By Peretz Boruch Eichler
It’s astonishing to contemplate, but fifteen years ago, Rabbi Yaakov Berman, shlita initiated a weekly shiur on Shlomo Hamelech’s Sefer Mishlei, intent on learning the Sefer in depth, passuk by passuk. The shiur, given by Rabbi Berman, one of Lakewood’s highly respected Rabbonim and dayanim, at his shul, Bais Tefillah, in Lakewood, NJ, has been a Sunday evening sensation with loyal attendees from the Shul’s immediate environs on 8th Street off Princeton, and beyond.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for everyone involved,” says Rabbi Berman, who provides a variety of shiurim and heads a Kollel at his popular shul. The accomplishment, is the completion of the wisdom-filled Sefer, B”eh, with a Siyum to be held the Sunday of Selichos, September 25th, 22 Elul, at 8:30 pm, at Bais Tefilla 33 E. 8th St., in Lakewood, followed by Maariv. Beth Medrash Govoha’s Rosh Hayeshiva, Rav Dovid Schustal, shlita will be the guest speaker. The entire community is invited to the historic siyum.
Shlomo Hamelech is referred to by Chazal as “Chochom M’kol Adam”, (wisest of all men). His Sefer Mishlei overflows with practical wisdom and foundations, yesodos, for successful living. Mishlei was written by Shlomo Hamelech in his middle years, and has profound relevance for everyone in virtually every area of human endeavor, from relationships, work ethics to world views, and yes, current events.
Rabbi Berman’s style of presentation of the shiur is as he described it, “To bring out the limudim (mussar) and omek hapeshat, depth of meaning.” The shiur is well attended in a small, cozy setting, and is highly interactive, peppered with anecdotes and meaningful examples that are “spot on” regarding applying the bounty of the sefer’s wisdom to current circumstances.
Rebbi Berman’s erudition is distilled through the mesorah of his rebbeim, among them, Rav Chaim Epstein, zt”l, Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l and Ye’badel l’chaim, Rav Don Segal, shlita.
Rabbonim like Rav Berman are called upon to give advice in a multiplicity of personal, religious and business matters. Rabbi Berman recalls a conversation with Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt”l who wryly said, “How could someone give advice to others if he didn’t learn Mishlei?” Harav Berman reflected, “My father amu”sh, who is fluent in Tenach, knowing it baal peh, always has a quote from Mishlei at hand–this was the my inspiration for the shiur.”
As to what took fifteen years to complete–the shiur runs for approximately a half hour from 10 pm to 10:30 pm on Sunday evenings, and covers about a passuk each week, and there are an average of 30-35 passukim in thirty-one chapters.
Rav Moshe Levi has attended regularly right from the beginning when he lived near the shul, and now makes the weekly trip from across town. “When our Rav, Rav Berman called me fifteen years ago, offering to give a shiur on Mishlei, I was very excited. I saw this an opportunity to start learning the Sifrei Emes (Iyov, Mishlei and Tehillim) which are not usually learned in yeshiva. And so I joined, and have not looked back. The growth I gained from the shiur came as a cumulative effect over the years, gaining in hashkafa and derech Hachaim. This is what keeps me coming back week after week.”
As far as what comes next, Harav Berman’s Rebbe, Harav Don Segal shlita recommended Sefer Tehillim, quoting Chazal: ‘that Dovid Hamelech davened that Hashem should accept the recital of Tehillim as learning the difficult tractates of Negaim and Ohalos. Certainly, he said that this applies to one who learns it in depth.” And as for the amount of time that it would take to complete, Rav Don bentched the group with “Arichas Yomim v’Shonim”. All are welcome to join the Siyum and the shiur. Please call (732) 547-2666 for information.