By Adriel Kohananoo
“It’s not about the Daf [page], it’s about the Yomi [daily]”, a friend of mine once told me, as we witnessed the Siyum [completion] celebration of a Mesechet [tractate] in the Daf Yomi [daily page of talmud study] cycle end off with far fewer people than we remember starting with. It seems that many people hop on the Daf Yomi train at the start of every new Mesechet, yet most get off early, leaving only the dedicated few to ride all the way to the Siyum of the Mesechet.
I once asked someone who used to do Daf Yomi why he stopped. He told me that it’s easy to start off strong, but once the Gemara starts getting difficult, it gets very discouraging and increasingly hard to put in the effort to get through the whole Daf each and every day. Eventually, he didn’t manage to finish the Daf one day, and dropped the worthwhile pursuit altogether.
It seems that many only keep up with the Daf as long as they actually finish the previous Daf on time. However, a deeper look into the most recent Mesechet completed, Mesechet Beitza, can teach us the proper perspective to have after missing a day in the Daf Yomi cycle, or in any pursuit for that matter.
Mesechet Beitza is the Mesechet that discusses the laws of preparing food on Yom Tov. On Yom Tov, unlike Shabbat, one is allowed to prepare and cook food.
However, if that is what the Mesechet is about, why is it called ‘Beitza’ — ‘egg’? Sure, the Mesechet opens up talking about the rules of an egg laid on Yom Tov, and Beitza is in fact the first word of the Mesechet. However, there are many Mesechets that have different names than what they open up with! For example, look at the first Mesechet in all of Shas [the talmudic order], Mesechet Brachot. The Mesechet opens up talking about the nightly prayer of Kriat Shema [recitation of the nightly Shema], nothing to do with Brachot [blessings]. In fact, the word ‘Brachot’ doesn’t even appear in the first Mishna! Many Mesechets are like this, which begs the question — why is the Mesechet of Talmud that talks about preparing all kinds of food on Yom Tov named after the first small section dealing with a mere egg?
The answer becomes self-evident when one thinks about the experiences we go through during a Yom Tov. Unfortunately, in our busy day-to-day lives, we can lose track of our true goals and aspirations in the sea of responsibilities we deal with in our hectic schedules. We always seem to be looking forward to those breaks, few and far in between, to finally wind down a bit and reconnect with our family and friends, and most importantly, with ourselves. When it comes to Judaism, there’s no better break than the long Yom Tov days to get back to full power and to realign ourselves. Yomim Tovim are days infused with spirituality, rest, delicious meals and fun. It’s a time of rebirth as we enter in an exhausted and drained state of our everyday lives and exit with new spiritual goals, a fresh mindset and full of energy to reach new heights. They are days filled with unique and invigorating Mitzvot [commandments] and traditions that are always exciting to encounter year after year. No matter how low we enter, Yom Tov has the potential to lift us miles above the level we came in, and can rejuvenate us both physically and religiously.
This is accurately depicted by an egg. An egg resembles rebirth, a shell of untapped potential waiting to be released, exactly how we emerge from a Yom Tov. We come out ready to tackle our biggest challenges, fused with inspiration and renewed energy from the holiday along with all the words of Torah we learnt and Mitzvot we performed. It doesn’t matter how far off the path we stray — Yom Tov is our gift from Hashem to get back up with full force. It’s no coincidence that the special sacrifice that was brought during the Yomim Tovim, the Korban Chagigah, is commemorated nowadays by eating an egg during the Yom Tov.
However, we can take this one step further. A chicken lays an egg everyday. Everyday is a chance for rebirth. Every morning that Hashem gifts us back our Neshama [soul] is a new chance to realign and get back to where we want to be. Although it’s not on the same level as going through an entire Yom Tov, every day is another chance to make a small change, a small step forward after falling back. It doesn’t matter if we don’t get all the way to where we planned, as long as we’re constantly moving forward. It doesn’t matter how badly we missed our aspirations the day before; every day is a new opportunity to reach into our untapped potential.
“It’s not about the Daf, it’s about the Yomi” a friend of mine once told me. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t finish the Daf yesterday, or if you didn’t understand every point. Hashem wants you to just keep going. Every day is a new chance to do better, to try again, to give it your all.