years there was one nation and one people but for the conclusion of this Kiddush Hashem there are three nations and three people. Knitted Kippa? Your place is on Thursday. Black hat? Your siyum is on Tuesday. Sefardi? Better hurry, you guys go first!

“Al eleh ani Bo’chiya”. This is why we cry on Tisha B’av. How crazy are we? For 2,000 years we have been divided, split, segregated and compartmentalized and our answer to solve this problem? More splits, more divisions…

This is why I have decided not to attend any of the Siyumei Ha’Shas in Israel. Simply put, I will not be part of this circus. I made aliyah 22 years ago (July 1990) and thank Hashem for every day that I have lived in this incredible land. But I want more. With every fiber of my being I want Jewish unity. I truly love every Yid, regardless of their level of observance. They are my family and they are all welcomed in my home. This is why I began a movement, together with my dear friend Moshe Feiglin, called “Manhigut Yehudit” (The Jewish Leadership Movement). Our goal is to lead the Jewish people under the banner of Jewish identity via Torah principles, values and concepts. No more divisions in our people. No more “us” and “them”.  Just tolerance for our brothers and sisters, unwavering love – even for those who don’t act like they should – and education of every Yid in this country, especially for those who need it the most. We are truly a Daf Yomi nation who needs to constantly be “on the same page” as each other.

This is the message that needs to be sent – loud and clear – especially by the Torah world. If we neglect this message and choose instead to focus events such as the Siyum Ha’Shas based on one’s kippa, I am afraid that we will be sitting on the floor for many Tisha B’avs to come.

May Hashem help us… from ourselves.