Monday, April 28, 2014

My Siyum HaTaNaCH Speech

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you so much for being here.  Many of you are here on short notice, but I’m hoping, at least, that the free food will make it worth your while.

Ostensibly (that’s the first time I’ve ever used this word in public), this is my birthday party, but in reality it’s something far more important. Boruch Hashem, I have completed all of TaNaCh. It took me 7 years, which is almost as long as the Daf Yomi cycle.

Rishon rishon choviv, I owe it all to my wife, including the arrangement of this seudas mitzvah. My spiritual endeavors begin with her, continue through her, and conclude in the proper way because of her.

I didn’t even have a hand in any of these arrangements. I just told her I’m on pace to finish before my 3rd bar mitzvah, which was my goal, and I simply told her whose attendance was important to me, and here we are. May we both fully share from all the zechusim I hope I attain through my learning.

My speech will be a timeline of events, from the inception of the idea of working through TaNaCh, through its completion.

We begin with my childhood: I never learned a single full sefer of Navi. Not one. Ever. It was not part of the curriculum in both the Chasidish and Yeshivish places I went to. They have priorities. Clearly it’s more important to know what to do when two people are holding a tallis, or what happens when an egg is born on Yom Tov, or how a woman is acquired and released. I have more to say about why that is, but we’ll leave it at that. The takeaway is: I never learned any sefer past the Chamishei Chimshei Torah.

Fast forward to October, 2002. After Four months of dating Naomi, I made my way to Minnesota for the first time in my life, and met her folks. I got a tour of their house, including Naomi’s childhood room. In the corner of the room was a seforim shrank – in English this is called a bookcase. On the shrank was 90% of this set of TaNaCh [point to set on shelves].

As an aside, I should point out that at the time, it was 100% of the set, because Judaica Press didn’t complete the entire translation until a few years later. I should also point out that it was her grandparents who bought the set for her on the occasion of her bat mitzvah – 10 years ago.

She then showed me her baseball cards, pictures from her youth, and while this was going on, a thought flitted through my mind: she’s got the full set. Interesting. I never learned any of it. Maybe I should start.

Some time between 2002 and 2007 - we can’t remember exactly when - the set made the trip over to our house. It’s a machloykiss achroynim. Beis Naomi umrim, it came before I started learning TaNaCh. Beis Mordechi umrim, it came after. Tayku.

In 2007, my shul put on an event for the JFS in our community. Naomi served as chair and put everything together. Placed on the table was this pamphlet [show pamphlet]. The OU had begun a Nach Hayomi program. I bought in immediately, and began learning. I was already learning Daf Yomi, so what I would do is make sure I was up to date on my daf yomi, and then I would keep up with the nach yomi.

In 2008, v’yesh umrim 2009, v’acheyrim umrim 2010, we were oleh regel to the YU Seforim Sale where we purchased the seforim we needed to fill out the collection. Judaica Press had completed translating all of TaNaCH, and we were able to complete the full set.

In November of 2011 – in addition to running another marathon - I attended the bar mitzvah of an accomplished young man. I won’t mention him by name because I’ll embarrass him, but he’s present today.

First of all, the reason I remember the date is simple: this is the bookmark [show bookmark] from the event, with the date and his favorite quote from TaNaCh on it from Amos 8:11:

 לֹֽא־רָעָ֤ב לַלֶּ֨חֶם֙ וְלֹֽא־צָמָ֣א לַמַּ֔יִם כִּ֣ אִם־לִשְׁמֹ֔עַ אֵ֖ת דִּבְרֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

Neither famine for bread, nor thirst for water, but to hear the words of the Lord.

My favorite quote from TaNaCh is from Koheles 9:10:

כֹּ֠ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר תִּמְצָ֧א יָֽדְךָ֛ לַעֲשֹׂ֥ות בְּכֹחֲךָ֖ עֲשֵׂ֑ה׃

Everything that you do, do it with all your strength.

