New York - Thousands Of Chabad Chasidim To Celebrate Siyum HaRambam
New York - Jewish communities throughout the world will be celebrating a momentous achievement this weekend: the completion over the past 11 months of the study of the Mishneh Torah, the foundational legal code authored by the 12th century sage Rabbi Moses Maimonides.
It’s the 30th time the cycle has run since the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, instituted the practice in 1984, and the hundreds of thousands of people who labored day in and day out studying Maimonides’ code will, in time honored fashion, mark the achievement by cracking open their books and beginning anew.
Over the coming days, Chabad-Lubavitch centers across the globe will host community gatherings, celebratory meals and scholarly presentations. One such event, the “Global Online Siyum HaRambam” will feature addresses from Rabbis Manis Friedman of Minnesota, Mendel Kaplan of Toronto, Yehuda Leib Schapiro of Miami Beach, and Yehoshua B. Gordon of California, and will be broadcast live on Jewish.TV, the multimedia portal of Judaism website Chabad.org.
One of the first events timed to the 30th cycle’s completion will take place Thursday night at Imperial College in London, where Arabic professor Tzvi Langermann of Bar Ilan University, Imperial College School of Public Health director Elio Riboli, Jewish spirituality lecturer Rabbi Naftali Loewenthal of University College London, and UCL Hebrew research fellow Israel Sandman will give a seminar on Maimonides’ contributions to philosophy and the medical arts. The event, coordinated by Chabad of South Kensington, will count for continuing education credit through the Royal College of Physicians.
At the completion of the first cycle, hundreds of celebrations took place in locations throughout the world. Torah scholars from every segment of the Jewish community joined these gatherings, delivering in-depth analyses on sections of the code.
“The people praising [Maimonides] were centuries removed from the life of Maimonides, who was born 851 years ago in Cordoba, Spain,” read an article in The New York following the 1986 celebration of the second completion of the cycle, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. “Yet, after intensely studying his work this last year and applying his teachings, they gathered yesterday to celebrate the wisdom of the sage known to them as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam.”
When the Rebbe encouraged people everywhere to learn the code, he stressed the unity achieved by the entire Jewish People studying the same subject in Torah at the same time. He suggested three different study tracks: a three-chapter-a-day cycle that completes the 14-volume code in less than a year, a one-chapter cycle that completes the work in just less than three years, and for children and hose whose backgrounds are not conducive to rigorous in-depth study, a daily examination of the pertinent topics in Sefer Hamitzvot, a companion work of Maimonides’ that lists all of the 613 commandments in the Torah.
The emphasis on daily study mirrored the Rambam’s own suggestions on how his work should be learned, but until the Rebbe’s innovation, most people studied the Mishneh Torah piecemeal.
“To study the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah in this way – that is, with a study program that completes the entire book, and which approaches it as one, integral work – is to endeavor to achieve a holistic view of Torah,” writes Rabbi Adin Even-Yisrael (Steinsaltz). “The Torah as it is presented in the Mishneh Torah is not a sequence of sewn-together scrolls, but a single sheet whose component parts integrate with one another, each feeding and being fed by the whole.
“This is the new epoch in Torah-learning opened by the Rebbe,” he continues. “It is a departure from the approach which dominated the recent generations, in which the study of Torah entailed delving into its details. In this new paradigm, the goal is to see the details from the perspective of the whole.”
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