We had the official kickoff of Sefer Ha-Bloggadah on Shabbat afternoon at the NHC Summer Institute.
The kickoff followed immediately on the heels of the siyyum (festive completion) on the Encyclopaedia Judaica. For 19 years, Bill Kavesh and Solomon Mowshowitz have been studying a daf (folio page) of the EJ every day, and they finally reached the end! They shared some hilarious moments as well as more serious reflections about Torah study, Jewish history, and friendship. We invoked the Bar Papas and celebrated, and then, because we never finish studying something without starting something else, we immediately launched into the beginning of Sefer Ha-Aggadah. (Thanks to Mark Frydenberg for proposing Sefer Ha-Aggadah as the next project, and for creating the Sefer Ha-Bloggadah graphic.)
Following in the tradition of the EJ team, we'll do an intermediate siyyum in 2009 on the first half of Sefer Ha-Aggadah, and then a grand siyyum in 2010 on the whole thing.
This year's Institute theme was "Baruch She-amar v'Hayah Ha-Olam / Blessed is The One Who Spoke the World into Being", and according to the Institute brochure, "invites us to spend the week of the Institute exploring the worlds we can create with our words." This is a perfect segue into the beginning of Sefer Ha-Aggadah, which begins with a line from Sifrei: "If you want to know the one who spoke the world into being, learn aggadah." Note that it doesn't simply say "if you want to know God"; Sifrei chose its words carefully and referred to a very specific aspect of God that we get to know through aggadah. As we study aggadah, we will be reading words that bring whole worlds into being, and then creating more worlds with our own words.
I look forward to creating worlds with all of you over the next two years.