Va’eschanon:  Banner Event


rabbi-nosson-greenbergBy Rabbi Nosson Greenberg

In this week’s parsha we revisit the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. Chazal say (Shabbos 146a) that not just those who were actually alive were at that experience, but all neshomos, past present and future also participated in that seminal event of our history. Rav Eliyahu Dessler explains (Haggadah of Rav Dessler, P. 200) that every neshama innately has the same perfect level of clarity about Hashem and yiddishkiet as the Yidden who were actually present at the event at Sinai. Any person who was standing there had an absolute understanding of what is the purpose of life, who the Creator is, and how he can give Him nachas. Similarly, each and every neshama has that same understanding, and even though it has been put into a body that thinks otherwise, the neshama inside knows the truth.

I am reminded of the time at the 11th siyum Hashas at Madison Square Garden (MSG). The siyum had been recited and the singing and dancing had begun. The atmosphere was electric. All as one rose out of their seats, dancing in place to the songs of simcha, the simcha of siyum Hashas. I remember the garden literally shaking from the pounding of feet and the swaying of bodies. I looked around soaking up the scene, hoping this moment in time would never end. I gazed up into the rafters and something caught my eye. MSG is a sports arena, home to several New York sports teams. Hanging from the ceiling are banners with names of famous athletes – heroes of the teams that played there. One such banner was that of the famous New York Knicks basketball head coach William “Red” Holzman. Holzman, a Jew who grew up in Brownsville N.Y. and lived later on in Cedarhurst L.I., was a great basketball coach. In honor of his achievements the Knicks display a banner with his name hanging from the ceiling. As I looked up and saw his banner, I noticed it wasn’t just hanging down lifeless and limp, but it was bobbing up and down, and jigging from side to side. For the siyum Hashas was not just the simcha of those who finished the entire Shas, nor was it a celebration only for those in attendance at the actual siyum. It was Klal Yisroel’s simcha. And Klal Yisroel was dancing. Every neshama past present and future, every pintele Yid – even the unaffiliated, felt and sensed the simcha of the world, for it knew absolute simcha, and wanted to join in and dance! I don’t know if Red Holzman ever did plumb the depths of Shas, or if he had ever learnt a blatt gemara, but he sure was dancing with us that evening.

But there is a twist to this story. Emblazoned on all these banners are not only the names of the particular athletes, but their uniform number as well. Holzman, though a Knick’s legend, never had a number, for being a coach he did not wear a uniform. Instead, the number displayed on his banner is the amount of wins he had accumulated as the Knick’s head coach. That number, too, was dancing that evening. That number, too, wanted to be an active participant – a part of the unbridled simcha of yidden throughout the world. And what a number it was. You see, Red Holzman, in his fifteen years as the illustrious head coach, had steered his team to victory exactly 613 times.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.

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