Midrash L’man Achai, under the leadership of Rav Shmuel Z. Kleinman, gave its talmidim an inspirational Rosh Chodesh Shevat experience. The students were invited to a formal seudah that included divrei chizuk from veteran mechanech Rabbi Mordechai Finkelman. The esteemed mashgiach of Yeshivas Ohr HaChaim in Kew Gardens Hills illustrated his remarks with a poignant story of a thirteen-year-old bachur with a striking life lesson, “The most valuable gift that this boy received for his Bar Mitzvah was his watch,” related Rav Finkelman, “because it reminded him that time is ticking, and we do not get the minutes back. Life is time.” The mashgiach followed on the discussion of the importance of time, noting, “American has a whole industry of killing time.” This was said about people not knowing how to use the time that they are given wisely and succumbing to the pressures of the theater industry where a person can get lost in the world of the screen for hours on end. “To us, every minute is valuable,” said the Rav, giving pointers to the students to use every minute appropriately starting from how we conduct ourselves on Rosh HaShanah – the brain center of the year – translating into our actions throughout the months that follow.
Rav Finkelman also related where the Torah mentions Sh’vat at the outset of Chumash Devarim, “It began on Rosh Chodesh Shevat.” It occurred that on the first day of Shevat, Moshe Rabbeinu began to explain the Torah Sh’e ba’al peh to the Bnei Yisrael, as we already had Torah sh’e b’kisav. This month is an especially auspicious time to improve the quality of one’s Torah learning. Just as Moshe Rabbeinu delved into explaining the Torah, so should we - because nothing is by coincidence. It must be noted that the Torah goes out of its way to specify that all of this began on Rosh Chodesh Shevat.
By Shabsie Saphirstein