It’s a tradition to make a celebration called a "siyum" when you finish a significant portion of the Torah. Learning Torah, while not typically thought of as hard labor (no hard hat or construction boots) actually requires tremendous physical and intellectual effort (the two go hand in hand). And it demands determination and constancy. Like all of life’s true accomplishments, Torah is acquired through consistent effort, day in and day out. The consistency itself, in the face of life’s challenges is not small part of the achievement.
And so, my husband recently made a big siyum (a very big one!). We planned a modest celebration at our son’s high school.
Teenage boys are so easy to feed – some bagels, lox and cream cheese – and some homemade desserts. I was in charge of the food. I baked the cookies (my daughter made gingerbread cookies in the shape of Torahs – you’re never too old…), I sliced vegetables. I made platters of lox and purchased multiple containers of cream cheese.
And I order 6 dozen bagels from a local bakery, to be picked up at 6:30 a.m. the morning of the event.
I was very excited for my husband. I jumped out of bed and ran to the bakery. Okay, I picked my exhausted self slowly out of bed and dragged myself to the bakery – slightly later than the appointed time. But the bagels weren’t there.
“What?!” I screamed. “We ordered these ahead of time. Everyone is waiting. My husband is making a siyum; we need these bagels!”
Actually, I didn’t scream. I waited somewhat patiently, exercising self-control – although my facial expression may have communicated my displeasure.
But I thought those thoughts. I could feel the frustration beginning to seep in and grow. And, yet, I wasn’t oblivious to the irony. It was a celebration of Torah learning, a study that is supposed to help us emulate the Almighty, to be more Godlike in our behavior.
To lose my temper at the bakery because I wanted bagels for the siyum would have missed the point entirely. I came close.
Luckily I stopped myself. Luckily I had perspective. Luckily I have some vision of who I’d like to be and that screaming banshee lurking in the dark recesses of my personality just isn’t it.
I’m very proud of my husband’s achievements. I like to think I’ve grown from it also. But it’s clearly not enough. I have a long way to go. I think I’d better do more than bask in his glory; I’d better immerse myself in some consistent Torah learning of my own.
And, in case you’re wondering, the staff at the bakery was very apologetic and delivered the bagels directly to my home 10 minutes later. Not a morsel was left…