Last Thursday night I celebrated Simchas Torah.
No, I did not get the months of my calendar mixed up -- my wife can testify that I have been helping with the massive pre-Pesach cleanup. Last Thursday night about 20 boys from my son's yeshiva (my son included) finished learning Bava Kama -- again. The yeshiva learned the masechta last year, but the boys carved out time in their day this year to learn through the masechta yet another time (for many it was the third time) and make a siyum. So at 11:00 at night I found myself among a nice turnout of bachurim, rebbeim, and parents enjoying the siyum, cholent, kugel, and dancing (how one can have an appetite for cholent at that time of night is beyond me). This was a true "simchas Torah" -- who says you can't celebrate more than once a year?
The Midrash on last week's parsha tells of a peddler who went town to down yelling, "Who wants to buy the elixer of life?" Rav Yanai was amazed when the peddler pulled out a sefer Tehilim and read the famous pesukim, "Mi ha'ish he'chafetz chaim... netzor leshoncha mei'ra... bakesh shalom v'rodfeihu." Surely Rav Yanai knew these pesukim before the peddler read them -- why was he so amazed? (We've discussed a few answers here in the past.)
The Ksav Sofer writes that it was the end of the pesukim which caught Rav Yanai's attention. If you want to sell goods, you can open a store, sit behind a counter on a nice, comfortable chair, and wait for customers to arrive. To some people, "peddling" shalom means waiting for an outbreak of machlokes to arrive at your door and then trying to mend the breach. But that's not what shalom is all about. "Bakesh shalom v'rodfeihu" -- you have to constantly seek shalom = shleimus, you have to take the initiative and be proactive -- mend walls in advance and constantly strengthen them so they never run the risk of breaking (see Maharal in Nesivos Olam who develops this same idea.) The peddler who travelled from town to town looking for new business embodied this proactive, take the initiative type approach and that's what caught R' Yanai's attention.
It's a relief from the general depression caused by what there is to be seen in the world to know that there are boys who are true "mevakshim," eager to gobble down the next masechta and the next masechta and review them again and again. They are not waiting for their Rebbeim to coax them into learning, but put in the effort to go above and beyond what the yeshiva even expects.
I meant to post this last weekend, but then day after day of work and more work have piled up, and here we are almost at Shabbos hagadol, but I thought it worth mentioning anyway.