I have spent much of this week sorting through boxes of books. When the library is complete, it will likely fill six full bookshelves, spanning large swaths of time and space. The shelves are full of books on Biblical Torah commentary, Feminist thought, Jewish Philosophy, midrash, dictionaries, spirituality, and much more.
We learn in Pirkei Avot, "Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it" (5:22). And for sure I felt that this week. So many voices lifting up spiritual truths. And so many voices still yet to be heard. While on the one hand all of these books could lead to spiritual overwhelm. How will I ever learn enough? What do I need to know to feel Jewish enough? They also point to a more profound teaching about Talmud Torah, the practice of text study. But in fact, the teaching continues, "Reflect on it and grow gray with it..."
Much like Jewish concepts of the Divine, Torah is a deep well whose bottom is intentionally beyond our grasp. And the deeper we journey, the greater clarity and wisdom we encounter.
And in truth this is not just true of Torah at large, but also of this week's Torah portion, Parashat Shemot. We begin the book of Exodus with a parsha packed with so many greatest hits that even this one section of Torah could lead to a lifetime of study. For this reason, we will dedicate tomorrow morning's beit midrash to an in depth study of the parsha using the many books in the newly forming KT library as resources for deeper insight. Please bring your own Tanakh or Chumash if you have one.
Together we will learn to follow the path of our own questions. To seek and search and turn the pages, to grow old and wise with these books as witness and guide. We cannot become a master of Torah. We can only become Talmidei Torah, students of Torah.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek Synagogue through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.