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Friday, October 19, 2012

Hakafos and Credit

Last night I spoke at a siyum.  L W, הרוצה בעילום שמו, a good friend who has been a member of my shiur for eight years, invited us to a party to express his pleasure and gratitude for having learned with us.  He is a model of hakaras hatov, and he has a natural affinity for limud hatorah.

Some years ago, when we were learning Kiddushin or Gittin, we were a few blatt ahead, and I decided on a program for the talmidim- each one would prepare a piece of achronisheh torah and present it to the shiur.  LW was the first, and, as it turned out, the only one to do it.  We simply didn't have enough time, because I only say shiur six days a week.

His presentation was the Staipler on the Machlokes Rambam and Tur in Shlichus, where the baalim became incompetent after he sent the shliach.  He prepared thoroughly, and did an excellent presentation.  Recently, he was speaking at someone else's house, and there were Kollel yungeleit there, and you could see that their minds were wandering as he spoke, until he mentioned the machlokes Rambam and Tur.  Watching their eyes come into sudden focus and their faces all turn at once was very funny- it was as if a bell had rung and woken them all up at the same time.

In any case, I spoke last night, and I'd like to write the main part of the speech here.  It can come into handy for people that need a speech for similar occasions- a siyum or for Simchas Torah.

The first vort comes from several sources- heard it from attributed to the Ri'm and I saw it from the Lubavitcher Rashab.

Simchas Torah is different than Shavuos.  On Shavuos, we celebrate Mattan Torah, and the Torah includes kiyum hamitzvos, and learning, and middos, the whole package of what having the Torah means to us.  Simchas Torah is a siyum, simple and clear.  We finished reading the Chumash, we begin it again, and we celebrate the idea of limud and chazaras hatorah.  If so, the only people dancing ought to be the people who actually learn.  The many baalei batim who are yotzei the mitzva of talmud torah with Eilu Devarim, Reb Yishmael, and Krias Shma, really don't have much to be celebrating.  So why are they dancing?  It must be that they're dancing on credit.  They are saying that even though they didn't learn all year, next year they'll learn, and they're celebrating the learning they plan to do in the future.  Dance now, learn later.  That's called enjoying the yomtov on credit.  This is why they call them Hakafos- because "hakafa" means "on credit."

Our chasan haneshef did not dance on credit.  His Simchas Torah was honestly earned: he came to the shiur straight from work, not having eaten, and he remembers a great deal more than the maggid shiur does (besides where Rav Kahana slept and Reb Yochanan's bracha at the Shaarei Tevila.)

Another thing I heard on the topic of Hakafos is from the Kloizenberger.  The Kloizenberger said that all mitzvos must be done with joy, with a leiv samei'ach, with simcha and tuv leivav.  The reality is that many mitzvos are done without any thought, and, unfortunately, as if they were an imposition.  For all of those mitzvos- the hanachas tefillin, the tzitzis, the limud hatorah- that we should have done with simcha, we owe a lot of simcha by the end of the year.  So at the Hakafos, we dance and we jump and we sing to make up for all the simcha we owe the Ribono shel Olam.  That's another pshat in Hakafos- we are paying back now for the simcha we owe the Ribono shel Olam from the entire year that passed.

Here, too, this does not apply.  Larry, with his natural affinity for limud hatorah, looks forward to the shiur and thinks about it afterwards.  He learns with pleasure and he expresses his enjoyment and gratitude for it, sometimes to his maggid shiur's embarrassment.  His simcha of Torah is consistent for the whole year, and he doesn't have to dance on Simchas Torah to pay for all the simcha he owes.

So there are two ideas that use the play on words of Hakafa: the first, that many people dance now on credit for the learning they promise to do the next year, and the second, that even the people who did learn should have learned with more simcha, and they have to pay for the simcha they owe.  As it happens, neither applies to our friend.

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