So many of the blogs lately are talking about scandal and perhaps the seedy side of the human experience, I thought I would share with my readers an uplifting experience
In 1987 a historic event in the publishing world took place when Random House published the English translation of the Talmud by Rabbi Adin Steinsalz.Following a N.Y. Times story on this event, I volunteered to teach a group of physicians in Good Samaritan Hospital from these volumes
The group for the most part could not read Hebrew, had little background in Judaic Studies and certainly had never seen a GEMARAH (Talmud) They were however extremely bright, motivated and above all each in their own way were kind, compassionate and caring physicians and each had pride in their Jewish heritage.
My challenge was how to make the class interesting, relevant, ,meaningful and of course on a level that they could understand ,while remain intellectually stimulating.
This week, after meeting weekly for about 16 years we completed the Tractate of Baba Metzia. At an elegant siyum (catered dinner) attended by the students and their spouses we recounted, not just the 119 pages of Talmud we covered but the impact these sessions have had on our entire group.both teacher and students,
Each session which took place in the Radiology Dept of Good Sam, a Catholic Hospital with a reputation for sensitivity to Jewish tradition, started with a brief review of the weeks Parshah (Torah portion) .Before each holiday we covered the laws and customs of the upcoming event. We undertook over 613 weeks to cover the SEFER HAMITZVOTH (the 613 positive and negative commandments ),as outlined by the Sainted Chafeitz Chaim
Last year in May, we took our group with our wives and a few friends for a week tour to Israel. Many in our group of 22 had never been there before. From dovening (praying) in the private synagogue of President Katsav to attending a slain soldiers burial,we met a cross section of Israeli leadership. We had a private dinner with U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer and had briefings in the Knesset.
Next month on May 8 we leave as a group of 30 to return to Israel for Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) . As part of our celebration we are presenting a sefer Torah (Torah scroll) to the Israeli Navy in Haifa. We will once again visit museums and tourist sites, but our emphasis is on visiting two Hospitals, Hadassah and Beersheba .In addition we will once again be briefed by Generals, Diplomats and political figures.
This year we have added visits to Moscow and Berlin. With the aid of the National Conference for Soviet Jewry we will meet the Israeli and American Ambassadors, as well as the Jewish members of the Duma. .In addition to the Bolshoi,we have been invited to the Israeli Embassy for their Independence Day celebration.
Thus as we gathered in the Jerusalem restaurant in Monsey for our siyum we were able to verbalize our feelings on this memorable occasion. Rabbi Nachum Muschel Dean Emeritus of ASHAR delivered a dvar Torah (talk). Both he and Rabbi Dr. Moses Tendler had spoken in years gone by to the group during our Succoth parties.
Of note is the fact that the room where we conduct our weekly classes has two mezuzahs on the doors, placed there by our class
Above all we have developed a sense of friendship for each other and a feeling of being part of the K’hilah (community). Each member of the class today has an enhanced commitment to world Jewry and a strengthened attachment to the traditions handed down from Sinai to the present