That in itself is nothing remarkable, I have leined hundreds of times in my life.
However, this leining is unique, because it is the only leining I have done that I have never learnt. For those of you who lein, you know how it works. First you read through the pesukim in the chumash with the notes, then gradually you learn it so well you can do it in the tikun (without vowels or notes), eventually with that knowledge, you proceed to lein from the Torah, hopefully without any note or word mistakes.
That is how I have learnt every single piece of leining I have ever done, starting from my first piece at North West London Jewish Day School all the way through to today. Every single piece, except one – the one I leined yesterday, Rishon of Parashat Vayechi.
The question is why?
It was 1980 and I was about eight years old and I received the exciting news that for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah we would be going for the first ever time to Israel. We worked out that the leining he would do at the Kotel on the Monday morning would be the same as the one he would lein in Kingsbury – Parashat Vayechi.
So he began to learn his leining – especially Rishon for his Barmitzvah at the Kotel.
I heard that leining so many times over the next year or so, I never learnt it, I didn’t need to, it became part of me, acquiring the leining by osmosis.
It is the same with our Judaism. Of course, we can and should educate all our children about the various facts and figures, our customs and traditions of Shabbat and the Chagim. However, you cannot compare the child who learns the facts about Shabbat to the one who lives it week and week out. Their knowledge of Shabbat is acquired by the experience 52 weeks a year.
They don’t learn it, they acquire it.
Last week I wrote and spoke about the Siyum HaShas and made the statement that I doubted the JC and Jewish News would cover such a monumental event.
Well I was wrong!
Though in many ways I wish they hadn’t covered it, as their focus was on the tremendous Chillul Hashem of the disinviting of the Chief Rabbi. However, let us separate ourselves from that and look at the global view of the Jewish people over the last two weeks.
What we have seen from the various Siyumim around the world? We have seen an incredibly vibrant, passionate and thriving Torah world from the Charedi to the Chassidic to the Centrist Orthodox/ Religious Zionist. The common factor in those worlds is that Ki Haim Chayenu V’Orech Yamenu – ‘For they are our life and our length of days and we will mediate on them day and night.’
Torah is our lives. It is a living breathing reality – not only was Daf Yomi learnt, through the lifestyles that are led – it was also acquired.
So, as the Torah scroll was unrolled yesterday, I located the opening word – Vayechi, I smiled to myself and found myself transported back to my home in Kingsbury where I first heard my brother recite that line ‘Vayechi Yaacov B’Eretz Mitzraim’– and I realised that that was the day where unwittingly I began to learn the lesson of true Jewish Continuity