"Bringing Hope through Torah" ATIME Shas-a-Thon 5776

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Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles that are well suited to life in the sea. Their streamlined, hydrodynamic shape, large size, and powerful, paddle-like flippers allow them to dive to great depths and swim long distances. Their flippers are great for propelling them through the water; however, they make it difficult for the turtle to walk on land.

Although sea turtles spend almost all their time in the sea, they always return to the same beach to breed, often traveling huge distances – hundreds, or even thousands, of miles – to get there. Amazingly, female sea turtles will often emerge from the water within just a few yards from wherever they nested the time before. After laying their eggs, the female sea turtles will bury them in their nests under the sand, leaving them to hatch on their own. When the baby sea turtles hatch, it may take them as long as a week to dig their way out of the nest. Once they are out, they walk straight into the ocean and begin their life at sea.

Sea turtles are found in all of the major oceans and smaller seas, with the exception of the Arctic Circle, as it is generally too cold for sea turtles there; they prefer more temperate waters. There are seven species of sea turtles,and unfortunately, they are all listed as endangered species. The seven species of sea turtles are: the green sea turtle, the hawksbill, the flatback, the Kemp’s ridley turtle, the loggerhead, the leatherback, and the olive ridley turtle. Sea turtles range in size from about two feet to six feet long, depending on the species. The Kemp’s ridley turtle is the smallest sea turtle, weighing in at eighty-five to 100 pounds, and the leatherback sea turtle is the largest, weighing up to 2,000 pounds!

The diet ofthe sea turtle depends on the species. Some sea turtles are carnivorous, others are herbivores, and some will eat almost anything. Sea turtles tend to eat sea grasses, shrimp, crabs, fish, and jellyfish, depending on what they can find and catch.

Adult sea turtles have very few predators. As long as they can avoid large sharks and steer clear of human fishing nets, they can live for more than 80 years in the wild.

Torah Talk

One of the most noted characteristics of the turtle is its slow and steady pace. The patience that the turtle exhibits is quite remarkable. For example, it takes a mother turtle at least thirty minutes to crawl up the beach from the sea; two hours to create a nest; an hour to lay fifty to 100 eggs; and another half an hour to crawl back to the water.

The slow and steady approach of the turtle should teach us the value of composure. The mishna in Pirkei Avot (6:6) lists the virtue of “yishuv” as one the forty-eight qualities through which Torah is acquired. Literally, “yishuv” means dwelling, sitting, or resting. The commentators understand this virtue as either a state of
mind – studying with composure and careful diligence – or spending sufficient time learning Torah.

Many people tend to speed through the basic texts of the Torah. They are anxious to go beyond the basics and delve into the Gemara and more advanced Torah study. When one tastes the sweetness of an intricate sugya, he understandably becomes very excited and wants to jump ahead for more.

However, our mishna charges us with an important word of caution. We must take care to study with patience and diligence. In all our enthusiasm to acquire Torah knowledge, it must still always be based on the slow and steady, on the mastering of the fundamental texts as well as the nuances and languages of the Sages. There are no shortcuts.

The trait of the turtle reminds us that although it is usually an advantage to do things in a quick and lively way, it is certainly no good to be carelessly hasty. Very often one can accomplish more by doing things slowly but surely.

1,000 to One Shot

Only one of 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings survive to maturity. Animals like skunks and raccoons often follow land and freshwater turtles to their nests, then sit and wait for the eggs as they are being laid in order to eat them. If they missed the egg-laying, they dig up the eggs afterward and dine on them. Then, when the hatchlings of the remaining eggs emerge and start crawling toward the ocean, they are often consumed by birds and other animals. In the water, they can be attacked by sharks or other big fish.

To make up for the loss of eggs and hatchlings, the Creator has given turtles a long life. Many species of turtles live more than eighty years. A pet turtle could be in a family for generations! During this time span, they can reproduce themselves in sufficient numbers to perpetuate their species.