Hadran Alakh, Indeed!

by Ren Finkel, Emergent Programs Coordinator

Two SVARA-niks high-five with both hands over a table covered in Talmuds and other books.

Mishnah Collective will be making a triumphant return to Mishnah Avot Chapter 6 in just a couple of weeks. This magical chapter of ancient wisdom is where the Mishnah Collective first began, an experiment hoping to bring a little light during the darkness of the first COVID lockdown in the US. The Mishnah Collective has had hundreds of new participants since we first wrapped up this chapter in May 2020—myself included! For some of us diving into chapter 6 will be a new endeavor, while others will be offering up the power of chazarah/repetition, one of the cornerstones of the SVARA method which leads to each of us owning the tradition.

The wisdom and relationships this collective has built over the last year, months, weeks, and days is being brought back to Chapter 6. The powerful meaning-making that happens each day in Mishnah Collective reminds me of a text we’ll be learning  in just over a week:

Avot Chapter 5 Mishnah 22

בֶּן בַּג בַּג אוֹמֵר הֲפֹךְ בָּהּ וַהֲפֹךְ בָּהּ דְּכֹלָּא בָהּ

Ben Bag Bag says, “Turn it over and turn it over, for all is in it.”

This wonderful teaching from Ben Bag bag calls upon us to return to “it”—perhaps this “it” is capital-T The Torah, or perhaps this is the torah of our personal svara and wisdom. I see every day at the Mishnah Collective the creativity and dedication in our collective turning, even with the most challenging of texts. There is an impressive desire to look at a teaching from every possible angle, to find where it fits into our lives today, where it liberates us, and where it misses the mark. The multiplicity of voices in Avot is mirrored in the wide array of experiences and perspectives brought to our study. This is the כֹלָּא of the Mishnah Collective! This aramaic word from the root כ-ו-ל can mean “all”, but it can also be translated as “everyone”. The core of the Mishnah Collective comes from everyone who participates in it, from bringing our glittering selves day in and day out.

At the end of every chapter, Mishnah Collective reviews our learning with a siyyum, a celebratory wrap-up of a text study. We close out our siyyumim with a liturgical statement that commits ourselves to the text:

הֲדְרָן עַלָךְ אבות פרק # וְהֲדְרָן עֲלָן דַּעְתָּן עֲלָךְ אבות פרק # וְדַעְתָּךְ עֲלָן לָא נִתֽנַשֵׁי מִינָךְ אבות פרק # וְלֹא תִּתֽנַשִׁי מִינַן לָא בְּעָלְמָא הָדֵין וְלֹא בְּעָלְמָא דְאַָתֵי

We will return to you, Avot Chapter #, and you will return to us; our mind is on you, Avot Chapter #, and your mind is on us; we will not forget you, Avot Chapter #, and you will not forget us—not in this world and not in the next world.

Our return to Chapter 6 is both metaphorical and literal. For some this is stepping back into the magical place this program began. For others, we’ve been soaking in the spirit of this chapter through the wisdom and teachings of our peers and teachers. This chapter has had its mind on us for many months, and now at last we are coming back around. The word הֲדְרָן comes from the root ה-ד-ר which means to go around or return. This circular imagery is connected to the word’s other definition, “to crown”—which in turn lends itself to its other meanings of “adorned” and “beautiful”.

Certainly, we all adorn each chapter we learn every time we come back from breakout rooms. While the beauty and splendor created can be found in our sage commentary, it is found even more in the moments right after breakout rooms when the chat is absolutely overflowing with chevrutah love. This practice of returning to the larger collective space with gratitude and love was never demanded or prescribed—without a doubt, the creation of a culture of adornment and appreciation came from within this incredible community.

As we step back into Chapter 6 in just a few weeks, may our collective wisdom continue to adorn the text, and may the text continue to adorn us! If you’ve come every day since March 2019, if you haven’t been since the Chapter 6 siyyum, if you’ve been waiting to start turning with us, or somewhere in between, our כֹלָּא isn’t complete without you! ✨Register and learn more about the Mishnah Collective here!✨

Read More