Our Sages say (Yoma 9b) that our present exile resulted from sinas chinam (baseless hatred) among Jews. Since our exile is not yet over (even the Holy Land is still in a state of spiritual galus), clearly the cause for it still remains. To end it, we must foster the opposite of sinas chinam: ahavas chinam (limitless love that supersedes reason) and achdus Yisrael (unity among Jews).
Unity does not mean agreeing on everything. “Just as people’s faces differ, so do their opinions,” our Sages say. We shouldn’t allow these differences, however, to divide us. A single family comprises individuals of differing personalities and opinions, but they love each other for what they have in common. So should it be among the Jewish people. Despite our many differences, we should love each other – and be united – over what we have in common.
This year – most fittingly – the annual siyum of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah will take place during the Nine Days when we mourn the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and the beginning of our exile. When he launched the annual Rambam cycle in 1984, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that its main purpose was to unite as many Jews as possible. Learning Torah unites our minds with the Divine Wisdom in “a wondrous unity that has no parallel” (Tanya, chapter 5). When many Jews study the same Torah subject, a wondrous unity is formed between them for all eternity since the Torah is eternal.
The Jewish people’s affairs are connected with, and depend on, the Torah in its entirety, so the Rebbe selected the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah for universal study as it is the only work that presents all the laws of all the mitzvos in precise, clear, and concise language, making it accessible to all Jews. (The language and style of the Talmud, in contrast, is difficult for many to understand.) By studying the Mishneh Torah, one also fulfills one’s obligation to know the details of all 613 commandments.
The Rebbe called for, ideally, learning three chapters of Mishneh Torah a day. If a person follows this schedule, he will complete the entire work in almost one year. Those who cannot learn three chapters daily should learn one chapter, the Rebbe said, and those who cannot even do that, such as children and most women, should study the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos. (To increase the number of people studying the same subject, the Rebbe called on those studying Sefer HaMitzvos to study the mitzvos, not in the order of Sefer HaMitzvos, but as they appear in the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah.)
Next week, the 4th day of Menachem Av, will mark the end of the 38th cycle of three daily chapters of Mishneh Torah (and Sefer HaMitzvos). Meanwhile, those studying one chapter daily are two-thirds of the way through the 13th cycle.
Many local siyumim will be held on that date, but the main siyum in New York has been delayed to the 22nd of Elul so that more people, including prominent Torah scholars, can attend. It will be held at Oholei Menachem-Oholei Torah, 667 Eastern Parkway, in Brooklyn at 8:30 p.m. This siyum – and the beginning of the 39th cycle (on the 5th of Av, the yahrtzeit of the Arizal the greatest of the Kabbalists) – is a great opportunity for all those who have not yet joined this great unifying Torah study to begin learning the Mishneh Torah from the very beginning.
May the increased unity of our people bring an end to our exile with the revelation of Moshiach.