Torah And Trekking
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Torah And Trekking

This past Sunday's women led Siyum Hashas and the “No Hate No Fear” rally in New York represented community building and bonding.

Courtesy of Fran Kritz.
Fran Kritz with with Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Courtesy of Fran Kritz. Fran Kritz with with Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

I don’t learn Daf Yomi other than a five minute summary that comes into my inbox each morning. In August, I participated in a 2:00 am conference call from Jerusalem to help plan the JOFA-led North American women’s siyum celebration, marked my calendar and prepared to celebrate. And in the weeks approaching the Siyum HaShas and the Hadran Siyum for women in Israel, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement, commitment and joy of learning.

And in the weeks approaching the Siyum HaShas and the Hadran Siyum for women in Israel, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement, commitment and joy of learning.

I helped sponsor JOFA’s siyum celebration, kept up with my daily reading and followed the plans of friends to travel to New Jersey, Maryland and Israel to celebrate this milestone.

Seven and a half years ago my son, then 16, and I went to the massive auditorium in our day school to watch a live feed of that Siyum HaShas celebration. We both got caught up in the joy of renewal. It wasn’t just about the learning that had taken place, but the learning yet to come. And here it was again! Only this time, there would be a women-led siyum!

Only this time, there would be a women-led siyum!

But three days before, I got a notice of the “No Hate No Fear” rally in New York, where tens of thousands of Jews from all backgrounds and affiliations planned to show up for one another and walk together, heads held high after weeks and months of recent beatings and murders.  I felt the pull – and torn at once.

Pirkei Avot offered me solace: Chapter 2 Mishna 11, “Yose said:…Make yourself fit to study Torah for it will not be yours by inheritance; And let all your actions be for [the sake of] the name of heaven.”  As Sunday approached, I knew I couldn’t be in two places at once, but I could approach both “for the sake of heaven.”

So, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Daphne Price, Executive Director of JOFA who is also my friend and neighbor,  hatched our plan. I would walk in New York. She would study in Maryland. We would be with each other in spirit and make memories and share experiences along the way.

We would be with each other in spirit and make memories and share experiences along the way.

My son and daughter texted throughout the day to encourage and enlighten me. My day started with a 4:00 am alarm and texted Torah thoughts. Describing the incident in Parshat Vayeshev when Joseph’s brothers sell him, my daughter Dina, in a recent dvar torah for the Center for Modern Torah Leadership shared her teacher’s reflection: “The Rabbis highlighted the repercussions of the sale of Joseph in order to educate their constituency regarding the dangers of brotherly discord…”

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 05: People participate in a Jewish solidarity march on January 5, 2020 in New York City. The march was held in response to a recent rise in anti-Semitic crimes in the greater New York metropolitan area. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

I thought to myself that if abandoning Joseph was a precedent felt throughout the ages, then surely walking with thousands of Jews to call attention to murders, beatings and fear, must be the opposite, evidence of the support and love of every Jew.

Armed with that piece of Torah, I joined 25,000 other Jews for a peaceful walk against hate.

Daphne texted photos as the celebration and learning continued in Maryland, and the march itself became a walking conversation about the siyum. Each time I posted about the march on Facebook, the “likes” grew in number as did the online shouts of “I’m marching with you!”

“I’m learning with you,” I replied.

…“I’m marching with you!

“I’m learning with you,” I replied.

As we continued across the Brooklyn Bridge, a spontaneous singing of Kol Haolam Kulo Gesher Tzar Meod (all the world is a narrow bridge) broke out as did expressions of gratitude from the thousands of marchers to every police officer who directed us, guarded us, protected us. When I asked Guardian Angel Sgt. Slavin at the start of the march if I could take his photo, he asked me if I could get his counter terrorism patch into the picture.  “I’m so proud of it,” he said. So are we.

“I’m so proud of it,” he said. So are we.

Watching hundreds of police officers standing in the cold, answering questions, helping people navigate steps and barriers, I thought about the film I had seen just hours before Who Will Wrote Our History about the secret archive of Jewish life and German persecution amassed by sixty brave residents of the Warsaw Ghetto. So much of the film’s footage and story included Jews being rounded up, beaten and murdered by German officers. But all around us was law enforcement offering a helping hand, and ready to lay down their lives to protect us.

I thought about our Rabbi’s drasha on Shabbat. Instead of one of his own, Rabbi Brahm Weinberg the Rabbi of the Kemp Mill Synagogue in Maryland, shared a Drasha of Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto, known as the Piaseczner Rebbe for the town from which he was from. The Piaseczner himself was murdered by the Nazis.

Commenting on Parshat Vayigash, the Rebbe asks why Joseph cries when he sees his father Jacob, but Jacob does not cry. The Piaseczner Rebbe says Jacob doesn’t cry because he sees ahead and knows the Jewish people will continue to survive and thrive.

No doubt Jacob our forefather, and the Piaseczner saw ahead to community building and bonding events like the Siyumim and the march.

No doubt Jacob our forefather, and the Piaseczner saw ahead to community building and bonding events like the Siyumim and the march.

As I boarded the bus for home on Sunday evening, I received a message from my son Matthew who lives in Jerusalem. Four months after making aliyah, he and his wife Yael took on the Hebrew name Nitzanim, flower buds, to reflect how they see their lives unfolding in the Holy Land. Matthew is studying for rabbinic ordination at Ohr Torah Stone’s Yeshivat Machanayim and Yael is studying at Ohr Torah Stone’s Machon L’Manhigut Hilchatit (Institute for Halachic Leadership) at Midreshest Lindenbaum.  Together they attended the women’s Hadran Siyum on that same day.

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 05: A man holds a sign during a Jewish solidarity march on January 5, 2020 in New York City. The march was held in response to a recent rise in anti-Semitic crimes in the greater New York metropolitan area. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

“Dear Mom and Abba,

Tonight, I am feeling extremely honored to call Kemp Mill (our Maryland suburb) home. Yael and I had the good fortune to attend the global women’s Siyum HaShas in Yerushalayim, attended by over 3300 people, including many Misaymot Hashas. Little did we know, however, that the only speaker from out of Israel (Erica Brown) and the only representative of a women’s’ Daf Yomi group to finish the cycle from out of Israel (Rebekah Rasooly) would both hail from the Kemp Mill Synagogue [joined by other women from our synagogue  who had finished the Daf Yomi cycle.] Here in Yerushalayim, Torah in Kemp Mill came across as deep, powerful, inspiring, and courageous… May these role models continue to inspire Limmud Torah in the DC area and beyond, and hopefully there will be many more women and men (Yael and myself included) joining the ranks of Misaymim in June of 2027. And now headed to bed – 6:30 Daf tomorrow morning…”

V’chen yehi ratzon.

Fran Kritz is a healthcare policy reporter and a board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Posts are contributed by third parties. The opinions and facts in them are presented solely by the authors and JOFA assumes no responsibility for them.

If you’re interested in writing for JOFA’s blog contact dani@jofa.org. For more about JOFA like us on Facebook or visit our website.

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