Sunday, November 28th 2021   |



A newly minted rabbinical student, traveling by air, brought a volume of Talmud on the plane to study during the long flight. He opened the oversize tome to the first page. A flight attendant, not recognizing the language, and assuming incorrectly that the work was read from left to right, commented: “How happy you must be to be finishing such a big book!”

The “Hadran” – understood simultaneously to mean “We shall return [to you]” and “Our glory [is in learning]” – is a prayer recited upon conclusion of a Talmudic tractate. Such a milestone in study is customarily accompanied by a celebratory public meal: a practice dating back to the time of the Talmud itself (see Shulchan Aruch YD 246:26, Rema). While it is generally assumed (not entirely without foundation) that the feast celebrates how happy we are “to be finishing such a big book,” Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik teaches that the true cause for celebration is the resulting opportunity to move on to new challenges and further learning. Or, as Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco wisely observed, “Read books are far less valuable than unread ones.”

The “Hadran” teaches us to anticipate the return flight, to glory in our potential for future achievements like a novice… and to buckle in for a first-class journey.

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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