During Simchat Torah, and then again during prayer this past Sunday, I emphasized an instruction found in the Shema/V’ahavta: “V’shin’nan’tam l’va’ne’kha. You shall teach your children [Torah].” When we say “children,” we think not only of young children or simply religious school students, but also, we think of all God’s children as capable of learning Jewish wisdom. In this spirit, we aspire to Talmud Torah, to lifelong learning - learning for all no matter what your age.
Rabbi Ben Bag-Bag teaches in the Pirkei Avot [the Wisdom of Our Ancestors]: “Turn it, turn it, everything is in it.” (5:22) The Rabbi is referring here to the Torah, and just as we completed and began the Torah on Simchat Torah, lifelong learning calls for a constant cycling of Torah, a turning of Torah. And, to be sure, this process happens through one’s lifetime, not just one’s childhood.
In this spirit, I am inspired to have participated in two of our lifelong learning experiences this past Sunday morning. First, I spent time with religious school parents discussing parashat Noach as part of our new Torah Toast class. Over toast (varied kinds of bread, including a gluten-free option) we compared the violence of Noah’s time with our own. We thought carefully about how we, like Noah, could be God’s partner in building our own “arks of hope” in a world inundated with hatred and cruelty.
Later in the day I sat with nine teens for Confirmation class, and we discussed a Jewish response to gun violence and how to approach the 2nd Amendment post-Vegas. We encountered an important, online bipartisan debate on the issue by two current and thoughtful Representatives. We looked at multiple Jewish perspectives about sensible limits on gun usage. And, we studied a local case, McDonald vs. the City of Chicago. Besides offering them a broad-based view of our individual and communal pursuits of justice, I want to equip our young people with skills that allow them to think deeply and Jewishly about the complex issues that impact our lives. The teens remained pretty industrious and on-point during our time together. Our next issue, selected by the students themselves, will be immigration. We’ll reflect on Jewish perspectives on the just and compassionate treatment of immigrants and reasonable reforms of immigration policy.
These are just two examples of significant progress we have made over the last year in Talmud Torah, in lifelong learning. Please join us for the journey, and if there are subjects you want to study, please let me know. I look forward to turning Torah with you, over and over again. I trust we will find many blessings inside its enduring wisdom. V’shin’nan’tam l’va’ne’kha isn’t just for kids!
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good.