Last month I had the honor of visiting some of HaMaqom’s Talmud Circle groups as they finished up Tractate Taanit, a section of the Talmud that explores the communal fast days and how Jews dealt with the advent of drought in the Land of Israel. Each group had a small “siyum” or ending celebration where each participant shared their favorite section of the tractate. Doreen Stock, a long-time participant in the Marin Talmud Circle, shared this beautiful poem that she wrote for her great-granddaughter about Rabbi Ilfi and the special way he teaches his students:
The Fishpond in Rabbi Ilfi
for Sarah Dina, born in November 2020
Once in your country long ago there was a great drought.
Everyone prayed and prayed. They even fasted, but no
rain came. One morning Rabbi Ilfi was asked to lead the
service. He recited: “He who makes the wind blow,” and
lo and behold, the wind blew! Then he said, “He who makes
the rain fall.” And lo and behold, the rain fell!
“Oh, Rabbi Ilfi” they exclaimed joyfully, “What are your
good deeds that merit this answer to our prayers?”
“I am,” said Rabbi Ilfi, “a teacher of small children, rich and poor, but
if any child cannot pay, he learns with me. Also, if any child struggles
to learn, I say, ‘Come child, look.’’’ And I sit with him at my fishpond
to watch my fish swim over sky-blue tiles spackled with green reeds.
Any child who looks into it can see small souls with fins and tails swish
in their watery heaven until his own soul is at ease and can swim then,
can glide effortlessly across the lettered parchment, following my slowly
May your little eyes, that first opened in the light of Jerusalem today,
always swim in ponds of pleasantness, and may the letters set before them
dance with joy.
By Doreen Stock
The Talmud Circle program at HaMaqom is special, not only because of our engaging, inspiring educators but also because of the community that is created around the sacred practice of Talmud study. We are excited to invite the HaMaqom community to join Talmud Circles now, mid-year, as we begin a new Tractate, Megillah. We are offering an Introduction to Talmud session for beginners on January 14th and our Circle Educators are eager to welcome new students as we delve into the world of Tractate Megillah, which focuses on the laws of Purim. Please reach out to me if you have questions about joining our Talmud Circles!