Rav Ilan Goldman
Former Rav Shaliach of Bnei Akiva UK
Incoming Educational Director of Torah MiTzion
There is a story in the Midrash regarding a pasuk from our Parasha: Rabbi Yannai saw a man whom he thought to be a Talmid Chacham (rabbinic scholar). He therefore invited him home as his guest. Testing him, he found that his guest was not at all knowledgeable. When R. Yannai realised that he could not even bensch, he referred to his guest as a dog. The latter caught hold of R. Yannai claiming that he, R. Yannai, had his inheritance and that it should be returned at once. R. Yannai was surprised and asked what he meant. The guest answered that he had once walked by the Beit Midrash and heard the children reciting:תּוֹרָה צִוָּה לָנו מֹשֶׁה מוֹרָשָׁה קְהִלַּת יַעֲקֹב, ‘Moshe commanded us a law, an inheritance of the congregation of Yaacov’.
The Torah says it is the inheritance of the congregation of Yaacov and not just of the congregation of Yannai. R. Yannai then realised he was mistaken in his attitude and asked his guest what he had done which merited him to eat with him? The guest answered that he had never heard something bad and repeated it to others. That he had never seen two people fighting without interfering and bringing peace between them. To this R. Yannai replied saying that his guest has such great attributes and he is far from being a dog. It seems Rabbi Yannai’s original approach was that only learned people have a share in the Torah and only they are connected to its teachings. His guest taught him that every Jew is connected to the Torah. This is not just in theory or in some spiritual dimension but rather it is translated into daily life and behavior.
This message is fitting for our Parasha when we conclude the cycle of reading the entire Torah and when we rejoice with the Torah on Simchat Torah. On Shavuot we celebrate the Torah by opening books and studying them. On Simchat Torah we close the books and dance with them. On Shavuot we celebrate our practical connection to Torah; how much we study it and how much we know of it. On Simchat Torah we celebrate the very bond each and every Jew has with the Torah.