Connecting with the Torah

May 10, 2018
25 Iyar 5778



Dear AJA Community,

זוְשִׁנַּנְתָּ֣ם לְבָנֶ֔יךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ֖ בָּ֑ם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֨ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ:

And you shall teach them to your [children] and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Devarim 6:7)

These are words we have all heard and read since we were children. And now, WE are the adults who are charged with sharing Torah (the word of G-d) with our own children, grandchildren and students. We probably agree that the text of our Torah can be challenging at times for our younger children. The themes can be abstract, above their level of comprehension or too difficult to discuss. We “talk Torah” at a basic level with our young students so they can start their lifelong learning even at the earliest ages. Our older students are immersed in Torah throughout the school year and can engage in discussions with adults and even Rabbis. I am proud of our students of all ages who dive into and savor the teaching of the Torah - the values we learn from it are timeless. Torah allows us time for reflection and value clarification. It is intellectually stimulating, and encourages us to share language and conversation - whether around a classroom table or a Shabbat meal. Torah unites us.

In that spirit, I wanted to share some Torah with you today from one of our Upper School Judaic Studies Instructor, Rabbi Reuven Travis. Todah Rabah, Rabbi Travis.

Rabbi Ari Leubitz


In the second of the two parshiyot we read this Shabbat, we are told,
“If you follow My statutes and observe My commandments . . .” (Vayikra 26:3)

There is a common explanation regarding the difference between “statutes” (chukim in Hebrew) and “commandments” (mitzvot in Hebrew). The former refers to obligations beyond our rational understanding. These include not wearing clothing made of wool and linen (shatnez) and the Red Heifer (parah adumah), whose ashes render the impure pure, but the process through which these ashes are made render the pure impure. The latter refers to laws that are logical and that would be put in place in society even without the command of Hashem, such as the laws that prohibit murder and theft.

In his commentary to this verse, Rashi further parses the difference between these two by stating, “I might think that [‘if you follow My statutes’] refers to the fulfillment of the commandments. However, when Scripture says, ‘and observe My commandments,’ the fulfillment is [already] stated. So what is the meaning of ‘If you follow My statutes’? It means that you must toil in the study of Torah.”

Toiling in the study of Torah is at the heart of our mission. It is our raison d’etre. It is why I cannot wait to get up each morning to start my day at AJA. And in this, I am guided by the teachings of the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, z”l, in particular when he writes:

“When man does not see G-d and sense His presence at every turn; when he thinks of G-d only out of fear of punishment, with a cool intellect, without ecstasy, joy, or enthusiasm; when his actions lack soul, inwardness, and vitality, then his religious life is flawed.” (Majesty and Humility: The Thoughts of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik)

Regardless of our level or areas of interest in the study of Torah, may all of us, student, parent, and teacher alike, be privileged to experience this ecstasy, joy, and enthusiasm the Rav not only wrote about but lived each and every day of his life.

- Rabbi Reuven Travis


Also, read this week's D'var Torah - written by 7th Grader Ian Maman