Friday, August 3, 2012

"Our mind is on you, and your mind is on us"

The Daf Yomi siyum hashas at MetLife Stadium was outstanding last night (notwithstanding a bizarre two days of delayed/mislaid/cancelled flights, shuttles and trains to get there and back). Being there was a joy, and celebrating with people I did the daf with for years was beyond that. I am grateful to those who brought me there.

As part of the formal celebration of a siyum, we address the text we have studied, and say, "Daatan alach, v'daatach alan." This would seem to mean, "Our mind is on you, and your mind is on us." The dvar torah from last night which resonated most with me took this phrase in a homiletic direction.

Rav Dovid Olewski, Rosh Yeshiva of the Bais Yisroel [Gerrer] yeshiva [update: It's available at 3:27 of the video available here] explained "daatan alach", "our mind is on you," to refer to the way a student of the Daf Yomi keeps his mind on that day's Talmud study, regardless of where he is and what he is doing. He goes to work, he sets aside time to learn. She goes on vacation, she sets aside time to learn. No matter where or when or what is going on, despite pressures for all sorts of other things, the Daf is on your mind. "Our mind is on you," we say to the Torah.

He then continued to explain "daatach alan" along the lines of "your mind is in us," referring to the way a persistent student of Torah absorbs a Torah perspective. Eventually, after many years of true dedication, he will be able to predict a sugya, she will be able to intuit the way Torah would approach a particular question.

I would add another point, within this "daatach alan" - We become truly aware of just how broad Torah is. I distinctly remember when I first came to feel that appreciation for Torah, that awareness of what we mean when we say (citing Iyyov 11:9) it is "longer than the land and broader than the sea," a substantive recognition not simply of how little I knew, but of what it was that I didn't know.

The consistency and persistence of Daf Yomi brings a remarkable bond with Torah. Dedicating yourself to any field of study for such an extended period of time, pushing yourself through all of life's events, through work and play, through family gatherings and crunchtime at work, through happiness and depression, through the various seasons, bonds you with that which you study. And doing it not only with a field of study, but with specific personalities who accompany you along the way - your chavrusas around the table and your chavrusas on the page - deepens that experience still further.

I have my misgivings about Daf Yomi, as I noted in a post here some time back. But this is a definite benefit.

"Daatan alach, v'daatach alan." May we continue to keep our minds on you, and may your mind enter into us.


    Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik writes, “Da’atan alakh-in our latent awareness we are still committed to you; V’da’atakh alan- we hope you won’t forget us. We hope that you, the tractate, will also keep us in mind, and if we view the Torah as a friend, the Torah will indeed be able to watch over us. “ (“On the love of Torah” Shiurei HaRav).

    Me-The latent awareness thing is similar to R'YBS understanding of tosfot in brachot re: only 1 birchat hatorah a day (R'YBS analogy to a baby always being on the mother's mind, wherever she may be, whatever she may be doing)

    Joel Rich

  2. Indeed... and the intuition idea is also rooted in a concept the Rav has articulated, as I recall.