Friday, May 04, 2007

Lego Castles & The Yahrzeit Of The Degel Machaneh Ephraim

(Picture courtesy of

As a child, I remember making grandiose plans to build a large and elaborate castle in my room made out Legos. I would picture the finished result in my mind's eye and then set about constructing it. Not too longer afterwards, I would realize that my castle looked nothing like the castle in my imagination; not even close. I would become discouraged and then stop working on it.

I have noticed that throughout my life I have been inclined to start other such "Lego castle" projects, only to stop before I completed them. Whether it was learning Mishneh Torah or Gemara, I made big plans and then stopped at a later date out of frustration.

This Shabbos, the 17th of Iyar, is the yahrzeit of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim. For weeks before his yahrzeit I pondered how to mark this date. Today, I gave tzedakah to Eizer L'Shabbos in his merit and I will undoubtedly learn Degel Machaneh Ephraim as I do each and every day without fail. I will also use my new kiddush cup for the first time tonight for this occasion. However, aside from all these things, I still felt that I needed to do something more to increase my hiskashrus with this tzaddik this year.

I recalled two teachings by Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter about making use of unstructured time that really left an impression on me. From these teachings, I dreamt up a "Lego castle" idea to complete learning all Shisha Sidrei Mishnah in the merit of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim using my unstructured time; without a schedule and without a deadline. I am not saying that I will be making my siyum on learning all Shisha Sidrei Mishnah in a year or two years, I have no idea at this point when I will complete this project. All I am saying is that right now, I have completed 23 perakim of Mishnayos in the past two weeks, and I plan to keep on learning - mishnah by mishnah - whenever I find a spare moment until I have completed all Shisha Sidrei Mishnah. This will obviously be in addition to my regular daily seder.

May it be Hashem's will that this "Lego castle" idea not be discarded before completion as I have done in the past, but rather may it become a beautiful and completed spiritual edifice that will stand in the merit of this tzaddik.

(A chart to mark my progress courtesy of Chardal)

UPDATE: Be sure to read Yitz's wonderful posting in honor of the Degel's yahrzeit here.


At May 4, 2007 at 7:50:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A Talmid also notes that the Noda BeYehuda shares a yahrzeit with the Degel - here

At May 4, 2007 at 9:28:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Here is related interchange that I have been having with Michoel via e-mail (posted with Michoel's permission):

Michoel: You should have tremendous hatzlacha. One point of caution is that 23 perakim in 2 weeks is very fast. So it is likely that life circumstances will force you to slow down significantly at some point. A new child, a virus, challenges both good and negative that happen to everyone. So when that happens, don't drop the ball entirely. Just do a certain minimum and be happy with it.

Me: Thank you and thank you for your equally wise words of caution. I know that 23 perakim is very fast, however when one starts a new project there is always a rush of excitement. At the very minimum, I want to do at least one mishnah (not even one whole perek) a day so I can take at least a baby step forward to my goal.

Michoel: That sounds like a good plan. There is a maaseh said about Rav Chaim Voloziner. When he first wanted to start his yeshiva he went to his Rebbe, the Vilna Gaon to ask him. The Gaon just told him no, without explaining why. Rav Chaim accepted his rebbe’s words and that was that. A year later, Rav Chaim again asked the Gaon and the Gaon said that yes, he should. So Rav Chaim asked the Gaon why he said no the first time. The Gaon said something to the effect of that Rav Chaim was over-eager the first time and Gaon wanted to wait until the ratzon was real and solidified and not just a spur of the moment desire. So, Chas v’shalom to be discouraging, but be very realistic and know that there are mishnayos (maybe in Kelim or whatever area an individual finds difficult) that even one mishna can be a big challenge. Or it could be that a person is just so exhausted that even to just daven is a lot. So even if it happens that you don’t even meet your minimum goal one day, just hang tough and keep on smiling, and start gain the next day.

Right now, I am struggling with some kabalos in learning that I made and I’m falling behind a bit. But I’m trying to take my own advice.

At May 4, 2007 at 2:52:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could try to spend this Shabes in Mezhbuzh so you'll be able to visit Degel's keyver. It's very nice there now. You can daven in Baal Shem Tov's shul and etc.

At May 6, 2007 at 10:33:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great post. Hatzlacha with the new seder.


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