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How the fast showed the truth about today's youth

נערים מפתח תקווה לומדים מסכת תענית בצום י"ז בתמוז

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Shalom Sivan, I am a teenager from Petah Tikva. There is a lot of critical talk about today's youth, but it does not reflect the truth.

Last Sunday, on the Fast day of the 17th of Tammuz, 63 teenagers including myself decided to try and learn an entire tractate from the Talmud in one day. This project was intiated by Rabbi Chanan Shukran, who recently inspired us to try this.

We hear a lot about the daily page (daf yomi) of Gemara learning, but who dares to dream about a daily tractate? Yet that was what we dreamed, and then we made it happen. We sat from the morning until the evening learning the tractate of Ta'anit, concerning the laws of Fast Days, and nothing could have been more appropriate for the 17th of Tammuz.

I am not a great learner. I am one of those who has occasionally fallen asleep in class, even while studying this same tractate. Up until now, I would spend Fast Days sleeping, bored, or looking at cell phone and computer screens. This year I discovered that it's possible to do something else. It is precisely when you are tired and weak and struggling to stay awake that learning gives you strength. We sat in a basement study hall without cell phone reception; this certainly assisted us in our learning.

The food eaten when the fast ended was not an ordinary meal, but a "Siyum" celebration of fulfilling the mitzvah of finishing a tractate, which some of the guys had never done before. Everyone went home glowing with the feeling of having accomplished something truly special.

I think that sometimes we have low expectations of ourselves, in all areas. This was a day that provided us with a huge lesson, not only about the laws of fasting, but about ourselves.

P.S. I prefer that you don't mention my name because dozens of others were there besides me. I hope that in the future there will be hundreds if not thousands who will have this experience and, with well-deserved pride, tell others about it.


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