A special note of recognition goes to my oldest son, Yaakov, who inspired me to the main premise of the One Above and Seven Below.
To date, only one person has ever inquired from me how exactly did Yaakov inspire me to this premise. And that person was Yaakov. And what exactly did Yaakov do?
The story goes back to the late fall of 2001 when Yaakov was half past 12, about five months before his Bar Mitzvah. Yaakov approached me and announced that he intends to complete all of Shisha Sidrei Mishna for the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah. I told him that he is not realistic. This is a much bigger and tougher job than it looks, you will never get it done in five months. As an aside, we were studying a short masechet of Gemara (Taanis) and we were very nicely on track to complete it in time for the Bar Mitzvah - so we had a siyum already lined up.
Yaakov, as usual, was quite adamant. He said that he calculated the time available and if he makes sure to learn about 5 perakim each and every day he will get it done. I told him that 5 perakim is no small quota and there can be all kinds of distractions that will cause some days to go by before he can fill it.
Yaakov was undaunted. He is just that kind of a guy. When he wants to do something, he doesn't let anything stop him. Incidentally, I am not always thrilled about this - but I digress... In short, he sure enough got the job done. And I was proud as a peacock.
When the Bar Mitzvah did indeed roll around in February of 2002, we held a standard Kaballas Panim reception and featured a siyum on Shisha Sidrei Mishna in place of the planned siyum on Masechet Taanis. As would be expected, the siyum was initiated by reciting the last Mishna in Uktzin that says: "In the future, G-d will bequeath to each and every tzaddik 310 worlds..."
Toward the end of the affair (when it looked safe), I took the floor to speak. Rest assured, I am not the strong silent type! I blessed the simcha and remarked as follows:
This siyum that we made on Shisha Sidrei Mishna was not the one we planned. We were planning a more modest siyum on one of the smaller masechtos of Shas. The story behind the change is that Yaakov told me about 5 months ago that he intends to complete all of the 6 Sidrei Mishna. I thought Yaakov was off his rocker and told him so. I said that it is a bigger job than it looks. You will never get it done on time.After I gave that speech, my head was spinning. Have I realized until now what this pasuk is telling us? Has anybody? How can we let something so profoundly valuable slip by us?
Well, Yaakov persisted and got the job done. I can't believe it but you did it, Yaakov. But what exactly did you do? How did you get this done?
This is what is called "ameilus b'Torah". Yaakov, what you did was pure ameilus b'Torah. There is no question about that. But do you really understand what ameilus b'Torah is? Do you really know what ameilus b'Torah can achieve?
At this point, I want to talk about what is currently on everybody's mind. It is what we here in Eretz Yisrael call "the matzav" - the situation. We are all concerned about the matzav and we all see that right now the matzav is far from rosey.
What do I know about the current matzav? Not all that much. But I am sure that we will agree that were we to list our most urgent problems, the following four problems would top the list. If we could spontaneously solve these four problems, any other problems after these would be a cake walk. What are the four most pressing problems?
- The water shortage - Explanatory note: There had been a series of very dry winters and the water reserves were at threatening levels. It was a serious shortage although the current drought is much worse.
- Unemployment - Explanatory note: This was shortly after the great dot-com crash of 2000-2001. Although the Israeli economy has since recovered to some extent, that was the lowest ebb since the prosperity of the 90s.
- The security situation and the hostility of our enemies - Explanatory note: During the last half of 2001 and the first half of 2002 (and actually on to the end of 2003) we suffered some of the most vicious and fatal terrorist attacks in short succession including the Sbarro Pizza shop attack, the Motzai Shabbos Bais Yisroel attack, the Seder night attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya among others.
- The discord that we unfortunately have among ourselves - Explanatory note: No need to explain.
These are our most difficult problems. If we can only get past these problems, we have it made!
Does anybody have a suggestion on how to solve all these problems? Well, I do! I have had it for years. The solution is right here --- in this book (I held up a Chumash Vayikra). Now here is what it says in this book (Vayikra 26:4-6):
And I will give your rains in their times... - Do you hear that? End of water crisis!
And your threshing will last until the grape harvest and the grape harvest will last until the time for sowing...- No more unemployment here, folks!
And the sword shall not pass through your land...- Hamas and Fatah go into retirement.
And I will put peace in the land...- There are those who say this means peace within the land among ourselves.
So there you have it! G-d Himself is offering to solve all of our problems. And what is the price? Do we have to give away all our land and let ourselves get blown up in Machaneh Yehuda?
No- that's not what it says here. It says that the price is:
ג אם בחקתי תלכו ואת מצותי תשמרו ועשיתם אתם
and, do you know what that means?
Well, according to Rashi, here is what it means:
הא מה אני מקיים אם בחקותי תלכו שתהיו עמלים בתורה
Did you get that? Ameilus b'Torah! That's the price. And for ameilus b'Torah G-d promises to solve all of our problems!
And you, Yaakov, by making this siyum on Shisha Sidrei Mishna, you have shown all of us and yourself that you can succeed at ameilus b'Torah.
And you know what you can do with it? You can solve all of our problems! You can bring HKBH into this world. You can acquire for yourself 310 worlds of your own....
blah, blah, blah, blah.......
Of course, those of us who have some connection to ameilus b'Torah have always known this secret. But it shouldn't only be our secret. It should be everybody's secret.
So, I set out upon a course to disseminate this secret to whoever is willing to hear it. And One Above and Seven Below was born.
Pay attention to this secret. The troubles you solve may be your own.
PostScript: Yaakov who was 8 years old when we made Aliyah, did not acclimate to the Yeshiva Ketana system here in Eretz Yisroel, so we sent him to learn in America. Currently, he is in a post high-school Yeshiva/College program. He is one seder away from finishing Mishnayos for the third time.