It’s the philosophy of my life.

To celebrate his bar mitzvah, he completed all of TaNaCh, and while Richard Joel was singing his praises, I turned to my wife and I said to her, “Do you realize we could live the rest of our lives and never see something like this again?” She agreed. So far, it’s been true!

What I didn’t say out loud, but what I did make up my mind about, was that I would make it my goal to finish TaNaCh before my 3rd bar mitzvah. If this young man could do it by his 1st bar mitzvah, then surely I could do it in three times the time!

In September 2013, I took stock of where I was holding and realized I better get a move on if I was going to make deadline. My wife suggested that I could be flexible and do it before my Hebrew birthday, which this year comes out in May, but I said no, my English birthday, because that was my original kavanah. I had even less time. I then put more effort into my Daf Yomi, so I could put more effort into my Nach Yomi. Then someone suggested I do Mishna Yomi, and I was like, I don’t think so.

Fast forward to last Shabbos. It was my 39th birthday, and I finished on that day, Boruch Hashem, as I intended. The sentiment that I wish to express is the Facebook post I put up on Motzei Shabbos, which reads:

“Hadran aluch Divrei Hayomim Beis, U'slika luch Ketuvim, umesayim kol haTaNaCH! A gift to myself on the occasion of my third bar mitzvah, in gratitude to my Creator for bringing me to this station in good health, and in honor of my children, Naava, Freddy, and Ranan Elisha Bodek. May they not have to wait until middle age, as I did, to enjoy the sweetness of the learning. While it certainly is better late than never, may they be constantly engaged in it, always and forever.”

Speaking of sweetness, I remember that at Ranan’s bris, when I sang my wife’s praises, I mentioned that as we go along in our marriage, the verses of Eishes Chayil come to life, and take on additional and significant meaning. So too, with the hadran, the different verses take on more and more meaning. In this instance, for the first time, I can say that “V’ha’arev nah” has come true. Gemorah is academically rigorous, but TaNaCH was batampte, it had a flavor, it was tasty and sweet.

Speaking of the hadran, there’s a question about whether or not to say it when you finish TaNaCH. Everyone should know, for those who are concerned about the halachic ramifications, that Rav Moshe was a big proponent of it. He placed greater emphasis on the feeling of completing a holy sefer, or even a daf, as opposed to actually completing a holy sefer. Al achas kamah v’kamah, if you actually complete an entire volume of seforim, of course you can say hadran and kaddish.

Before I’m misayim, I want to mention another inspiration, and that is in the embodiment of Iddo Wernick. I remember discussing Navi with him, and he mentioned that he cycles through it quite often, but hasn’t made a siyum. He said it’s important to be “in it.” That’s why I used exactly that phrase in the Facebook post. Because that’s what’s important, to be “in it,” always. Lilmod u’lelamed. But I also want to make a siyum. Because it’s my birthday, and the birthday boy gets what he wants. Iddo, I will have you in mind when I do the siyum.

I should also mention that this weekend is my grandmother’s 10th yahrzeit, and it is therefore a perfectly auspicious time to honor her with this completion as well.

I should also mention that it is my mother-in-law’s mother’s 24 yahrzeit.

I should also mention that it was my bar mitzvah parsha yesterday.

I should also mention that my in-laws are leaving town tomorrow.

This all makes the scheduling of this siyum to be ideal, and I’m very delighted that it worked out so nicely this way.


L’iloi nishmas Brana bas R. Zev and Tziporah Feiga bas Nuchem Eliezer, Birshus Oovi Mori, Imi Morasi, haRav, Yehuda Tzvi and Iddo Yitzchok, bichvoyd, Naava Leora, Yonah Avrohom, and Ranan Elisha, bishvach, Naomi, v’kul hamesubin kan, let us finish the holy TaNaCh together. I’ll do it in Yiddish this time to make it official.

Shteit in Divrei Hayoomim…