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A Torah Siyum

by Rabbi Matt April 24, 2012

Please save Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. on your calendar. That evening, we will gather for a Torah Siyum. A what?

Siyum (pronounced see-yoom) means the completion of any unit of Torah study, or book of the Mishnah or of the Talmud. Jews gather for a festive meal in honor of the completion of a mitzvah. In our case, we are engaging in the mitzvah of "talmud torah," Torah study.

Often, during home visits, I ask people "can we learn a bissel Torah together? Do you have a Bible?" All too often the reply is "we don’t have a Bible" or "I don’t know where it is." We Jews are called the People of the Book, how is it possible that so many of us do not have a copy of our Bible?! The Torah scroll is our most precious possession, yet too many of us, have only passing familiarity with the 5 books of Moses. And, all the more so, this is true for the rest of the TaNaKh. Can we identify the Prophets and the Writings? We speak of Jewish traits, in terms of ethical behaviors and expectations. Which texts helped form those ancestral traits of which we are so proud?

As a rabbi, ordained 21 years ago -- and as the rabbi of Temple Israel Ner Tamid for 16 years -- I have struggled with how to bring people, myself included, closer to the teachings of our sacred scriptures. Thus were planted the seeds of "3 Chapters A Day."

Briefly, the goals are: (1) To encourage, as many people as possible, to read the entire TaNaKh in one year. (2) To inspire each person to engage in regular Jewish study which will give him... which will give her... soulful opportunities "to attain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90). (3) To assist people in making the task manageable by means of a daily calendar. (4) People will learn on their own terms and, quite probably, at their own pace. If you have not yet started, jump right in, today is a great day to start learning Torah. (5) To gather for a joyful siyum at the conclusion of each of the three sections of the TaNaKh: the Torah in June, the Prophets in October, and the Writings in March 2013.

Copies of the "3 Chapters A Day" calendar are in the pamphlet tower in the temple foyer. A calendar, book summaries, and more, are available on our website under the Adult Education tab. Occasionally, I post comments to our "3 Chapters A Day" Facebook page. Please email me -- rabbimje3@tintcleveland.org -- and let me know you are attempting to read "3 Chapters A Day." Even if you think I have you on my list, please send me an email with "3 Chapters A Day" in the subject line. Every once in a while, I will send an email of encouragement. Email, or call me, with questions and comments.

At the Torah Siyum, we will read the final chapter of Deuteronomy together, we will discuss, we will nosh, and we will share a simcha! Please let me know if you would like to be a Torah Siyum Sponsor at "triple chai" $54, in honor of... in loving memory of... or in appreciation of someone or something. As we learn in Exodus 25:1-2, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him."

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