Borrowing from Daf Yomi, the 91 year world wide Jewish practice of studying a page of Talmud a day that was conceived and initially promoted in Poland by Rabbi Yehuda Meir Shapiro, 929 was officially inaugurated at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on the second night of Hanukka.
929, the brainchild of Bayit Yehudi MK and Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman, is the daily study -five days a week- of a Biblical verse. The project which officially begins on Sunday, December 21, aims at being a primarily Jewish all inclusive and accessible experience whereby Jews from every imaginable background will come together to study the verse of the day, derive their own interpretations and discuss them with each other to create as broad an understanding as possible of the Bible and thereby identify with the best selling book of all time regardless of whether they are religious or secular or something in between. The project cycle is of three-and-three-quarter years’ duration, with the last verse scheduled to be read on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
President Reuven Rivlin who together with his wife Nechama hosts a regular Bible circle, as have his predecessors before him, said that he was excited at the prospect of embarking on something that was a little different, and in fact unique. The presidents of Israel all saw a value in studying the Bible he said, but in connecting with 929, he personally was studying the Bible not only as president but in the same way as any citizen of the state. He said that for him, the Bible represents the identity card of the Jewish People, which is also the identity card of all humanity.
Although the festival of Hanukka is not mentioned in the Bible, said Rivlin, it was an appropriate time to launch the initiative, because the Bible spreads light in the world and Hanukka is the festival of lights. Moreover, there is much Biblical symbolism in Hanukka which reflects a person’s marching to his inner truth; freedom of the minority; and the readiness to go against all odds in pursuit of a dream. “That’s the spirit of the Bible, the spirit of a person of faith,” said Rivlin.
Professors Avigdor Shinan and Yair Zakovitz who engaged in a demonstration of Biblical polemics demonstrated another Biblical connection with Hanukka in that the first night of Hanukka falls on the 25th of Kislev and there are 25 words in the Hebrew version of the first verse of Genesis.
Two readings of the verse by two other people also demonstrated the influence of intonation on interpretation.
Rabbi Benny Lau who is the spiritual leader of the project lauded former education minister Shai Piron for having made 929 one of the flagship projects of the Education Ministry. Lau said that 929 could be accessed on the Internet, (www.929.org.il), on social media, and on smart phones, and would include commentaries posted by people studying the verse of the day.
Wortzman said that the realization of a dream was a rarity, and he felt privileged to be able to realize his dream.
Piron relating to the fact that Wortzman had been trying for five years to get the dream off the ground, without any success till now, attributed the change in attitude to the lack of relevance in people’s lives. “People are looking for something meaningful,” he said. “They’re afraid of a meaningless existence. The Bible gives us values such as kindness to the stranger and care for the widow and the orphan – and these values are meaningful. We are all in search of meaning in our lives.”Hanukka falls on the 25th of Kislev and there are 25 words in the first verse of the Bible in its Hebrew verses.
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