Last Shabbat, we encountered the upstart Korach in debate with our great teacher Moses. In this case, Korach challenged Moses on a matter of basic practice, namely whether a library full of holy books requires a mezuzah at its entrance. Given the tzures between them over what constitutes legitimate leadership and authentic authority, this halakhic matter seems hardly worth making a tzimmes (fuss) over. And yet, the midrash gives us a lot to ponder.
In Bamidbar Rabbah, Moses argues that such a library requires a mezuzah. Korach, in response, mocks Moses, saying that a mezuzah contains but two bits of Torah (Deut. 6:4-9, the Shema and V'ahavta; and Deut. 11:13-21: V'ha'yah im shema: If you listen diligently to my commandments...) Surely a library contains those texts and so much more! A capable (even if arrogant) leader, Korach may have a point. Arguably owning a wonderful, abundant library, living out the spirit of the law through learning, is more important than affixing a mezuzah and simply carrying out the letter of the law.
But Korach's logic is not lost on Moses. Of course, he understands the power of study and the importance of a place to engage in such learning. But, to Moses, having such a place filled with myriad books is not enough--even one filled with an abundance of Torah's wisdom. And, neither, for that matter, is affixing a mezuzah enough because, to Moses, the mezuzah is not just about practical observance. To Moses, the mezuzah is about making our Jewish practice and commitments visible. So no matter how many books we may find in a library, and even if there is a mezuzah hanging on its doorposts, if there is no commitment to exercising Torah's wisdom out in the world in a public way, we will struggle to achieve Judaism's fullest potential to transform us into a collective force for good--into collaborative champions of tikkun olam.
Mishnah Peah tells us talmud Torah keneged kulam: the study of Torah is most important because it leads to the practice of all other mitzvot. We learn in our prayerbook that we learn Torah in order to do Torah. And, though we may pray as though everything depends on God, we must act as though all depends on us. These wise teachings summon us to move beyond our beautiful learning and prayer spaces, clad with mezuzot--out into the world that needs us to make a difference. Thus, as glorious as my first Shabbat was with you, and as thankful as I am for the warm welcome and amazing hospitality and multi-generational, musical presence, we cannot ignore our celebration came amidst the sadness of the Dallas tragedy, among others. Let us respond to this invitation to action and visible, public Judaism by considering what we can do as a community to confront this malaise. Come in and let's talk. And then we'll do....
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good. Zie gezunt! (Be well!)