Over 500 people gathered at the prestigious Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday January 12th to celebrate the 33rd annual Siyum HaRambam. The event was hosted by over twenty communities. This marked the 33rd completion of the three chapter cycle and the 11th completion of the one chapter cycle of the entire Yad Hachazaka works of the Rambam.
Twenty one Chabad houses and communities from around Southern California joined together to host the event with a variety of special guest speakers. Rabbi Avraham Zajac of Chabad of Sola, emceed the event and ushered in the Siyum with several chapters of Tehillim for peace in Israel and for the safety of Jews in France and the world over. Opening remarks were by head shliach of the West Coast Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin. Rabbi Cunin expounded upon the connection between learning Rambam, to the era of Moshiach, the time when the world will be consumed with the knowledge of Hashem “as the waters cover the sea.”
Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon, head shliach of Chabad of the Valley, who recently completed the first ever video series of the entire Rambam that is featured on chabad.org, stressed that the Rebbe’s mission for every Jew was to learn Rambam every day. The crowd viewed a beautiful 8 minute JEM video in which the Rebbe emphasized how Rambam is unique and applicable to all Jews equally. Anyone and everyone can learn the halachos of Torah on a daily basis and this shared learning and understanding amongst Jews creates a special bond of Jewish unity throughout the world.
Rabbi Avrohom Union of the Rabbinical Council of California noted that studying Rambam provides a unique experience in learning. He explained that the Rambam uses very precise language in every halacha and he shared lessons on what we learn from the specific words, as well as halachic lessons we can glean from what he does not write.
Rabbi Avrohom Teichman, Av Beis Din of Kehilla and Rav of Kehilas Aguda explained there is a unique expression in the middle of Birchas HaTorah that teaches us that ultimately we will all learn Lishmah – just for the sake of the Torah itself.
The evening continued with the completion and initiation of the new cycles of learning Rambam with the completion provided by Rabbi Shimon Raichik of Congregation Levi Yiztchok. Rabbi Yosef Y. Shusterman, Chabad Shliach to Beverly Hills and the Chabad Rav of Los Angeles who began the new cycle with insights into the foundation and pillars of Torah, representing our faith in Hashem, and the intellectual exercise of learning Torah.
The audience was enthralled by the keynote of the evening, Rabbi Leib Shapiro, Rav and Rosh Yeshiva of the Chabad Yeshiva of Miami, Florida. Rabbi Shapiro eloquently explained that there are 2 parts to educating children, the overt and the subtle approaches. The overt part of chinuch includes the things we tell our children to do and not do and the active guidance that we give them. The subtle approach to chinuch includes all the behavioral queues and message that our children learn from our behavior and how we model our values for them. Children have a natural tendency to question and challenge us but this only occurs against our overt parenting. They don’t consciously challenge our subtle messaging because there is nothing that is directly challenging them or telling them what to do.
Rabbi Shapiro suggested that when the Rambam describes the Yesod HaYisodois, the “foundation of all foundations,” he is touching on the fact that the foundation of our Jewish life is educating our children and living a Jewish life. However the foundation of this foundation, the Yesod Ha-Yisodois, is that there is a Motzoi Rishon – a first and primary being. It is specifically our subtle parenting and modeling behavior that needs to convey this message – acting and behaving with a conscious effort that we value a Jewish and G-dly life of Torah and Mitzvos. This subtle parenting approach will speak louder and with greater impact than anything we can ever tell our children to do verbally. Living a life of mitzvos and learning Torah ourselves will model the behavior that we want most for our children and will better ensure that they follow in our path and in our expectations of them.
Rabbi Shapiro’s inspiring words brought the evening to a close. The packed crowd took home some memorable lessons on the Rambam and renewed encouragement to learn Rambam.