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Thought for the Day: Learning is So Fun and Here's an Example: Why Eiruv Tavshilin Requires an Oral Declaration

I was in a play in 9th grade.  An in-class play, but I had a big role.  During one of the rehearsals I was holding a pencil during one of the more dramatic speeches and the teacher noted that my performance was much improved.  After discussion, it seemed that holding the pencil helped to give my hands something important to do and so kept me more focussed.  (Yes, I know that "focussed" is technically the British spelling, not American; it looks better to me, so deal.)  Her words made an impression and I started applying that principle wherever I could.  Now you know why I hold a pencil when I learn.

I am on a mission to finish learning the entire Mishna Brura; all six volumes.  I was actually on track to finish for my 55th birthday, but that plan was derailed when a set of Dirshu Mishna Brura appeared mysteriously at my doorstep one day.  (Technically, the appearance wasn't so mysterious -- delivered by UPS in a plain brown box; but I hadn't ordered it; that's the mysterious part.)  I took that as a sign from above that I should stop rushing and actually start learning.  My new plan is to finish by the time I am 60  (a goal about which I am cautiously optimistic).  I am mostly proceeding straight through, but detour before holidays and other halichic situations in order to have (at least once) the relevant halachos more fresh in my mind.

I have just finished most of the 5th volume (thank you; yes, I do feel it is an accomplishment).  Most, because I still need to finish the laws of baking matzah, which I plan to learn the month or so before Pesach.  The last bit of volume five (which is hilchos Pesach and Yom Tov) discusses eiruv tavshilin.  Interestingly, I saw a stray pencil mark in the Dirshu notes.  "Hmm," I thought (yes, I think "hmm"), "I must have accidentally/absent-mindedly made a pencil mark.  Funny, though, that it's just where I would put a mark to break up a long sentence while learning...."  Then I looked to the next few pages and saw lots of appropriately placed pencil marks.  I experienced the chilling realization  that I had been here before.  I then dimly remembered that I had learned this once before when a holiday was approaching for which we needed to make an eiruv tavshilin.  I can even tell you roughly when it was: a few days before May 23, 2014 CE, when I published a TftD on the matter.

Distress enough that I forgot having learned it... more distressing was that I found myself learning things I thought were big enough chidushim that I should write a TftD on them... final distressing straw was seeing that I had already written a TftD on one of those chidushim.  Ah well.

So here is one chidush that I did not (eg, forgot to, sigh...) mention before.  Rav Ashi and Rava argue about the main reason for the requirement of eiruv tavshilin; Rav Ashi says it is so that your cooking for Shabbos on Friday is not a new activity, but the continuation of an activity started before Yom Tov; Rava says it is so that you choose something particularly nice for Shabbos.  We pasken the halacha is like Rav Ashi (as noted in another TftF), but we like to be sensitive to Rava's reason as well.  It is because of Rava's reason that the declaration "With this eiruv, we are permitted to cook and bake and insulate and manipulate fire, etc" is in integral part of the eiruv tavshilin.  We think of the food as the main thing; obviously you need the food.  In addition, however, if one forgets the declaration or even part, such as "permitted to bake", then one needs to go back and make (or add) the appropriate declaration.  (If not, see the Mishna Brura and Dirshu notes for what to do.)

What's the "take away" from all this? (Besides the halachic basis for the declaration being an integral part of the mitzvah of eiruv tavshilin, of course.)  First, review is not just a "nice thing"; it's nearly the whole thing.  Second, the Ohr Chayim HaKodesh relates (at the begining of parshas b'chukosai) that learning -- especially the first time learning a new idea -- is so fun, that HaShem, in His magnificent kindness, gave us the character trait of forgetfulness.  That way we can keep learning and learning and learning, and always feel that geshmakiet of learning something for the first time.  I guess that's why I'm so jovial.

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